Sunday, June 27, 2010

Foliar Applications for Soybeans

So last Friday we completed Round 1 of the foliar fertilizer applications to soybeans. Based on previous research, we have found that the time to make foliar applications in soybeans that are drilled is in the V3 to V4 stage of growth. This is about the time of the first glyphosate application. So that is what we did. We are evaluating several new fertilizer combination treatments. With beans in 30 inch rows, the recommended stage for application is at the R1 growth stage, or around the time for the second glyphosate application, if there is one. We haven't yet determined the optimum stage for beans in 15 inch rows, but we are working on that this year. In the picture below, notice that we have left "tram" lines for the sprayer to follow when making applications in our plots. These plots are on our new Farm 7. The plots are 260 feet long with four replications of treatments, so we are hopeful that this layout is sufficient to determine any significant treatment effects. Stephanie took the picture below while we were making applications to plots. This is a common problem on farms in mid-Michigan. Sometimes at dusk, several dozen deer can be seen in a field at the soybean buffet. But no one wants to re-introduce the wolf or the Yeti. As bad as the deer are on soybeans, the worst crop damage by far is from raccoons on corn in the blister stage.

I am on another fertilizer mission this week, but will try to keep you abreast of any late breaking fertilizer news should any occur. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Highlight of the Trip

So this week has been pretty poor for getting much outside work done. It rained Monday and Wednesday, and on Tuesday the wind was really strong. And here we are ready to make foliar fertilizer applications to soybeans and corn. I got some corn sprayed late today and hope to make good headway on the soybeans tomorrow, as it is supposed to be nice. But today the Research Department was host to two new ACLF employees from California. They are Armondo Gutierrez and Jim Mills, who are Sales Account Managers, resposible for working with our existing dealers and developing new dealers in that agriculturally diverse state. They were in town for orientation with the company, but certainly most enjoyed the visit to the North Central Research Station. In the picture below, Specialty Crops Research Manager Brian Levene discusses the Roma tomato plots. Stephanie stays within earshot in case of any mistakes or questions. I thought you may enjoy seeing this. Brian has a row of sweet corn that is less than three feet tall in the process of making ears. Other sweet corn in the back rows is nearly as tall or taller, but is a long ways from making ears. How can you 'splain this? Well that sly Brian started the eared corn in our growth chamber and transplanted it to the ground below. It was grown in continuous light in the growth chamber, so it reached it's daylength requirement for ear production soon after transplanting, even though it was still short. The other corn in the picture was planted from seed. His goal was to have sweet corn ears by July 4th. That is quite a goal in Michigan. Hopefully it will work, and as Senior Research Manager guy, I will insist on checking production. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are We Done Yet?

Brian and Tim are setting watermelon transplants into the plasic-covered raised beds for yet another specialty crop fertilizer trial. Tim sets the transplants while Brian adds the fertilizer treatment in the "setter water". Additional treatments were applied to the beds prior to covering with the plastic. There is irrigation drip tape under the plastic. (Incidently, this particular plastic is supposed to be bio-degradable at the end of the year, which will reduce the amount going to the landfill. This is the first year of using this at the NCRS.) The rows are long and the plants are many, but I'm sure I heard them whistling while they worked. I wonder how many people think that watermelons just magically appear in the grocery store? Brian and Tim know the work involved from start to finish, and the fertility information that is generated will be of great benefit to growers anywhere.We should be sampling the fruits of their labor sometime in late August to early September. Even though I am a spectator during planting, come harvest, everyone is welcome (or strongly encouraged) to pitch in. It is a chore picking and weighing through the multiple harvests from the plots. But the rewards are very tasty. Stop by for a bite in a few months, provided you work first.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Field Plot Planting is Done

So I didn't stay in Oklahoma to wait for wheat plot harvest. They did harvest it on Friday, and hopefully Jacob sends me some pictures. But I came back on Thursday so I could be at the NCRS on Friday. One thing that was accomplished was the completion of planting of the field plots. The black bean plot was planted as seen in the picture below. Edible beans are planted in Michigan in mid-June. This test will evaluate rates and placement, and foliar fertilizers. We have not yet developed a consistant foliar program for edible beans, but have a good test planned for this year in both Navy and Black Beans. On some of our production ground, Doug planted some Pinto beans for the firlst time at the NCRS, with an eye on some test plots in the future. In this picture I am applying a surface application of High NRG-N on the Black Bean plots. We recommend broadcast application of nitrogen, either pre-plant or post plant. We are comparing this to a combination application with the Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and Micro 500 in 2x2 placement. By the way, did you know that Michigan is the leading producer of Black Beans? Do you know what Black Beans are used for?
Refried beans are probably the main use of Black Beans, but also in chili and soups. So go buy a bag today. They make a great Fathers Day Gift. Speaking of Fathers Day, I hope you can say Hi to your Dad, or pause to give him a nice thought. I was fortunate to see my Dad this past week. I said Hi.

(I left my camera at the farm again, and had more pictures that you would have enjoyed. Fortunately I downloaded these earlier in the day. So there will be more on Monday. Have a great weekend.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Came All This Way For This?

So I made a return to my old homeland of Oklahoma for the harvest of our wheat plots. They are located in a field of Ben Nowakowski's, brother of Sales Account Manager Jacob (Jake) Nowakowski. They are located near McLoud, OK about 40 miles East of Oklahoma City. Well I got up yesterday morning (Monday) in Stillwater, OK to torrential rain. This was the day of the tremendous downpour of some 12 inches of rain in the Oklahoma City area. However, the rainfall amounts were quite variable. The plots only received less than 3 inches, but too much for any harvesting. So we decided to head West to Texas to see some of our cotton plots North of Lubbock and see some new customers South of Lubbock. Surely it would be dry there. It did get dry, hot and sunny as we crossed into Texas near Wichita Falls, but as we went further West, the skies darkened and opened up to more driving rain. The picture below is just South of Tahoka, TX, which is about 30 miles South of Lubbock. They had received 5 inches of rain that afternoon, along with 80 mph winds. This is a cotton field. As you can see, the bar ditches are full and we drove through several inches of water over the highway. It was interesting to observe that the water coming out of no-till fields was relatively clear while water coming out of the worked fields was dirty. This morning we looked at our other cotton plots North of Lubbock which didn't receive nearly as much rain and looked good. We made our way back to Oklahoma, stopping at Hinton to check on some more cotton plots, and made it back to our wheat plots. It was sunny and warm and I was optomistic that we would be able to harvest our plots tomorrow. But upon arrival, it was too muddy and the wheat grain was moist. We have a custom plot harvester come down from Kansas each year to help us, but we called him off till later in the week. In this picture, Jake poses in a wheat plot. The plots do look nice don't they.
Nearby we looked at the first field of corn planted this year by Ben. This picture was planted on March 15. The first pass on the right was made without fertilizer for several hundred feet as a check for comparison. Not one tassel is showing. The corn on the left received an in-furrow application of 6 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 3 pints/A of Micro 500. Both received the same nitrogen program. The soil is low in phosphorus, and the soil test recommendation was for 200 lb/A of 18-46-0. So it looks like the Liquid is doing its job of advancing growth. So this was worth the trip.

Meanwhile back at the NCRS, a number of activities were occurring. I received this picture of Brian and Tim (who apparently is back from Africa) tying up grape vines for training. Looks good guys.

Thanks for reading todays installment. I was scheduled to leave on Thursday for important assignments at the NCRS. But I have to decide whether or not to stick around for the harvest. So you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Do It Right the First Time!

So the other day I wanted to take some corn tissue samples for nutrient analysis. I do this every year, but I still need to review the correct sampling method and how to determine the correct growth stage of the corn that I am sampling. An error in any one of these can lead to wrong results, and no one wants that. There are various guidelines you can find from the labs, but who remembers where they put those? An excellent reference was prepared by Stephanie and is on the website. (Go to the Research tab, and on the right side under "Other Resources" there is a piece you can bring up called "Tissue Sampling Guidelines". It has great pictures that even someone from Norman, Oklahoma could follow.)

But here I am sampling a leaf from corn in the V6 stage of growth. It is easy to see the uppermost leaf with a collar. The leaves above it may be big, but they have no collar (or white ring on the undercarriage) and are still in the whorl. So don't take those. I also like to use some scissors to get an even and uniform cut of an entire leaf. Plus it's faster. I guess it's best to use stainless scissors, and not some that may be rusty. So the old saying of: "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" certainly applies to tissue sampling.

I am off on yet another fertilizer mission next week, but will keep you posted of events both on and off the NCRS. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Long Drive

No, the title does not refer to golf. But the blog has not been updated for a few days as I was on another Liquid mission. This time I left home early Monday morning and headed West for Baltic, SD, home of Hefty Seed Company. As you may know, we are working with them as they are dealers for Liquid fertilizer, and we are advertizers on Brian and Darren's fine TV show "Ag Ph.D". They have been kind enough to mention how Liquid fertilizers have worked on their farm, and especially on Darren's so-called "Blank Slate" field. This is so named because it has really been abused over the years until Darren purchased it last winter. He covers it in his blog. But the soil fertility is rated Very Low in all nutrient catagories, as well as organic matter. It does have some firm clay with a CEC of 15. We have worked on some different fertility programs to see what it takes to produce yield and improve the soil. With the low soil test levels, a planter program of 10.5 gallons per acre was the standard (5 gal of Pro-Germinator, 5 gal of Sure-K and 2 qt of Micro 500). We recommend not to apply rates higher than this in-furrow to prevent seed injury. At side-dress, (whenver it stops raining) treatments of this same 10.5 gal/A will be added plus another treatment of double this, or 21 gal/A, will be applied. This will be compared to no additional fertilizer at sidedress. So this gives a range of treatments. However, Hefty Seed Agronomist Rob Fritz wanted to see how high you could go in-furrow, and applied additional treatments of 15 and 20 gal/A of this same half and half blend. Earlier stand counts found that there was no real reduction in stand at the higher rates, although there was some leafing out underground and reduced vigor to push through crust. So I was anxious to see this and made the drive. It has been very rainy so far this spring in South Dakota. They said that if it is not raining at the moment, then it is in the forecast. Sure enough, as I approached on Tuesday, it started to rain. But it did let up which enabled us to walk through the field and dig up some plants, again due to hard work and clean living. In the picture below, Liquid Area Manager Chad Schlecter (in orange) converses with Hefty Seed agronomists Rob Fritz and Matt Falck.
We were impressed with how good the field looked, in spite of the "Blank Slate" of nutrients in the soil. All of the corn had good color and vigor. I dug up some plants from the different rates, which are in the picture below. Now this is just a sample of one plant per rate, but from similar positions in the field. From left to right we see corn that received 10.5, 15 and 20 gallons per acre. It does appear that the lower rate enabled a little better root system, but the higher rates still look very good. However, this is not an endorsement of higher rates, so our recommendation stands. This is a test. But the Liquid did not hurt the corn.
So it will be interesting to follow this through the summer to harvest. Normally there would be moisture stress later in the summer, so the effects on roots may be a factor. Additonally, we will see if more fertility added as a side-dress has an effect. This is planned for a several year test, so there is a ways to go. The next picture is looking down a pretty good slope. The plan was to apply fertilizer through spring strip till. But it was decided that the ground was too hard, and so it was leveled with a field cultivator and planted. Even so, there was enough soybean residue left on the surface that I think will help hold soil on the slopes during the excess rain. So the field really looks go so far. Again, stay tuned, and follow more on Darren's blog.

So after that, we looked at some other fields and then Chad and I visited a field of a second year customer in Northern Nebraska, not too far from where we were. It was interesting for the steep sloped fields that they farm. But more on that in a future post. I got up early Wednesday morning and made the very long drive back to Michigan to be back at the NCRS today.
I would like to close by mentioning that Tuesday was my 18th Anniversary with Liquid fertilizers. What a long time, but it has flown by. We were so small then compared to now, although we are still small in the fertilizer industry. But we are sure being noticed by growers and competition because of the unique formulations of high-performance plant nutrition. I remember shortly after I started thinking that I would just do this until something better came along. Well, I am still here and I really don't think anything better will ever come along. I am very fortunate to work for such a great outfit and family (Bancrofts and Cooks), as the above story illustrates. So we will see what the next 18 years bring.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ready, Set, FERTILIZE!

Sorry to be a day late with the Friday post, but I was tired last night. But here is the Friday June 4 report. Yesterday started off nice enough, but there was rain in the forecast. In fact the several sources we check said it would be raining by noon. We got an early start, and divided up and went to work. One thing that I had to do was spray our sugarbeet experiment as it has gotten weedy. We planted Roundup Ready beets, and took the opportunity to add some different fertilizer treatments. We generally have not had consistent success with foliar applications to sugarbeets in the past. But most of our past applications have been to larger beets with bigger leaves. But this is the first time we have added fertilizer to glyphosate for applications to smaller beets. Some of our friends in Montana have had favorable results with this, so we are taking a look. We will also make repeat applications as weeds always come back in sugarbeets. Our alfalfa test had its first harvest a week ago, so this is the time to apply fertilizer. Here we see around 4 inches of regrowth, enough to enable coverage with the foliar spray. We had several different treatment comparisons centered around Sure-K plus additives, plus conventional. Doug and Stephanie worked on sidedressing corn, with Phil philling in later in the day. The short week plus rain on Tuesday has us a little behind on sidedress application experiments. But fast work enabled us to meet our goal of compeleting sidedress of all experiments on Farms 3, 4, 5 and 6. Next week we will move to the new Farms 7 and 8.

This picture shows Phil spraying weeds in the background of one of the corn experiments. This field was shown on the May 28 blog post. The picture then was taken on May 27, or 8 days prior to the picture below. It showed rows that did not receive any planter fertilizer next to rows that received a planter application of Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500. Now look how much smaller the six untreated rows are compared to the fertilized rows. And the fertilized corn has really grown in those 8 days.

So hard work and clean living paid off, as the rain missed us and I was able to do some more spraying, as did Phil, and the sidedressing goal was met. On the vegetable front, Brian filled in some missing transplants and sprayed for weeds in the vegetable zone. With the day complete, it rained pretty hard around 6:30 pm. So it was a good day and week at the NCRS. Next week I am off on another fertilizer mission, so I will be reporting from the road for a few days.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fill Your Probe For PSNT

The rain from yesterday kept us out of the field for most of the day, but we able to get back to sidedressing corn on some of our lighter ground in the afternoon. The corn is really growing fast and we are anxious to get the sidedressed N applied. We have one experiment where we will perform the PSNT, or Pre Sidedress Nitrate Test. This is where a soil sample is collected from a field several days prior to sidedress application for determination of nitrate nitrogen content by a lab. Then a recommendation is made with consideration of the nitrogen already there. In some years with heavy rain, nitrogen may be lost, and this test will tell you how much. Alternatively, there may be accelerated mineralization of plant-available nitrogen if conditions were warm (but not hot) and good (but not excessive) moisture. So this test is recommended in order apply the right amount of nitrogen, and avoid the consequenses of over or under application.Here we see Stephanie collecting PSNT soil samples. The recommendation is for 12" cores, so you have to have a proper probe. Also, avoid sampling the planter-fertilizer band. If you have applied much nitrogen at planting, then subtract that from the recommendation. We took our sample by the extension office this afternoon, and should have the results by e-mail by Monday or Tuesday. In this experiment, we will follow the PSNT recommendation with several different nitrogen fertilizer formulations, plus compare it to what would be our standard recommendation. I will admit that in past testing both at the NCRS and in field trials in Iowa, the PSNT has not been as effective as our standard recommendations. It seems that the PSNT recommendation was too low, and it showed at harvest. But that was a few years ago, and we decided to give it another shot on one of our new farms. The hard part was selecting a yield goal, as we have never grown corn on this farm before. I just hope we can make some good headway on our sidedress before forecasted rains come again. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rain Revisits

So naturally just as we got started sidedressing yesterday, it would rain today. In fact, by the end of the day we received 0.9 inchees. The picture shows the view out the east doors of our shop. Notice that we are so big and important now that we have our own Liquid truck to bring us fertilizer. I know that rain during sidedress time is one reason that some may be hesitant to rely on sidedress application, preferring instead to apply it all up front with the planter and herbicide application. Or some have too many acres to cover for sidedress to be effective. But I still like sidedress. It puts the nitrogen on at a time when the N demand by the corn starts to shoot straight up. And how many times have there been big rains following broadcast applications, so that you read warnings from Extension service reports: "How much nitrogen is left following recent rains?" However, our research continues to show that broadcast after planting is as effective as timely sidedress. I thought I would show you our sidedress mainifold. We have an "N-Ject LF" system from Capstan Ag on top of some Wilger Flow Indicators with steel balls. The Capstan system is great for us because we are able to apply a range of application rates in our experiments and not have to continually change orifice disks like in the old days. We have used this for several years now, and are very satisfied. The Capstan sends the fertilizer out in pulses that match the desired rates. We use the same system on our planter, again not having to change orifices between the different rates. It is a little spendy, but ensures accurate delivery of the desired rate. Check it out. (Note: I receive no compensation for the mention of this product. But am open for discussion.)
Notice in the picture that one of the lines comes out of the system and then goes to a T with two tubes coming out. Well these tubes go to the guess rows, so that half of the rate is applied in each pass in the guess rows. So with the return pass, a full rate is applied. Many sidedress units are similarly set up, but I have seen units that do not apply in the guess rows, and have seen N shortage as a result. I really like the Wilger units so that you can see if one row becomes clogged or something, and you can stop and fix it before finding out the hard way with yellow corn later.

The last picture is of Phil showing off his latest project: an improved drip tape layer. In some fields we place drip tape for irrigation. In the old days we used to walk the tape the length of the plot by unrolling the tape spools mounted on a rod at the field edge. Then later we mounted the rod on the 3-point hitch of a tractor and drove it up the plots, but we still had to have people standing on the end of the tape at the end of the field. What an inefficient use of labor all of that was! So this year we will try this unit which applies down pressure as the tape is laid to keep it in place. The down pressure is from air shocks on the press wheels. As seen in the picture, it does a nice job on the shop floor. (We will see if Phil is still smiling after we try it in the field.)
It is one of the best parts of the job that we do in that we come up with ways to make field work better and more efficient. In other words, make our job easier so that we can do more. That is certainly a characteristic of the American farmer, and why we are the envy of the world.
So this is what we do on rainy days.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sidedressing Corn

Today we started sidedressing our corn. It was a little later start than normal with the smaller than normal corn from the frost and cold weather after planting. But it has been warm lately and the corn is really growing. We like to start sidedressing by 30 days after planting for corn after soybeans. With corn after corn, we have shown yield drop off if sidedress is later than 30 days after planting where no other N was applied. But we like to apply some nitrogen with the planter or strip till machine for corn after corn. We usually apply 15 to 20 gallons of N, like High NRG-N, this way. Another option is to apply some with the herbicide after planting, then sidedress if corn after corn. In this picture, Phil is sidedressing N to test plots where we evaluate different rates, formulations, and additives in the different experiments. This will continue for at least the rest of the week.