Extension's Response to COVID-19

Managing A Farm During COVID-19

Private Pesticide Training Licenses Extended


DATCAP has extended the date for the private pesticide licenses until December 31, 2021.  If you still want to complete your private pesticide license for this year you can go online and the training will be available March – May 2021.  A manual must be purchased ahead of the training/or testing.  You can purchase a manual at the Barron County Extension Office for $30.00. The cost for the online training is:  $10.00 per person. Trainings Will be held: March 1-14, 2021 April 1-14, 2021 May 1-14, 2021 To access this, visit the UW Pat Store at:  Scroll down on this page to “Private Applicator Training” located in the left column of the page.  Click on General Farming 100/101.  Then look for the B-Online Private Applicator Training main section of the page.  Click on “Add to Cart” the online training session you would like to purchase.  You will be taken to the shopping cart.  Click the button “checkout” to enter your contact information, shipping information, and payment information.  Must complete in one session; cannot log out and then log back in.  Allow 3.5 hours to complete. If you have any questions, please call the Barron County Extension Office at 715-537-6250 and ask for Kim Grover.  


Wi Badger Crop Connect March 2021


Wisconsin Badger Crop Connect begins 2021.   For more information, please visit the Badger Crop Connect webpage at:  


2021 ARC & PLC Signup for WI Farmers

Financial Resources


Written by Paul Mitchell, Director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute at the University of WI-farmers As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, each year farmers can make a decision with regard to the commodity support program ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and PLC (Price Cost Coverage).  For the 2021 crop year, sign up is currently ongoing, with the March 15, 2021 deadline rapidly approaching. “The decision this year is clear and recommendations are provided based on commodity prices and program details,” said Paul Mitchell.  “If you have not already visited your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office to make your election for either the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program and to sign your annual enrollment contract, you should call and make an appointment now.” How ARC and PLC Work: PLC creates a price floor at the national level, trigging payments if the national marketing year average price is less than the reference price for a crop.  PLC reference prices are $3.70 for corn, $8.40 for soybeans, $5.50 for wheat, and $2.40 for oats.  If a PLC payment is triggered, the payment is the farm’s PLC yield multiplied by the price loss multiplied by 85% of the farm’s base acres. ARC-CO (County ARC) creates a revenue guarantee for each crop at the county level based on historical county yields and national prices using a detailed formula.  If actual county revenue falls below the  guarantee, ARC payments equal the revenue loss multiplied by 85% of the farm’s base acres.  The ARC-CO revenue guarantee is updated annually for each county.  Local FSA office have the revenue guarantees for each crop in your county. Crop Specific Recommendations: Farmers can choose ARC-CO or PLC separately for each FSA farm and crop.  For example, one of your farms can use PLC for soybeans and another can use ARC-CO.  The crop-specific recommendations below are based on comparing projected prices for the 2021 crop to the PLC reference price and simulations using the ARC/PLC Payment calculator ( developed by the University of Illinois.  A video on the Resources page further explains the logic for these recommendations based on the historical and projected crop prices and the PLC reference prices.  Based on this information, the following recommendations are suggested for the major crops of corn, soybeans, and small grains.  For corn it is recommended to choose PLC, for soybeans ARC, for wheat, barley, grain sorghum and sunflowers choose PLC and for oats choose ARC.  For more details and information visit Markets and Policy on the UW-Madison Division of Extension Farm Management website at:  ( These program payments are not guaranteed but depend on the weighted average of national prices for farmers through the entire marketing year.  The corn and soybean marketing year does not end until August 31, 2022, so these payments, if triggered, would not be paid until Sept./Oct/ of 2022.  For more details and information visit ( Crop Insurance, SCO, and ARC versus PLC These programs have some overlap with crop insurance, but Mitchell recommends making program decisions separate from crop insurance decisions, as they use different acreages, prices and yields.  Crop insurance uses actual planted acres and includes prevented plant coverage, while these programs make payments using base acres.  Crop insurance used current expected market prices, while these programs use average historical prices or pre-set reference prices that can be well above or well below actual crop values.  Lastly, these programs use fixed PLC yields or county yields, while crop insurance uses actual crop values.  Lastly, these programs use fixed PLC yields or county yields, while crop insurance used actual farm yields.  Mitchell noted that the only exception is if a farmer plans to buy SCO (Supplemental Coverage Option) as part of their crop insurance coverage, which means they must choose PLC for the insured crop. SCO is an add-on to crop insurance that covers part of the “deducible.” For example, if a farmer buys Revenue Protection (RP) with a 75% coverage level, the farmer pays the first 25% of losses below their expected revenue as a deductible.  SCO allows a farm to cover part of this deductible using a county policy, with coverage up to 86% of expected revenue.  Farmers already buying RP with an average 85% coverage level may find adding SCO offers similar coverage at lower cost if they reduce their RP crop coverage level.  However, few Wisconsin farmers use 85% coverage for their RP policy—only 5% – 6% of all insured corn and soybean acres in the state in 2019.  In terms of crop-specific recommendations, the few corn and soybean farmers who buy RP with an 85% coverage level may want also choose PLC for their soybeans (not just their corn) and then consider buying SCO and reducing  their RP coverage level slightly.  Mitchell said he generally does not recommend buying RP with an 85% coverage level, as most Wisconsin farmers find RP with a 70% to 80% coverage level the most cost-effective option.  However, interested farmers should discuss SCO with their crop insurance agent.  


Why Use Cover Crops?


Written by Greg Blonde, UW-Extension, Agricultural Agent, Waupaca County and Jamie Patton, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, UW-Madison Reduced Erosion: An obvious effect of growing cover crops is covering the soil surface, which can significantly reduce the potential for wind and water erosion. This is particularly true when precipitation and/or winds are intense and traditional cash crops aren’t actively growing, such as in early spring and late fall. Plant residue, both living and dead, is critical to minimize the impact of rainfall and wind on soil erosion. The estimated amount of residue remaining after corn harvest is often in the 75 to 90 percent range. However, depending on the region and conditions, fields can lose up to 40 percent or more of their residue cover during the winter.  This loss leaves the field more susceptible to erosion during heavy and intense spring rains. Depending on the species grown the planting method, and days of growth, cover crops have the potential to increase soil cover to almost 90 to 100 percent during times of the year when fields are most susceptible to erosion. Minimizing soil erosion to around 100 pounds will lead to an increase in soil depth because the rate of soil formation is greater than the rate of soil loss. Greater soil depth, in turn, results in greater soil and crop production resiliency, sustainability, and productivity. In addition to adding aboveground plant material, the root systems of cover crops help hold the soil in place and reduce erosion. Many soil health advocates recommend planting several species of crops in a single planting to capitalize on species’ differences in the root architecture (think taproot vs. fibrous root systems, shallow vs. deep-rooted plants). They argue that the diversity in root system growth will help hold soil in place, create pore space, scavenge and recycle nutrients and water, and move carbon deep within the soil profile. Increased Soil Organic Matter: Soil organic matter plays several beneficial roles, including enhanced aggregation and aggregate stability, increased soil fertility, and greater biological activity. Increased soil organic matter typically results in an increase in biological activity and the production of organic glues that hold soil aggregates together. Glomalin, a glycoprotein secreted by mycorrhizal fungi, is believed to be one of the primary organic glues for bonding and stabilizing aggregates. The benefits of increased soil aggregation with increased soil organic matter trickle down, leading to increased pore space, improved water infiltration, and reduced runoff, as well as increased water-holding capacity, gaseous exchange, root growth, and microbial activity. Although the concept of soil aggregation seems quite straightforward, farmers’ perspectives on the impact of cover crops on aggregation and soil water dynamics may appear contradictory. Farmers report that increased soil organic matter leads to greater water-holding capacity, yet their fields are drier and can be worked/planted earlier in the spring.  Large pores move water and air through the soil, while small pores hold water. The use of cover crops increases both sizes of pores. Root channels, worm channels, and an increased number of larger aggregates increase the number of large pores in a soil, draining away excess, saturating water. The increase in soil organic matter associated with cover crops also increases the number of smaller aggregates within the soil matrix. These smaller aggregates store up to approximately 25,000 gallons of plant-available water per acre per 1 percent organic matter. The combination of large and small pores allows soil to drain excess water properly and introduces oxygen back into the root zone, while simultaneously holding additional plant-available water.  Increasing soil organic matter by only a percentage point or two can have a huge impact on the ability of that soil to support crop growth in times of water stress—both too much and too little. Soil organic matter also increases cation-exchange capacity (CEC), which is the soil’s ability to hold and supply nutrients over time. With an increase in CEC, more nutrients are stored in the soil profile, leading to a decrease in nutrient loss. Increased CEC also improves the soil’s buffering capacity (ability to resist change), providing a more chemically stable environment for plants and microbes. Additionally, soil organic matter is itself a source of nutrients for plants, particularly nitrogen. As organic matter is decomposed, nutrients become dissolved and available for plant uptake. Predictions of the amount of nutrients released from soil organic matter are complicated, but research is underway to quantify the amount of nitrogen we can expect to come from our soils. Improved Nitrogen Cycling: Cover crops can be used to capture available soil nitrogen, which is stored in previous crop plant tissue. This helps decrease nitrogen leaching. Once the cover crop is terminated and starts to decompose, this nitrogen is released back into the soil system where it can be used by the subsequent crop. A study in Oregon’s Willamette Valley found that a cereal rye cover crop reduced nitrate leaching by 32 to 42 percent over a three-year period, as compared to fallow.  Such reductions in nutrient leaching not only reduce the fertilizer requirements in the year following the cover crop, but protect ground and surface water quality as well. Legume cover crops such as peas, vetches, and clovers can “fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere. Legumes are estimated to contribute anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Current research into nitrogen fixation may help farmers utilize legumes more effectively in their rotations.   The rate and amount of nitrogen released from a cover crop is a direct result of the cover crop’s carbon to nitrogen (C: N) ratio. Microbes decomposing the cover crop like to maintain a 8:1 C: N ratio. When plant residue is added to the soil, the population of soil organisms increases to take advantage of the added food source. However, if the residue is relatively low in nitrogen, the microbes consume more nitrogen from the soil system to maintain their 8:1 C: N ratio.  As a result, this nitrogen is temporarily unavailable for plant use until the microbes die. As the microbes decompose, nitrogen is released back into the soil system, making it plant-available again. Residues with low C:N ratios, such as legumes and young plant tissues, typically does not result in immobilization but often release nitrogen back into the plant-available pool quickly. In fact, legume nitrogen can be quickly mineralized, sometimes even before the subsequent crop has a high demand for it. Achieving synchrony of nitrogen release from decomposing residues and crop nitrogen demand is difficult, but can be achieved through effective timing of cover crop termination and an ideal mixture of cover crop species to spread nitrogen mineralization over the growing season. Growing mixtures of quickly mineralized cover crops (legumes and some brassicas) with slowly mineralized cover crops (the grasses) can often achieve this goal.. Enhanced Soil Biology: We’re just starting to realize how important large and small soil organisms are to soil health and diverse population of microorganisms.  Soil organisms play an important role in decomposition.  By growing cover crops and improving soil physical and chemical properties, farmers can enhance the microbial populations found in their soils and reap the benefits of a functioning, diverse soil ecosystem.  These benefits include nutrient recycling, residue degradation, and pore and aggregate creations, among others. Suppress Weeds: Cover crops can be used to suppress weed growth through:
  • Promotion of a weed’s natural enemies, such as seed predators and pathogens
  • Physical suppression (i.e., mulch) to reduce weed seed germination and growth
  • Allelopathy or chemical inhibition to reduce weed seed germination and growth
  • Competition for space, nutrients, and light to reduce weed growth and seed production
Cover crops planted for weed suppression should be aggressive growers that cover the ground quickly, shading the ground to prevent or suppress weed seedling growth. Cereal rye, hairy vetch and red clover are well-known for their quick growth and ability to suppress weeds. The impact of cover crops on weed suppression can be enhanced through proper species selection; timely establishment appropriate seeding rates; and proper row spacing, fertilization, and use of no-till techniques. Insect Support/Succession: Manipulation of cover crops for the control of insect pests is not as simple as it sounds. The underlying principle is to attract beneficial insects and repel pests. However, cover crops may provide both beneficial and pest insects with a supplemental food source and/or shelter. In fact, some insect pests, such as armyworms, wireworms, seed corn maggots, slugs, and white grubs are attracted to the high residue cover of cover-cropped fields in early spring and can become a crop production issue. Insecticides, both surface applied and seed treatments, are often effective in controlling these pests. It is important to note that soil arthropods, springtails, and other soil insects also benefit from cover crops. These small soil dwellers help in organic matter decomposition and serve as predators, keeping microscopic organisms in check while aiding in nutrient cycling. The role of cover crops in insect support and suppression has not been fully researched, but anecdotal accounts support the role they can play in enhancing pest control.  


Wisconsin Cash Rent by County

Hay Market Report for the Upper Midwest

Farm Rent and Land Leases

Contact Information:

Kim Grover, Administrative Assistant

Barron County Extension Office

Barron County Government Center, Room 2206

335 E. Monroe Avenue

Barron, WI 54812

Phone:  715-537-6256