Cover crops offer farmers many benefits including protecting soil from wind and water erosion. Live plants provide the energy for soil microbes to recycle and store nutrients to build soil carbon and organic matter. Soil microbes should be considered “soluble bags of fertilizer” since they consume and process 85-90% of chemical reactions involving soil nutrients. Cover crops and microbes together improve soil structure, which improves water infiltration and water holding capacity. Cover crops may also reduce weed, insect, and soil disease pressures by adding diversity. Live plants and healthy soils purify and clean air and water.
Soil erosion and sedimentation are major agricultural problems worldwide. Dr. David Montgomery (2012) says if farmers lose four to five tons per acre per year of topsoil, they will lose approximately one inch of topsoil every sixty years. Farmers are losing 0.5% of our soils every year worldwide due to soil erosion and it takes 500 years to replenish one inch of topsoil. Cover crops protect the soil by slowing down the wind at ground level. Blowing snow and dirt is a common problem on bare soils. Reducing wind and water erosion is a huge soil conservation benefit of cover crops.
Plants and microorganisms are critical in recycling soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and micronutrients. Carbon ties up and stores major nutrients (water, N, P, S) and micronutrients (zinc, boron, copper). A PhD thesis (Aziz, 2011) at Piketon, Ohio shows that 65-70% of the soil’s carbon originates from plant roots. Carbon and soil organic matter tie up nitrogen (90%) and phosphorus (55-80%) in a stable form that is plant available. The soils in Illinois and Iowa are so productive because they are high in soil organic matter.
Increasing soil carbon and soil organic matter is the key to improving soil productivity long-term and solving our ecological problems with nutrient runoff. Increasing crop residue at the soil surface increases water infiltration and soil water holding capacity. Every one percent soil organic matter holds one to two acre-inches of additional water depending on soil texture (Hudson, 1994). With the depletion of soil organic matter levels by 50% in the last 50-100 years, our soils are becoming harder and denser. Without the continual addition of organic residues from live plants, water runs off the soil surface rather than infiltrating the soil, causing soil compaction and nutrient rich sediment to flow to our surface water. Soil organic matter is needed to improve soil structure so that our soils become more like a sponge, soaking up water and storing soluble soil nutrients.
Soils with diverse microbial species, predators and soil fauna keep disease organisms and insects in balance. By promoting a healthy soil ecosystem with cover crops, many pests are kept in balance and the economic impacts of these pests are greatly reduced. Solely relying on solutions like chemicals (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides) results in resistant weeds, damaging insects, and harmful disease organisms that tend to prosper and adapt to render many of these products less effective. Cover crops promote a healthy soil by increasing the number and species of beneficial microorganisms to compete with or consume these harmful species. The ecological goal is no longer to eliminate all bad actors (weeds, insect pests, and plant diseases), but to simply reduce their levels to acceptable levels.
Planting a flowering cover crop like buckwheat and/or sunflower or a flowering legume crops around the edges of fields improves the population of beneficial insects and may reduce the need for some pesticides. Cover crops promote beneficial organisms, which inhibit Phytopthora, Rhizoctonia, Phythium, and Fusarium; which are common soybean diseases (Amaranthus and Simpson, 2011). Ground beetles (Carabidae beetles) and lightning bugs (Lampyrida) consume many soft-bodied insects such as aphids, slugs, and caterpillars. A ground beetle may eat its weight in weed seed or insect larva per day (Altieri et al, 2005). Cover crops compete with weeds for sunlight and nutrients, reducing weed populations and seed production. By using chemical inputs less often and only when needed, farmers promote beneficial insects and predators and may extend the chemicals useful life so that these pests do not become resistant (Hoorman, 2013).
For more information, contact the Hardin County Extension office at 419-674-2297 to learn about cover crops and soil health in an all day workshop at the Plaza Inn Restaurant in Mt. Victory on Thursday, January 14. The workshop will begin at 8:00 am and end at 4:00 pm. Instructors for the program will be Jim Hoorman, OSU Extension – Putnam County, Mark Badertscher, OSU Extension – Hardin County, and Wayne Dellinger, OSU Extension – Union County. The cost of the all day workshop will be $35 and will include lunch, Cover Crops Field Guide, and other reference materials. Participants need to be pre-registered by January 7.
While Lake Erie did not have a “major” drinking water crisis this year; harmful algae blooms (HAB) and nutrient runoff were an issue due to excess summer rains. Government officials were more prepared and most of the HAB blooms occurred further out in the lake. The 2015 HAB rated a 10.5 (1=Good, 10=Bad) compared to 2014. To reduce future HAB problems, farmers are encouraged to develop nutrient management plans.
The Nutrient Management Plan Writers are a team working to assist farmers in developing Nutrient Management Plans (NMP) in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) of Ohio. Plans provide both fertility recommendations and an environmental site risk for fields that help identify resource concerns impacting nutrient and sediment loss. So farmers wanting to apply for EQUIP cost share funds will need to have a plan before they will be funded.
The plans provide general guidelines on 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices for your farm resulting in the “Right” rate, source, timing and placement of nutrients to maximize efficiency in fertilizer use. These plans also meet criteria needed for “affirmative defense” once coupled with other criteria defined in Ohio law. They are provided without cost to the participants. Ohio contributors to the project include the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, and Ohio State University Extension. The program is funded from a grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
To summarize current Ohio law, a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) can take several forms, including those originating from the OSU Nutrient Management Workbook, the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) meeting all of the requirements of NRCS, or a plan equivalent to those and approved by the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture or his designee and contains at a minimum, information on current soil tests, 4Rs for all nutrients utilized, fields covered by the plan, crops grown, and yield information.
While each individual will base their decision on whether to do a NMP on one or more factors specific to their farm, some reasons farmers might want to consider doing a CNMP include potential to reduce fertilizer costs, potential to increase yields, maximize nutrient use efficiency and minimize nutrients leaving the field, potentially qualify for NRCS/FSA reimbursement for EQUIP program practices, serve as a basis of “affirmative defense” as stated in Ohio law against private civil lawsuits. These plans are provided at no financial cost to individuals but will require an investment of your personal time.
This summary is intended to provide “food for thought”. The information about your operation necessary to create a NMP that meets NRCS requirements is detailed and you will want to investigate the process before making a decision. Producers will need to have soil tests within the last two years and provide information about field rotations, implements, management practices, water sources and more. OSU Extension recommends you contact a member of our team to begin the process if you are a grain farmer. Our team will travel to interested individuals who farm in the Western Lake Erie Basin, which for the most part includes farms north of State Route 309 in Hardin County.
The following trained individuals are available and will assist in developing crop nutrient management plans:
-Tony Campbell, OSU Extension Paulding County, 503 Fairground Drive, Paulding, OH 45879 Telephone: 419-399-8225 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Linda Lauber, OSU Extension Fulton County, 8770 State Route 108, Wauseon, OH 43567 Telephone: 419-337-9210, email: email@example.com
-Ken Mauer, OSU Extension Wood County, 639 South Dunbridge Road, Bowling Green, OH 43402 Telephone: 419-354-9050 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Jessie Schulze, OSU Extension Defiance County, 6879 Evansport Road, Suite B, Defiance, OH 43512 Telephone: 419-782-4771 email: email@example.com
For more information on crop nutrient management plans, contact Greg LaBarge, Program Supervisor & Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mark Badertscher, OSU Extension – Hardin County at 419-674-2297.
Locally, the Hardin Soil & Water Conservation District has existing staff members (Megan Burgess and Howard Lyle) to help landowners with their nutrient management and livestock manure nutrient plans. With field maps and soil test data, the district’s goal is to follow the Tri-State recommendations to complete the plan. The focus is on phosphorus but nitrogen and potash nutrients are also analyzed. The district also encourages farmers and retailers to follow the 4R’s: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place. SWCD Staff can be contacted at
419-673-0456 extension 3, or at their office located at 12751 State Route 309 in Kenton.
On November 9, 2015 the FFA held the annual Greenhand meeting. We awarded 14 freshman their degree this year. They all worked hard to meet the requirements of memorizing the FFA Creed, the FFA Motto, FFA Salute, and learning about the FFA Official Dress. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish in their next three years. Congratulations to Jessica Acton, Nicholas Adams, Rylie Bame, Tanner Cole, Kaylynn Cook, Cassidy Crooks, Zoey Curtis, Camryn Earlywine, Kambrey Hamilton, Lena Johnson, Ginnie Mills, Morgan Pauley, Jared Ruhlen, and Gabe Sheldon. Good luck on your future years as FFA members!
The Hardin Northern FFA officer team put many long hours into practicing for the Parliamentary Procedure Sub-district Contest. The team consisted of Stephanie Acton, David Allen, Katie Gault, Kenzie Kater, McKenzie Madison, and Ashton Stevenson. We competed in Sub-districts on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at the Delphos High School. With placing Third Place, we were told that we not eligible to move on to compete at districts. We found out two days before the district competition that a team backed out, so we had the opportunity to compete at Districts on December 3 at Upper Sandusky High School. However, we did not place high enough to move on to state, we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to compete for a second time and show how hard we have been working.
On Saturday October 24, 2015 the Hardin Northern FFA took a trip to the Haunted Prison in Mansfield, Ohio. Where, approximately 40 FFA members attended. After the long but well worth it bus ride we waited in line for about three and half hours. The closer the group got to the entrance the more and more scared they became. The estimated walk-through time was about 45 minutes long. The inside was set up with actors and decorations that jumped out of nowhere to try and terrify you. It is rated one of the top haunted attractions in the state. Overall, it was a great turn out and our students were happy with the outcome.
The Hardin Northern FFA held the annual Sub-District Job Interview contest on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at Hardin Northern Local School. Three area schools participated in this contest, Hardin Northern, Delphos-Jefferson, and Ada. Students spent time with their Ag teachers learning how to prepare an application, resume, cover letter, and a follow up letter. Seven students from the Hardin Northern FFA participated there. The students were Ashton Stevenson, Trent Prichard, Claira Wilson, Jessica Acton, Jared Ruhlen, Cassidy Deckling and Will Poling.
Moving on to Districts Job Interview contest for the Hardin Northern FFA was Ashton Stevenson, Trent Prichard, Claira Wilson and Jessica Acton. The Districts contest was held on Thursday, November 19th, 2015, at Hardin Northern Local School, where 17 area schools participated.
The 2016 Conservation Tillage Club breakfast program series will begin on Tuesday, January 5 at the Plaza Inn in Mt. Victory. Each session will begin at 7:30 am with complimentary buffet breakfast followed by the program at 8:00 am. On January 5, the program will feature Dave Spangler, 2014 Captain of the Year of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. Spangler has attended various agricultural field days, including the Hardin Field Day this year. He has been impressed with the work that is being done to help improve water quality in Lake Erie, and has taken that message back to his association. His knowledge of water quality problems on the lake and the economic impact on the region give Dave a unique perspective on the role farmers and others have on the Lake Erie region.
Spangler will be joined by a representative from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, explaining the role Senate Bill 1 and 150 have had regarding current regulations and improved nutrient management practices for Ohio agriculture based on research being conducted with edge of field studies. Included in this discussion will be answers about the Ohio Ag Nutrients Law and Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training, along with licensing requirements and regulations for both Ohio crop and livestock farmers as well as commercial applicators.
The January 19 program will feature Dr. Matt Roberts, Associate Professor of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at The Ohio State University. Roberts will present a program on the grain marketing outlook, addressing what to expect in the 2016 crop year in regards to the agricultural commodity markets and the risk associated with marketing options for corn, soybeans, and wheat. This information will provide additional tools for the farmer’s marketing toolbox to use when considering their marketing strategy. After two years of lower grain prices, Robert’s information should help grain producers develop ideas to plan for this coming year’s crop production.
February 2 Dr. Laura Lindsey, Assistant Professor with the OSU Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, will present a program on increasing soybean yields. Dr. Lindsey has been conducting statewide soybean research during the past three years, including fields in Hardin County. Her goal has been to determine the yield limiting factors that prevent producers from achieving high soybean crop
yields. In addition, Lindsey will address new seed technology and other inputs that can increase soybean production.
The February 16 program will feature Dr. Peggy Kirk Hall, Assistant Professor and Field Specialist of Ag and Resource Law with OSU Extension. Hall will be discussing farm transitions and leases to help provide direction with passing down the farm to new ownership. She will also provide information about making informed decisions with land, wind, solar, and pipeline leases. Get your questions answered about these topics and more at this year’s winter breakfast programs.
The Conservation Tillage Club breakfast program series is jointly sponsored by OSU Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Hardin, Logan, and Union Counties, and in cooperation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Breakfast is provided by the generous support of agricultural lenders and agricultural businesses. All events are open to the public and no advance registration is required. Continuing education credits for Certified Crop Advisers is pending.
For more information about OSU Extension, Hardin County, visit the Hardin County OSU Extension website at hardin.osu.edu, the Hardin County OSU Extension Facebook page or contact Mark Badertscher, at 419-674-2297.
The Kenton FFA chapter adopted 8 children over the holiday season, thanks to our white elephant gift exchange, the chapter raised money to buy multiple gifts for these children. Members from the chapter spent their after-school hours shopping and putting together magnificent gifts for these children and sending them in to see beautiful smiles and reactions!
As a chapter, we held our annual meeting in December, and the chapter conducted a white elephant gift exchange, with the earnings going directly towards gifts for the 8 children the chapter adopted over the holiday season. With each member donating $5, we raised enough money to buy each child multiple gifts and send love their way. Members were conducted into a drawing and when their number was called, they got a gift from another member who donated into the drawing! No member left empty handed!
2015 Hardin County Agriculture Hall of Fame inductees included (from left) Robert L. White, Clinton Archie McNutt Family (represented by son Ken McNutt), Thomas E. Sprang (represented by son Scott Sprang), and Merritt & Hazel Wilson (represented by daughter Ruth Oates and son John Wilson).
The Hardin County Agriculture Hall of Fame presented the 2015 inductees, who were honored at the thirteenth annual Agriculture Hall of Fame recognition banquet held at St. John’s United Church of Christ on December 1. The 2015 inductees were: Clinton Archie McNutt Family, Thomas E. Sprang, Robert L. White, and Merritt & Hazel Wilson.
The purpose of the county Agriculture Hall of Fame is to recognize outstanding agricultural contributions by Hardin County people and to honor those who have brought distinction to themselves and the agricultural industry. Farm Broadcaster Gary Jackson presented the keynote address discussing his Hardin County roots with a little history mixed in. Members of the Agriculture Hall of Fame Committee are: Kerry Oberlitner (Farm Bureau) - chairman, Paul Ralston - vice chairman, Mark Badertscher (OSU Extension) – secretary, Robert McBride, Treasurer, Robert Wood (Grange), Ruth Oates, Andrew Flinn, Luke Underwood, and Don Spar.
The Hardin County Agriculture Hall of Fame would like to thank the sponsors who made this banquet possible. For further information, go to hardin.osu.edu.
Master Of Ceremonies, Kerry Oberlitner opens the session.
The Ag Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony held last night. The Master of Ceremonies, Kerry Oberlitner introduced the keynote speaker, award-winning ag broadcaster and former WKTN staff member, Gary Jackson. He shared with the crowd his ties with the county. Jackson the shared a story with the message that "People are affected by other people all through their lives."
Oberlitner then introduced the first award presenter, Bob McBride. He presented the first induction award to Ken McNutt who accepted it on behalf of the Clinton Archie McNutt Family.
Andrew Flinn continued with the program by presenting the second induction to Scott Sprang honoring his father, the late Tom Sprang. Next, Bob Wood presented Bob White with his induction award. Closing the ceremony, was Paul Ralston as he presented the Merritt and Hazel Wilson Family with their award. Oberlitener then thanked the audience for attending, the inductees for their years of service to the counties agriculture, and the sponsors for making the event possible.
The American Degree Recipients (L-R) Haley Sherman, Morgan Houser, Brandi Barrett, and Damion Sheldon
On October 28th, 2015, seventeen students from the Kenton FFA Chapter left for National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. On the first day students had some free time at the career show and FFA mall where they were able to visit many different college and business booths. They attended the opening session with keynote speaker Dr. Rick Rigsby, where there were over 50,000 FFA members across the nation attending. That night students attended the FFA concert with Jake Owen and Maddie and Tae. On Thursday, members went on a tour at Food Chain, where they learned about how their business is ran, and how aquaponics works. Students spent the whole afternoon at the Expo Center where they attended the Second Convention Session and saw the former National FFA Western Region Vice President give his retiring address, and attended a Hypnotist show as a chapter. That night they attended the Buckeye Bash where they were able to meet many different FFA members across the state of Ohio. On Friday, they spent the whole morning touring the Kentucky Horse Park and learned about and saw many different breeds of horses, and enjoyed the gift shop. In the afternoon they took a tour of Harvest Moon Dairy Farm where they learned about how they milk the cows, what they feed them, and what the normal day of a Dairy farmer is like. That evening they attended the 7th session of Convention with Keynote Speaker Brad Montague, Creator of Kid President. On the final day of Convention, Saturday, they attended the final session of the convention where they watched Kenton FFA Members Brandi Barrett, Morgan Houser, Haley Sherman, and Damion Sheldon get their American FFA Degree, the highest degree the National FFA can award an FFA Member.