Ep. 32: The Story of the 2021 Growing Season (So Far!) with Doug Eickholt
Every year I write a story in my mind about the growing season we’re experiencing. Those stories stay with me like a highlight reel that I call on for making decisions in the future. While the 2021 growing season’s story still has much to be written, in Episode 32 of Precision Points, agronomist Doug Eickholt and I do a midseason recap on how this year is developing. He also shares some things he will be watching for and managing against for the remainder of the year.
Doug, owner of Outstanding Agronomy LLC, has worked in both feed and grain, with five years of experience in the retail agronomy world. He recently started his own consulting business out of Spencerville, Ohio, working directly with growers and helping them shape the story for their growing season. So far, things in this area have been fairly smooth.
“Once the weather broke, guys got out in the fields and really went after things. I think everything was planted in a two-week window for the most part,” Doug said. “Matter of fact, I talked to a few guys and they said, ‘I don't think I've ever planted and not got rained out at least once.’ So, in that respect, I think everything went in the ground really nicely.”
As an agronomy consultant, much of the early growing season was spent scouting for weed pressure.
“Waterhemp has come into this area, especially in the last five years, and has made itself well known,” started Doug. “A lot of guys have a waterhemp issue. And I think most people know it now, but there's still some guys out there that don't know that. Some know they have the issue, but they don't know how to treat the issue.”
Doug shared that he has seen the most success when growers complete a two-pass program with a pre- and post-emergent herbicide application. It allows growers to “start clean and stay clean,” even when they aren’t sure the second pass is necessary.
As the season progresses, Doug pressed on the importance of fungicides. Much of his advice echoed that of Amanda Kohnen in Episode 31 of Precision Points. He encourages growers to consider a fungicide application on both corn and soybeans to preserve their yield potential and protect against disease.
“In regards to corn, I would say tar spot is a big watch out,” Doug started. “That came into our area pretty prevalent in the last two or three years, and it's something that we don't know a lot about other than the fact that it overwinters, and it can devastate a corn crop pretty quickly. So, in regards to the corn crop, I would say that's something we need to look out for.”
When it comes to soybeans, Doug recommends keeping an eye out for frog-eye. He mentioned that fungicides in soybeans can not only help against diseases, but can help the plants utilize moisture better if the season turns off hot and dry.
Finally, Doug encouraged us to walk our fields. While it seems like basic advice, it is probably something we could all benefit from doing more of. There is a lot to be learned if we make time to be hands-on in our crops throughout the growing season.
You can listen to our full episode with Doug in the player above or by searching for Precision Points in your favorite podcast app.
Host: Morgan Seger
Morgan Seger grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio before studying agriculture at The Ohio State University. She spent 10 years working with ag retail – specifically in ag tech – prior to hosting the Precision Points Podcast. She lives and farms in western Ohio with her husband Ben and their four children. Morgan has her own blog, Heart and Soil, where she talks about her experience farming, gardening, and raising her family.
Guest: Doug Eickholt
Doug, owner of Outstanding Agronomy LLC, has worked in both feed and grain, with five years of experience in the retail agronomy world. He recently started his own consulting business out of Spencerville, Ohio, working directly with growers and helping them shape the story for their growing season.
Host: Morgan Seger
Guest: Doug Eickholt
Morgan Seger (00:22):
Welcome back to Precision Points, an ag tech podcast from precisionagreviews.com. I'm your host, Morgan Seger, and in each episode, we strive to bring you unbiased information and ideas. And today on the show, I'm joined by my friend, Doug Eickholt, from Outstanding Agronomy. He recently started his own consulting business, and today we do a recap of the growing season up to this point, and things that we should be looking for as we get into this later part of the growing season, before we get into harvest. So, I hope you enjoy my conversation with Doug. Welcome back to Precision Points. Today, I'm joined by my friend, Doug Eickholt. Doug, welcome to the show.
Doug Eickholt (01:02):
Hi, Morgan. Thanks for having me. It's an honor to be on here.
Morgan Seger (01:06):
Oh, I'm so excited to catch up. We've gotten a chance to work together in the past, and I got to say, congratulations on starting your own consulting business. When I saw you were going out and doing your own thing, it just makes so much sense. You always had a really good way of connecting with the growers that we were working with, and I'm super excited to see how this shapes out for you. Would you mind kicking us off today by just giving a little bit of your background?
Doug Eickholt (01:29):
Yeah. So, I started out in the agronomy side of things, and then as far as doing some application and things like that right out of high school. And then after that, I changed courses a little bit, went into the grain and feed side of things. Lo and behold, I was brought back into the agronomy side, just couldn't stay out of it, I guess. So, been in agronomy sales, I guess, for five years, I suppose. Decided that it was a good time to go out on my own.
Morgan Seger (01:58):
Yeah. Well, so do you have a favorite thing? Is agronomy your favorite? You're well-rounded in all of agriculture.
Doug Eickholt (02:07):
Yeah. I would say probably the most fun and exciting thing for me is just watching the plants grow through the year. The chemistry side, it gets me excited. I really like the seed piece as well, but I think the chemistry piece is probably my most exciting part of it.
Morgan Seger (02:26):
Doug Eickholt (02:27):
Just knowing how you can spray something on this plant, and it won't kill this plant, but it'll kill the plant right next to it that's a weed. And that, to me, is just really intriguing.
Morgan Seger (02:39):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's powerful. If you just think about how far we've come, in general. I was actually thinking about that before we started recording. All of the information that some of the agronomists that you and I have worked with when we've worked together in the past, they've had so much information. So, I love that we have a chance to highlight some of this on the podcast, and archive it so we can keep it. So, I'm looking forward to this conversation today. Can you share how this season is just shaping up for you? How did it start? How are things looking now?
Doug Eickholt (03:11):
Well, I think the season started out really good. Guys were starting to get pretty antsy to get into the fields there, and the weather wasn't cooperating as far as they're concerned. But once the weather broke, guys got out in the fields and really went after things. And I think everything was planted in a two-week window there for the most part. Matter of fact, I talked to a few guys and they said, "I don't think I've ever planted and not got rained out at least once." So, in that respect, I think everything went in the ground really nicely. Things worked really well. And just the season going forward, so far, has been really well. It's been a little dry, but we got some rain today actually, and I think that was welcomed rain for a lot of guys.
Morgan Seger (03:57):
Yeah, for sure. I've been seeing lots of places, especially on Twitter where you can get a scope for what the whole Midwest is doing, but it looks like a lot of people were praying that rain would hit them today.
Doug Eickholt (04:08):
Yeah. If not just for the crops, but also so that they could have an excuse to stay in the house and rest up.
Morgan Seger (04:14):
That's for sure. My husband and I, we talk about that a lot, that it feels like it always rains when we're really tired. And so, we're always super grateful when we get those timely breaks. Even if we should keep going, it always feels good to be able to take that break. So, how far along are the crops now in your area?
Doug Eickholt (04:33):
Right now, they're, oh, beans are probably V3, V4, pushing that timeframe. And corn is, most of it, I would say, is probably a V5, V6 timeframe. Might be a little bit taller stuff, but that's a pretty good general assessment, I would say.
Morgan Seger (04:53):
What are some of the things that you are looking for today, at this earlier stage crop?
Doug Eickholt (05:01):
As of today, right now, the biggest thing I'm looking for is weed pressure. Waterhemp has come into this area, especially, in the last five years, and has made itself well known. And a lot of guys have a waterhemp issue. And I think most people know it now, but there's still some guys out there that don't know that, they know they have the issue, but they don't know how to treat the issue. Trying to get guys broke of that. Roundup days is still pretty prevalent out there, I'll say.
Morgan Seger (05:32):
Yeah. I mean, it's something we talk about a lot that's important. It's an important conversation for us to have. Is there a certain plan that you've seen work well for the growers you're working with?
Doug Eickholt (05:45):
Yeah. The biggest plan, the biggest success story, I should say, is when you put down a pre-emergence and you come back in and spray, whether it needs it or not after that pre-emergence, and after things are planted. And that start clean, stay clean...guys, they see the field and it's somewhat clean. They say, "Why do I got to go out there and spray it?" Well, because it's a lot easier to combat that waterhemp issue, than just trying to wait until they all come up and then trying to kill them with 2,4-D, or Roundup, or something like that. It just doesn't work very well.
Morgan Seger (06:22):
Have you guys gotten to any tissue testing, or any crop diagnosis, or have you seen any issues?
Doug Eickholt (06:30):
Yeah, I haven't seen any issues yet, really. Seen a couple of fields the other day that the guy had a planter issue with his pop-up. So, you can pick those rows out. They were pretty yellow. But I've done some tissue testing. I really don't do a whole lot myself, but I haven't seen a whole lot myself.
Morgan Seger (06:49):
Yeah. So, in our area, I actually think that things are looking pretty good. And as you look across the Midwest, outside of the drought stress, it looks like everyone really got off to a pretty good start, and maybe even just a touch earlier than what we normally would have got out and finished. So, as we look through the rest of the season, when we're thinking August, September, October timeframe, before we go into harvest, what are some of the key things that growers could be looking for?
Doug Eickholt (07:15):
Well, in regards to corn, I would say tar spot's a big one. That came into our area pretty prevalent in the last two or three years, and it's something that we don't know a lot about, other than the fact that it overwinters, and it can devastate a corn crop pretty quickly. So, in regards to the corn crop, I would say that's something we need to look out for.
Morgan Seger (07:38):
What does that look like?
Doug Eickholt (07:43):
It looks like the corn has little black spots all over it. Literally looks like a tar spot.
Morgan Seger (07:48):
Yeah. Is there a fungicide or anything you can do to manage it?
Doug Eickholt (07:55):
Yeah. You'll be able to spray a fungicide on the crop to help out. And a lot of times it's towards the end of the year, in that August timeframe, where you might've already sprayed a fungicide. You're going to say, "Well, why do I have to spend that money again?" I haven't dealt with it personally myself, but just reading up on it, spraying fungicide again will definitely save a yield, because the tar spot will just come in and wipe out the corn. It's a disease. And to me, it's like, well, how can a disease that late in the game hurt that crop so much, but it does. I can't explain it for sure, but it does. It'll take the corn crop, and by spraying a fungicide, you'll save 50 bushel or better, sometimes, depending on how heavy it is.
Morgan Seger (08:41):
Wow. I've never even heard of it. So, I will try to do a little bit of research after our call here.
Doug Eickholt (08:46):
Morgan Seger (08:47):
What else should we be looking for?
Doug Eickholt (08:48):
Soybeans, I would say frog-eye starts to come at that point in time. So, I stress to spray a fungicide. You have a certain group of guys that are really good with it and they'll do it consistently, all the time. And then you have guys that doubt it or question it, and think that they can, how do I say this? They think they can manage it themselves. And really, it usually ends up costing them something, whether it's a little bit of yield because they didn't put it on in time, or what. We got into this conversation here, and one of the things that I wrote down to bring up today was this misconception on fungicides. A lot of times growers, they say, "Well, it's dry out. It's a dry year. It's hot, dry, no real humidity. Why would I spray a fungicide?"
Doug Eickholt (09:48):
And that's what I like to hear, because I say, "Well, let me tell you, Mr. Grower." And there's just many reasons, but the biggest reason, I think, is it just helps that crop get through that drought stress time. It's going to help that crop to utilize the moisture, the little bit of moisture that it does have, better, more efficiently. So, and then the other misconception, I think, is, once we see a disease come in or hear about one coming in, then we'll spray. That's not really the greatest idea either. Because if you think about it in terms of your own personal health, by the time you start showing symptoms, you've already felt some symptoms. So, it's the same thing as a corn and soybean crop. If they're showing symptoms, or whatever, have, I guess, how do I say that? They're showing signs that they have a disease moved in, the crops already suffering, and you're not going to get as big a yield increase by a spraying fungicide at that time, because then you're just trying to take an antibiotic, if you will, to try to kick that.
Doug Eickholt (10:55):
Whereas if you take a vitamin, you feel better, you have a better immune system, you can fight those things off, and it won't affect your daily work and your daily routine, that type of thing. That's how I look at it. A lot of guys, like I said, they try to manage that a little bit closer and it just doesn't work.
Morgan Seger (11:14):
So, when it comes to fungicides, we see some years have a really big economic impact, and other years, it feels like a wash. Is your recommendation then to plan on a fungicide every year, or are you still site specific, even though we know we might not see it yet?
Doug Eickholt (11:31):
Yeah. That's a little bit of a loaded question, isn't it? Guys will talk about hybrid specific and how, "Well, my hybrid from my seed person says this particular hybrid doesn't need a fungicide because it's got the disease tolerance package," and all those things. But it's been my experience, you may not see quite as much of a yield response if there's a disease pressure, but I like to look at it as the fungicide can almost be an insurance package, where you just got to plan on making that application. Because like I said earlier, you can't manage for a disease to come in. A lot of times we try to do that and then we end up catching it late, or things like that. So, yes, to answer your question in a roundabout way, I tell guys to just plan on it. And if for some reason there's a catastrophic thing that happens, you wouldn't put it on. But for the most part, I plan on doing it on every acre.
Morgan Seger (12:31):
Sure. We actually, in our last episode, had Amanda Kohnen on from Syngenta, and her take is the same. If you look at year over year, some years are going to have a bigger impact than others, but over time, you're money ahead if you're treating with a fungicide every year.
Doug Eickholt (12:47):
Morgan Seger (12:48):
It takes some of the emotion out of the decision, too, if you just make it part of your plan.
Doug Eickholt (12:54):
That's a good way to put it, year over year, it just pays.
Morgan Seger (12:56):
So, are there-
Doug Eickholt (12:56):
Some of those guys that you see making those bigger claims on yields, they tend to be those guys that are a little more progressive and do that year after year.
Morgan Seger (13:05):
Yeah. Because they don't miss a year.
Doug Eickholt (13:07):
Morgan Seger (13:09):
So, as you are out working with growers, are there any certain tools or technology that you lean on to help you do your job better?
Doug Eickholt (13:19):
The only thing I would say is, I just, I lean on, I have two guys that I talk to pretty regularly, and just bounce ideas off of them. And we don't get together as a group, but we talk to each other individually on the phone. And I would say that's my biggest tool is just talking to those guys. Yeah.
Morgan Seger (13:43):
Doug Eickholt (13:45):
So, no, not really a tool, but people, I guess.
Morgan Seger (13:48):
It's a valuable asset. I mean, we all have to have our network to help us through these things. So, I like that. Anything else you think that we might see going on this season or that you want to make sure you include?
Doug Eickholt (14:00):
One other thing I wanted to write down is, or that I wrote down that I wanted to say is, when we go out there in June, after everything's planted and everything's up, everything looks good, if you actually get out of the vehicle and walk the field, you can see maybe some of the mistakes that we might've made. And what do I mean by that? I mean, by with the planter. For instance, walking a field with a guy this spring, and corn’s all up, looks really good. But when you get out in the field and walk it, there's spots in the field where you can look down a row and you see where it's taller corn, but then you look down that same row and it's smaller corn. Then you start looking into the situation, into the problem a little bit more, and it's like, I wonder if this is a compacted area, or is this a planter issue, or what happened in this area?
Doug Eickholt (15:00):
And I like to dig up the corn plant and you can still see when, you can see the planting depth and see if it was by planting. Digging up those several different plants and say, "Hey, was this a planting issue, as far as the depth wasn't there?" Whatever, you can just see a lot of things. So, that's one thing that I like to do is go out and just look at the fields, because you might be out there, and normally we're out there looking for: Are there insects? Are there funguses? Are there weeds? What are we looking for? And one of the things I think I myself often forget to look for is a planter issue, because we can correct that for next year, probably, if it's a mechanical issue.
Morgan Seger (15:47):
We've noticed that just because of the pandemic and the way everything's been, that lag time on getting parts and getting the things you need are extended so much further than what we're used to, that it might not actually be a bad idea to start taking a look at the planter right now, if we have some downtime in season and get it set up for next year.
Doug Eickholt (16:06):
Morgan Seger (16:07):
Well, cool. So, I'm glad that we had some time to catch up. One question we always ask before we wrap up is if there's one technology that you're most excited about. And it can be in or outside of ag, nothing's off limits.
Doug Eickholt (16:21):
So, in thinking about this question, I think probably the one thing that really intrigues me the most is the, as simple as this might be, the auto-steer. The technology that the guy that I worked with on, and actually help farm, he doesn't have any autosteer anything. Okay. So, the only time I get to see that stuff in action is if I'm in somebody else's harvester, or planter, or something like that. So, looking at that stuff this spring riding in planters, they have it so that you come up to the end and you pick up the planter and then the auto-steer, or the guidance system, actually will turn the tractor, and set you back into the row. And then you set the planter back down.
Doug Eickholt (17:08):
And then there's individual row units that turn on as you cross this line that is painted already. And to me, that's just really, really cool that you're sitting there, and it's like, okay, I get my iPad out and watch some YouTube, because I don't really have to do anything right now. But I think that's probably one of my most exciting technologies, I think, that there is out there, because you can use it like that. And then I know there's where you can have the grain cart with John Deere to talk to the combine, and things like that, that's really exciting to me.
Morgan Seger (17:46):
It definitely helps so you're not so tired at the end of the day from focusing on those rows, row, after row, after row. But it also gives you opportunities to learn new things. I mean, it might not all be educational, what you're watching on YouTube, but there's just a lot more mental capacity that it frees up for you to think about your operation, and things that are going on. And then there's also lots of safety benefits, like you were saying with the grain carts, and lining things up, and efficiencies. So, I agree. We also don't have GPS on any of our equipment, and I know my husband will be excited for the day when we can finally do that.
Doug Eickholt (18:23):
Morgan Seger (18:26):
Well, I appreciate you taking time today. Is there any place people could go to follow along with your story and the consulting work you're doing?
Doug Eickholt (18:34):
I don't really have anything set up just yet. I've been on the fence on setting up something, they can go on Facebook and find my personal Facebook page, which is just my first and last name, Doug Eickholt. And they could follow me there. Other than that, I don't really have anything. I'm pretty boring, as far as that goes, Morgan.
Morgan Seger (18:53):
Well, you're always fun to catch up with. I appreciate your time today.
Doug Eickholt (19:00):
Yeah, no problem, anytime. And Morgan, don't forget, we got to roll that beautiful bean footage.
Morgan Seger (19:09):
That's right. It's the best tagline.
Morgan Seger (19:14):
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Precision Points. We are so grateful that you spend this time with us. To access the show notes from today's episode, you can go to precisionagreviews.com. While you're there, be sure to check out our grower-sourced reviews. It's a database of information to help you make decisions about precision ag services and products. While you're there, don't forget to leave a review of your own. We love getting new feedback about how these products and services work for you. Until next time, this has been Precision Points Podcast. Let's grow together.
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