URBANA — Farmers and others interested in agriculture can get answers to "big-picture" questions, as well as new research findings, at the University of Illinois' 57th annual Agronomy Day on Thursday.
The UI Department of Crop Sciences will host four different tours at the Crop Sciences Research and Education Center, starting at 7 a.m. and continuing every half-hour until noon.
The center is located on South Wright Street Extended, south of St. Mary's Road in Urbana. Visitors can expect to find displays of farm equipment and technological advances, as well as a showing of antique farm equipment by the I & I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club.
Each of the four tours makes stops at research plots and takes about an hour, so those wanting to take all four tours should come early.
Here's a sampling of what topics will be addressed on each tour:
— Tour A: Crop sciences Professor Emerson Nafziger will discuss "How many corn plants do we need?" He'll discuss field trials that suggest that with new corn hybrids, farmers can optimize yield by having about 32,000 plants per acre.
Also on the tour: Steve Moose and Jessica Bubert will talk about "NitroGenes" that provide more corn yield with less nitrogen; Michelle Pawlowski, Chelsea Harbach, Ellen West and Glen Hartman will discuss soybean disease and pest resistance; and Carl Bradley and Fred Kolb will explain Fusarium head blight in wheat.
— Tour B: Agricultural economics Professor Gary Schnitkey will try to answer the question "Will corn and soybean costs come down?" He says it's possible non-land costs associated with corn and soybean production could decrease, even though they've risen seven of the last eight years.
Fertilizer costs could come down because additional nitrogen fertilizer capacity is being built, Schnitkey said. Machinery depreciation costs could also go down, if lower farm income leads to lower machinery purchases. But seed costs are unlikely to drop.
Also on the tour: George Czapar will discuss ways to reduce nutrient loss; Darin Eastburn will describe how cover crops suppress soybean diseases; and Michael Gray, Preston Schrader, Joe Spencer and Sarah Hughson will give an update on western corn rootworm.
— Tour C: Sarah Potts, Rita Mumm and Martin Bohn will discuss research to identify genes in corn that help produce high yields when plants are close together.
Also on the tour: Marty Williams will discuss vegetable soybeans; Aaron Hager and Adam Davis will discuss Palmer amaranth, a weed that has been steadily moving northward from the South; and Kris Lambert will discuss soybean cyst nematode, which infects soybeans and reduces yields.
— Tour D: Laura Gentry and Fred Below will address the question "How far can we sustainably push corn yields?" Variables they explored include crop rotation and tillage. They found rotating corn and soybean crops produced greater yields than continuous planting of corn. They also found strip tillage had yields comparable with conventional tillage when fields are rotated between corn and soybeans.
Also on the tour: Below and Jason Haegele discuss the six secrets of soybean success (weather, fertility, variety, fungicides and insecticides, seed treatments and row spacing); Below, Haegele and Ross Bender describe nutrient management in corn-soybean rotation; and Fabian Fernandez and Brad Sorensen talk about phosphorus and potassium in no-till and strip-till crops.
Lunch will be available for purchase at the registration tent, with Nelson's Catering providing pulled pork barbecue and Italian beef sandwiches. Serving begins at noon.
For more information or to register, visit agronomyday.cropsci.Illinois.edu/.