About 275 people gathered last Wednesday, Aug. 22 at the Arlington University of Wisconsin Agricultural Research Center. Farmers, crop consultants and government officials, learned about the latest developments in crop pest management, grain production and other crop production matters at the annual half-day of seminars.

Attendees rode in six wagons to three different tour topics.

The tours touched on different topics — efficient nitrogen application in corn, yield gap reduction in soybeans, effective weed management in annual crops, and many others.

Research Center superintendent Mike Bertram said the seminars have a multiplying effect, since consultants and government officials share what they learned with clients and farmers, so ideas are implemented over several different farms.

The Lodi Enterprise and Poynette Press editor opted to go on tours discussing soil fertility and management, and pest management. The morning opened with a presentation from Carrie Laboski, a professor in the University of Wisconsin soil science department. Laboski discussed how to sync nitrogen application with the weather, soil conditions and other considerations, in order to get the greatest return on investment.

She asked the crowd of more than 80 watching her presentation, “Should you side dress every field?” The answer was, as it so often is in biology, “it depends.” In this instance, it depends on the soil profile, primarily.

Laboski then offered a piece of advice that was echoed throughout the morning, by several presenters.

“Don’t treat every acre the same,” she said. “Don’t treat this field just like that field.”

UW professor of plant pathology and UW-Extension specialist Damon Smith talked about a relatively new trend in Midwestern corn fields — fungicide application. When Smith asked how many in the audience were familiar with the trend, only three or four out of about 60 were raised.

“Only a couple want to admit it, huh?” asked Smith.

Smith acknowledged that fungicide treatments are generally not something farmers like to discuss.

However, he employed a variety of different graphs and charts to discuss treatment options for two of the most common diseases targeted by fungicides in Wisconsin — Grain Leaf Spot and Northern Corn Leaf Blight. With grain prices in a slump, Smith arrived at his conclusion, which amounted to a word of caution: “Don’t just plan on putting it on. I’m not saying don’t do it — just use it on a field-by-field basis.”

One of the final presentations offered before lunch was given by UW professor of entomology

Bryan Jensen. Jenson’s talk touched on a variety of pests. Japanese beetles? A nuisance, for sure, Jensen acknowledged, but often exaggerated as to their ultimate effect.

“What you see is often not nearly as bad as it looks,” he said. “Just because they’re showy, shiny, and they chew up the top of the plant (their effect is often exaggerated.)”

Jensen also touched on “sporadic but severe” pressure on army worms throughout the state. The pests are often stubborn and ravenous, but Jensen pointed to a silver lining — they are migratory, meaning the slate will be wiped clean over the winter. Overall, Jensen cautioned against erring on the side of spraying just to spray.

“If you spray when you don’t need to, you’ll kill off your beneficials,” he said, referring to insects like bumblebees and ladybugs that are a boon to crop fields, but killed by pesticides all the same.

Jensen said research days like the one last Wednesday are important because it not only allows researchers to present their findings, but growers and those working with them get to ask questions, as well.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said, before turning to greet a grower waiting with a question.

Bertram said research days reach beyond just the farmers that grow the crops.

“We are all neighbors,” he said.”Both farmers and non-farmers benefit when crops are produced in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sound manner.”

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