Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Blog of Happenings at the North Central Research (NCRS)

For some time I have been urged to have a blog to post a record of continuing events at the North Central Research Station, the largest research facility in the country devoted solely to crop nutrition. For more informaiton about Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, you can go to But this blog will mainly be for research progress postings here at the NCRS in St. Johns, MI.

This year started with a jolt as the NCRS more than doubled in size to 462 tillable acres on 8 different farms. The expansion will enable more testing on some heavier soil types. Additionally, nearly 100 acres was tiled on two of the NCRS farms. This should greatly improve growing conditions and yield. Now, with more ground and more plots, we had to modify the way plots were established. So gone are the days of steel tape, flags and stakes to mark the plots and enter the days of gps and autosteer. It is quite a thrill to run strip tillage and planting with no hands. However, I will admit that it doesn't look as "researchy" without flags and stakes, but such is progress. The work of NCRS manager Doug Summer and Field Agronomy Research Manager Stephanie Zelinko in getting all of this "magic from the sky" up and running has been invaluable. So we were fortunate in that the spring was warm and the soil warmed up early and we started planting on April 19, about a full week earlier than normal. Even with added acreage, we finished planting corn on May 5, the earliest date ever at the NCRS.

We were mindful that things had been going so well, and were kind of waiting for something to happen to punish our complacency. Well, as a great mind once said: Mother Nature is a MAD scientist. Most of the corn was up and out of the ground when we had a severe frost on the morning of May 9. It was below freezing from 1 am to 8 am, getting as low as 26 degrees. The next day it was obvious that much of the corn leaves were gone. It was variable, as seen in the picture, but whole sections of row were frozen off. Now we don't need to worry too much as the growing point is still below ground. But it has been cold and rainy all week, and an extension e-mail warned that rain can cause harmful soil bacteria to splash into the whorl and can cause problems. It has been in the 40's all week for high temps, but it's supposed to be much warmer next week. So stay tuned.