Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Monday update

So we got a little rain yesterday afternoon here in Wacousta. It was decided to cancel the morning ball games here at the park. No decision has been made yet on the afternoon games, so stay tuned. I'm sure the rain missed the farm. Will let you know tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day in America

So it's Memorial Day weekend. Again as a nation we pause and remember the defenders of freedom who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the good old US of A. Parades are a show of support as was the Wacousta, Michigan annual Memorial Day parade this morning. It was featured on this blog last year too. I never miss it. Here we see the local Boy Scouts leading off as bearers of the Stars and Stripes. Now last year they had a uniformed group carrying the flag. Don't know where they were this year. Like the rest of America, I like Spongebob, but even he doesn't make up for the soldiers.
Sadly, there will be no ball playing in the Wacousta park this year. Maybe water polo.

Looking forward to dinner on the grill tomorrow. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Special Visitors and Albert

So I know I said that there would be no more blogs this week, but obviously my rules are made to be broken. Look who showed up: Proud parents Albert and Allison and beautiful little Eleanor. This was her first visit to the North Central Research Station. I will admit that we are glad that she lives across the street from Farm 3 so we can watch her, and the crops, grow up! And the weather cooperated for the visit too. It rained all day so that none of that nasty dust would get her dirty. And it was only in the 40's this afternoon so that she wouldn't get sweaty. Stop by any time young family!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May I Speak to Your Supervisor....

So when we last spoke, our plan was to try to get some plots planted early today. Yesterday the forecast for today was for rain in the evening, and later it was updated to afternoon. So imagine my chagrin when I got up this morning and it was already raining. Even now in the early afternoon it is pouring with thunder and lightning. I really need to question the weather predictors about their playing with our lives.That's it for the week now. I may rent out the blog for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So can you believe that this is the 100th edition of the thrilling blog "Live From the NCRS"? From the simple beginnings last year of showing our little research operation, the blog has grown to become a world-wide (I got proof) phenomenon. I want to thank our regular readers, and especially thank the ACLF Research staff that call the NCRS home. And thanks to the Bancroft family for giving me the opportunity to share our research antics with our fans. We are continually motivated to excel. So what else happened today? As you know, we have been fighting the battle with wet fields this spring. It sure doesn't feel like it will be June next week, as it has been extra cold and wet this year. Here we see Doug and Stephanie checking field condtions on Farm 7. This farm has our heaviest ground. Most of it is still too wet to work, but parts of it offer a chance. Normally we wouldn't push it, but alas, heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow afternoon. A decision is made.
We are thankful that this farm was tiled last fall. Other fields around that aren't tiled are still swamps. It was sunny and warmish today, so we thought that if we could work some ground, then it would dry out enough to plant early tomorrow. Below Jeff lightly works some plot ground.

The West side of this farm is hilly and not used for plots. It is a little higher and has lighter soil. It was still a little wet, but able to be planted. So Amanda was able to run the soybean drill on some production ground. The soil strips are where tile lines are buried. The humps were disked down earlier this spring, but the rest (which was wheat stubble) was just sprayed with Roundup and left to no-till. It went pretty well.

With all of this wet weather, we are spraying all of our wheat with fungicide. Phil broadcast applied Folicure and Headline on different farms. We have a test plot on Farm 3 where we are applying fertilizers N-Response (formerly High NRG-NR) and ferti-Rain with Quadris fungicide on wheat. This is a repeat of a test we did last year where we found significant yield increases where fertilizers were added. However we did not see a response with the fungicide alone, although it was much drier last spring. So we will see. Below is a picture of the field. The wheat is at full flag leaf stage with the heads bulging in the stems. I would expect them to be showing in a day or two.

I made these same applications to this same wheat test, also on Farm 3, exactly a year ago today. It was in my blog on this date then. In fact, a picture very similar to the one below was used. Last year the wheat heads were already emerging when I sprayed, due to more heat units then. But the wheat does look good this year, and we hope to show more significant yield responses with these nutritional products. Stay tuned.

Well I hope tomorrow I can tell you all about our day of planting. Thanks for reading, as we shoot for #200. I am saddened and concerned that more tornados struck today, this time in my home state of Oklahoma. I talked to my parents in Stillwater, and the sirens went off and they went to shelter, but no tornado touchdowns there. But there was damage to the south around Oklahoma City, but I don't know details at this time. I hope and pray that damage was minimal.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Next???

So where has the blog been since last Monday? Mostly watching it rain yet again. I know you don't tune in to hear me complain, but it seems that I have a lot of company this year. We had an inch of rain the previous weekend, and were able to plant only one soybean experiment on Tuesday on our sandiest ground (CEC of 5). All other fields were too wet. Then it rained Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday for a total of 1.2 inches. Then some light showers Saturday and Sunday, and another 0.25 inches this morning. So to remind everyone that this is still a farm, here is a picture of planting last Tuesday. We were the only one's planting anywhere around that day. Stephanie assures us that there are still enough heat units coming for the corn we haven't planted yet I started this last night when a thunderstorm caused a power outage at my home. It did not come back on till 7 this morning. So I did not hear anything about the terrible tornado in Joplin, Missouri until the Today Show. I have driven through Joplin a number of times driving between Oklahoma and Michigan. Again with such terrible devastation and loss of life as we saw recently in the South, especially Tuscaloosa. No one can prepare for how they would react to such a tragedy. How could you? The survivors all seem to be thankful they survived, yet at the same time, sorry for the losses. And all seem to have a strong resolve to rebuild. That's admirable and they sure need our prayers and support.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Activity Recap

So it rained again this weekend. It started on Friday night and rained off and on all day Saturday and Sunday. There was around 2 inches in the gage this morning, so no planting today. But some of our corn is emerging. The field below was planted on May 5. Corn usually emerges in 9 days at the NCRS. It was good to see. But Michigan is still behind normal planting for corn. In the USDA crop progress report just released today, only 41% of the corn in Michigan has been planted as of May 15 (yesterday) compared to 80% last year and 68% over the previous 5 years. But the previous week only 8% was planted, so fields were busy last week. Most of the top corn states are behind in planting, but poor Ohio seems to be the hardest hit with only 7% planted compared to the 5 year average of 70%. A few states like Iowa are actually ahead of the 5-year average (92% vs 84%).But let me give a brief recap of activities late last week. Nick actually moved quite a bit of equipment from the existing equipment barn to the new one. These are things that we won't be using for awhile, but were in the way of things that we regularly use. So it was nice to get some things moved. Thanks Nick.
Here is the finished floor of the fertilizer and chemical storage barn. You can see the water tracks that slope towards the sump in the middle. This floor layout is designed to contain a 7000 gallon spill. We really don't want to test it though. It will be nice to get this up and running sometime later this summer.

We also got a 0.3 inch shower last Wednesday night which made Farm 7 too muddy to finish our two remaining corn tests there. So on Friday we switched to soybean plots on Farm 3 which has much lighter soil and had dried out enough to plant then. Below MSU Intern Amanda maneuvers the fertilizer "War Wagon" into position to load plot treatments into the drill, seen in the background in the field. Amanda was raised on Red tractors on her family farm, and it pains her to drive green, but it's all in the name of research.

And our other intern Jeff loads a fertilizer treatment mix into the plot tank of the drill. We are using the drill to plant 15 inch row beans here. This has worked very well in the past, with the fertilizer actually applied in the row, which we generally don't recommend for 30 inch row beans.

And the drill is off again to make another treatment application.

You notice that we plant soybeans as no-till here on Farm 3. We also planted some second year corn as no-till on Farm 3 as I did also on Friday. Most of the pictures to date have been conventional till due mainly to worked ground on other farms after tiling last year. But we do some no-till too, as well as strip till which has been shown here previously.

So what has the Specialty Crop Crew been up to? I just can't seem to get Brian to take enough pictures of their activities, so I have taken some. The price will be pretty steep when he comes seeking pictures for meetings and reports. Below we see Brian and Tim planting potatoes with the mechanical planter. That plot tractor can apply liquid and dry comparison fertilizer as it plants.

And today, the only outside work was over on the so-called "perennial crop" area. Dan and Tim are applying wood mulch around some small trees. You can see the fertilizer effects on the grass around the tree rows, so it is important to get them mulched. They will control the grass later.

So thats all for now from the NCRS!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday...To Blog!!!

So can you believe it has been a year already since the launch of the wildly successful "Live From the NCRS" blog? Seems like it was only yesterday. A year ago I showed a picture of our new gps/autosteer equipment and also a picture of the frosted corn that took a hit (but fully recovered.) I have really enjoyed sharing pictures and descriptions of what we do here at the North Central Research Station as we progress through the growing season. Thanks for reading. In addition to the readership in North America, that being U.S., Canada and Mexico, the blog stats lists page views in Germany, China, Russia (zdravstvute ya'll, yep High School Russian really paid off), Netherlands, India, England and Indonesia. So wear a Liquid T-shirt the next time you are in Jakarta and you may find a friend! This is the 97th blog posting since birth last year. Hmm...I think I sense another milestone in the near future. Well excuse me for now...I've got to get back to the celebration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking Advantage of Good Planting Weather

So the planting weather has been ideal this week and much progress has been made. I hate to admit it, but a little rain shower would actually be nice right now as the warm weather and wind has really dried out the soil. It seems later in the week than only Wednesday since the days have been long with lot's of work by everyone. Below we see Doug on Monday planting corn on Farm 5. The concrete aprons of the fertilizer storage barn were poured on Monday.
Randy and Ron A. are busy installing the lights in the shop extension. Heads up Randy.

This week the NCRS has two Michigan State University students on an internship assignment, and will be with us all summer. Amanda and Jeff are both Crops and Soil Sciences majors and we are glad to have them. We hope they will learn much about crop nutrition and conducting agronomic research. Below Jeff does some refinement of the leaching wells.

Below Amanda spreads dry fertilizer in a comparison plot with our dry fertilizer air spreader.

The planter is still following the tractor and, with luck, we should be finished planting the corn experiments tomorrow. And then on to soybeans.

We have started planting some "production acres" of soybeans this week. Below Doug and returning summer worker Jake load bulk soybeans into the drill. The bag above Doug's head is the liquid innoculant that is metered by a tube onto the beans as they enter the auger. This works really well for innoculant application. We call it our soybean IV.

And look at this surprise to the farm we saw this afternoon. A pair of Bald Eagles were down on Farm 1. This one was eating something. (We took a head count after seeing this. All personnel were accounted for.) Tim lives right next to Farm 1 and said that he has seen them earlier. Maybe they are making a nest in the woods. They are pretty big, and very cool to see.

Keep visiting this blog for future eagle updates.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don't Let This Happen to You!

So Doug and I came in today to get caught up on some tillage and planting of what we call "production corn". That is corn, and later soybeans, that are not part of an experiment, but are planted with the same love that we show the test plots. Doug planted awhile while I worked ground, and then we switched. I've told you how much I like the auto steer. But it shouldn't be an invitation to not watch where you are going and play with your cell phone. I was on some strips only about 900 feet long, and looking up something on my phone, when I felt myself curving out of control. The auto steer had kicked off for some reason! I said "Darn, that's unfortunate." (Or words to that effect in case my mom is reading this.) The picture below shows what happened. (Note: I was planting every other track for easier turning and then coming back after a few to fill in the gaps, as I was doing here.) But here is were the story takes an unexpected turn, no pun intended (well maybe.) Rather than back up and try to get back on track, I drove on out and then started planting back towards the spot where I curved so that the rows would eventually line up with the accuracy of the RTK autosteer. But just as I was approaching the spot, the autosteer again disengaged and I started curving again!!! And guess what track number it was? Believe it or not, it was track 13! I am not making this up. So I re-engaged the auto steer and the rows did finally line up. But there will be some extra hoeing to remove the errant corn. But by somebody else, I'm not going back to the haunted corn field!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Parade of Planting

So we were blessed with another nice day here at the NCRS, and all were busy. Brian has a new vegetable transplanter to use this year. This more accurately simulates real world vegetable growing, as compared to the old way of setting them one at a time by hand. This also applies "setter water" including fertilizer as the plants are set into the raised beds. Here we see Brian at the helm with Tim and Dan loading plants as the holder thing, or whatever it is called, comes around. This work is so exciting they are literally on the edges of their seats. Here we see several rows of cabbage. Later on they transplanted broccoli. I hope no rabbits are reading this.
We are doing more tillage than usual this year to work down the tile tracks from last year. Here we see Ron running our new (again for us) mulch tiller on the back of Farm 5. It does a nice job of seed bed preparation with the trailing rolling baskets.

And here we see Doug planting a corn plot under Stephanie's watchful eye. We have gotten a number of corn tests planted the past two days. The ground is ready and warmer temps are on the way.

Although we have been busy planting here this week, it's heartbreaking seeing all of the flooding along the swollen rivers to the south. Don't know how all of that will all turn out, but our thoughts and prayers are with all of those poor farmers, and with others affected.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seed Meets Soil!

So planting finally got going yesterday at the NCRS. First priority was for sugarbeets. Sugarbeets are typically planted in early to mid-April, depending on conditions. But this cold and wet spring delayed it till yesterday. Here we see Stephanie transferring the liquid fertilizer treatment to Doug and the planter. And here Doug plants a plot. Each treatment is replicated four times in this experiment. And the plots are 265 feet long, so that should give us a good read on performance.
Here is a picture of the back of Stephanie's winter coat. (Hey it was only 44 degrees and cloudy yesterday.) Albert got one for each of us research types last fall. That embroidered combine scene on the back is from an actual picture that I took of harvesting a wheat experiment. We all think Albert is a swell guy. More on Albert at the end of this.

After finishing planting of beets today, it was time to clean out the beet seed and change the sugarbeet plates to corn plates. Guest worker Alex Ruff provides assistance. (He is a much harder worker than that other Ruff guy who was out here Monday.)

Here I am planting a corn experiment later today. (This experiment has five replications of treatments and plots are 210 feet long.) It is planting of a stip till (or Nutri-Till) plot featured last year in blogs on October 30 and November 1. So we are comparing fall and spring timing of Nutri-Till fertilizer applications, as well as no-till and fall surface applications of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K in no-till. In this picture I am planting in strips that were made last fall. To the right is a no-till plot and to the right of that is a plot where the strips and fertilizer were applied were made yesterday. This will be a good evaluation of different fertilizer options, because we like to help growers figure out what would work best for them.

And now for a special announcement, if you have not already heard. Albert Bancroft and his lovely wife Allison crossed the bridge from well-rested and childless to parenthood. The sign in their front yard (across the road from Farm 3) says it all. Congratulations to the new family, and to Troy and Jill for their first grand daughter.

So it was a memorable day on many fronts. And hopefully more planting memories yet to come tomorrow. Now I have a date with a pillow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Getting In On The Ground Floor

So there are actually two blog posts today as one blog could not contain all of the activities that happened today. We are getting the new fertilizer and chemical barn ready to pour the concrete floor. This floor is unlike the others at the farm in that it will be sloped inward to contain any accidental spills. Additionally, a liner will be placed on the ground under the concrete for additional environmental protection. Today we got a crew together to help put down the liner. First it was necessary to square up all of the dirt on the edges and flatten out any loose dirt. Guest worker Dale Ruff operates one of those things that vibrates to pack loose dirt. He was told to just keep going in circles.The roller pushed rocks into the ground while Ron A. smoothes out the taper around a sump. Dale is still going in circles.
Next the tarp was unrolled...

...and then pulled across the floor. Hopefully no one lost their phone or car keys.
Here everyone inspects the work and all agree that they did an excellent job.

Next the sides were nailed up. Here Phil holds the tarp and Ron A. nails it. His work completed, Dale goose steps off the tarp much to Stephanie's amusement.

Later the concrete crew came in to push sand over the tarp. They use a laser leveler to make the grade correct for the concrete containment.

Dale, if it seems like I was picking on you...well I was. But only because I know you can take it. And we really did appreciate your help and experience with this. So thanks, and drop by any time. Stay tuned for tomorrow's report on the big pour. Till next time....good night NCRS.