How Farmers Can Make the Most of Their Data

How Farmers Can Make the Most of Their Data

The agriculture industry has become increasingly dependent on data. Tractors and farming equipment are now essentially computers on wheels that collect tons of data about soil, crops, and machinery. The fact that John Deere now employs more engineers in software rather than mechanical illustrates this point further. They are doing this so that they can gather data from their machines and use that data to improve farming practices. What is the best way to manage all this data? Data management can be a challenge, especially when you must be out in the field or in the shop. Take advantage of your data by following these steps.

Who’s Using Your Data?
Four Vs of Big Data
Use your Data

Who’s Using Your Data?

Considering how your data will be used is the first step. In the same way, you should also consider who you will partner with. For a bank, for example, we’re going to find the most useful data related to profitability and efficiency. Your financial data helps us determine whether you are able to take on more debt, get a new loan, or purchase a new home.

An agronomist will also want access to all kinds of map data in order to understand your soil health, including pH, fertility, and moisture. Data may also be of interest to your employees, especially those who operate machinery. Equipment performance, yield, outputs, and overall efficiency will be important to them. Don’t forget to consider how you and your partners will use the data you collect. In some cases, it may be necessary to collect different data, or to interpret it in a different way. Your data collection process will be guided by knowing how and who will use it.

Four Vs of Big Data

If you do not understand how to read data, it is just numbers. It is critical to compare data year after year as well as to other operations. To put it another way, context is essential.

Benchmarking your data will help you uncover and address problems, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement, allowing you to understand it.

The Four Vs of Big Data will help you make the most of your data. These are volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Using the Four Vs will help ensure your data is accurate and useful. Read a breakdown of the Four Vs here.

Use your Data

It would be a waste of time and money not to collect data using the equipment you’ve invested in. You probably have a lot on your plate, so using your data is easier than it seems. Here are some things to consider.


The use of data goes beyond exporting it to a spreadsheet or writing down notes on paper. You may want to invest in software that helps interpret and organize your data depending on the size of your operation. Data collection and analytics can be integrated into one platform if you choose a company that offers both hardware and software. You should at least look for patterns in the data so you can set benchmarks. This will help you track and measure your improvements.

Crop consultants can also interpret the data that farmers provide them. The data you have might not be easy to analyze, but no matter what, you should have someone analyze it for you. There are many tools and resources available to you. If you need help determining the right path, you can speak to your crop insurance agent.

Make changes

It is possible to identify problems and then fix them using the data that you collect and interpret. Using your data to improve your operation will help you get the most out of your investment. Using the data, you might discover that certain sections of your field need more water than others. The soil nutrient density may be higher in certain parts, allowing you to adjust your fertilizer prescription and save money. Data analysis can be used to optimize your yields, saving you time and money as well.

Backup your data

The importance of backing up your data may seem obvious, but it can be easy to overlook. Losing all your data makes it hard to recognize patterns and set benchmarks. This can be as simple as printing out some of the files or just buying a backup hard drive to download your files to. You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t Forget About Privacy

Since consumers own more devices that collect personal data, data privacy has become a hot topic. Similar to Siri and Alexa, farm equipment has also been scrutinized for its ability to collect your data. It’s important for farmers to read the terms and conditions so they understand what’s being shared. Don’t forget that all the information you collect about your farm allows companies to gain insight into how you operate it. You also need to consider the equipment you use and the inputs you use. Sharing your data is not necessarily a bad thing, but make sure you understand how it is used by third parties other than you and your partners. Don’t share your data portal login information, and when sharing data, ensure it is “read-only”, which means other users cannot edit it.


You should treat your data like any other tool in your shed. When you use it effectively, your operation can run smoother, more efficiently, and more profitably. The information you collect doesn’t need to be analyzed every day. Identifying patterns and setting some benchmarks can make a real difference in your decision-making process.

Important Tasks for Farmers After the Fall Harvest

Important Tasks for Farmers After the Fall Harvest

Although there are many different types of farms out there, most farmers take time during the late fall and winter months for reflection and planning for the next crop year. We put together a detailed checklist of important tasks that the farmers we talk to do during that off-season timeframe.

Data Review and Decision-Making
Equipment Maintenance
Risk Assessment
Caring for Your Livestock
Tend Winter Crops
Analyzing the Market
Touching Base with Others

Data Review and Decision-Making

Data is only numbers if you don’t know how to read it. Data must be compared year-over-year and to other operations. In other words, it must have context. To understand your data, you need to benchmark it, and then use it to discover and address problems, inefficiencies, and target areas for improvement.

To make the most of your data, adopt what’s known as the Four Vs of Big Data. These are volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Using the Four Vs will help ensure your data is accurate and useful. 


It is important to have a large amount of data to compare and identify patterns. For example, knowing the temperature for one day doesn’t tell us much. We need weather data over a long period of time so we can see patterns. As the volume of your data increases, it’s likely to get more complex so being able to sort and filter will be critical. Having yearly weather records can provide you with useful data for nearly every infield decision. For example, having data for average daily temp can help you decide when you’re going to plant, if you need to change seed variety, when to spray and when to apply nitrogen. This will allow you to better predict your growing degree days and schedule other activities accordingly.


You could also think of this as timing. For your data to be relevant it needs to be on time. Using aerial imagery, you can provide information such as ground and crop temperatures, crop health, weed pressure, and expected yield. This data isn’t useful if it comes to you a month late. Collecting timely data and delivering and interpreting it is critical to success. Taking a little time each week to look at your data will be more beneficial than looking at it only once a year.


The variety of data you can collect has increased with the advancement of technology. Previously, if you had a low yield spot, you might not know why. The more data points you have, the more you will be able to see the whole picture. Having data about ground temperature, moisture levels and nutrients in the soil can help you pinpoint what’s causing issues and then address it. You won’t have all the pieces of the puzzle if you don’t have a variety of data.


The final V is veracity, also known as the quality of the data. In order to make informed decisions, you must make sure your data is accurate. Your equipment must be calibrated correctly in order to perform this function. Using multiple machines to collect data requires accurate data as well. There is a good chance that the data is not accurate if one machine gives a different reading than the others. The data you get could be filled with anomalies that aren’t explained if your equipment isn’t calibrated. Another reason you need accurate data? Your data is used for benchmarking and seeing patterns. If you’re collecting a lot of inaccurate data that information is not valuable. Lastly, make sure that you aren’t comparing apples with oranges when comparing data. The timing, duration, location, and equipment used for collecting data can cause great variances. When trying to set benchmarks it’s important that you’ve considered potential variables.

Equipment Maintenance

Machine malfunctions can be expensive, so it is imperative to take steps to minimize unnecessary expenses. As with many other industries, farming relies on various types of machinery and equipment to run. The assets need to be maintained properly to remain in working condition. You can keep your farm more efficient by keeping a well-organized, practical and handy maintenance checklist. Here is a quick farming equipment maintenance checklist to follow and refer to often.

1. Inspect Equipment For Potential Damage

  • Leakage from the valve stem
  • Oil or hydraulic leaks on the ground beneath the tractor
  • Corroded battery terminals
  • Dirty cab windows that obstruct your vision
  • Headlights and warning lights

2. Change Fluids Frequently
3. Survey All Equipment, Regardless Of Size
4. Safely Store Equipment And Machinery

Risk Assessment

Farm Safety Risk Assessment – Animal Handling

You can assess potential animal handling risks in many ways:

  • Walk through all animal-handling areas and look for hazards, such as broken gate latches, broken posts, or restraining equipment not working.
  • Consult with WorkSafe Victoria’s advisory service or visit WorkSafe’s farming information page.
  • Reflect on injury records to pinpoint recurring dangers, including less obvious ones like lacerations and sprains.
  • Talk over safety issues with family members, workers and other animal handlers.
  • Make sure at least one person on the farm is trained in first aid.
  • Remember that inexperienced workers and bystanders are more likely to be injured.

Yard Design, Equipment and Safety

General suggestions for improving yard safety include:

  • Yards, crushes, cradles and sheds should be suitable in size and strength for the animals being handled.
  • Avoid blind corners and sharp turns in the design of your yard.
  • Keep the walkways and laneways dry and non-slip wherever possible.
  • Make sure your gates, footholds and access ways are well positioned.
  • Keep all equipment in good repair: gates moving and hung, latches working, hinges greased.

Caring for Your Livestock

Farmers and farm workers can easily be injured by livestock. Cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, dogs and other farm animals can be unpredictable and should be treated with caution at all times. It is possible to injure animals by lifting them or pushing them, and animals may also transmit certain diseases if they are handled in this way. Get help if you need it, plan ahead, and maintain a barrier between yourself and the animals.

Feeding and Nutrition

Diets for all classes of cattle should meet the recommendations of a nutritional consultant. For local recommendations and advice, contact your state agricultural extension as a potential resource. Like other species, cattle are susceptible to infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, toxins, parasites, neoplasia, and injury. In order to reduce risks and maximize efficacy, control programs should be based on risk assessment and available products. By implementing health management programs early, economic losses are reduced. Healthy herds are more productive. Check out some more agricultural and management practices for the care of farm animals.

Tend Winter Crops

Farmers may grow crops throughout the year depending on where they live. Cover crops are also being planted by more farmers these days. There are a variety of root structures in cover crops, and they can also leave nutrients in the soil when they are harvested. Working on soil improvement during the winter is a good choice, and it doesn’t require going outdoors in the cold.

By planting a cover crop in summer or fall and letting it overwinter, you can:

  • Improve soil organic matter and soil fertility.
  • Suppress cool-season weeds.
  • Prevent soil erosion.
  • Create a better seedbed for spring planting.

For farmers in more moderate climates they may have vegetable crops they are growing.

Analyzing the Market

A lot of the winter months are spent looking at market trends, pricing structures, crop demand, current loan packages, insurance policies, etc. The budgets of farmers and ranchers are constantly evolving, just like any other business. It is particularly important for farms to pay attention to details during times of high volatility, like we are experiencing today, and to do so on both the revenue and cost sides. When farmers regularly evaluate their budgets, they can anticipate expected profits and losses and implement risk management strategies if crop damage or revenue decline occurs.

Touching Base with Others

Farmers meet regularly – locally, regionally, nationally – to discuss new technologies, the horizon for politics, new crops, processes for transferring ownership to younger generations, etc. The local co-op is also a great place to grab a cup of coffee and hear a story. Find a local farm.

It doesn’t matter if a farm is one acre, 100 acres or 10,000 acres. Food producers who dedicate their lives to putting food on other tables are not fooled by below-zero temperatures, frost, and blustery winds. For farmers, winter serves as a reminder to tend to the tasks that will help them reach their goals—whether they be social, environmental or economic—in the seasons to come.

What is the Supplemental Coverage Option?

What is the Supplemental Coverage Option?

Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) is an optional crop insurance endorsement that provides coverage for a portion of the deductible of your underlying crop insurance policy.

1. How Do I Buy SCO?
2. How Do I Decide If I Should Buy SCO?
3. How Does SCO Work?
4. What Happens if I Elect SCO and Signed Up for ARC?
5. How Much Does SCO Cost?

SCO can be elected only when a producer has purchased one of the following underlying plans of crop insurance:

blank one with code in Advanced CSS
Yield Protection
Yield Protection policies insure producers in the same manner as APH policies, except a projected price is used to determine crop insurance coverage.

Similar to APH, Yield Protection is available only on crops that qualify for Revenue Protection. A Yield Protection plan protects against production loss.

It works the same as the APH plan but instead of using a price election established by RMA, the price is established according to the applicable board of trade/exchange as defined in the policy document called the Commodity Exchange Price Provisions (CEPP). The price that is used is called the Projected Price. The Projected Price is used to calculate the guarantee, premium and loss payments.

The producer selects the percent of the projected price they want to insure, between 55 and 100 percent. The guarantee is established by multiplying the average yield by the coverage level and by the Projected Price, and an indemnity may be due when the value of the production to count is less than the yield protection guarantee plan.

By offering revenue protection, you are protected against a loss of revenue due to an increase or decrease in price, a reduction in production, or a combination of the two.

Revenue Protection
In Revenue Protection (RP) crop insurance, the Commodity Exchange Price Provisions (CEPP) are used to determine the price, but it differs from other types of crop insurance crop insurance plans from the Yield Protection (YP) plan since it uses two different price discovery periods. The projected price is determined in the same manner as YP and is used to calculate the premium, replant and Prevented Planting payments. Near harvest time, the harvest price is released. An indemnity is calculated using this price.

The revenue protection guarantee is established by: Average Yield X Coverage Level X Insured’s Share Percentage X Projected Price.

If the calculated revenue (production X harvest price) is less than the crop acreage’s revenue protection guarantee, an indemnity may be due.

Note: When the harvest price is released, if it is greater than the projected price, the revenue guarantee will be recalculated using the harvest price as well.

While the revenue guarantee is increased, the insured is not charged any additional premium for this increase. The policy guarantee remains at the projected price even if the harvest price is lower than the projected price.

Revenue Protection with the Harvest Price Exclusion
A minimum crop insurance revenue guarantee will not be recalculated when harvest prices are released when Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion Plan (RP-HPE) is selected.

The Revenue Protection Plan with Harvest Exclusion Plan (RP-HPE) crop insurance plan is similar to the Revenue Protection (RP) plan, however it provides coverage against loss of revenue caused by price decrease, low yields or a combination of both – the price increase is not covered because the guarantee is not adjusted up by the harvest price for this plan.

Revenue guarantee, premium, and replanting or prevented planting payments are determined by the projected price. In order to count in a loss in production or revenue, the harvest price is only used to value the production. In the event of an increase, the guarantee is not recalculated.

The producer does not receive the benefit of price movement with the RP-HPE plan.

Actual Production History (APH)
APH guarantees the producer a yield based on the actual production history of their crops.

The APH plan of crop insurance provides the producer protection against a loss of production due to nearly all unavoidable, natural occurring events. For most crops, that includes drought, excess moisture, cold and frost, wind, flood and unavoidable damage from insects and disease.

For the producer’s share of the crop, the guarantee is calculated by multiplying their average yield by the level of coverage chosen. If the production (harvested and appraised) is less than the guaranteed amount, an indemnity may be due.

The pricing for most crops insured under the APH plan of insurance is established by RMA.

Several perennial crops, such as apples, peaches, and grapes, fall under the APH plan, as well as crops with no revenue coverage. Under the APH plan of insurance, grain crops such as oats, rye, flax, and buckwheat are also covered.

The Federal Government pays 65% of the premium cost for SCO.

How Do I Buy SCO?

Producers can choose SCO as an endorsement of the underlying policy. It is imperative that you make this choice by the sales closing date for your underlying policy, and it must be with the same insurance company. Farmers who have chosen to participate in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program at Farm Service Agency (FSA) are not eligible for SCO coverage.

Contact your trusted agent, Scott Colville today to discuss policy details and availability.

How Do I Decide If I Should Buy SCO?

For those crops and farms eligible for SCO coverage, the type and amount of SCO coverage are determined by the type and coverage level you choose for the underlying policy. You should talk to Scott Colville to determine what best meets your individual risk management needs.

How Does SCO Work?

SCO follows the coverage provided by the underlying policy. In the event that Yield Protection is selected, then SCO will cover yield loss. If Revenue Protection is chosen, then SCO covers revenue loss.

As a result of the liabilities, coverage levels, and yields of the underlying policy, there are many factors that determine how much SCO coverage is provided. In contrast, SCO triggers a loss payment differently from the underlying policy. Whenever there is a loss in yield or revenue, the underlying policy pays a loss and triggers an indemnity. SCO pays a loss on an area basis, and an indemnity is triggered when there is a county-level loss in yield or revenue.

A farmer’s SCO crop insurance indemnity payment is based on county-average revenue or yield and is not influenced by the amount you receive from the underlying crop insurance policy. Individual losses can result in SCO payments not being received, and vice versa.

The dollar amount of SCO coverage is based on the percent of crop value covered. SCO also allows producers to customize their amount of coverage with a coverage percentage. The coverage percentage is selected from a range of 50% to 100%, and the maximum amount of SCO coverage is multiplied by that percentage.

What Happens if I Elect SCO and Signed Up for ARC?

In the event that a producer elects SCO and ARC for the same crop on their farm, SCO coverage for that crop on that farm will be canceled, and the producer must report the crop covered by ARC on their acreage report. If they do not report a farm covered by ARC, the acreage of that farm will be ineligible for an SCO payment. As a result of the ineligibility, the producer must still pay 60% of their SCO premium for that crop and farm. The underlying policy will remain in effect.

A farmer’s SCO crop insurance indemnity payment is based on county-average revenue or yield and is not influenced by the amount you receive from the underlying crop insurance policy. Individual losses can result in SCO payments not being received, and vice versa.

The dollar amount of SCO coverage is based on the percent of crop value covered. SCO also allows producers to customize their amount of coverage with a coverage percentage. The coverage percentage is elected from a range of 50% to 100%, and the maximum amount of SCO coverage is multiplied by that percentage.

How Much Does SCO Cost?

The exact premium cost depends on the crop, county, coverage level you choose for the underlying policy, SCO coverage level percent you choose, and the type of coverage you choose, such as Yield Protection or Revenue Protection. The Federal Government pays 65% of the premium. You should talk to Scott Colville for more information.


9 Factors To Consider In Your 2023 Seed Selection Decisions

9 Factors To Consider In Your 2023 Seed Selection Decisions

Hopefully, 2023 won’t drastically change what we see as normal. No doubt, the price farmers pay for their 2023 seed selection will be higher again. Buying seeds during inflation can be challenging. Here are some tips to get you through.

Table of Content

1. Corn Looks Good
2. Don’t Forget Soybeans
3. You Get What You Pay For
4. Find and Use Discounts
5. Change It Up
6. Reject Recency Effect
7. Go Long With Soybean Varieties
8. Go Long For Hybrids, Too
9. Tar Spot

1. Corn Looks Good

Generally, people think of corn as sweet corn on the cob we eat directly, but it accounts for only 1% of the corn acreage in the U.S. The corn I am talking about is field corn, which is planted primarily all over the Midwest. Farmers like growing corn, corn, and more corn. April 2022 calculations by Gary Schnitkey, Krista Swanson, Nick Paulson, and Jim Baltz, U of I agricultural economists, and Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University (OSU) agricultural economist, give corn the current nod. Farmer return per acre of corn is $365 per acre for highly productive central Illinois land, compared to $179 per acre for soybeans.

2. Don’t Forget Soybeans

According to the U of I and OSU economists, corn is more expensive and more prone to supply problems, as well as nitrogen fertilizer risks. “We’re also seeing a surge in double-crop soybeans, due to favorable economics for both soybeans and previously planted winter wheat,” says Stephanie Porter, Golden Harvest soybean product manager. “Farmers are also learning that they can gain yield by planting soybeans earlier in cooler weather.” The most important benefit from planting soybeans early is higher yields. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that soybean yields decrease by 0.4 of a bushel per acre per day when planting is delayed past the first week of May.

3. You Get What You Pay For

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all seeds sold commercially to be tested and meet minimum germination standards. Most states also have their own seed laws setting minimum requirements, and most seed companies have minimum standards for seed they will market. However, the standard germination test tells only part of the story. A germination test conducted under ideal conditions doesn’t give a good indication of a seed’s performance under challenging field conditions. Running a vigor test provides a better estimate of field performance. Testing for seedling vigor includes accelerated aging, cold, electric conductivity, and vigor classification. Low vigor seeds may not grow well under adverse field conditions, even if they have an acceptable germination percentage. Vigor testing is particularly valuable for seed that has been held over, stored under unknown or unfavorable conditions, or will be planted under less-than-ideal soil or weather conditions.

4. Find and Use Discounts

It can be helpful to ease seed price concerns by ordering early. Take advantage of all the opportunities out there. Here are a few things could help:

Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources
Grainger Industrial Supply
Prime Day (It’s passed for this year)
Farmers Union Member Benefits
National Young Farmers Coalition
Billion Farmer Discount
Apply for farm grants and loans

5. Change It Up

Pests love predictability. A control measure can become resistant when it is used repeatedly.

Each crop uses different types and amounts of minerals from the soil. If the same crop is planted each and every year, over time the soil is depleted of the minerals essential for plant growth and health. In reverse, a different crop will sometimes return missing minerals to the soil as the plant dies and composts or is turned into the soil. Rootworm can also be demolished by changing up the crop as well. Because corn rootworm larvae must feed on corn roots to survive, switching crops from one year to the next effectively eliminates their chances of survival. Without corn roots to feed on, they starve to death.

6. Reject Recency Effect

It’s so easy to make big decisions based on your most recent experience. What you’re experiencing is called the recency effect or recency bias, which poorly predicts seed performance.

Next year will be different from 2022, just as 2022 was different from 2021. A good rule of thumb is to compile at least five years of yield and production data. Then, toss out the outliers. This will help you set realistic goals and choose seed options for broad success. More tips on making sure you don’t suffer from the Recency Effect.

7. Go Long With Soybean Varieties

Producers are looking for ways to improve soybean yields and profitability and many are planting longer maturing soybean varieties as a way to reach these goals. The theory behind this strategy is that later maturing varieties will have a longer reproductive period and take full advantage of the growing season. However, planting later maturing varieties carries some risk. The most obvious risk is that the crop could be damaged by frost or freeze events, reducing yield and quality and increasing harvest delays.

8. Go Long For Hybrids, Too

“There’s still a trend to higher yields with fuller season maturities,” says Justin Welch, Syngenta digital product manager.

That’s why many northern Illinois farmers have shifted from corn with relative maturities of 105 days to 110 days, adds Judd Maxwell, Syngenta corn product placement manager.

“They’re now planting 110-day corn because they can harvest more yield in the same period of time,” Maxwell says.

However, this move increases the risk of an early fall frost spurring wet and immature corn, adds Maxwell. Thus, the move toward longer corn maturities hinges upon the drying capacity a farmer has, he adds.

9. Tar Spot

The Corn Belt is experiencing an increase in tar spot, a fungus that attacks corn. Tar spot pressure in corn is fueled by cool (60-70 degrees F), humid conditions (>75% relative humidity) and prolonged leaf wetness (>7 hours). Therefore, tar spot pressure is typically higher in areas such as those closer in proximity to the great lakes (e.g., Northwest Indiana), river bottoms, and irrigated corn acres. Furthermore, it is also important to note that previous research has found that the pathogen that causes tar spot can overwinter on infested corn residue on the soil surface, thus causing crop infection risks in the following year(s).

To manage tar spots, it is important to start with a healthy hybrid, apply fungicides on time, and improve the overall health of the plant. The tar spot typically attacks plants in conjunction with other diseases, so hybrids with better plant health can withstand tar spot pressure better.


Managing Apple Maggots with Insecticides

Managing Apple Maggots with Insecticides

There is probably no other pest as damaging to home fruit production as the apple maggot, a.k.a. railroad worm. The plant is native to this region of the world and is found throughout the state. The fruit infestation typically occurs during the summer when many families are taking vacations. Even a brief lack of attention can lead to substantial fruit damage.

Table of Contents

1. Biology of Apple Maggots
2. Devastation of Apple Maggots
3. Apple Maggot Prevention
4. Controlling Apple Maggots
5. Insecticide Chart

Biology of Apple Maggots

Apple maggot spends winter in the soil as a pupa. Adults emerge from the soil in late June or early July. Apple maggot flies continue to emerge from the soil throughout the summer and can be active until October. In the first seven to ten days following its emergence, the adult apple maggot feeds until it has reached sexual maturity. After mating females lay eggs just under the skin of the host fruit. A single female can lay between 300 and 500 eggs over her lifetime, which can last 30 or more days. Eggs hatch in 3 to 10 days depending on temperatures. The larvae (maggots) feed while tunneling through the fruit flesh. Typically larvae complete development in about 30 days. Temperatures and fruit hardness influence the rate of development and survivorship of larvae. Full-grown larvae leave the fruit and enter the soil to pupate. Most apple maggot pupae remain in the soil for one winter, though a few may remain there for two or more years. In warm years some flies can complete development and emerge as a partial second generation.

There are several factors that affect your ability to control these pests, such as how many apple maggots are present in an area and how many unmanaged apple trees surround your garden. You may have trouble keeping apple maggots under control if others in your area plant trees and don’t maintain them.

Devastation of Apple Maggots

Apple maggots are able to damage apples on two different levels. The first damage occurs when they lay eggs on the apples. The apple flesh stops growing at that site, which results in a weird, dimpled or sunken area on the apple—but it doesn’t stop there! When the maggots hatch, they tunnel through the flesh of the apple, causing it to decay and rot. Even so, a bit of prevention can help you defeat the destructive apple maggot.

There are several factors that affect your ability to control these pests, such as how many apple maggots are present in an area and how many unmanaged apple trees surround your garden. You may have trouble keeping apple maggots under control if others in your area plant trees and don’t maintain them.

Apple Maggot Prevention

Sanitation is the first issue to address. Pick up and dispose of apples within a few days after they’ve fallen. The best way to dispose of them is to trench compost them—just be sure that your trench or hole is at least a foot deep. If you still want to use these fallen apples, you can trim off the bad parts and turn the remainder into cider or applesauce.

Controlling Apple Maggots

Controlling apple maggots has been traditionally achieved with organophosphate insecticides, like Imidan. Synthetic pyrethroid compounds, like Asana, Warrior, Danitol, Battalion, Mustang Max and Baythroid, are also toxic to adult fruit flies but are generally viewed to be moderately effective because they have a shorter field residual.

  • Red Sphere Traps will greatly reduce damage and work well to capture and reduce the number of egg-laying adults. Traps should be placed within the canopy just as trees are finished blooming. Hang spheres high in the brightest areas of the tree, 6-7 feet from the ground. Set out one trap for every 150 apples (2 traps per dwarf tree).
  • Beneficial nematodes are microscopic, worm-like parasites that actively hunt, penetrate and destroy the pupal stage of this pest. For best results, apply in the early spring or fall around the base of trees, out to the drip line. One application will continue working for 18 months.
  • Surround WP — made from kaolin clay — will suppress a broad range of insects and has shown over 90% control of apple pests. It also has a positive effect on fungal diseases like fire blight, sooty blotch and flyspeck.
  • Apple maggot is listed on the labels of several reduced-risk and organophosphate-replacement insecticides:
    • The neonicotinoids Belay and Assail are labeled for apple maggot control. Despite their limited lethal action on adult apple maggots, they provide strong curative action on eggs and larvae.
    • Spinosyn compounds Delegate and Entrust are active against apple maggots when consumed, but have shown only fair control in field trials with high pest pressure, thus are marketed only to suppress apple maggots.
    • OMRI-approved Venerate is a biopesticide used to control apple maggots.
    • Pre-mix compounds such as Voliam Flexi, is labeled for apple maggot control.

Insecticide Chart


Beneficial Insects That Help Your Crop Production

Beneficial Insects That Help Your Crop Production

When you think of bugs on your crops, you probably think about those pesky little insects that feast on your produce and crops. This is understandable since they can reduce yields, blemish produce, and transmit diseases. But, what about the other 95% of insects out there that don’t cause trouble? You might be surprised to find out how much they can actually help you!

Table of Content

Five Soil Health Principles
Creating Habitat for Insects
Most Insects Benefits Farmers

The conservation of beneficial insects on his farm is a critical part of Bryan Jorgensen’s management plan, an agronomist for his family’s operation, Jorgensen Land and Cattle near Ideal, South Dakota.

“Insects are a primary part of the biome; it wouldn’t function without insects,” he says. “Their activity contributes to the building of soil organic matter, for instance. Beneficial predatory insects eat pest insects. Some insects are pollinators. Others are herbivores that regulate weed populations by eating weed seeds.”

Farm profitability is enhanced by the cooperative efforts of beneficial insects, he says. The economic benefits spin from multiple services performed by helpful insects. Boosting yields is one benefit of insect pollination of flowering crops. Another benefit, insecticides and fungicides may be reduced by beneficial insects consuming pests.

An uncertain science is assessing the extent of beneficial insect populations in fields and whether they are growing. Jorgensen evaluates insect activity by examining the soil itself and its ability to absorb moisture.

“I watch how the soil reacts to water infiltration,” he says. “Insects create macropores and micropores in the soil, and these facilitate rapid water infiltration.”

While it’s not a way to measure existing insect populations, Jorgensen says leaving residue on the soil’s surface will help to build insect populations.

“If you have a healthy soil system — with residue on the surface — you’re going to have tons of insects, and if you look beneath the residue, you’ll see them,” he says.

Jorgensen remembers a time when his family’s farming system was an unhealthy one. “I started farming in the mid-1980s, and at the time we used lots of tillage,” he says. “We had summer fallow, and we kept it tilled black. There was little opportunity for insects to thrive, and certainly the tillage prevented any chance for insects to build micropores and macropores in the soil.”

Five Soil Health Principles

With time, the Jorgensen’s developed their present farming system, which incorporates no-till, diverse crop rotations, and livestock grazing.

“We practice the five principles of soil health, which are all important to maintaining a healthy soil system, including a healthy population of insects,” says Jorgensen. “We keep the soil surface covered with residue. We disturb the soil as little as possible, and we try to keep living roots in the soil for as long as possible. Living roots create a host environment for a living biology.

“We also try to mimic nature by growing a diverse population of crops, and we integrate livestock grazing into the system,” he says. “Through their manure and urine, grazing cattle, sheep, or goats spread nutrients from the crop residues back onto the soil surface. The insects then move these nutrients back into the soil system.”

The diverse crops the Jorgensen’s grow include winter wheat, corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, oats, spring wheat, field peas, alfalfa, forage sorghums, and tame grasses.

“On some of our poorer ground we establish tame grasses for 10 to 15 years to build soil health,” says Jorgensen. They feed their livestock most of the crops they grow.

They grow a multi-species cover crop behind winter wheat. “We harvest the wheat in mid-July, and behind that we plant a cover crop mix including eight to 12 species of both warm-season and cool-season plants,” he says. “We graze cattle on the cover crops in November, December, and January.”

By grazing cover crops and mechanically harvesting crops, they monitor the amount of residue being removed from fields. “We have to replace that residue with some other kind of residue or nutrient, otherwise the system will go backward and organic matter will decline,” says Jorgensen.

Since soybeans leave little residue after harvest, the Jorgensen farm typically plants winter wheat, a crop with high residue, after soybeans, if the weather allows.

“If we don’t plant winter wheat behind the soybeans, we’ll plant oats or spring wheat on that field in the spring,” he says.

They have found that grazing cattle on cover crops is the most effective way to maintain surface residue and build soil organic matter. “Across the farm in 2021, the average organic matter content of our soil was 4.3%,” he says. “Some fields tested as high as 8.5%. Those were fields that had a history of very little removal of crop residue and a lot of cattle activity,” he says.

The organic matter in their soil was typically around 1% before they adopted regenerative management.

Creating Habitat for Insects

As an insect researcher, Jonathan Lundgren has dedicated his life to exploring the role of insects in agricultural production systems. After working as a research entomologist for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, he founded Blue Dasher Farm, Estelline, South Dakota, as a research and demonstration farm in regenerative agriculture.

“There are hundreds of species of insects, and many of them are extremely important in reducing a farmer’s dependence on insecticides,” he says. “Lady beetles, lacewings, ants — those are just a few common examples of beneficial insects.

”Research data suggests that diversity of insect populations on farms correlates with profitability, says Lundgren. “We know that farms that have more insect life have fewer pests and don’t have to spend much money on inputs; thus, they tend to be profitable,” he says.

Insect populations are best built by eliminating tillage and agrochemicals, and by increasing farm biological diversity. “Grow lots and lots of plants,” he advises farmers. “Never leave soil bare, and get animals out on the landscape to regulate those plants.

According to Lundgren’s research, farmers who adopt such regenerative practices can benefit as early as one year from the services of beneficial insects that prey on crop pests. One study shows that predation on pest caterpillars doubled in the first year of the transition and nearly tripled in the second year.

Pesticides and fungicides damage beneficial insect populations, but even herbicides can harm them. “Herbicides can harm some insects,” says Lundgren. “But as a rule, herbicides are less harmful to insects than tillage.

”To compensate for the damage done to insect populations by the application of herbicides to crops, he suggests continued seeding of diverse plants in the field to keep living roots in the ground. “You might also leave strips in the field that are unsprayed, to create ‘islands’ where the insects can live.

”The most important way to ensure the diversity of life on a farm — including insects — is to become intimately familiar with your soil and plants and the life that attends them.

“Every day, walk out into a field and see something — some form of life — that you’ve never seen before,” says Lundgren. “If you can do that, you’re on the right path to building biological diversity on your farm.”

Most Insects Benefits Farmers

Beneficial insects have increased in numbers as a result of regenerative management practices. These insects help maintain healthy crops and soil systems. Jorgensen does everything he can to protect their well-being.

“I don’t use any insecticides, with the exception of controlling alfalfa weevils every five or six years,” he says. “I also use no fungicides. In a healthy system, plants can typically defend themselves against viral infections.

“Unfortunately, many of us have been taught that insects are bad, and we have to spray them,” says Jorgensen. “In truth, most insects are beneficial. It’s only a handful that cause problems. Healthy soil and cropping systems need insects to thrive.”

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