Demonstration plots can offer farmers side-by-side insight

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soybean field

LONDON, Ohio — Across a series of fields, diseased soybean plants stand, tarnished by pesticide that spread much further than intended.

Another patch of soybeans grew only minimally, planted in the same spot year after year, without a break.

“We’re going to show you: If you mess up, this is what’s going to happen,” said Harold Watters, a field specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

Watters was referring to an exhibit at the upcoming Farm Science Review where crops were planted to demonstrate various challenges farmers face, as well as possible solutions.

Watters and other experts from Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, will be on hand at the review to discuss the crops they planted and the outcome that either shows a problem or resolves one.

What works

All demonstration plots were planted to illustrate research findings about what works and what doesn’t for various hurdles farmers face. This year’s growing season came with many weather-related challenges.

A warmer than typical winter caused some growers to plant early, but then heavy spring rains washed some seeds away or made it hard for seeds to emerge in muddied, then dried over soils.

Insects were out early. And the rain continued, causing ponding on fields.

“We want to hear about what worked for farmers, their trials and tribulations.

If they want to stop and talk, that’s what we’re here for,” Watters said.

The demonstration plots that Watters and other agricultural experts have grown will illustrate successes, as well as problems. A patch of oats and cereal rye shows how cover crops can help hold the soil in place amid heavy rain.

Corn comparisons

In another section, a variety of corn grows that tolerates glufosinate, a common weed killer. One plot shows the progression of corn plants as they changed over years of selective breeding to make them more hearty and offer a higher yield of corn.

“I call this the ‘antique corn,’ ” Watters said, referring to older varieties of corn. On display for visitors is Teonsinte, the ancestor to modern corn and several varieties before modern day hybrids were available which offer a far shorter growing season than Teosinte, larger cobs and resistance to various diseases.

Another nearby plot of corn was planted to show how corn seeds sown late in the season, in June, can still offer good yields.

“That’s to show you do have flexibility when you plant the corn,” Watters said. “The yields aren’t bad.”

The demonstration plots at Farm Science Review are among the hundreds of exhibits available to visitors.

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