Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coming To A TV Near You

Shhhh....I want to tell you something...OK, maybe not that, but the NCRS did have another visitor today. It's kind of a secret. It seems that Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is filming another commercial, and had a film production crew here today. It was LeCrone Communications from Hilliard, Ohio, and we had Brian LeCrone himself. Now I can't tell you exactly what the commercial is about...mainly because I don't know myself. But I gathered that it had something to do with corn. In the picture below, we cut out some corn to enable filming with their cool boom camera. (Marketing will have to re-imburse us for the estimated 0.6 bushels of corn lost for this.) We see Phil providing quality control, while Stephanie stays within earshot in case of mistakes or questions. So how was I able to get this spectacular overhead shot? Well I was in a basket on a fork lift. I took lot's of pictures while up there, including some that were work-related, such as this view of our crops here on Farm 5. Looking good if you ask me.

And here they are filming at another location on the farm. They are getting a good look at some Liquid corn from top to bottom. I'm sure it will be a winner. Sadly they did not need any extras or walk-ons. So I was just a spectator, which is what I usually do best anyway.

So two visitors in the past two days. Can't wait to get to the farm tomorrow to see who is next.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NCRS Welcomes Ron Mulford

So the NCRS had a visitor yesterday and today. Mr. Ron Mulford, an agronomist who just retired from the University of Maryland as manager of the Lower Eastern Shore Research and Education Center, Poplar Hill Facility (now that's a mouthful). We have had the pleasure of working with Ron on various fertilizer projects for the past several years, and he has always expressed interest in visiting our research facility, the North Central Research Station. Ron may be retired, but is still able to conduct field research trials at the Poplar Hill facility, and on grower's fields. Ron is very well known and respected by growers on the Eastern Shore, and elsewhere. So it was a real treat to have him visit us. Ron was accompanied by Sales Account Manager Benjy Conover of Gettysburg, PA, who also manages Liquid sales efforts in Maryland. Regional Account Manager Bob Baxter, who has known Ron for several years also came down. Below Bob, Benjy and Ron have a discussion on soybeans. Stephanie stays within earshot in case of mistakes or questions.
Below Ron takes a closer look at some of the soybean test plots. Unfortunately, Ron said many of the crops in his area are suffering from heat and drought. That is not the case here as we have been blessed with timely rainfall. Here on Farm 7, which is non-irrigated, or rain-fed as I like to say, the crops look great. (But knock on wood, whatever that means.)

Ron was also interested in our plot equipment, and gave it all a thorough going over, as in the case of our grain cart with weigh bars. This was recently featured in the blog about wheat harvest. We have pretty large equipment since our plots are all good sized.

We also discussed some of the on-going trials that we have under Ron's supervision, and reviewed the wheat data from Poplar Hill. It was a pleasure to have Ron visit, who said he was impressed with all of the hard work being done at the NCRS on the thousands of test plots. If you know Ron, I am sure he would be happy to tell you all about his visit. I look forward to visiting him in Maryland in early September.

Monday, July 26, 2010

These Boyz Can Buzz!

So these pictures are actually from last Thursday, and so are not really Live From the NCRS. But I thought they deserved a post. Remember from an earlier post (May 27) I talked about the bee hives that we have at the NCRS to aid primarily our fruit and vegetable pollination. Well I had never paid them a visit until last Thursday. I have not been around hives, and didn't know what to expect. I crept close, and was amazed at the activity. It looked like a sleet storm because you saw streaks of bees going up and down, coming and going. I would be very surprised if there weren't collisions of bees, as I saw no control tower. You can't see that in the picture, but it was pretty amazing to watch. Fortunately I was pollen-free and they left me alone.

The hives have an opening on the bottom for the bees to go in and out. However, one hive had no activity, as seen in the picture below. We learned from the beekeeper that it had lost it's queen. So no queen, no hive.

Here is a picture from the cantaloupe plots, and you can see the hives in the background.

I stood still and listened for some buzzing, and followed this bee as it made it's way from flower to flower.

So I had been gone awhile, and upon my return today, I learned that the sunflowers were flowering. This was taken in the morning looking at the sunflowers looking at the sun. The plots look great and hopefully we will get some useful yield data, again, depending on the birds.

Here is a close-up. I like having the sunflowers on the farm. Maybe it's because I was born in Kansas, you know, the Sunflower State.

Now getting back to the buzzing boyz. Stephanie actually took the picture below. But look, there are two different kinds of bees here. The one on the left is from our hive, I think, but the one on the right is different. I don't know where that hive is. But these sunflowers may be a half mile from the hives. So I will close by saying, buzz on boyz, make the hive happy today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

LIQUID Shows At Hefty's Field Day

So last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Hefty Seed Company's annual Field Day in Baltic, SD. It was a great demonstration of some of the latest technologies available to growers today, with an eye on tomorrow. You can bet that Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers was there to talk to growers both who already are using Liquid nutrition, and those who are interested in doing so. There were growers from all over the Midwest and Upper Plains, and probably farther. Below is the Liquid show booth where you could visit with Area Manager Kevin Abentroth from North Dakota, in red shirt on left, or Chad Schlechter, from South Dakota, under tent in blue shirt. Corn plots fertilized with Liquid fertilizer were on display at the show grounds. With ample rain and good heat units this year, look for a great harvest, especially where ACLF was used.
There were tour stops on a variety of topics available. Below, Darren Hefty discusses plots showing planter fertilizers, Rootworm Resistance, and Twin-Row corn comparisons.

The guy below in blue was concerned about what happened when he spilled some Liquid fertilizer on his legs during planting. We told him things should be back to normal by around 90 days after planting, as that is the duration of the effectiveness of Pro-Germinator. He said he grew like a smoke cloud, but I told him he would stop smoking soon.
Below, one of the Hefty company's Senior Agronomists, Sham Moteelall discusses what is referred to as a "footprint garden." This is where a number of plots that are one-foot square are planted with a variety of vegetables, to prove that bountiful production is possible even on a small area. They got the idea from Mr. Douglas Cook, founder of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, who demonstrated such at last year's PLFP in St. Johns. Of course a key to making it work is having the correct crop nutrition, and in this case, it was ferti-Rain. He has a small sample bottle in his hand. Actually, Senior Agronomist Rob Fritz set up and maintained these plots, and was impressed with the outcome. He just used some ferti-Rain diluted in water in a squirt bottle, and made weekly foliar applications. Well I did not learn until later that evening when Brian and Darren Hefty said that one reason they did this is because they are working with an orphanage and church in Haiti, and they want to show them that they can produce a lot of food in a small area. So this was their trial run. They hope to send down some fertilizer to help as well. As they said, it is one thing to give aid, but they want to teach the poor survivors down there to help themselves. A noble objective. Darren is actually going down next week with one of their film operators, so look for updates on Ag PhD. Brian will make a follow-up visit this fall.

Meanwhile back at the Liquid tent, Chad obtained some corn plants from the famous "Blank Slate Plots". This is a field totally devoid of all soil nutrients (according to soil test) where some different ACLF programs are being compared. Refer to Darren Hefty's blog, or my post dated June 10 when I made an earlier visit and gave more information. The plant below had an if-furrow application of 5 gal/A of Sure-K + 5 gal/A of Pro-Germinator and 2 qt/A of Micro 500. Look at the tremendous root growth.

So I wanted to see the Blank Slate myself, and made the some 5 mile drive further down the road to have a look. A field picture appears below. The corn looks great. The different treatments begin about a third of the way into the picture, and are all replicated. So I am looking forward to getting the results. I confess that I never would have thought that the corn would look this good when every soil nutrient tested "VL" or very low on the soil test, with high pH, and minimal organic matter. And all it has on it is Liquid fertilizer and UAN with eNhance.

I did walk in a few rows and did not see any signs of nutrient deficiency. Here this corn only had the 10 gallons/A applied at planting as described in the corn picture above at the tent.

So it was a very good and interesting day there in Baltic. I sure hope we have their good luck with the weather, as it was sunny (and hot) all day, but later in the evening a monsoon hit. Almost on schedule in Brian's weather prayer that he shared.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Want To Go Green? Use LIQUID Manganese

Sorry for the delay in getting a new post up on the NCRS blog, but I was on a fertilizer mission this week, and forgot to tell you in my last post. This one will be short, but I found it interesting. One of the things anyone farming new ground has to deal with is unforseen surprises, as with crop nutrient deficiencies. There is quite a bit of manganese deficiency in mid-Michigan, and elsewhere in the Midwest. We found some recently on our new Farm 7 in soybeans, which are sensitive to low soil manganese. This particular area was on the edge of one of the replication strips, and not part of the plot. This was a severe deficiency as all of the leaves were yellow, and the beans were smaller than those in adjacent plots. We decided to see what a full gallon per acre application of ACLF 4% Manganese would do. Now most people would balk at applying a gallon of a micronutrient. We recommend a quart per acre for maintenance, and usually in combination with Sure-K. If you are seeing some deficiency symptoms, two quarts per acre should be applied. But solid yellow beans that are small need more. We did not add any other fertilizer so we could see just the effects of the manganese. This was the only plot showing such severity of deficiency, so we weren't able to put out more treatments or replicate. It's just a see what happens plot, or a "squirt and peek" as some call it. The picture below was taken from the Hagie plot sprayer on July 14 just before application. I applied the gallon of fertilizer in a total spray volume of 10 gallons per acre. We looked at the plot today which was eight days after application. There is a tremendous improvement, as the picture below shows. They are still lighter green than the regular soybeans in the plots, but there was no yellow seen. And the color is very uniform. I would say the plants are responding well to the manganese, but with a gallon, they'd better.
Here is a picture taken between the sprayed plot and the unsprayed plot on the right. You can see it in the first picture, where there was some yellowing, but not as severe as in the plot we sprayed. Now the unsprayed plot is kind of blotchy with yellow and green. But the sprayed plot is uniform in color. The unsprayed plot still has bigger beans, but it had a big headstart. Also notice the border strip. The outside nozzle sprayed the left half of the strip, and you can see that the left half is greener and has more uniform color.
So it's not a replicated test, as we didn't have enough room, but we will keep an eye on it and will check yield for comparison to the unsprayed plot. This brings up another point that we have recently discussed with our sales account managers. It was pointed out that after planting, there may be some leftover fertilizer in the on-farm storage tanks, or even in dealers tanks. It is a good idea to try to get that fertilizer out of the tank and used up, as small volumes sitting in hot storage tanks through the summer can lead to potential problems. Heat and some water evaporation can lead to some crystals settling out at the bottom. And when new fertilizer is added in the fall, the crystals often do not re-dissolve. And this can lead to plugging of screens and orifices the next year. I frequently get calls from growers asking if they can make a foliar application of "corn mix" on their soybeans. Of course the answer is "yes" (except where there is much nitrogen in the mix). We know foliar applications work, so why not put a few gallons per acre through the sprayer? Do the math and figure out how much you need to spray to get it used up. This would be especially effective on your worst ground, and have a clean tank to hold the next load. It is better to take the time and use up the remaining tank fertilizer in a way that will do some good instead of invite planter-stopping problems next spring.
So I am off on a one-day fertilizer mission tomorrow, and perhaps I will be able to share this one with you in my next post.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spraying Away and Being A Good Neighbor

So here it is again, the Hagie plot sprayer...spraying away on yet another crop. Remember I asked you what field crop hasn't been mentioned for recieving any foliar applications? Well the answer is: edible beans, or in this case Navy and Black Beans. Also remember that these types of bean are planted later than soybeans, in mid June. We have a good looking crop of each. Now we have not yet developed a consistant foliar recommendation for edible beans like for soybeans. I think one of the reasons is that edible beans are usually fertilized at or before planting, and additional foliar fertilizers are often not utilized. Compare that to soybeans that frequently receive no fertilizer in the year of growth, and will often show a response to added foliar nutrition. But we have some new treatments this year and are optomistic that a response will be seen at harvest. I sprayed the Navy Bean treatments on Farm 3 yesterday, but it was still muddy from Thursdays thunderstorm on the Black Beans on Farm 5, which has heavier ground. So poor me had to come in on Saturday to spray them. But who wouldn't treasure a chance to spray again in our good old plot Hagie? Now I assure you that all the plots have been sprayed with the planned foliar treatments. Well, except for application following alfalfa you could see the Hagie again. So don't despair. (Man that's a good looking machine!) Here we see Brian on Friday picking broccoli from plots. He has been cutting broccoli several times a week for several weeks now. I know because even I am getting tired of eating it by now, and I love broccoli, steamed with melted cheese on it. But if it keeps regrowing, we, that is, he will pick it. In the background, the rest of the crew is finishing up the extra pickles outside the plots picked yesterday.

So what becomes of all of the vegetables that are picked from the plots? Some of you are aware that it is given away. Most of it goes to the Lansing Food Bank. Last year, nearly 30,000 pounds of vegetables were donated. Below Stephanie provides quality control while Brian does some last minute pickle sorting prior to the Food Bank pick up.

Below we see the vegetables, including pickles, broccoli, and cabbage being loaded onto the Food Bank truck. The truck is new for them, and it is much better. In the past they had a small van and it was quite a chore cramming all of the boxes into it. It is interesting to hear the Food
Bank workers who have not ever been to the NCRS comment. They can't believe all of this fresh produce is being donated. Fresh vegetable donations like this are rare, and it is greatly appreciated. And it makes us feel good, and congrats to Brian, Tim and crew for all of the hard work that will feed so many in need. The truck will be back many times in the coming weeks.

And how could it be any better to eat since it was mostly fertilized with LIQUID crop nutrition???

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pickle Harvest

So I'll bet you thought I would title today's installment something like: Proficient Pickle Pluckers Pick Plot Production, Providing Plenty Product Performance Proof. But I wouldn't stoop that low. However, as promised, Brian's pickle plots were harvested today. This is all hand labor, and it was hot and steamy today, and even had a late afternoon thunderstorm blow up. But we are fortunate to have a great summer staff who picked, weighed, sorted and graded all of the pickles today. Below we see Brian and the crew stripping the vines of the pickles. Below is a bucket from an individual plot. You can see the different sized pickles. They will later be be sorted by size.
After harvest is complete, it is necessary to sort the pickles by size into one of three grading catagories. The weights of each grade will be determined to see if that is a treatment effect.

Each group sorts the pickles based on examples for the standard grades. Tim watches Jake and his other worker Jake sort the pickles using the examples on the floor.

I'll bet most people aren't aware of all of the work that goes on behind the scenes of filling that jar with pickles in the store. So that was a big project and I'm sure they are glad to be done. Brian and crew have already been harvesting broccoli and cauliflower plus other odds and ends, and there is plenty more to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Last Shot of N on Corn

So apparently I can't stop spraying, or even talking about it. I don't know, it seems I am often very motivated. And today it was to add a final shot of nitrogen on corn in combination with a fungicide application. All of the corn on the farm has either tasseled, or has tassels emerging as seen in the cab picture below. The fertilizers used today were High NRG-NR and ferti-Rain. Both have shown farvorable yield responses with foliar applications to a variety of crops. They were each applied separately at a rate of 3 gal/A along with Headline. The recommended spray volume of 20 gal/A was followed, and I had the pressure at 85 psi. To ensure good coverage, I used 30 inch nozzle spacing, with a 110 degree nozzle shooting midway between the rows. This worked well at the high pressure since the corn was higher than the boom. We have not had any burn problems with this application in the past. The crops are looking good for the most part here at the NCRS. We continue to be hot in the afternoons, so I get spraying done in the morning after the dew lifts some, but the temperatures are in the upper 70's. There is one field crop left to which we have not made any foliar applications. Can you guess what it is? Well hopefully you will find out on Friday. I hope to show something entirely different tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wheat Harvest Today

So today we did get into the field for harvest of our wheat plots. The moisture came down to under 15% this afternoon and away we went. So I will just show some pictures that describe what we do for harvesting plots. The same routine applies to all of our grain crops. The picture below shows Doug harvesting one of the forty plots in this test, which means 10 treatments times four replications. Remember that the plot width is such that my plot Hagie can stradle it for foliar applications. Oops, I said I wouldn't mention foliar spraying again, sorry.
But before we got too far along we were joined by our president and principle owner, Mr. Troy Bancroft. It's hard to hide since we are practically in his backyard. But I'm sure he enjoyed the comfortable and quiet ride. And we got to show him that we really do work out here.

Here we go on another round of plot harvest. First Doug has to make a round taking off the plot borders. You can see the skinny border rows below. Border rows prevent any treatment from one plot getting onto an adjacent plot. Then Phil guides the grain cart with a weigh scale under the auger at the end of the plot. I am actually up in the grain cart on a platform built to hold us scale tenders.

I tare the scale and give the signal to dump the load from the previous plot. I will take a sample for determination of moisture and test weight, plus any grain quality analysis. Then the plot weight is recorded. We have a scale that gives weight in 2 pound increments, which is plenty accurate for these 210 foot long plots.

Phil took this picture of me getting ready to grab a grain sample as the grain begins to fall. You can see the scale readout behind me. We do have a chair on the platform, but I am usually too excited to sit down.

And here Doug goes on another round of removing the border rows. This is a pretty efficient operation. We keep going round and round until there is nothing left to harvest. It was a nice day, not too hot and just a mild breeze. When it is very windy, we have to stop because the wind blowing on the cart makes it hard to get an accurate weight. But today was perfect.

So this was what happened today at the North Central Research Station, and that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, July 9, 2010

OK I Promise This Will Be The LAST One About Foliar Spraying (Until the next one)

So I know I've been talking alot about foliar fertilizer applications, but this is the time of the season to be doing that. We have a made a big effort to test foliar fertilizers on a variety of crops as a way of increasing yield and quality. Well today we finished the majority of foliar application efforts, and I am glad to get out of the sprayer. For those who don't wish to follow today's spray log blog, then just look at one of Brian's cantaloupes below. They are coming along nicely, and he also said that pickle harvest commences next week. Halleluja! Another crop you haven't seen too often at the NCRS is grain sorghum, or milo. Here we have some different planter programs, as well as some foliar applications. Birds have been rough on the milo plots in the past, but maybe this year they will all be at the sunflower plots.
The alfalfa plots were harvested last week, and we recommend that if foliar applications are to be made, it should be close to a week after harvest when there is around 4 inches of regrowth. Due to weather, todays application was 9 days after harvest and we have around 6 inches of regrowth. We often have to be on the lookout for leafhoppers and most insecticides that I am aware of can be applied with alfalfa fertilizer. We haven't seen any yet.

Here I am making foliar fertilizer applications to soybeans in the demonstration plot area, which will be on the NCRS tours. Now these soybeans are on some lighter textured soil that have been rather droughty in the hot weather of late. Yesterdays rain helped, but they are still stressed and smaller than other soybeans nearby on the farm. So we will see what the foliars bring to the table.
Here is a view from the Hagie cab of another soybean test a few hundred yards from the demonstration beans. Now this ground has around 1% higher organic matter, and higher soil P and K levels, and is a little heavier in texture. But look at the size difference in the soybeans. And both are dryland beans. These are some nice looking beans and should respond well to this application of Sure-K and Manganese.

We also sprayed several other soybean experiments around the farm, and are done with that crop at last. We did check our wheat plots late this afternoon, and the moisture was still running 18 to 19%. So we will check again tomorrow and possibly harvest then. I also want to give Stephanie picture credit for most of todays shots, you know, the good ones.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today We Were Rain Fed

So remember yesterday I showed pictures of rolled corn and planting cucumbers in dry soil? I commented that some rain would sure be nice. Well look here, we did get some rain! And it was...nice that is. It started around 11:40 am and rained pretty steady for 3 hours, and then started up again around 5. When I left there was 0.7 inchees in the gauge. With the rain came relief from the heat. So needless to say we did not run any wheat today, maybe tomorrow when it is supposed to be sunny and lower humidity too. Some of our soybean experiments still have some late foliar applications due before it gets too late. So Holy Cow, I hope I can spray again tomorrow!Before it rained, Stephanie and I did some more crop tissue testing for nutrients. This particular experiment is evaluating several different existing and experimental N fertilizers applied at a range of rates. So knowing differences in crop uptake may be useful, along with yield of course. Personally I am still at odds over the effectiveness of tissue testing due to often conflicting results that don't follow through to yield. But testing often does eliminate wondering. As stated in an earlier blog on tissue testing, correct sampling and staging procedures will influence results. So here is Stephanie standing next to a corn plant with lots of leaves, but not yet tasseling or silking. So we know it is still in the vegetative stage of growth. So what is the correct stage? You know that you need to count leaves with a collar, but where do you start???

The first leaves have mostly fallen off by now. But the leaf that extends down to the brace roots should be the V5 leaf, as shown in the picture below with the hand attached.

Then it's a matter of counting up to the last leaf with a collar. That is, it is a totally separate leaf and not still rolled up inside a complete leaf. This corn is in the V14 growth stage. So that is the leaf to sample as it is still in the vegetative stage. After tassel emergence it is in the Reproductive stage, and there are different leaf guidelines then. (But I'm not covering that today.) Below, Stephanie is sampling the uppermost vegetative leaf. Inside the rolled up leaf in her left hand is the tassel which will soon be emerging, indicating it is then in the reproductive stage. You may be surprised to learn that Stephanie is already in the reproductive stage, as she and husband (farmer and Liquid fertilizer user) Ryan are expecting child number 3 in late December. We couldn't be happier for her and Ryan. Stephanie has worked with me for over 10 years, and she is not only an invaluable research agronomist and friend, but also a great mother. Only now I am going to have to find someone else to make the parathion applications.

Once the samples are collected they need to be placed in the sample bag provided by the test lab, and then mailed promptly. Since today is Thursday, it is likely that normal shipment would arrive at the lab on the weekend, and then sit till the following week. This is not a good idea for bags of leaves in an enclosed box. So we paid the extra cost of overnight shipment so that they will be processed tomorrow.

The picture below is near where we were sampling on the new Farm 7. It looks back to the West in the alley between replications of the North-South planted corn rows. You are looking at several different corn experiments. Do you know how far it is to the last row in the picture? Well it's probably pretty far.

Well that's it for today at the NCRS. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends! Tomorrow I hope to give reports of wheat harvest and more foliar applications. And I haven't checked in on Brian and Tim lately, so there might be something from the veg guys.