Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Somebody Say "Uncle" Already

So I set off on a late notice fertilizer mission this morning and look what I ran into South of Ft. Wayne. It was really coming down like it was January or something. But it really shouldn't be doing this the last week of March should it? It didn't last too long, but it was cold all the way down into Tennessee.I have some research business the next couple days, and hopefully there will be something of interest to photograph. And here is where it will be next time, so be sure and stop by. (By the way, I had both hands on the wheel when I took this picture with my cell phone. But I had to get a shot of a late March blizzard!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring is Late at the NCRS

Winter Tackles Farm! So yesterday it was cold and all different forms of precipitation was falling at some point in the day. There was rain, and then snow and then sleet. Here is my view from my office window late yesterday afternoon, and it was sleeting at the time. Fortunately we did not receive the heavy snow that other parts of the Northern U.S. got. Where I was in North Dakota last week got over a foot of snow. Today started sunny but everything was coated with ice, including the roads. Here are the grapes and trellis lines at the NCRS.
But it didn't stop the builders. Here is the shop extension this morning. Fortunately the roof was all shingled and they didn't have to climb up there.

Here are the two new buildings on Farm 3. They are being wired and waiting for some warmer weather to pour the concrete floors, including the sumped containment for the fertilizer and chemical storage building.

There is no warmup in the forecast. It will be below freezing until Monday, but at least we don't have to deal with mud for awhile.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meanwhile Back at the NCRS:

So while I was sightseeing in North Dakota, things were happening back at the NCRS. On Wednesday Doug brought back the tank for the new Hagie sprayer from Illinois. On Thursday, with the help of the Track Hoe that was there for building construction, the tank was lifted off of the trailer, guided over to the Hagie by Doug.... and carefully loaded onto the Hagie.

Here is what it looked like this morning. It will take a bit of work to get in plumbed in, and we have some cool plans for how it will work. But I will hold off on talking more about it until we know it works!

Here is Tim working on the Monosem. It is almost ready for the year. You can see the new tongue on it that replaced the 3-point system.

What's this? More new building??? I've shown some pictures of our shop and it is usually quite crowded. In addition to the usual farm equipment in for revisions and repairs, there are often things like tanker trailers and building projects for the Ashley plant in there as well. So expansion was needed, and that is what is going on here.

With expansion of business, we need to expand to meet new demands, and that is what we do here at the NCRS. I think it's shaping up to be a great year at the NCRS.

No Signs of Spring Yet in Northern North Dakota

So I was in Minot, ND for the Ag PhD Agronomy Workshop on Tuesday (which was excellent) and then up to Mohall, ND for a grower meeting for the LIQUID fertilizer dealer there. It definately was still winter. Even though it is officially winter on the calendar until Sunday, it really looked like winter here. I think I saw a crew already filming Christmas commercials for next December. I had never been to Mohall or this far North in ND before, and it is flat and open, but has good farm ground. The area mostly grows spring wheat, canola, sunflowers, and surprisingly, soybeans are making an impact. There are some Group double 0 varieties that are doing well. This is a little too far North for corn, although some have tried it and I understand that there are some new 73 day hybrids out now that may make an appearance. One thing you will see around here are Minuteman III missle silos. They are managed out of Minot Air Force Base to the south. I understand that there are 150 of these in this part of North Dakota.
Here is where the lucky airmen are that would activate the missles if necessary. Didn't see any go off that day. I understand that each control center like this oversees 10 silos. These are staffed around the clock. Think of all the crossword puzzles you could do!
Like many states, another growing crop in North Dakota are wind turbines. These are somewhere north of Bismarck.
I had to fly home yesterday from Bismarck. Here is an interesting display in the airport of flying pterodactyl bones.
And when I got back to Michigan yesterday in the early evening it was 67 degrees! What a heat wave. So now the only snow around is some patches in the shade or where it was piled off parking lots. It wasn't that warm today, but it's coming soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The End of Research at LIQUID!

So it has come to this. Research as we know it has come to an end at LIQUID.Relax readers. Instead it has gotten better! The Research Department has merged with the Agronomy Department into one Agronomic Sciences Department. This will enable better coordination of efforts of both. The logo was designed by Albert Bancroft and lists the main functions of the department in the outer ring. So research is still alive and well, it just has a new name.
New researcher Dan had barely gotten settled into his new desk and then was out last Monday pruning the fruit trees on the farm next to Troy's house. Well he said on his resume that he was experienced in this, and we made him prove it. He did do a nice job though.

The builders of the new equipment barn on Farm 3 continue to make good progress in spite of the snow and mud. Ron and Randy have been working on the wiring of the fertilizer and chemical building shown in the back.

You wouldn't know it by the weather but there was a sign this week that a change of season is near. Red-winged Blackbirds, the harbingers of spring, arrived in the area a few days ago. Their unmistakable call heard in the morning did kind of make me think that warmer days, and the mobilization of farmers, are on the way. These birds are feeding on the ground below the home feeder this morning.

So I am off on a fertilizer mission this week. But as always, should anything of note happen, it will be reported here first.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New This Week at the NCRS

So the research staff at the NCRS has a new face as of this week. He is Dan Janzen. Dan is originally from Oregon, but has lived in Michigan for a number of years. He grew up on a field crops and fruit tree farm, and got his Bachelors and Masters degree in agronomy from Oregon State. He has worked in University extension and in several orchard management jobs. So he has quite a lot of experience in tree crops which we plan to use here at the NCRS and eventually in the field. This is a huge market that we are just starting to crack, and Dan will certainly help. He is now learning about the family of Liquid nutrition and will be helpful once the research season starts. Dan and his wife live in Greenville. So welcome him if you get a chance. Here is what our new equipment barn on Farm 3 looked like yesterday. You can see that it is next to the fertilizer and chemical storage barn. They are coming along fast in spite of the less than ideal conditions.
My weekend visit to the NCRS was met with a lake in the parking lot as temps warmed up and it actually had rained all night. But the ground below the top couple inches is still frozen. So the water just sits there.
Here is the muddy mess off the East side of the main barn. Now its snowing again. What a contrast to my visit to the warm South earlier this week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crawdads and Cane

So I'm back in Michigan now, but my nice trip to Louisiana is still fresh in my mind. These first two pictures were taken yesterday morning south of Alexandria. Do you know what these are for? Here is one next to the highway. Here is one off the beaten path. But they are crawfish ponds. And the objects sticking out of the water are the tops of the traps. I do know that it is just getting into crawdad harvest season as we saw some boats in some ponds checking the traps. Did you also know that these "ponds" are actually also used for growing rice, although not in the same year. Crawfish farming can be pretty profitable and I have heard that theft of traps can be a problem. Police are often on the look out for any suspicious activity around them.
Spring tillage is getting going this time of year down there. Here is a field that will be planted soon to corn. First they bedded up the ground. Then they will knock of the tops and flatten and firm the beds, but maintain the furrows. In most places the furrows are for irrigation, but here in most years they are used for drainage as rainfall can be excessive this deep in the South. I know of several places that wish they had this problem. Now in some years furrow irrigation is applied, but not too often.

Below is a picture of some "off-bar" tillage in a field of stubble sugarcane. (See yesterday's installment for further explanation.) Most often dry fertilizer (ick!) is broadcast ahead of this operation. This tillage trip will incorporate the dry fertilizer, but more importantly, it will warm up the soil and promote growth of the stubble crop. You can see the disc blades cutting into the soil on either side of the row.
And here is the view from behind.

And here is what the bed looks like. It's kind of hard to see the sugarcane, but it's there and will start to grow faster now with the warm soil.
Now our plan is to use liquid feritlizer application knives to place Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and Micro 500 on either side of the row at the time of this off-bar application. In fact we have some research plots planned for this. If successful I can see the use of tanks or a cart to carry fertilizer during this application, thereby eliminating a trip through the field just for application of fertilizer, as in the case of the dry spread.

Now in about 3 weeks after this operation they will re-form the beds, and then in mid-April to mid-May, depending on how big the stalks are, they will run the dual fertilizer knives to apply solution nitrogen. And then stand back and watch it grow to ten feet or more before harvest next fall. It is interesting to come down here and learn about growing different crops and animals. And hopefully you enjoyed the trip too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Loving Louisiana in March

So after the past couple of weeks in North Dakota (twice) and Montana, along with the ongoing winter of Michigan, it was time to head to a warmer climate. So why not Louisiana? Anyone care to guess what crop is growing in the field where I stand? I'm holding a remnant of the harvest from last year....anyone? anyone? OK, here is Sales Account Manager Reid tasting the sweet juice that still remains in the stalk. (I told him it was safe to do that, and he is still around.) Yes, this is sugarcane, and we are just south of Lafayette. What we have here is what's called a "stubble crop" that is re-growing following harvest of the above ground stalks last fall. The residue is burned to clear the way for this regrowth. I don't think they burn the leaves before harvest here as they do in some places, but I will find out. I really don't know all the details about the cultivation of sugarcane. I have seen fields of sugarcane with Liquid fertilizer in Hawaii and South Texas though. But tomorrow we have an appointment to visit with a researcher here in Louisiana about some potential plotwork.
Earlier in the day Reid, myself and Senior Agronomy Manager Cory met with a new Area Manager in Crowley. Cory gave a presentation to their agronomists covering product information. It seemed to go well and we will look for more Liquid development there in the future.

I love Tabasco Sauce, and after the meeting Reid and I drove down to Avery Island, which isn't really an island, to the place where the famous sauce is made. But alas, it was closed. Feeling like Clark Griswold, we did leave though. Maybe some other time. If only Cory talked faster.

Reid says he likes Louisiana for three things: hunting, fishing and the food. Well on this trip I will agree with the food part. I had Cajun food for lunch (alligator and seafood gumbo) at Fezzo's and also for supper (blackened catfish on crawfish etouffee) at Randols. I have to say that this is so much better than the native food of Michigan (whatever that is.)

And this close to Mardis Gras there was a cajun band there for your dining and dancing pleasure. Reid and I couldn't agree on who should lead, so we didn't dance. But they were a great band to sit and listen to.
So I hope to re-visit down here, probably in the summer when it is 200 degrees. But for now, it was a great visit, and we actually did get a lot of Liquid work done.