Friday, September 24, 2010

Big Beans and Melons

So yesterday we harvested our Navy bean plots. It went really well, thanks again to the AWS Air Reel that we installed last year. This isn't necessarily an endorsement of the AWS, it's just what we use. Without the Air Reel system blowing the plants into the auger, we would have problems with the cut beans not feeding into the auger when we get to the end of the plot. Since Navy beans are kind of short plants, especially when loaded with pods, they don't get fed in with the reel. So a blast of air pushes them right in, and really reduces shatter loss on edible beans as well as soybeans. I am seeing more of these in use around the country too. But we really like ours.
The conditions were good for Navy bean harvest, as there was enough moisture in the beans that we did not have any problems with splits, as the picture below shows.
Tim is again featured in the blog, this time for the big watermelons that he grew in his home garden. Of course he used Liquid fertilizer, adding High NRG-N, Sure-K and Micro 500 to the watering can each time. He said he would add some Pro-Germinator next year for even bigger melons. Good job, Tim.
Now if he could only get one that big for the Fourth of July!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Busy Tuesday...

So today is Wednesday, but Tuesday was a busy day at the NCRS. First we had to harvest the sunflowers. They were probably not ready and had not been sprayed for dry down, but the birds were starting to chow down on them, so we took them. We did find some good results, so check the research report (when available). Sorry birds, this smorgasbord is closed.
Next it was on to some of our dryland soybean plots.

The drought of August did have an effect on some of the soybean pod fill, as the picture below shows.
Meanwhile, Ron, Tim and Andy harvested onions. This laborious task involved cutting the tops off of the lifted onions, then putting them into bags for weighing and sorting.

Well look at this. We are expanding our office at the NCRS. It was pretty crowded the past four years with Doug, Stephanie, Brian and me all in a small office. With the farm expansion this year, we couldn't think big in a small space. I guess this means the NCRS is going to be around for a while longer.

So research will continue for many years to come...proving LIQUID performance.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On to High Plains Cotton

So the next stop on my fertilizer mission took me, once again, to the Texas Panhandle where we have a contract research experiment evaluating different fertilizer applications in irrigated cotton. This is the experiment where I have been trying for some time to visit, but every time I show up, it rains. But Jacob and I sneaked in last Thursday. It did rain as we were driving through Amarillo on the way there, but it was hot and sunny at the plots located south of Amarillo. It may have been because it was after 5:00 and Mother Nature thought surely we wouldn't be out there past five. But the cotton in the plots looks very good, as the picture below shows. (You can tell it's a research plot because there are flags scattered around the field.)
Now this cotton is shorter than the cotton I just saw in Alabama, but it is really loaded up withy bolls. This is stripper cotton (referring to the type of harvester), and it doesn't have the long branches with lots of bolls on them as I showed earlier. But it is loaded top to bottom as the picture shows. It was hard to tell any differences in treatments, but we thought we saw more plants leaning over due to boll load in the treated plots. Time will tell. (Sadly, we lost a grower test for cotton foliars due to hail. It was a ways south of here. But sad for the grower to lose a good -looking field that way.)
This is the stripper that will be used for plot harvest. It has a basket with a scale on it to determine the plot yield. Separate samples will also be collected to determine the per cent lint weight after trash and burs are subtracted. And samples will also be collected for fiber quality analysis. It takes a lot of time and work for this process we refer to as "research" (I'm holding up both hands with the index and middle fingers extended for quotation marks, and bending the fingers with each syllable. Try it. All us scientist types do it.)

So that was my week of cotton from two different areas of the cotton belt. Now it's back to the NCRS to, hopefully, continue this early harvest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Meanwhile back at the NCRS....

So just because I am away doesn't mean that the crew back at the NCRS is goofing off, or at least that's what they tell me. They actually started harvesting corn plots yesterday! Now it is very unlikely that a future year's blog post will announce corn being harvested on September 15. This is nearly a month earlier than normal, and usually we start with soybeans. But this was an odd year with much heat. So they harvested two tests of dryland corn from Farm 4 and Farm 6. Yields on Farm 6 which is extra sandy went around 110 bu/A, not so good. But the corn on Farm 4 which has heavier soil went around 170, which is surprisingly good for the conditions. These are early estimates from Stephanie who hasn't fully analyzed the results, but she knew if she didn't tell me that a phone call would be coming.
Below is a picture taken by Stephanie from within the scaled grain cart. There will be better pictures coming showing the whole process when I return because I usually take pretty good pictures of other people working.

So it is nice to get an early start, especially with the extra 250 acres we have this year. Go team go!

Peanuts, Cotton and LIQUID in the Deep South

So earlier this week my fertilizer mission took me all the way down to Southern Alabama to see Sales Account Manager Jay Castleman. Jay has done a great job of showing a fit for Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers on a variety of southern crops, and it was a great opportunity for me to get a progress report. Although I would have thought that by now it would have cooled off some, it was still in the mid-90's with humidity. We are working with the University of Florida at the Suwanee Valley research facility near Live Oak on some peanut plots. In these plots, Liquid's calcium fertilizer is being evaluated. In grower trials, and now grower usage, Jay has shown that application of Liquid calcium in either the in-furrow innoculant or Liberate Ca with planter fertilizer has resulted in substantial peanut yield increases. Below Jay and Mace from the university research farm check some plants. A similar trial is also being conducted at the Wiregrass Research and Education Center near Headland, AL. These plots are in the picture below. In the background is part of the Agri-AFC Headland facility where you can obtain Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers and friendly advice for all of your farming needs.
The next day we went down to Atmore, AL to meet with some growers and Agri-AFC dealers to see some dryland cotton fields which had used full programs of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. There is often chaos when two dealers, three growers and Jay get together, but this meeting was surprisingly civil.

Jay and Tony check some cotton while nervous grower Doug (in the very bright green shirt) watches to makes sure they don't mess anything up. It has been pretty dry of late, but the crop looks very good.

In one field there was a split between two different growers programs. The cotton on the left received a total dry fertilizer program and the one on the left received only liquid: Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500 at planting, placed 2x2 with some 28-0-0-5, and then sidedressed with more 28-0-0-5. Additionally it was sprayed with a successful southern cotton foliar application of a blend of High NRG-NR + Sure-K + Boron. It really brought the cotton along, such that a similar application was also applied to the other field to help it. Now the dry fertilizer cotton was planted several weeks earlier, but the size and color differences are striking.

Below is a branch from mid stalk of some of the Liquid cotton showing bolls on five fruiting positions.

So it was a good day and we all liked what we saw. And in order to try to fit in better in the South, I did a good job of polishing off some catfish and shrimp with the group at the restaurant after our tour. Just can't get it that good in Michigan. So I reluctantly left Alabama for stage II of my fertilizer mission to.....?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maryland Called, I Answered

So remember when Ron Mulford from the University of Maryland visited the NCRS in late July, and I said I would visit him in September? Well I did that last Thursday. Sales Account Manager Benjy Conover picked me up at the airport and we drove down to the Poplar Hill Research and Extension Center in Quantico, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There are quite a few acres of corn and soybeans there. Ron served as the director of that research faciltiy for many years until retirement this year, but continues to do some research there, including with some Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. Below Ron shows us the extensive foliar fertilizer research plots, that incorporated with and without soil-applied fertilizer and an array of different foliar soybean fertilizers. Unfortunately, it has been very dry there all summer. There is corn being harvested in the area, and the yields aren't very good due to the weather. We also visited a corn nitrogen study involving a variety of different sidedress treatments, liquid and dry. This corn will likely be harvested this coming week. Below we see Benjy making a kernel count in a plot in order to make a yield estimate. I wrote down his guesses and we will see how close it is to the actual yield on the plots he counted.We also visited another corn nitrogen plot up in Clarksville, MD. Clarksville is about 20 miles West of Baltimore and 30 miles from Washington, DC. There is a lot of farmland around there, but also fields that are growing houses. The picture below is next to the farm where our corn test is, and you can see the new houses. Another grower in the area told us about the farmland preservation programs where growers can get partially re-imbursed for the difference between exorbitant land prices they pay, that are priced for development, and reasonable area prices for farming if they agree to keep it in crops and never to develop it. Benjy said that there is such a program where he lives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I would hate to be driving tractors and combines on some of the narrow winding roads we were on due to traffic. But I did eat several meals of Maryland crab, so traffic didn't bother me.

So today is September 11, the anniversary for a sad date for our country. It is one of those dates that you may always remember where you were when you heard the news. I was in our farm office in the white barn across from Mr. Cook's house, as our current barns had not yet been built. Stephanie and I were in the office talking to Mr. Cook when Doug Summer, who was on an errand in town and heard the news on the radio, called to tell us a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but we didn't know the details at that time, thinking it was an accident. I had to go to a funeral that morning and will never forget turning on the TV when I got home to change and seeing the devastation. And the tragedy continues.
So I am off on another fertilizer mission this week. All I can tell you at this time is that I go with a banjo on my knee.

Monday, September 6, 2010

NCRS in the Post-Tour Era

So we are done with all of the tours and visitors. Well we won't turn away a worthy drop-by, but the scheduled ones are history. And here it is September already, and we start to think about harvest here in Michigan. But this summer has been a full one, such that we will all share a ton of memories. But we finally did get some rain on Wednesday night and Thursday, as well as last night and today. (This recent rain was not forecast, the weather was supposed to be clear and warm on this Labor Day.) Last week we got 1.75 inches, so with last night and today, we are probably more than triple the 0.6 inches we received in all of August. Much of the corn has turned brown and the soybeans have turned yellow or have dropped leaves all together, even though we have not received the amount of heat units for regular maturity. But when stresses arise, the plant is triggered into completing production of grain. But not all corn and beans have turned. Thanks to irrigation, we do have corn that is still growing towards maturity. We are still around 100 growing degree days short of that required for physiological maturity of corn.
But we also have dryland corn that is pretty much done, and all brown due to the lack of moisture. But there is this corn below that is under irrigation, and it is all done growing. What's up?? Well remember that corn I showed here several times that did not receive any planter fertilizer, and all along it was way behind the corn that did receive an in-furrow application of Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500. This is what it looked like last Friday. All brown with dropped ears while the corn around it is still pretty much green. Even though it did not have sufficient heat units for the designated physiological maturity, it had grown all that it could considering it did not have sufficient nutrients. So it threw in the towel, and matured. Here the kernels show black layer, indicating it's done growing.

This field of mid group II soybeans on Farm 5 are still green, but only because of irrigation.

It's easy to tell where our linear irrigation stopped. See, there is a barn and the original land owners house to the left of the picture, or we would have kept going. But we're nice.

These soybeans were collected in the area of the above picture. Irrigation makes quite a difference in a year like this. (For you Sooners and Wolverines, the irrigated beans are on the left.)

It might be kind of hard to see, but this field is sloped. The soybeans at the top of the slope, in the foreground, ran out out of water, and have dropped all their leaves. The beans going down the slope still had a little water, and the leaves have turned yellow. But the beans at the bottom of the slope, where the ground levels off and the soil is heavier, are still pretty green. They will benefit from this recent rain.

And I'm sure I have embarassed Stephanie here, but look at the soybean plant she is holding. This is from that irrigated piece above, but was growing on the edge of the field kind of by itself. It has over 100 3-bean pods on it. And the base of the plant is thick and woody like a tree. Don't you wish you could have a field of beans like this? Of course you wouldn't want anyone else to have a field like this, as bean price is pretty good right now.

So it's nice just to be able to drive around the farm and see what is going on, and now we both know. (P.S. my fertilizer mission mentioned last time got rained out, but I'm not telling where.)
Happy Birthday Phil on Tuesday.....and Happy Birthday on Wednesday to Elyse!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesday was VIP day at the NCRS!

So we have had many visitors to the North Central Research Station this summer, but on Tuesday we had our most important group yet: growers. Many had used Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers before, but many had not. And most had never been to the NCRS before, so the pressure was on for us to do a good job. Now if you are going to host over 150 growers, you had better feed them well. The meeting started with a meal, and no one went away hungry. Our visitors came from a wide area including Michigan, Ontario, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and probably elsewhere.
We have learned that no one doesn't like 2-cylinder ice cream.

Our new design for the van trailers was on display. Actually the saying there is from the winner of a contest for this. Of course I like the fact that "Research" is the start of this great saying that describes ACLF nutrition.
After lunch and a few words by the Senior Research Manger, and also from our vice president Mr. Nick Bancroft, it was time to load up the wagons and head out on the farm tour. Now it was terribly hot for Central Michigan on that day, with temperatures in the 90's. But there was a breeze and everyone had a bottle or two of LIQUID water. The first stop was on one of the irrigated farms, Farm 3, and showed our Nutri-Till corn plots. Nutri-Till is a strip till option where different fertilizers can be dual placed: Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500 in the seed zone and nitrogen several inches below where the seed is planted. Various combinations of placement and timing were compared. Next we stopped for a look at our Navy Bean plots. Below, Stephanie described the rates and timings of fertilizer applications, including foliars.

On to our new Farm 7, which is not irrigated. Once there we broke into smaller, more manageable groups. Below we see a table of corn roots and ears of different fertilizer treatments. Whole programs were compared: total Liquid placed in the seed furrow with the planter compared to total dry and conventional dry and other liquids. Additionally, the effects of different liquid formulations as a "pop-up" were seen.

Below class is in session around the root and ear table.

Below Doug Summer shows different liquid fertilizer placement options on our 6-row Monosem planter. There were two different in-furrow options and the 2x2 option. He showed how placement and different fertilizer combinations affected root growth.

Below we see a happy couple from Ontario. However, it was learned that she agreed to come to this "farm tour" if he would take her shoe shopping next weekend. That's right, "eh Ashley?"

Stephanie shows differences in different corn nitrogen programs by having participants count kernals to determine yield estimates. The corn was collected from border rows of actual research plots, but results were recorded and we will see how accurate they were when the plots are harvested.

After being out in the hot sun, it is nice to take a break in a hot tent. Actually there was a breeze and fans, and it wasn't bad getting out of the sun to have some refreshments. While there, we had some people that did some tiling work at the NCRS as well as the vendor from whom we got our gps guidance systems talk briefly to the group. There were demonstrations of this at the end of the tour.

We also had some stops about soybeans on Farm 7, but sadly I did not get any pictures of Cory Schurman and Phil Dush talking to the group. But they did a good job.
Towards the end, back on Farm 1, Brian Levene did a demonstation of how fertilizer programs can affect taste of fruits and vegetables. I took the challenge, and there really was a noticeable difference, especially with the cantaloupes and watermelon. (LIQUID was sweeter, otherwise it would be a crummy demonstration.) Additionally, he had some cantaloupes that had been picked several days prior, and the LIQUID melons stored better and remained fresher. Food for thought there, it was a good demonstration.
We had our Farm 3 tiled last April, and it already shows improvement on what was wet and muddy areas. But part of the farm was too wet to finish then. So it was decided to finish the job during our grower tour so others can see the tiling rig. This ground is in grass because it is too wet in the spring for crops. Even with record dryness this month, the holes at the tile juctions had water in the bottom. So it will be good to get this dried out so it can be farmed.

So after a hot afternoon of LIQUID knowledge and excitement, this tired group heads back to their trucks and hope the air conditioner is still working for the ride home. Thanks for coming one and all.
In addition to thanking the groups for coming, I want to thank everyone who helped get the farm ready for this show, plus the PLFP last week. It takes a lot of hard work to make it look so good. So Thanks! Already I am off on a short fertilizer mission, so stay tuned.