Friday, December 23, 2011

Noel from the NCRS

So I was driving to the NCRS this morning and saw this beautifu sunrise over Farm 6. And since I never trave without a camera, I pu ed in to take a picture. This is the first fu day of winter, and it is off to a nice start. And though we don't have any snow, and won't have a white Christmas, it is a sp endid sight.

A though there is sti p enty of work to be done, it is appropriate to pause for a much deserved Christmas break. And hopefu y it can be spent with fami y and oved ones. So the crew of the NCRS sincere y wishes our faitfu readers a Heartfe t Merry Christmas!
(And did you get the Noel or No "L" theme? Ho Ho Ho!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Sprayer Arrives

So today the NCRS took delivery of a new Proptec sprayer. Tim brings it in after it was dropped off while Doug watches, I'm sure with his mental gears turning on how he can make it better. It was bought at the recent Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable show in Grand Rapids. It is completely different from any other sprayer that we have. It will mostly be used in the new apple orchard that will be started in the spring. It is like an air blast sprayer designed to maximize coverage of the target crop with very fine droplets. So it is primarily for fungicide, and probably insecticide, application, but some crop nutrition can be mixed in too. Additionally it can be used on vegetable crops. This will be much better than the backpack type sprayer that Brian and Dan use now. Phil takes a look at the rotary atomizers, as they are called. They can be moved to any position to enable optimal coverage.
You know I will have pictures of it in action next year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sign of the Times

So we have the NCRS office door all decorated for Christmas. But there is a sign out front as well. With all of the expansion of late, we find ourselves again in the hiring mode. This time we are looking for a Research Agronomist to work in the Field Crop side. Details are on the website. Click the "About" tab and then "Join Our Team" and click on Research for the job description. Or pass the information on to someone you may know that would be wanting to get involved in the exciting world of Liquid research.

We can also see some of the Liquid crew anxiously watching outside for the line to form.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Peace on Earth, or at least North Dakota

So this week I spent some time in Northern North Dakota for some grower meetings and grower visits. Area Manager Kevin Abentroth was my host. It was plenty cold, but no snow, or not much. So have you ever read (or seen) a North Dakota license plate? Its motto is on it declaring it as The Peace Garden State. Now I didn't know what the Peace Garden was, but we were near it on the map, and I made Kevin drive us up there. And Kevin, a life-long North Dakotan, admitted that he had never been there. So we went. I thought it was inside North Dakota, but it is actually right on the black line that is the border between the US and Canada. Below is the sign for it, and you can see the Canadian border stop in the background. Below is a picture of the peace tower, soaring 120 feet into the sky. I read later that it represents the soaring ambitions of the early immigrants. (Although I would imagine that the main ambition in the winter time was to keep warm.) But I was disappointed that we didn't see any of the beautiful flower gardens like in the pictures in the brochures. And I would have thought there would be more tourists, but we were the only ones. It was a balmy 8 degrees. But this place was dedicated in July of 1932 to acknowledge the peace between the two countries and pledge that we will not take up arms against one another. That's a relief. Although some of the hockey games get pretty rough. Anyway, after my picture taking, we left and had to go through US customs to get back in. Even though we didn't go into Canada, only on the black line. Had to answer all the usual border questions and open the pickup doors so he could look inside. It took longer than our park visit. But we were finally allowed back home. (We didn't get out and kiss the ground due to the cold.) But now I can cross that off my list of things to see.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter's Icy Grip

So last Friday it looked like winter at the NCRS. (Actually the snow fell on Tuesday night while I was away on an International Fertilizer mission.) But it was a heavy, wet snow. There was about a foot of snow where I live 20 miles South of the NCRS and I came home to considerable tree damage, and spent the weekend with the chain saw. But I digress. Our outside field work has been complete for several weeks now, but you can still see some corn still out in the area. Below is a shot of Farm 7 last Friday morning. Seeing fog hugging the low ground was an unusual sight. We got a new planter the other day. It is a Kinze Interplant planter. We like the design for planting 15 inch rows, like soybeans. It will be much better than the drill that we have used recent years. The staggered layout of planter boxes are supposed to enable adequate residue flow through the planter. Our Monosem had some inter-row boxes, but they were right next to each other on the same tool bar. It was like a bull dozer with crop residue. So we are optimistic for this one. And if we want 30 inch rows, the front boxes lift up like the one on the right. Now our fine crew will work to get it rigged up for Liquid fertilizer. We plan to use gps guidance, but have the row markers just in case.

So in with the new and out with the old. Below is the dis-assembly of the old reliable plot-Hagie, and the re-assembly back into a field sprayer. I got all of my stuff out of it, like my record book and peanut butter sandwich baggies. I spent a lot of time making research plot applications of all type in this machine. From broadcast applications to the soil, foliars on a variety of crops, as well as drop nozzle applications of N in corn, we went through a lot together. But change is inevitable, and our new Hagie offers more opportunity. But you never forget your favorites.

So I'm sorry to say that the ol' blog may slow down a bit with regular postings, as most of our time is now devoted to equipment stuff in the shop and writing up the research reports in our office. Plus the occasional grower meeting and trade shows where we spread the word of Liquid research. So check in from time to time, or you can sign up for e-mail announcements of new postings. Anyway, thanks for following the antics of the research crew here at the NCRS>

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Viewing

So a common family activity over Thanksgiving is to watch a movie. Remember when I showed the making of an epic movie here at the NCRS? (It was in the October 3 posting.) Well that movie has been released and is now ready for viewing. And you can see it for no charge this weekend. All you have to do is go to the Liquid website ( and on the home page or the Research tab, you can find the link and "click" to watch it. It features several familiar faces from the NCRS and gives a review of the year. But I don't want to give too much away. Several people have already given me the thumbs up when I asked them how they liked it. (At least I think it was their thumb.) You can also watch some other videos available from the site. Plus if you are a traditionalist and like a cartoon first, you can watch the always entertaining "Farm Guy". So pop some corn and pull up a chair for hours, er...minutes of entertainment. And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Class Is In Session

So today the NCRS welcomed 15 MSU students from the Advanced Crop Production class. Oh and their teacher too. Since the word "Advanced" is in the title, what better place is there to visit? Us four agronomists talked about the Liquid company and philosophy of plant nutrition, how we set up and run our plots, the equipment we use, and probably some other interesting topics as well. Then we gave a tour of our equipment and the buildings. It seemed to go well and there were some good questions, as many of the students are from farms. I enjoyed being a teacher for a day, although no one brought me an apple.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Field of (Shattered) Dreams

So have you ever had your hopes and expectations crushed on a field due to poor performance? Well I'm not talking about a field of corn here, but rather what I saw on a football field last night in Ames, Iowa. Well at least the home team was happy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Week Here

So last week was pretty busy. I was on a fertilizer mission Monday through Wednesday. Stephanie, Phil and Doug harvested sugarbeets on Monday. Below we see Phil topping the beets prior to lifting them out of the ground. Here is the 4-row beet lifter used for the harvest of each plot. Then the beets are dumped into a wagon with a weigh scale. It has been a pretty good system for several years here at the North Central Research Station.

Remember the new plot Hagie sprayer that we got? Well it took a little longer to get ready for field action this year due to all the new construction projects. But Doug has it all prepared now. And Friday was my first day at the controls as we have a treatment on wheat where the fertilizers are applied after emergence. We have had good yield response to this in the past. It is quite an advancement from the old Hagie, which I have used for so many years. But this is set up so that we can put different fertilizers in different tanks and apply them at different rates in a single application. So in this application we applied different rates of Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and Micro 500 with water as a carrier. It was pretty cool to run.

Photo credit to Stephanie who clicked this picture during the minute that the sun was out. Next year it will be ready to make all of the plot fertilizer applications.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beacons of Light

So hopefully you recall my mentions of all of the fresh vegetables that have been donated by the Specialty Crop researchers to the Lansing Food Bank. In fact, this years' donations exceeded 50,000 pounds of vegetables to the hungry people of mid-Michigan who find themselves down on their luck in this tough economy. Certainly I am aware of the food banks that are around the state, but did not know much about the organization other than the big truck that showed up on a pretty regular basis once vegetable picking began. Well the folks of the Mid-Michigan Food Bank noticed and nominated Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers to be a recipient of the prestigious Beacon of Light award given at todays annual Michigan Harvest Gathering luncheon hosted by the Food Bank Council of Michigan. The award was given to Agro-Culture, but really it is Dr. Brian Levene who should get most of the credit, followed closely by Tim and Dan who do much, and often most, of the actual picking. Brian started donating vegetables several years ago, and with the expansion of the vegetable research, the annual donations have rapidly increased. So I was only too happy to accompany them to get the award, especially since, as I said, there was a luncheon involved. Above we see the Liquidites (me, Tim, Dan and Brian) and Kim Harkness of the Mid-Michigan Food Bank who has been Brian's contact for the past several years. (I said I would give picture credit to Sara Martin of the MI Dep't of Transportation Photo Unit if she would send me the picture, and she did.) There were other awards, and lots of people who make this effort a reality here in our state. All kidding aside, it is really humbling that people make helping the less fortunate their passion and profession. And I am only too happy to be a part of such a generous company as Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. Several people mentioned how appreciative they are of the fresh vegetables that we donate, as that is often hard to come by at food banks. They also mentioned how they were especially impressed with the giant watermelons. I should also say that Troy bought and donated several heads of beef purchased at the county 4-H auction. So it was a great experience to see the impact that Brian and crew made to help keep people fed, and to learn more about how it is done.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nearing the End of Harvest

So another milestone was reached Thursday when we harvested the last corn experiment, which was on Farm 7. It was a much cooler day, but good for harvesting. So enjoy the last picture of chasing the combine. And here is the last of the corn trickling into the grain cart for weighing.

Here are the border strips that remain after an experiment is harvested.

So Phil gets busy and cleans those up plus the additional production corn on the farm.

Yesterday Jeff and Stephanie were busy soil testing. We will use the results as guides for next year's recommendations, and to monitor any changes. We would like to get an automatic hydraulic soil tester to speed up the process. But we don't want Jeff to be another victim of automation.

So one more harvest task remains, and that is sugarbeets. Tune in Monday to see if Mother Nature allows us to dig up the beets. Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bow Your Heads, The Soybeans Are Done!

So here it is November now, and we still have soybeans to harvest. Well we aren't the only ones. Several in the area were taking advantage of the nice sunny and warm day to try and finish the beans. But this was our last field, and it was different in that we had some field-long strip treatments that we wanted to get yields of. So we did. The treatments were on certain gps tracks in the field, and Stephanie rides along with Phil to help follow the carefully constructed harvest plan. Stephanie returns the favor by taking a picture of me taking a harvest sample and recording the strip weight. (See, I do stuff besides just take pictures.) After our treatment harvest, Phil finished harvesting the rest of the field and we bid farewell to soybeans for another year.

Sorry not to have shown what the specialty crop folks are doing for awhile. Well they are busy constructing a greenhouse by the new equipment building. It will have access to water and power here. They will use this greenhouse to get transplants going in the spring for setting into the field experiments. It will be better than the growth chamber (a.k.a. "the morgue") they use now. Here we see Tim checking Brian and the ground to make sure it's level. Uh....well good luck with that.

Below we see Ron running the chisel plow on Farm 7. Now we do save ground for no-till soybeans, but this was on Farm 7 which was tiled last year and needs some tillage to get it more level. Take it from one who rode over the tile tracks in the grain cart.

There was one more important task. What, you have never collected a dairy manure sample? We had some manure spread on one of our field plots today, and we collect a sample to test mainly for nitrogen content. As bad as this is, it's better than the poor lab person on the other end who has to open and run these all day. We saw that on our tour of Midwest Labs just about exactly a year ago. (Which was recorded in this blog.) Well there's something for everyone.

I got this cleaned up and stashed for shipment to Omaha. Although I hope no one tries to make coffee with it tomorrow from this container. Good to the last drop, indeed!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and Harvest Continues

So everyone knows what today is. And nothing says Halloween like an expertly carved "LIQUID" pumpkin. Don't you agree? For the more traditional pumpkin, here is one made by my artistic daughter Dana. It's scary, yet lovely at the same time. I can't look away.

But before hitting the street for candy, there was a whole day of work to get through first. First job of the day was taking some soil samples in a potassium fertilizer experiment.

On the back of Farm 5 I saw a Posse of turkeys. I get a kick out of animal group names. Other favorites of mine are a Congress of salamanders or a Prickle of porcupines. Some people think Congress is acting like a bunch of Prickles. Or something like that.

Then it was time to start harvesting corn again. Here we see Phil setting the gps monitor for the experiment we are about to harvest. This way we can make sure that we are in the right plot, you know for recording the grain weights and all that sort of thing.

And we're off. Today we started on Farm 7, the only remaining farm with corn plots left. There are eight experiments here. At 40 plots per experiment, that would be....I'll get back to you on that. But it's a few days work.

Recall that we retain grain (hey that rhymes) samples of each plot for moisture and test weight measurements. Stephanie and Ron take a load of samples down from the grain cart and return more empty containers. What a trade.

Below we see Stephanie running the samples through the Dickey-John machine. I am happy to see that she is trying to get on the good side of her boss by wearing the colors of my alma mater Oklahoma State. (Or maybe it's because of Halloween and she has three young trick or treaters waiting at home.)

Back in the field Doug stopped by to check on progress. He is doing some chisel plowing in some fields that were tiled last year and still need some leveling. So much to be done in this complex world of nutrient research.

But that's what we do.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finishing the Week

So Friday we got back into the field for some plot activities. We harvested some more corn plots on Wednesday and finished Farm 5. Now all that remains is the corn on Farm 7. But alas, it is too muddy to get on as of now. Thursday it was rainy again. But Friday was kind of nice out, so we took advantage of it. One thing that was on the fall agenda was making fall strip-till applications. Or as we call it: Nutri-Till. We have demonstrated good results with fall applications of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K. Here we are comparing placement: either in the traditional lower shank placement, about 8 inches under the surface, or in shallow placement in the seed zone. And other stuff too. Here are the strips after application. They will now wait for the planter next spring. (Am I talking about next year already?)Another fall activity is application of (pardon the expression) dry potash on plots for next year. These will be in corn next year and will be compared to planter applications of Sure-K. I show this to prove the validity of the research we do here at the NCRS. But you already know that Sure-K will prove superiority. The applicator here is MSU intern Jeff who is able to help us on Fridays while a student the rest of the week. He assures us that he got a real life education working here on the farm this summer.
Late in the afternoon Doug wanted to harvest some non-plot, or "production" corn on Farm 7. The corn on the west side is kind of hilly and not as heavy of ground as where the plots are. Below Troy checks on Doug while Stephanie offers her advice.

Some of the corn here was planted well after June 1, and needed a grain moisture check. Doug tosses a sample in a container to Stephanie who will check it. Well the news wasn't good there, and so it will have to wait much longer. But there is other earlier planted corn to run. It was tough getting this corn planted last spring with all of the wet weather and having to re-plant some. (Note: if you enlarge your view, you can see lines of Canada Geese overhead. There was wave after wave that evening.)

Coming back into the farm research compound there was a pretty view of the sunset in the clouds.

That's a good sign.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Corn Harvest...(What, You Were Expecting Maybe Garbanzo Beans?)

So today we fought the weather and won. It was kind of rainy this morning, but then let up and we knocked out several more corn experiments. Stephanie took the first shift in the grain cart. Here, besides enduring my pestering picture taking, she collects a plot grain sample for moisture and test weight determination. And yes she is wrapped in plastic to preseve freshness...and to keep dry in the rain.
Regular readers will recall this camera placed on the edge of one of our corn experiments to record plot growth. (OK, that's alfalfa behind it, the corn is the other way.) It supposedly takes a picture every 15 minutes. I don't know if that includes night. But it has been there since May. (Someone is going to have a big bill at Walgreens to get all of those pictures developed.) But we harvested that experiment today. So unless they come and shut it down, there are now pictures of harvested corn stalks.

Here we are on Farm 5 harvesting the continuous corn plots where manure has been applied to some plots for over 10 years. (For those annoying idiots on Ag Talk, this is the ONLY test that receives manure. Not the whole farm.)

The grain trailer fills up fast on corn harvest days. Fortunately we don't have to go too far to unload it at the elevator. In fact, Tim came over to the other side to drive the grain cart tractor while Ron drove the corn to market.

So there will be more of the same for days to come. This may be it for awhile unless somethng newsworthy happens. If so, I am quickdraw with the camera.