Thursday, May 27, 2010

Buzz Off!

There something else new at the NCRS this year, and that is several bee hives located at the edge of the vegetable field. Bee colonies are commonly used here in Michigan (and elsewhere) for aid in cucumber pollination. This is the first year we have had our own resident population. Think how lucky these bees are when they get to taste LIQUID pollen! Cucumbers are scheduled to bee planted tomorrow. Concern continues across the country with the still unknown cause(s) of colony collapse disorder of bees, although links to pesticides have been shown by some. Average losses are some 30% colony loss over the winter. This is a phenomenon in Europe as well as the US and Canada. Although reports of colony decline has occurred for decades, significant increases in losses came to light in 2006. Bees pollinate some 80% of food crops, so if you see one crossing your path, give it the right-of-way. This is a picture of what was being worked on in the picture in the last blog. It was built by Ron Davis with assistance from Phil Dush. We run field experiments in replicated blocks of treatments. That means that every treatment in an experiment is replicated at least 4 times. We have "alley" separating the blocks where we drive between the different treatments with the planter or sprayer. Back in the old days of 2009, we stuck field flags at the corners and orange field stakes at the beginning and end of each plot. So it was easy to run a tillage tool, like a roto tiller or field cultivator along the edge to trim out the plants outside the plot. Well now with gps guidance, there are no more flags and stakes. So we set some tracking lines into the guidance software and mark our plot boundaries a tractor. But with the tillage tracks, old crop stalks in no-till and planter tracks, it can be a pretty bumpy ride going across all of that. So this tool cultivates some tire tracks for a smoother marking of the gps guided lines. Then another tractor with a field cultivator can follow in those tracks and mark the plot edges. This does require figuring the cultivator "offset" track, but fortunately Stephanie and Doug know how all of that works. At least that's what they told me.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for a really exciting unveiling of a new piece of equipment, that also will make our lives easier here at the NCRS. But this one will also have benefits for many of our growers. Don't miss it!!!