Webinar for 2021 ARC and PLC Program Year

OSU Extension will be offering two webinars this winter focused specifically on the ARC/PLC decision, reviewing decision-tool calculators available to evaluate options, and current market outlook. The dates for these webinars are January 13th from 1:00-3:00 pm and February 25th from 9 -11 am. Both programs are free to attend, but registration is required. Register online at: http://go.osu.edu/arcplc2021.

Additionally, OSU Extension and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) are offering several webinars between now and the March 15th enrollment deadline for producers to get up to date market outlook information. For information about AEDE’s 2021 Winter Outlook Meetings, visit https://aede.osu.edu/research/agricultural-policy-and-outlook-conferences/county-meetings.


ARC and PLC Elections for 2021 Crop Year

This article was originally posted on the Ohio AG Manager Blog at https://u.osu.edu/ohioagmanager/.

Enrollment for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year opened in October, with the deadline to enroll and make amendments to program elections on March 15, 2021. This signup is for potential payments for the 2021 crop.

If changes are not made by the March 15th deadline, the election defaults to the programs selected for the 2020 crop year with no penalty. While changes to program elections are optional, producers must enroll (sign a contract) each year to be eligible to receive payments. What does that mean? Even if you do not change your program elections, you  still need to make an appointment at the Farm Service Agency to sign off on enrollment for the 2021 crop year by the March 15th deadline.

Producers have the option to enroll covered commodities in either ARC-County, ARC-Individual, or PLC. Program elections are made on a crop-by-crop basis unless selecting ARC-Individual where all crops under that FSA Farm Number fall under that program. These are the same program options that were available to producers during the 2019 and 2020 crop years. Producers may want to amend program election to better manage the potential risks facing their farms during the 2021 crop year.

As you consider amending your program choices, here are some important reminders:

PLC payments are triggered by low prices. PLC is a disaster price program and pays when the marketing year average price is below a reference price. The marketing year average price (MYAP) is an average price calculated using cash prices across the nation over the course of a year. The 2021 marketing year for wheat is May 2021 – June 2022 and for corn and soybeans is August 2021 – September 2022. This means that the MYAP for 2021 for wheat will not be known until June 2022 and the MYAP for corn and soybeans will not be known until September 2022. PLC payments will only be triggered for a covered commodity if the MYAP published at the end of the marketing year are below the reference price. The reference price for corn is $3.70, for soybeans is $8.40, and for wheat is $5.50.

ARC-County payments are triggered by low county revenues. Revenues are calculated using the market year average price times the county average yield. When producers enrolled for 2019 and 2020, they were enrolling after the 2019 crop had been harvested. Yields for 2019 were known at the time of the enrollment deadline for that year. For the 2021 crop year, producers will be enrolling before the crop is planted.

Producers have less information about both price and yields for the 2021 enrollment period, compared to the last enrollment period. When producers enrolled for 2019 and 2020, we were more than halfway through the marketing year for each crop, so there was much more information on price expectation. For the 2021 crop year, producers will be enrolling before the marketing year begins.

The maximum ARC-IC payment is triggered in cases where an FSA Farm has 100% Prevent Plant acres. At the time of enrollment for the 2019 crop year, producers knew if they had FSA Farms that fit this description and were able to use that information to decide if ARC-IC was a good fit for a FSA Farm. For the 2021 crop year, producers will need to decide by March 15th if ARC-IC is still the right choice for those farms without knowledge of how many acres they will have in Prevent Plant. While some FSA Farms triggered large payments for ARC-IC in 2019, producers may want to re-assess this program election for the 2021 crop year if they do not expect to put those farms in 100% Prevent Plant in 2021.

For most producers, the number one consideration driving program election is the market. What are markets going to do? We will not know the MYA price for corn or soybeans until September of 2022, and a lot could change in that time.

OSU Extension and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) are offering several webinars between now and the March 15th enrollment deadline for producers to get up to date market outlook information. For information about AEDE’s 2021 Winter Outlook Meetings, visit https://aede.osu.edu/research/agricultural-policy-and-outlook-conferences/county-meetings.

Additionally, OSU Extension will be offering two webinars this winter focused specifically on the ARC/PLC decision, reviewing decision-tool calculators available to evaluate options, and current market outlook. The dates for these webinars are January 13th from 1:00-3:00 pm and February 25th from 9 -11 am. Both programs are free to attend, but registration is required. Register online at: http://go.osu.edu/arcplc2021.

2021 Small Farm College – POSTPONED UNTIL FALL 2021


Are you a small farm landowner wondering what to do with your acreage?  Are you interested in exploring options for land uses but not sure where to turn or how to begin?  Have you considered adding an agricultural or horticultural enterprise, but you aren’t sure what may be required for equipment, labor, and/or management?  Are you looking for someplace to get some basic farm information?

If you or someone you know answered yes to any of the above questions – then the Ohio State University Extension New and Small Farm College program may be for you!

OSUE’s New and Small Farm College is a five-session short course that will be held one night a week beginning in January.  The 2021 Ohio New and Small Farm College program will be held in four locations across the state including right here in Putnam County!  These sessions will be held at the OSU Putnam County Extension Office, 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa.  Classes will be held on Thursdays beginning January 21 and concluding February 18, 2021.

Face-to-face sessions will address the following topics:

  • Getting started with a small farm (goal setting, family matters, business planning, budgeting, resources)
  • Appropriate land use -Walking the Farm;
  • Small farm legal checkup and farm insurance;
  • Financial and business management strategies for decision makers of small farms;
  • Where to get help – an overview of County resources; OSU Extension, government agencies and programs, (i.e. CAUV, EQIP, grants, etc).

In addition to the five traditional face-to-face sessions, the 2021 Small Farm College includes on-demand webinars, podcasts and other resources and content that participants can access virtually. These topics will include: Horticulture and Livestock Production Enterprises; Natural Resources and Wildlife; Honeybees; New Crops such as Hops, Malting Barley, and Hemp; Marketing Alternatives, and more.

All sessions begin each evening at 6:00 PM with a light dinner followed by the nightly presentations from 6:30 PM to 9:00PM. COVID-19 precautions will be in place at all locations.  Due to spacing and social distancing requirements, class size at each location will be limited. 

The cost of the course is $100 per person, $75 for an additional family member.  Each participating family will receive a small farm college notebook full of the information presented in each class session plus additional materials.  Registrations are now being accepted. You may also find more information at the following website: https://agnr.osu.edu/small-farm-programs/new-and-small-farm-college.  For more details about the course contact Tony Nye, Small Farm Program Coordinator (937)382-0901 or email at nye.1@osu.edu.

Registration forms can be found on our website (putnam.osu.edu), by calling the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, by email at Scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.

Caring for Poinsettias

Many homes, offices and churches are decorated with festive trees, lights, and popular holiday plants like the poinsettia. December 12 marked National Poinsettia Day, a day celebrating our country’s most popular holiday plant! This day recognizes Joel Robert Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico who introduced poinsettias to our country in 1821.

In their native habitat in Mexico and Central America, poinsettias grow as shrubs and can even develop into small trees. Today, the poinsettia is prized as an indoor holiday potted plant with over 100 varieties grown in varying shades of red, burgundy, coral, pink, white and combinations of the above.

The brightly colored leaves of poinsettia are often mistaken for the flowers. These colorful leaves are called bracts and surround the small, inconspicuous, yellow flowers called cyathia. The cyathia are clustered in the center of the bracts and shed yellow pollen. Once the pollen is shed, the bracts begin to fade. When shopping for a poinsettia, choose plants that have closed flowers or those that are only slightly open and not shedding pollen.

Since poinsettias are native to warm, tropical habitats, they can be injured if exposed to low temperatures below 55°F. Despite a few warm days here and there, you will want to make sure to cover plants with a paper or plastic sheath when transporting them from the place of purchase to your car and from your car to your home or office. Exposure to low temperatures can result in damage to the bracts and leaves, and in some cases, death of the plant.

Indoor conditions during the winter are not ideal for poinsettias, but proper care will help plants perform well throughout the holiday season. Poinsettias are grown in greenhouses under conditions that mimic their native habitat – temperatures of 65-70°F with high relative humidity and bright light. Once inside the home, provide at least six hours of bright, natural daylight such as near a sunny window. Maintain air temperatures between 65 and 70° F and avoid places where plants are exposed to drafts, fluctuating air currents, and excess heat or dry air from appliances, fireplaces or ventilation ducts.

Poinsettias prefer evenly moist soils that are not too wet and not too dry.  Water plants thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to the touch.  Make sure the water begins to drain out of the holes at the base of the pot. Discard any excess water, as poinsettias left sitting in water generally develop root rots.

Signs that your plants are stressed and not happy include yellow leaves as well as rolling and dropping of leaves and bracts. Wilted plants will also drop leaves prematurely.  If wilting does occur, water the plant thoroughly to moisten the soil, then re-water again after 10 minutes. Never allow the plant to stand in excess water.

Poinsettia plants can be maintained in the home throughout the year and encouraged to rebloom the following winter with some coaxing. It is often easier to discard plants once they have finished blooming and look forward to purchasing fresh, vibrantly colored plants next year.


Soil Testing

What is one of the most helpful resources to use when establishing or maintaining a garden bed, lawn, landscape, or cultivated field?  A soil test!  For relatively little cost, soil testing labs provide invaluable information for homeowners, gardeners, and farmers by pinpointing nutrient needs and providing fertilizer recommendations or corrective actions for sampled soils.

Why should you test soil?  There are four main reasons to test your soil: 1.) to guide plant selection  2.) to maintain proper soil fertility 3.) to diagnose plant problems and 4.) to follow industry-accepted management practices, such as those used for tree care or for agronomic crop production.

What does a soil test measure? A basic soil test provides information on soil properties including soil pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), base saturation, lime requirement index, and levels of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). Additional tests can measure soil texture and the amount of copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), soluble salts, nitrates, and organic matter in the soil.

Why is soil pH important? Knowing your soil pH is a cost effective way to match a plant’s pH requirement with that of the soil in which you are planting. Soil tests provide a pH value from 1 to 10, though soil pH rarely measures below 3.5 or above 9. Soil is considered acidic when it measures less than 7.0 and alkaline when it measures more than 7.0.

Many plants grow in a wide range of soil pH levels, while others have more specific requirements. For example, numerous ornamental flowering plants, fruits, vegetables, and turfgrass species grow well when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8. Other plants such as pin oaks, azaleas and blueberries require a more acidic soil (5.5 to 6.5) to thrive in our area. When grown in a higher pH soil, they tend to exhibit nutrient deficiency symptoms such as leaf yellowing and/or stunted growth.

When should soil be tested? With the growing and harvesting season winding up in NW Ohio, now is a perfectly good time to soil test. Soil testing can be done throughout the year as long as the soil is workable to collect a sample. Since soil test results are used in planning what needs to be done with a specific growing area, they should be taken with ample time to evaluate and act upon the recommendations. Fall is an excellent time to make lime applications to raise soil pH, while spring is best to apply sulfur to lower soil pH.

How often should should soil be tested? For most garden, landscape and agronomic purposes, soil testing every two to three years is adequate to maintain soil fertility. More frequent sampling may be required when diagnosing plant problems or for nutrient-hungry plantings.

Where can soil be tested and how do you interpret results? While Ohio State University no longer provides soil testing services, we do provide soil sampling kits from Penn State University for $10 at the Extension office. After you collect and mail your sample to the lab, recommendations on how to improve soil fertility based upon the desired plants or crops to be grown will soon follow. While many online resources can help explain soil test results, you may also bring or email soil reports to the extension office for further interpretation.




Believe it or not – it’s Bat Week!

Coincidentally Ohio Bat Week and International Bat Week are celebrated from October 24 through October 31 – just in time for Halloween! What is Bat Week? Bat Week celebrates the immense contributions that bats provide in nature and heightens awareness for bat conservation through education.

There are 13 species of bats reportedly found across Ohio, including the little brown and big brown bats. These mammals are essential for controlling insect pests, pollinating flowers, and spreading seed across wide areas. On any given summer night, you can see them flying about consuming their weight in mosquitoes, flies, beetles, and other insects. In fact, insects are the only thing that bats in Ohio eat. If bugs are out and about, bats are out and about too.

If you have ever sampled a margarita – you have bats to thank for pollinating and dispersing agave seed. Blue agave plants are the only plants used to make tequila!

History suggests that bats became associated with Halloween due to their dark coloration, nocturnal habits, and tendency to roost in caves and dark places. They can also be seen in large swarms this time of year looking for places to hibernate for the winter. Some bat species will fly south while others find more local retreats with moderate temperatures including caves and mines.

Fear not!  Bats are not the scary, blood-sucking creatures depicted in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” or countless other vampire-themed tales and movies.  Rather, they are harmless, beneficial mammals that intentionally avoid human contact. Bats coexist around us generally without ever being detected. In some rare cases, you might cross paths with a bat.

Bats can enter homes and buildings through small openings or through open windows, doors, or cracks. The best way to prevent encounters with bats is to seal entry points and install one-way exclusion openings that allow bats to leave but not return. The extension office has a nice bulletin on excluding bats from buildings, so please call for a copy.

If you find a bat in your home or other living space, it is best to isolate it to a single room, turn off all lights, and leave a window or door to the outside open, The bat will leave on its own. I had a bat in the garage over the weekend, turned off the garage light and let the door open – and the bat was gone before morning.

Once excluded – it is a good idea to provide bats with a more suitable living space. Bat houses can be easily constructed or purchased. Place bat houses around your property to encourage bat-friendly habitats.

Bats can carry the rabies virus, though fewer than 4% of bats in Ohio have rabies. For this reason, it is advised to not touch or handle bats with bare hands as a precaution. If you are bitten by a bat it is wise to seek medical care immediately.

To learn more about bats in Ohio as well as other mammals, please visit The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mammals of Ohio guide.

Bats are threatened by the loss of natural habitats due to development of land and deforestation, wind turbines, and pesticide use. For more information on bat conservation, please visit Bat Conservation International (batcon.org), Batweek.org, or the Extension office at 1206 East Second St. in Ottawa. You may also contact us by phone at 419-523-6294, email at scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu, or find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.

Leave the Leaves

Leaves across Northwest Ohio are near peak fall color. The brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange will vanish over the next few weeks as leaves drop to the ground. One question often asked this time of year is “What should I do with all these leaves?”. As you might guess, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends. Homeowners have many options for dealing with fallen leaves including mowing, mulching, composting – and just letting them be.

What happens when trees lose their leaves in a forest or a natural area? Fallen leaves generally form a carpet of sorts on the ground, keeping the soil moist and of moderate temperature. This in turn allows living organisms like animals and fungi to thrive. In fact, leaves provide winter protection for countless animals including butterflies and moths, beetles, spiders, among others.

Deciduous tree leaves are an excellent source of organic matter and fertilizer. Over time, decomposing leaves provide a slow release of nutrients, roughly 2% nitrogen, which can be used by plants for growth.

If you have turfgrass, mowing is a good option when the lawn is covered by a light layer of leaves. A lawn mower can quickly reduce fallen leaves into smaller leaf fragments that break down quickly. Mowing also eliminates wet, matted piles of whole leaves that can prevent grass from growing in the future.

One word of caution – rake and remove leaves from trees that have certain foliar diseases such as tubakia leaf spot on oak, tar spot on maple, or guignardia on buckeye.  Leaving diseased leaves in the landscape will keep the fungi around to possibly infect trees again next year.

Mulching can reduce large amounts of leaves in your yard. Leaves can be mulched and collected in a leaf bag attached to a mower or by using a leaf shredder. Applying several inches of leaf litter mulch to landscape or garden beds will help conserve moisture, moderate soil temperatures, and reduce weed growth.

Whole or mulched leaves can also be incorporated into the soil with a tiller to increase organic matter and improve soil texture, aeration, and drainage. Leaves can be broken down along with other yard wastes into compost. The composting process reduces these wastes into a nutrient-rich organic material that can be used in containers, gardens, and flower beds.

Finally, you can simply leave the leaves. Leaf piles provide ample winter cover for a wide variety of insects and spiders – and eventually add organic matter, nutrients, and improve soil health as they break down. What will you do with your leaves this year?

Crane Fly Craze

It’s a plane! It’s a bird! Actually, it is probably a crane fly. Crane flies have emerged over the past week across our area. We have received reports from homeowners and farmers of large numbers of mosquito-like insects covering lawns, walls, tractors and combines during harvest.

Crane flies are slender insects with long, lanky legs resembling mosquitos on steroids. They are not supersized mosquitos, but rather a type of fly. Crane flies have also been called “mosquito hawks” or “skeeter eaters” though neither name is accurate. Crane flies do not eat mosquitos, nor do they bite people or animals. In fact, most crane flies only have mouthparts that sip nectar or water during their short life span.

Adult crane flies live only a few days to a week. Their sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation.  Though they may be bothersome today, they will likely be gone tomorrow or at least in the very near future.

Female crane flies lay their eggs in moist areas such as near streams and rivers, irrigated lawns, gardens, and landscapes, or any other suitable place. Eggs hatch to reveal larvae that resemble small worms. These tiny larvae are called leatherjackets and begin consuming plant material such as fallen leaves and plant roots.

One type of crane fly, the European crane fly, was introduced to the US from Europe and can be a troublesome pest of turfgrass. The European crane fly leatherjackets consume the blades and roots of turfgrass plants and can cause significant damage in large numbers. Larvae only requiring control if found in very large numbers feeding on turf roots. Crane fly larvae are a favorite food of many different bird species, and populations are often kept in check by birds. In the majority of cases, no action is required by homeowners or farmers.


Bees vs. Yellowjackets

Each fall, as apples fall to the ground, barbeque grills are fired up, and pumpkins don front porches – one insect often gets blamed for another’s pesky behavior. This article intends to clear up the misconceptions about honey bees and their “look alike” meddling cousins the yellowjackets. Both are beneficial insects, but one is more bothersome to you and me.

Ohio is home to numerous species of bees – some are native (like bumble bees, carpenter bees, squash bees, etc.) while others are not. The familiar honey bee is an example of an introduced species brought to America by European settlers nearly 400 years ago. One significant difference between native bees and honey bees is their lifestyle. Most native bees are solitary and live alone in a single nest while honey bees build large colonies made up of hundreds to thousands of bees.

You may commonly find honey bees and native bees on your flowers and vegetable plants. Bees are beneficial pollinators. They collect pollen and lap up nectar inside flowers then take these back to the bee hive where they will be stored as honey and bee bread. Pollen and nectar are their sole food sources providing carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals they need. Rarely will bees visit picnic tables to sample sweet or savory treats.

You might also find an occasional wasp in your garden. Wasps include hornets, yellowjackets, mud daubers, among others. They also visit flowers to drink the sweet, sugary nectar. Unlike bees, wasps are beneficial predators. They are carnivorous and have a diet made up of other insects, including caterpillars, spiders, flies, and bees. Yellowjackets will consume just about anything at your picnic table – from sugary sweets like soft drinks and fruit to savory steaks, hamburgers, and hotdogs. They are notorious for hanging around garbage bins and compost piles, sampling whatever is available.

Here are some key differences between bees and wasps to help you tell them apart. Bees are covered in hair, making them appear fuzzy or furry (see image). The hairs on a bee’s body collect pollen and help the bee to effectively pollinate flowers.  Wasps are smooth and shiny without noticeable hairs. Yellowjackets have yellow and black bands on their slender, shiny bodies. Their waists are also very thin compared to a bee.

Both honey bees and yellowjackets live in social colonies. Yellowjackets generally build a paper nest in the ground, but these can also be found above ground and inside cavities in walls and other areas. Honey bees nest in beehives made of beeswax, hollowed tree trunks, and in wall cavities, but never in the ground.

The honey bee is generally docile unless it is protecting it’s hive and growing brood of young bees. Once a honey bee stings someone or something, it dies. Wasps, on the other hand, are aggressive and search out their food. They can sting multiple times, making them a more formidable adversary.

Honey bees overwinter in their hives feeding on stored honey until the spring. Yellowjacket hives die out after several frosts, and only new queens survive the winter months. These queens will start new nests in the spring.

I am just finishing up a summer-long survey of native bee species here in Putnam County. All bee samples re being sent to Wooster next week for proper identification. I’m excited to learn about how many native bee species we found this year…and will report on that in the spring.  In the meantime, for more information on native bees, honey bees, and wasps, please visit OSU’s Bee Lab at beelab.osu.edu. There are so many wonderful resources for you there.

Estimating Soybean Yields

Farmers are usually anxious to know how their crops have performed each year – well ahead of harvest. To help with grain marketing and harvest plans, now is a good time to estimate grain yields. Mid to late August is generally a good time to make corn estimations with soybeans occurring during this time or even later as pods continue to mature.

OSU Extension educators across the state have been out and about in fields the past few weeks providing early estimates of corn and soybean yields. As you might expect, reported yields have been variable – coinciding with whether crops received ample rain this season or not. Some areas in Ohio received timely rainfall while others received little to no rain throughout the summer.

A sample of early corn yield estimates have been reported virtually on the Ohio’s Country Journal website and ranged from 78 to 265 bushels per acre. Soybean yields have not yet been reported as the crop continues to mature.

How can you estimate soybean yield?

Estimating soybean yield is very similar to estimating corn yields but results can be more variable due to variable plant stands and seed size. Keep in mind that these estimates become more reliable as the growing season progresses. The optimum time to estimate soybean yield is at the R6 stage where flowering has ceased, the final number of pods are set, and seeds continue to fill.

For soybeans, four yield components are necessary to estimate yield in the field – number of plants per acre, average number of pods per plant, average number of seeds per pod, and average seed weight. As you can imagine, there can be considerable variability in each of these components. Remember that stress and early fall weather conditions can greatly affect seed size.

An average value for soybean seed weight used in the yield estimation equation is 3,000 seeds per pound in a 60 lb. bushel. When below normal rainfall occurs during seed fill this method overestimates yield as seed will be smaller with lower weights and more seeds per bushel (3,500 seeds per pound). When good growing conditions are present during seed fill, yield is underestimated as seed weights are higher with fewer seeds per bushel (2,800 seeds per pound).

To estimate yield, several small sections of a field that equal 1/1000 of an acre are sampled and averaged to give an estimated yield. The steps to estimate soybean yield are as follows:

  1. Count the number of plants in a length of row equivalent to 1/1000th acre. For 30” rows, this would be 17 ft 5 in or 34 ft 10 in for 15” rows.
  2. Randomly pull 10 plants within this distance, count the number of pods per plant with at least one seed, and determine the average.
  3. Randomly select 10 pods from harvested plants, count the number of seeds per pod, and determine the average.
  4. Calculate the estimated yield in bushels per acre by multiplying the number of plants, times the average number of pods, times the average number of seeds. Divide that total by (number of seeds per pound * 0.06).
  5. Repeat the procedure for at least four additional sites across the field.

An example for a field with 15” rows: You counted 120 plants in a row that measured 34’ 10” in length. Ten plants were pulled from this row with an average of 30 pods per plant with three seeds per pod. Pods have filled nicely, so an estimate weight of 3000 seeds per pound is used. The estimated yield for that site in the field would be (120*30*3) divided by (3000*0.06), which equals 60 bushels per acre.