Sunday, August 29, 2010

Here Come Busloads of Salesmen!!!

Last week a bunch of salesmen descended upon the NCRS. But these were not the types of salesmen you want to hide from or wish they would go away. These were our independent sales personnel, actually Area Managers (AM's) and their associates, of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers who were in town for our annual Professional Liquid Fertilizer Program, or PLFP. They received important update information on sales and marketing programs, plus a day of training at the NCRS to better enable them to provide the latest information to customers. Now who can argue with that? Below we see wagon loads of AM's and company personnel heading onto Farm 7 after getting of of the busses from the hotel in East Lansing. There were over 200 visitors on this day, but we were prepared to show them a good thing or two.
The theme for this year's PLFP was Responsible Nutrient Management. We had six different tour stops on this day. Stops were manned (or womaned) by Research and Agronomy staff. These were Stephanie Zelinko, Doug Summer, Brian Levene, Cory Schurman, Phil Dush, Tim Brussel, Ron Davis and myself. There was also a special guest. We were also assisted by our summer help, who, unfortunately, made this their last day before heading back to school soon. The weather was very comfortable, in the 70's, but still painfully dry. Below we see some evaluations of dug up corn plants from different fertilizer programs. Digging corn out of the dry soil was tough.
Our special guest was Brian Hefty, of Ag Ph.D. who talked about Responsible Nutrient Management and other principles from their farm in South Dakota. It was a pleasure to have Brian visit the NCRS again.

Here a group counts kernals on an ear of corn to estimate corn yield from different nitrogen programs. They had to pace off 1/1000 of an acre to determine stand.

After three stops of the rotation, the group is ready for a break, and heads up the hill to the break tent for some refreshments.

Back in the field, one stop showed different planter fertilizer placement, plus had some dug up corn plants to see effects on root growth.

One interesting stop had fruit and vegetables from Liquid fertilizers and conventional fertilizers offered as a taste test. Additionally sugar was measured as brix. It showed that Liquid provided sweeter taste and better storability, especially in the sun.

Foliar fertilization is an important part of fertilization of some crops like soybeans. Different foliar programs are shown at this stop, along with plots of soybeans, corn and cucumbers featuring ferti-Rain.

After all of this, it was back to the farm headquarters for our banquet, plus a view of the line-up of our research equipment. So it was quite a day.
(btw: Happy Birthday Dana, last week, and Stephanie on Monday)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everyone at LIQUID was a farmer today

So today was our annual "Liquid employees visit the NCRS day". With several new employees, some had never even been out to the farm before. It is a day where we show everyone around the farm to give them an idea of what it is we do out here. And we got to use our new people hauler trailer made of bleacher seats. Below we see the employees from the farm and town office and plant loading up for the field tour. Hurry Troy, the ramp is closing. (He made it.)

At one of the stops, some guy talked about corn and how different fertilizer programs can affect root growth and ear development. A little rain would be nice. A lot would be nicer.

Here is our group leaving Farm 7, pausing by our new sign.

Below Brian talks about where all of the vegetables that get brought into town come from. Plus all of the donations to the Food Bank. It's from the nearly 700 individual plots from 20+ different experiments.

Back at the farm office, Doug and Phil set up an autosteer course to let employees see how satellites can guide the tractors. They rode along in the buddy seats in these tractors. This shows how we manage field plot establishment and maintenance. We have 1678 individual field crop plots on the eight farms of the NCRS this year.

Fun and games continue before lunch, as Dave Hines shows his winning form in the basketball contest. Tracy Dunn won the double X chromosome contest.

Nick listens to his mother's advice as he cooks the steaks, ribs and chicken. Whatever she said, Nick did a great job as it was all delicious.

Tim and Michelle lead the stampede through the serving line. Again, it was a great spread put on by Jill, Andrea and Allison Bancroft. So thanks ladies.

And here's the next generation of LIQUID: Nick and Andrea's boys Levi, David and Paul. Looks like we're in good hands for years to come.

Everyone at Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, here in St. Johns as well as at the other plants and field locations, works hard to ensure that you are receiving the highest quality plant nutrition that there is today. So it is nice to take a little time to show off the farm so that everyone is on board with what we do here at the NCRS, the proving ground of Responsible Nutrient Management.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tomato Food Chain Begins

So today Brian and the harvest crew started on the Roma tomato plots. They got an early start and they were still there late this afternoon. Tomato harvest is the toughest since there are so many per plot, and Brian always has lots of plots. They will be at it for several days, so there is still time if you want to come by and help. I don't think he will care if you eat one every once in a while.
This is one range of the tomato plots. Brian promoted ripening with an application of Etherel growth regulator last week. They look pretty loaded to me.

One group happy with the harvest is the Lansing Food Bank who came by late this afternoon for the first of several trips this week. They took 50 boxes of tomatoes weighing a total of around 3000 pounds. Phil is all smiles as he helps load. Keep up the good work.

Mother Nature is a Mad Scientist. So most of you have seen all of the flooding in Iowa. We usually get their weather some 2 days later, but this past week we got nothing but around a quarter inch of rain, and we are really getting dry now. Crops are starting to show it. Any rain would be welcome. Stephanie, who lives around 40 miles to the Northeast got several inches at their house, and 4 inches at their feedlot a few miles from their house. And she said a neighbor lost 160 acres of cucumbers that were ready to pick from 5 inches of rain. Ouch! So come on, spread it around a little!
Have a good week out there. R.I.P. Elvis.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If It's the 2nd Weekend of August...Then It's Mint Festival

So this weekend is the 26th annual St. Johns Mint Festival. And what is a festival without a parade? And what is a parade without a contingent from Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers? Here are the participants in the 2010 parade, with loyal Liquid employees and family and friends.
Now the parade is underway, with the Liquid banner leading a Liquid truck. Hopefully you will see this same truck with truckdriver John Dixon driving up your lane to fill your tank with pure Liquid fertilizer.
Nikole passes out samples of ferti-Rain for house plants to parade watchers. People really look forward to getting a sample each year. One day we hope to have a ferti-Rain fountain in the middle of town where people can come to fill their own containers.

Other passed out items this year included sweet corn and peppers, from Brians vegetable plots at the NCRS. How many parades have you been to where you get vegetables? People really like this too. We are doing our best to get people to eat more vegetables. And having them fertilized with Liquid makes them taste even better. Here we see Nick piloting the vegetable wagon with the John Deere B.

The Liquid crew makes its journey though the scenic neighborhoods of St. Johns much to the delight of parade watchers.

And now it's in the home stretch as the parade makes it to Main Street, better known as Clinton Street.
It was very hot and humid this morning, but the Liquid crew put the people of St. Johns and their company ahead of personal comfort, in order to spread food, fertilizer and Liquid good-will to the citizenry of greater St. Johns, Michigan. We'll look for you next year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Up In The Air

So I was in Sterling, CO, which is in the NE part of the state, earlier this week and stopped by to see Darrel Mertens of Aero Applicators. Darrel, along with running his aerial application business, is a long-time Area Manager with Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. When I visit during this time of the year, Darrel is kind enough to give me an aerial tour of the surrounding area for a crop survey. We rode in his 1953 Super Cub, seen below. It is a great plane for looking around and taking pictures. Recall the big rain storms that occurred last week when I was in the Texas Panhandle? Well the night before my plane ride, there was a big rain storm again while we were out to dinner. It had all the looks of producing a tornado or at least the "H" word (hail). But fortunately, neither happened, but they did get about an inch of needed rain from it. Some of you may remember a picture that I took last year showing circles of corn all planted with 9-24-3 fertilizer, but one was from a different manufacturer and it was all yellow, and the others were from Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, which were all green. Well the yellow one from last year is still yellow this year, although I am told it had 10-34-0 this year. See for yourself. There is probably much to the cause of the yellow corn, and a good understanding of the soil test and proper application of phosphate and micronutrients, as Micro 500, would be a good start to the correction of this situation.
The picture below further illustrates how localized soil extremes can cause yellowing. We are not sure what the fertility program is here. Look how the top sections of the adjacent pivots have a definite yellow streak. I remember it looking exactly like this last year. But this is where soil testing and application of the proper nutrients and rates can help. Often the yellow spots are alkaline with high pH. Such conditions greatly restrict solubility of soil micronutients. The synergistic effects of Micro 500's five micronutrients can go a long way to correcting this. So you really shouldn't treat the whole field the same when there are obvious differences present.

The picture below is a good illustration that you can't hide your mistakes, such as leaving your fertilizer pump off for a pass. But you can use them to prove performance. This grower used Pro-Germinator and Micro 500 at planting, but when showed the picture, thinks he left the planter pump off on the top in the pass towards the center of the pivot. And the yellow strip on the lower half was where he thinks it was left off during sidedress. Although these are potentially costly mishaps, I think this is a good test to show what the fertilizer is doing, and maybe should be done by all growers, although on a smaller scale. And then let your friendly pilot and photographer show you what the effects of no fertilizer are.

While Darrel and I were flying, he saw one of his pilots making an application for spider mite control. So we positioned ourselves over him and I caught this picture below. I thought it was pretty cool.

So those are some of the pictues I took, and I have many more that I may drag out in the future. I want to thank Darrel and all of the Aero Applicators staff for a great visit. Now I am back to the NCRS. I was able to bring rain to the places I visited on this last mission, but no luck here at home. We could use some. Stay tuned....

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Return to the Cotton Country of the Texas Panhandle

So late last week SAM Jacob Nowakowski and I made a return visit to the cotton fields around Tahoka, Texas. Our loyal readers will recall the post from June 15 that showed pictures of the torrential rains that occurred while we were there. Rainfall amounts of over 5 inches fell in just a few hours leading to tremendous field runoff. And then on top of that, a foot of rain fell a few weeks later over the 4th of July. So it has been a wet year from the beginning with late planting. Although in this area, it was getting pretty dry. So the cotton needs a push, and that is where foliar applications of ferti-Rain have been playing a part. The Liquid sales rep for the area, Brian Durham, showed us around. Fields that were planted with Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers already look better than those that had conventional fertilizer, and those with ferti-Rain look even better. It's kind of hard to see it in the picture below, but the rows on the left received an application of 3 gal/A of ferti-Rain plus Pix growth regulator several weeks ago. The rows on the right received a recent application of this treatment due to mud and water in that part of the field at the time of the first application. It was reported that differences were very obvious after application where the sprayed rows had much better color. They look similar as far as color goes now, but the later treated rows are taller and not as bushy as the rows that received the Pix and fertilizer earlier. So it appears that this is a good combo application. With the cotton being later than normal this year, it is a good opportunity for foliar ferti-Rain.
I told you it was getting dry in this area, which is a good condition for this Horned Lizard. OK, we all know that it's better known as a Horny Toad, so everybody can snicker now. Poor thing, and all alone besides. We were told to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes too. No snicker there. Didn't see any.

I may have mentioned that we have some replicated cotton foliar research plots about 70 miles up the road in Plainview, Texas. Well they are also having some late cotton issues of their own. Rain prevented planting until June, and the rain continues here. It appears that there has been more recent rain up this way as the cotton looks better. No signs of dry stress. In fact, the night before our visit they received over an inch of rain. Our plots are out there somewhere in the picture below. But the cotton is only now starting to flower, and just received it's first foliar application. We had planned to apply the early foliar fertilizers with the Pix, but due to rain delays and the cotton growing so fast, they had to apply the Pix by plane on the whole field. So the fertilizers were applied separately on the plots. We are evaluating ferti-Rain, as well as Sure-K plus micros and then later applications of High NRG-NR at early boll development when there is usually a demand for extra N. With all of the rain this year, there may have been some nitrogen loss. So this is an opportunity for foliar applications to possibly make up for some of the loss. They normally apply 70 lb of N per acre for 3+ bale cotton. The researchers said that they have only run the pivot irrigation once all summer, which is very rare in the normally dry Panhandle.

Next week my fertilizer mission continues. Any guesses where??? Stay tuned.

Monday, August 2, 2010

When the Melons are Ripe...

So recently I showed some pictures of the bees pollinating the cantaloupe flowers. Well it is now time to harvest the fruits of their labour. But really the bees have it easy, as all of this harvest is by hand. So one of the purposes of this blog is to show you how we do things at that place we call the NCRS. Today's lesson: cantaloupe harvest. Below are some melons begging to be picked.
The cantaloupes are only picked when they are ripe. So there are multiple harvests. Below Brian selects the ripe melons, and tosses them to Tim who makes a pile for those from each plot.

Then the weighing team gets into action with melon counts and weights for each plot. Below we see Albert, Jake and Gina taking the weights and then putting the cantaloupes into a harvest box. After us vultures at the farm and office take some, they will be donated to the food bank.

Below you can see the cantaloupe piles waiting to be weighed. The weigh team moves from rep to rep. It is a long process, but the data will be valuable in determining differences in fertility programs. (See the bee hive boxes in the background?) Now who doesn't like a nice slice of fresh cantaloupe for breakfast?

So I don't know if anything exciting enough will happen tomorrow for a new blog post. But I am off on another fertilizer mission on Wednesday. Hopefully I can get clearance to show you someting from the mysterious road of fertilizer. Stay tuned.....