Saturday, October 30, 2010

Back To Work

So we have been busy summarizing all of the harvest data and making charts of results. These will be shown in the next Liquid newsletter, grower meetings and of course, the annual Research Report. I will say that we are having some very good results that we can't wait to present. But alas, there is still some farm work to do. One of our jobs is to apply fall strip till treatments, or as we call it, Nutri-Till. Here we are running treatments into wheat stubble. We had good results with fall applications of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K in our trials this year, and are repeating some of these, plus new variations. I will say that we do not recommend fall application of nitrogen solutions due to losses before the corn needs it way into next season. But Pro-Germinator and Sure-K can work well with fall strip till application. In the picture below we see Doug in command of our custom-built Nutri-Till applicator. Doug was also the custom-builder. Looking out the back window we see straight strips thanks to RTK and auto-steer.
We like for the Pro-Germinator and Sure-K to be placed in the seed zone. In other words, shallow placement and not in the deep placement typical of most strip till tools. In the picture below, the Nutri-Till tool is in the raised position. Hopefully you can see the knife behind the front coulter where fertilizer can be placed 5 to 6 inches below the seed placement. With spring Nutri-Till, we will put nitrogen there, but not in the fall. We are running a treatment of Sure-K and also Pro-Germinator + Sure-K in the deep placement for comparison to shallow placement and planter placement. And hopefully you can see the green tube going to the back between the rear coulters. This places the fertilizer in the seed zone, a couple inches below the surface. We have two tanks and two pumps for the dual placement which is common in the spring. With all of the monitors and red balls to watch, auto steer is a real asset.

And here is what we will be planting into next year. I guess this proves that we will be back for 2011. This is not the last plot task for the fall. Hopefully I will show you what remains on Monday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What? Don't Tell Me It's Over Already?!?

So today was a sad day at the NCRS. Yes, we harvested our last experiment. Remember how you felt as a kid at Christmas opening your last present? You have a lot of nice stuff, but still kind of sorry it's over. Well that kid is me today. But we went out on a high note harvesting our milo (or was it grain sorghum? hmmm.) plot. This is only the second or third time we have planted milo at the NCRS, not a milo growing area here. But this test turned out really well, and we got some good results. (Which will be in the Research Report.) This plot also attracted some birds, but nowhere near the numbers of the sunflower plot. The birds were maybe stocking up for their trip South, and I hope they have a successful trip and find all they are looking for down there.
The combine did a great job today, as it has all fall. Did you know this is the ninth different crop harvested with the combine this year? Can you name them all? No prize, just something to do.
The colorful milo dumping into the grain cart for weighing of the plot's yield.

And here it is, the last pass of the year. (Pause for reflection.) But the work is far from over. Now it is time to get ALL of the plot data summarized, graphed and interpreted. And there is still some farm work to do, including some tillage, fall strip till, soil sampling, and other researchy stuff. The weather continues to be perfect for all of this.

So we haven't seen much of Stephanie lately. Where has she been? Well for every plot that we harvest, a sample is retained for determination of moisture and test weight. And these things don't happen all by themselves. Stephanie runs sample after sample on our Dickey-john grain tester. Definately the woman scientist behind the scene.

So no more harvest pictures for awhile, assuming my blog contract is renewed next year. Like everything, it depends on the ratings. But there are still activities and antics on which I can report, so stay tuned. And tell a friend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Black Bean Harvest and Planting Wheat

So yesterday was another beautiful day here in mid-Michigan, and the combine was kept busy. This time we harvested our Black Bean experiment. Here is the combine harvesting the middle four rows of the six-row plot that we use for yield determination. Again, the air reel really is beneficial for harvesting edible bean plots as the air blows the cut plants into the auger and feeder house, where they used to rest above the cutter bar at the end of the plot.
Guess why they are called Black Beans. Michigan is the leading producer of black beans. You have probably eaten them at Taco Bell and not even known it. We got some good results with our Liquid nutrition. Look for the results in the 2010 Research Report.

Here they are dumped into the grain trailer to take to the black bean elevator. A point of interest regarding edible beans is that you have to be very careful not to have any soybeans in the edible beans. You can lose your whole load if soybeans are found due to concerns about food allergies. So that means we have to thoroughly clean the combine and grain cart, including vacuuming the hiding places in the combine grain bin. It's a pain, but we do it.

So that was yesterday. On another part of Farm 5 we harvested some more soybeans yesterday and today planted our last wheat plot this morning. Good thing we got an early start as it started raining as we were finishing. We could use some rain to get the wheat up.

Harvest is winding down as the end is in sight. We now have just a few soybean tests awaiting harvest. Still can't believe we are nearly done and it's only October 13.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All Eyes on Potato Harvest This Week

So I have written plenty lately about corn and soybean harvest at the NCRS this past week. But what has Brian and crew been up to, hmm??? Well they have been quite busy with potato harvest. The first step is to dig the potatoes with the plot digger. Here we see Tim and Andy catching the plot output.
Under the watchful eye of Brian, the potatoes are collected in baskets and then put in bags.

The bags are collected and hauled up to the barn for sorting.

Here we see Andy sorting the potatoes by size catagory (you know, A's and B's) and Tim weighing the sorted potatoes. This goes on for each plot. And there are 60 plots. So research is slow and steady, but that's how we learn.

So the next time you grab some fries, remember that guys like Andy, Tim and Brian worked tirelessly paving the way to better potato production.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dual Harvest

So it was another busy day of plot harvest at the NCRS. The morning started with another corn experiment on Farm 7. Phil is at the helm of the combine. Notice we have a gps globe on board so that we are always sure we are in the right plot. We don't rely on plot stakes anymore in this modern age of agriculture. At the end of the plot the corn is dumped into the grain cart.

Then the grain weight is recorded. Recall that we save a sample for moisture and test weight measurement.

When the cart is full, it is unloaded into the grain trailer for transport to the corn store.

In the afternoon we switched to harvesting soybean plots. We like to mix it up so that we don't get stale harvesting only one crop. With corn you get lots of the so-called "bees wings", and with soybeans you get lots of dust out the back of the combine and the unloading auger. The grain-cart data recorder person (myself or Stephanie before she got too pregnant) needs to take care not to breath all of this, so dust masks are a must, along with eye protection. Oh the risks we face to get this valuable data.

Today we harvested the big soybean plot that was featured in this blog during planting on May 20 (see "Big Plant"). This large experiment had three different row spacings (drill, 15" and 30"), each at three different populations (100-, 150- and 200k) and four different fertility programs (none, planter or drill-applied, foliar at V3 and R1), and all replicated four times. So there are lots of plots. The picture below shows plots at 15" row spacing next to a drilled plot, and 30" row plots in the background. The tracks on the side are for the foliar applications with the Hagie plot sprayer, with border rows on the outside.

Here comes the combine harvesting a plot, with the aid of the AWS Air-Reel.

There are still a number of days of harvest to go, so the fun continues....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Plot Harvesting Mad Men (and Woman)

So last week and now this week we are flying through plot harvest. With good weather and early harvesting, it is going great so far. We did get some rain over the weekend, which helped settle the dust and will help the just-planted wheat. And this week calls for sunny and dry all week, so harvest continued today. I will say that today was one of those days that makes the job fun. It was cool and sunny with no wind, and no breakdowns. Windy days can make things difficult by making the scale on the big grain cart jump around. In fact, if it's too windy, we won't harvest plots. But today was perfectly calm. We knocked out three big corn tests. Again because of the strangely warm season, we are harvesting corn before we finish our soybeans, which is very rare. But last night we had our first frost of the fall, and decided to let the frost finish off the soybeans and get them more dry. What a contrast to the unusually cool 2009 where we actually had a killing frost on October 4 before the corn had even reached black layer. In the picture below, it is the same routine as before, follow the combine with the grain cart. We get good treatment readings in this experiment where the plots are 380 feet long with four replications.
At the end of each plot, the corn is weighed and a sample collected for moisture and test weight measurement. Look what somebody dropped off on one of our farms (Farm 7). They are all over the place. This is another motivation to get finished with harvest.

So we are keeping after it so that we can find out what the treatments did as we continue to explore this Responsible Nutrient Management that seems to be all the rage.