Friday, April 29, 2011

We Saw The Sun Today!

So today was the first day in some time that we could drive to the farm without having to use windshield wipers. But the fields are still way too wet to work and we really need some dry and sunny weather for awhile. This will be the first April that I can remember that we have no corn planted. And worse is that the sugarbeet seed is still in the planter. But enough bad news.

Yesterday Brian and Dan went up to the Traverse City area to work with some fruit trees. This area is one of the nation's biggest tart cherry production areas (Michigan is the nations leading producer of tart cherries), and Liquid fertilizer is used by a number of smart growers. The picture below shows some young cherry trees in the foreground. They took some measurements with calipers to get some baseline data on trees to be treated with some different fertility treatments, including the new Liquid fertilizer Fase2. In the background are some larger trees that have been fertilized with Fase2 (formerly G-07) for several years with positive results.

Here is what the shop extension looked like this morning. They got the paneling up and it really looks nice. Next they will blow insulation above the ceiling, and then add lights.
The apple trees at the NCRS were just starting to leaf out, and below we see Dan applying some fungicide and fertilizer. This is a very timely application with all of the cold wet weather so far this spring. Thanks Dan. Keep your fingers crossed for some planter pictures next week. Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So What Happened Today????

So today started out raining again. But the hardworking concrete guys were already at the new equipment barn to pour the floor at 6 am. Or so I heard. I was there several hours later to take these pictures. It was a cement truck parade to get the concrete unloaded into the building. The trucks went in two at a time and poured direct onto the floor. No pump today. These guys really work fast to keep up with all of the concrete coming out of the trucks. I did notice that all of these guys were pretty young. Definitely No Country For Old Men. I do want to acknowledge the expertise of the Custom Concrete crew from Holland, MI and the High Grade Materials concrete trucks. They made quick work of this whole project. It will be great when we can move some equipment out of our very crowded equipment barn now.
This afternoon I took a look at one of our winter wheat experiments. This test is similar to one conducted last year where we evaluated the effects of late applications of ferti-Rain and N Response (formerly High NRG-NR) on yield. The results were positive. But another aspect of the test was the application of fertilizer through the drill at planting. Half of the plots received an application of 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 2 qt/A Micro 500, and the other half received no drill fertilizer. There were 20 plots that received drill fertilizer and 20 that did not, and all received the same N treatments. After harvest, we found that the plots that recieved the drill fertilizer averaged 8 bu/A more wheat than the no-drill fertilizer plots. That is substantial with the price of wheat today. And so many growers say they don't want to mess with drill fertilizer, they just want to get it planted. But 8 more bushels is a great return. And these same growers wouldn't dare plant corn without planter fertilizer of some sort.

So anyway I wanted to see if I could see the effects of the same drill fertilizer treatment, as this test was close to that of 2010. You could definately see that the plots that received the Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 had bigger and darker green wheat than those that did not, and all had been topdressed the week before last. In the picture below, I shouldn't have to tell you that the plot on the left got fall fertilizer and the plot on the right did not. We use tram lines for wheel traffic, and the skinny section is the border rows.

The picture below is a close up. There are 3 border rows on the left that received fall fertilizer, and the 3 on the right had none. (This is also an endorsement for autosteer as the spacing of the guess rows is dead on.) You can also see the main plots on the edge of the picture.

So we just do all of this to help the grower make choices. Fertilize wheat and get more yield.....or not. Hmmm.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let There Be Concrete!

So what else happened today, you ask? Well they poured the concrete floor of the shop extension. It was fun to watch other people work. They had a pump that was fed by the big cement trucks.And it was fed into the building where there was a large crew that spread it out and smoothed it. It only took a couple hours to get it all poured, and then a while longer to get it smoothed.
Kind of like painting yourself into a corner. Well, I guess not since they just walked out.

I never did learn the official name of what this piece of leveling equipment is called, but it was fun. Here Phil takes a turn. It's smooooth.

Meanwhile over on Farm 3, with the floor on the shop poured, the crew makes final prep work for the new equipment barn, which will be poured tomorrow. They got it all levelled using lasers for guidance. Doug watches the progress. I'm pretty sure they have done this before.

Meanwhile back at the shop, the finishers make sure the floor is right. It will be a few weeks before we can bring in heavy equipment, but it will be nice.

Hopefully the weather cooperates so that they can keep going. Tune in for the next exciting chapter....

Keeping Busy on a Soggy Monday

So here it is the last week of April, and this is usually full steam ahead for planting corn. But as you have read me lamenting (some would say complaining) about the cold and wet spring, here we wait. But we were determined to get the planter out for a dry run (wait, should I use the term "dry" when talking about the superiority of Liquid?). Anyway, while dodging raindrops we checked out the planter in the parking lot since we replaced the 3-point pickup with a tongue hitch, plus several other improvements with the goal of making our lives easier. It passed. Maybe I haven't mentioned that we are renting two more fields. They are close by, just up the road a bit from Farm 3. Doug, Stephanie and I went up there to take a look and do a few work things. We should have done this already, but I took some soil tests today. Both fields have been in grass hay production for a number of years. This year we will plant corn and soybeans. This being new ground for us, we really don't know anything about the fertility or physical characteristics. So we made guesses on pH, CEC, P and K levels. We have to make a game of everything these days to take our minds off of not being in the fields planting. But it is kind of fun making predictions.

Next we mapped the fields with the JD Apex software for future planting. One field is 13 acres and the other is 18. I guess these will be Farm 9 for reference purposes.

We now have lights in one of the new buildings on Farm 3. This is the future site of fertilizer, chemical and sprayer storage. So lights are nice for that sort of thing.

Here is our Master Electrician (literally) Ron A. making final checks on the control box. We are lucky to have him as he has done a great job with all of the buildings at the farm and the new plant in Ashley.

And the rest of the day was spent working on the tank control box for the new Hagie sprayer. Here Doug and Ron D. sort through the myriad of colored wires. It's getting close.

It's supposed to be wet the rest of the week, but we aren't the only ones it seems. Growing crops is a challenge in many areas of the country, either too wet or dry. It finally rained in parts of Oklahoma yesterday. My home town of Stillwater got 1.6 inches and SAM Jacob down by Shawnee got nearly 4 inches, but he said some of that was of the frozen type of rain. But either way, it was the first significant rain there since last October.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What to do on a cold and rainy day.....

So the cold weather of early March continues, even though it is the second half of April. It rained 1.25 inches last night here at the NCRS, and off and on again all day. Temperatures barely reached 40 with a cold wind, so the planter did not come out again today. We did receive most of our soybeans today. Our forklift got kidnapped for use at the Ashley plant construction, so Doug used this one parked here by the construction crew here at the NCRS. This monster made quick work of unloading the seed pallets. The Bancrofts have been generous with giving the farm good equipment, but a forklift like this is probably out of the question. All of the rain brought out the earthworms onto the pavement. After surviving all winter deep in the ground, they are now driven to certain doom. Yes, I think of things like this and will occasionally toss them back onto the grass when no one is looking. OK, shrink session over, get back to work.
You may have seen the nice catwalk structure Ron D. built for the Ashley plant in Nick's Ashley project blog. Well most of it was sent out to be powder coated, but this piece was too big for their paint oven. So Doug had to spray paint it yesterday. But first the farm crew covered everything with plastic in case it got out of control, or too painty in the air. It turned out nice and was later loaded onto a trailer for transport to Ashley tomorrow. (Did anyone see the Mr. Bean episode where he painted a room by blowing up a can of paint? Still laughing at the silhouette of the guy who forgot his hat. Guess you had to be there.)

Here is a picture of the shop expansion. The water hoses for the floor heat were installed today by the construction crew. Now it is ready for the pouring of concrete, which will be someday soon if it ever warms up.
Follow the fun here at the NCRS as we impatiently watch the days pass by knowing we should be planting. But Mother Nature is clearly in control.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Haven't We Seen This Before?

So just when we were looking to get rolling into spring fieldwork, Mother Nature threw us yet another curve. Here is the view from my office this morning. Already behind by the calendar compared to previous years, we were kept in by yet another snow storm. It started around 7 this morning and snowed pretty hard till noon. And the next few days don't offer much hope. But at least we didn't have terrible tornados like other states did. Those poor people sure need our prayers as they try to rebuild. I couldn't imagine seeing your whole life swept away, and in some cases, loved ones as well. So we will patiently wait for conditions to improve knowing it could be worse.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That Was The Week That Was

So this past week was a mixed bag of weather, but there were some good days to get some things done, and so we did. Topdressing wheat was the first order of business. With year two of using our new technology of gps guidance and documentation, some refresher courses were needed. Instructor Stephanie reviews programming the monitor for spraying with Phil. We had some larger replicated field strip plots of different topdress fertilizer applications, and so we used Phil's Hagie with the 45 foot boom. And we also had some smaller 15 foot wide plots where I used the Old Hagie, as the new one is not yet ready for action (much to the disappointment of our leader Troy.) But it will be soon. Poor Doug has been very busy with all of the building projects. But here is a view from the drivers seat of another winter wheat plot being topdressed. This field was the last wheat we planted and is featured in the October 13, 2010 blog. So it isn't as big as the wheat in the above picture. Note the tram lines we use for driving in our narrow-row plots. Possibly one of the last shots (taken by Stephanie) of the old Hagie faithfully applying fertilizer for an experiment to aid in the knowledge of growing food for the world. No small task indeed.
Thursday the soil on Farm 7 was able to be worked in preparation for planting an oat experiment, which was done on Friday. Doug and Stephanie rode in the 7820 pulling the drill, with Stephanie helping Doug navigate the plots. When I saw Stephanie later, I asked her the same question I always ask: "Did you take some pictures?" Regretfully, she admitted that even though she had her camera, she forgot to take a picture till the very end and only had the picture below to show. I reminded her that there is a legion of fans of this blog that are depending on our full documentation of all activities on the farm. It won't happen again.
Finally, I thought I would show you what the south end of Farm 8 looks like. There used to be small scrub trees and bushes here along the road, but they have been cleared out and we will plant some fruit trees and maybe some more grapes here later. This will be a good location on this south facing slope. Brian and Dan are planning this and as always, as it happens, it will be shown here first.
Next week we will venture further in plot establishment as the 2011 growing season unfolds.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Construction Zone

So construction continued yesterday on the new barns on Farm 3. It was time to put in water and power lines. Here we see Doug, Phil and Ron A. working along with the contractors on the trench where the lines will go. It was surprising to find that the ground on the North side of the building was still too frozen to allow penetration there. So it will have to wait for more of a warm-up. Below is s shot through the equipment barn to the fertilizer and chemical storage barn. These will sure be nice when they are finished and put to use.
And here is a very important part of the project: installation of the bathroom. This building is too far from the main barn and trees, so a bathroom was put on the plans. Although with this hole being dug it looks like the plan may be changed to an outhouse. Anyway, I can't wait for the inauguration. So I wish we could be in the field getting some wheat sprayed or oats planted, but still too cold and wet. It is supposed to warm up this weekend, but still be rainy. If you read this before Saturday night, you should watch the NASCAR race from Texas and cheer for the #78 Farm American car. Look on the rear quarter panels for a familiar logo. See the website for all the details. Boogity Boogity. (Oh wait, I'm one short: Boogity!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Creeping In Here at NCRS

So winter has been keeping it's icy grip on us Michiganders and so we have not really done any field work to date. However, on Monday we did get our dormant established alfalfa sprayed with Sencor. This is a must to keep out dandelions, mustards and shepherd's purse. Here we see Phil making the first spray application of the year in his Hagie. The new field drainage tiles from our tiling job last spring are all running. Here is a nice field of winter wheat at the NCRS. This was planted following silage corn. We have not yet topdressed any of our wheat as the fields are still muddy. But hopefully by next week. This is how our new shop extension looked today. The building part is pretty much done and concrete will be poured sometime soon. And you can also see the puddles as it has been raining all day here again. I really wish I could send some of this rain down to family and friends in Oklahoma. They are drought stricken and wildfire sickened.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Field Check in Arkansas

So I was in Arkansas last week to see about some field plotwork. After the paperwork session, there was talk of a problem wheat field on some "cut" ground. This refers to ground that has been leveled, exposing subsoil horizons that may be poor in nutrients and structure. Tim Smith, Sales Account Manager Lang and I went to have a look. Now this wheat field had been adequately fertilized with some liquid (not the good Liquid) through the drill and topdressed with urea and ammonium sulfate. Yet there were still large areas that looked poor: short, thin stands and light in color. Probably should have taken some soil and tissue samples, but went with the shotgun approach and came up with a foliar treatment to be applied by air. I asked Tim to take a picture again some time after the application. If it works I will show it. If not, any mention of this situation will be destroyed.

So I know that I have probably overdone the weather reports lately, but that is what farmers do. But it snowed again yesterday, and that was April 3! There were huge flakes coming down just before I got out to take this picture. But it didn't stick around anyway. Still haven't topdressed our wheat yet. The fields are too muddy and there has been a lot of rain and snow. We got a half inch of rain at the NCRS yesterday afternoon and this morning. I did see a floater with urea on the road as I left town last Wednesday though. Last year we topdressed on March 31, but it was warmer and drier then. In fact in the first 4 days of April 2010 we received 53.2 growing degree days (GDD), thanks to a high temp of 81.6 degrees on the 2nd. And in 2009 we received 4.5 GDD in the same time. So far this year in April: 0 (zero) GDD.