Monday, July 25, 2011

Ag PhD Field Day 2011

So last Friday was the Ag PhD Field Day at the Hefty Farm in Baltic, SD. This is my second year, and it is a real treat. But on Thursday I had a chance to visit the Blank Slate Field which was just down the road a few miles from the show site. Darren Hefty showed several Hefty dealers and some of us Liquid-ites around. Of interest was where the planter fertilizer was left off for a ways, and the corn was shorter and showed potassium deficiency on the leaves. The rest of the corn is tasseled and way over our heads.One new feature this year was a real live race car! This is the Farm American/Furniture Row NASCAR. Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is a supporter of Farm American which was formed to promote agriculture primarily to the non-ag public.
Each participating company has plots. As was pointed out by Darren, this is Brian's ground, and he makes sure that there will not be fertility shortages and applies hundreds of pounds of dry fertilizer annually. But in the plots, planter-applied Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500 really made an impact. In the picture below, the corn in the foreground had the fertilizer off, and it is shorter and not tasseled like the corn around it. The picture really does not show it as well as being there, but it was very noticeable.

Here is the trailer that hauls the car around. Plus the nice Liquid displays.

The Liquid booth was very busy all day with steady traffic of interested growers. It seems that everyone was well familiar with Liquid from the Ag PhD show and the Blank Slate blog. There were growers from as far away as Maryland and Texas that stopped.

Brian and Darren led a tour of the plots. Many hundreds followed along. There was a lot to see and learn about crop nutrition, seed, chemicals, equipment, and new ag technologies.

The crowd was there to learn. I was also there to eat. They had an outstanding lunch and dinner for the hungry crowd.

One item of particular interest was some cotton planted by a seed company. Now cotton is a long ways from home here in South Dakota. Many had never seen cotton and enjoyed getting their feet in some. We have planted cotton at the NCRS, but never have gotten a boll due to the short season up North.

Finally it was time to pack up and get ready to leave, after an enjoyable, although very warm day. This gave the car groupies a last chance for a picture.

I would certainly encourage anyone to attend next year's show. I know I will. Thanks Hefty's.

New Plot Work in the Dakotas

So last Wednesday I went to Fargo, ND to visit some research plots that we established in the area. We are working with two contract researchers on crops such as spring wheat, sugarbeets and canola. Just like much of the country, it was hot. But it was worth seeing the progress. Below is a view of some of the spring wheat. They looked good in spite of all the rain this spring and also that has continued. Below area sales manager Kevin Abentroth takes a closer look at a spring wheat plot at another location. These plots also look good and hopefully will give us some new information.
Here is a close-up of the heads. Again, we were well satisfied with how the plots looked here.

Another crop that maybe not too many people are familiar with is canola. But there is quite a bit grown in North Dakota. The picture below shows the edge of an experiment where there was no applied fertilizer. It would be the outer five feet or so. The plot next to it had 100 lb/A of nitrogen with 6 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 2 qt/A of Micro 500. Fertilizer makes quite a difference. This experiment is testing different N fertilizers for effect on growth and yield.

Below is a picture looking across the test. There are different treatments, but all have about 80 to 100 lb/A of N along with the Pro-Germnator and Micro 500. They look good and full.

Now adjacent to our plot is another plot evaluating something other than fertilizer. Contract researchers do not share details of other plots with freeloaders like us. But the main researcher did tell us that the only fertilizer applied was 100 lb/A of N (we think it was urea, but not sure.) But in the picture below, look at the resulting growth without application of phosphorus and micros like in our plots. It is much less and uneven. We would guess that the yield would be no more than half of what we would get with the full program. Responsible Nutrient Management does not mean applying no nutrients, but the right amount of needed nutrients.

And we had another spring wheat test at a location in South Dakota. Again, the wheat looks good and we are hopeful for results that will give the grower some more tools to use for getting more yield. That is why we are here.

So after this, which was on Thursday, we went up to Baltic, SD to get ready for the Hefty Field Day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trying For More Corn

So most of the corn is tasseling now at the NCRS. Some of the later corn is not yet this far along, but most is. We have had a great deal of heat units of late to advance corn growth, but sadly, still no rain. I believe we have only had 0.1 inch all month. But more on that later. Yesterday we made some foliar applications of some fertilizers to corn in the VT stage, or tassels fully emerged. These were applied along with a popular fungicide, as well as treatments of fungide with no fertilizer and no foliar at all. As dry as it is, I'm not sure what diseases are around, but the mornings have very high humidity and dew, so we will see. The Hagie plot sprayer makes a good applicator for these treatments. Here I am coming out of a plot. The nozzles on 15 inch spacing on the boom work great for this. I turn off every other one so that just the nozzles over the row middles are spraying. I also use pretty high pressure: 80 psi. And since it is a fungicide and good coverage is desired, I used 20 gal/A. So it blasted away pretty good. Fortunately yesterday morning was cloudy, so it didn't get too hot. Below you can see the nozzles spraying between the rows.
The nozzles that weren't spraying were directly over the corn plant and brushed through the tassels getting covered in pollen. All this pollen didn't bother me, but poor Stephanie got choked up a little from allergy. Although I did feel sad that none of this pollen would ever have the opportunity to land on a corn silk and make a pollen tube and ultimately, a kernal. But I try not to think of these things during application.

Now for the rest of the week I am off on yet another fertilizer mission. Have a good rest of the week and, as always, should anything blog-worthy happen, this is where it will appear.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

LIQUID Employee Fun Day

So after all of the hard work by the LIQUID employees in St. Johns this year, we were treated to an employee (and family) fun day yesterday. It started with a half round of best-ball golf with teams. (For some reason I did not get my camera out for golf pics. Too busy looking for my ball in the trees I guess.)

Then there was a nice lunch at the golf course, where we were joined by others who were non-golfers and any kids. After lunch and awards, Nick addresses the group. Then we drove over to Ashley for a tour of the new plant. It is fully operational now, and last Friday was the last day for the old plant in St. Johns as everything worth keeping was moved to Ashley. There will be a plant tour at the PLFP as well as an open house for the public on August 24. Circle the date.

We split into groups to see the place. It was impressive. Below Albert talks about all of the 30,000 gallon tanks in the place. There are more on the other side of this room, and other rooms too. He said how many there were but I forgot. But it's alot.

Below is a picture of the place where trucks are loaded. This is the stairway and ramps that Ron built at the farm. They can load a tanker really fast. He said how fast, but I forgot. But it's really fast.

After seeing other things like reactors, boilers, railcar loading/unloading, truck scales, offices, and Twin-Pack loading, we said farewell and went to the North Central Research Station for more festivities. It was 90+ degrees out, but the excitement was such that no one noticed. Below Nick addresses the group again.

Then we loaded up for a brief tour of the new buildings and to have a look at the growing crops.

Here we are by the grapes. There were bunches of them. No really!

Then it was back to the shop for a final treat. Troy's homemade ice cream and cake (probably not made by Troy) are served below by Andrea and Jill. It really hit the spot.

So thanks to all of the Bancrofts for providing such a great time.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wheat Plot Harvest is Complete

So after hopping off the last plane on my trip back from Louisiana on Friday, I raced to the NCRS so that I could be around for the completion of winter wheat plot harvest. It was my lucky day that they weren't finished. Doug was in the combine drivers seat that day.
Stephanie was at her usual spot as plot weight recorder up in the grain cart. I rode along to document the operation and get caught up on company gossip while I was gone. Here we see the wheat from a plot being dumped for weighing.
Stephanie collects a wheat sample for moisture determination and test weight.

It has really been dry this month. No rain. It's Friday, so time to turn on the irrigation again.

And here it is, the last plot strip.

And that's that. Put the combine away till soybean harvest in a few months.

Way, and I Mean Way, Down South

So I was on a fertilizer mission to LA last week. No, not Los Angeles, but Southern Louisiana. I reported from there last March about how we were planning some research plots there this year. This was my mid-season visit. I was accompanied by Sales Account Manager Reid Abbot and Agronomy Manager Alan Parkinson. Now these were replicated plots conducted by contract researchers, or independent researchers who conduct fresearch plots for various agricultural companies. For a fee, of course. Below we see Reid taking a look at a cotton plant in a plot. Reid works a lot with cotton in South Texas where he lives. The cotton looks great. Couldn't really see any treatment differences at this time. A crop where we have customer use, but not much research, is sugarcane. We have several different comparisons here with Liquid fertilizer where dry P and K fertilizers and 32% UAN are the norms. Below Alan surveys a plot. Not much sugarcane in Idaho where Alan lives though.
Sugarcane is a pretty tough plant. The leaf edges are very stiff and sharp due to sharp barbs along the margins. The picture below is a shot through a had lens showing the barbs.
At another location we have some rice fertilizer test plots. Again, we are mainly comparing the normal dry program with a Liquid program. They all look good, and couldn't really tell any differences at this time. There are quite a few acres in Arkansas using Liquid fertilizer with good success.
The rice heads are out and they are flowering now. It was pretty to see.

In this part of the South, rice is grown in rotation with soybeans. Now rice ground is poorly drained, and usually high in magnesium, so it is tight. Since the land is so flat, and there is normally a lot of rain in the South, this ground can become very saturated and even flooded. So in this test we are simulating the effects of heavy rainfall on soybeans, such that they are turned yellow. We want to see if application of foliar fertilizers will enhance recovery. Now as it turns out, this part of the South is experiencing drought this summer. So these plots are actually in small rice plot levees where flood water can be introduced. The plots below had water on them for up to five days, and then removed. The beans turned yellow, and were sprayed three days ago. So we will see.

We also visited several farm fields that had been sprayed with foliar fertilizers. One problem around here is wild hogs, a.k.a. ferel pigs. They come out and ruin portions of soybeans fields. We could see hoof prints. There were several areas like this. We were told that this is tiny damage compared to some fields that have very large areas of damage.

Speaking of pigs, as you may know, one of my favorite things to do while visiting Louisiana is to eat Cajun food. Now many years ago I ate at a restaurant in New Orleans called Mulates. But the original restaurant is in Breaux Bridge, just East of Lafayette. So there we went, had a great dinner and listed to a Cajun band there. In fact, this place is a Who's Who of well-know Cajun bands that have played there. So it was a great evening.

And a great fertilizer research mission as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wheat Harvest Begins at NCRS

So winter wheat harvest got underway yesterday. As I mentioned, I am away on a fertilizer mission, but the plots are in good hands. Phil ran the combine and Stephanie rode the grain cart to take plot weights, while Jeff pulled the cart and Amanda ran the samples for test weight and moisture. Plot harvest is expected to take three days, with another day to harvest the production wheat. Results will be know soon, but yields are said to be pretty good, in the mid-90's.
Last year we started on July 10, so the poor weather this spring didn't really push it back too much.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We Had a Visitor Today

So we had an important day, but had to get some more foliar spraying done this morning. It was going to be a hot day, so wanted to get an early start while it was still somewhat cool. We like to spray when it is less than 80 degrees, which I know is hard in some areas where it is never less than that. But anyway, here I am on Farm 5. We are spraying soybeans that are in the R2 growth stage, or flowers all the way up the stalk. We plant indeterminate beans here which means that they start flower at the bottom and progress up the stalk even as it grows taller. Here is a plot that runs up to the alfalfa plots that we harvested last week. It is kind of cool looking. Later in the day, Doug cut and windrowed those borders and it will be baled tomorrow to get the plots ready for the next fertilizer application later this week. Over on Farm 6 you can see that we have been dry as the grass has all turned brown. But it is interesting to see where the sidedress rig dribbled some nitrogen on the grass as it was turning around. These strips of grass got a good dose that enabled better growth and root development that enabled it to stay better hydrated. Just another illustration of how fertilizer is our friend. I said that we had a visitor and here she is, Dr. Karen Renner from MSU. Jeff and Amanda are not only working at the farm this summer, they are also getting college credit for all of their labors. Dr. Renner is their advisor, and she is making a visit to make sure that they are doing college-worthy stuff and not just goofing off all summer. (You know from the blogs that they have been a great help to the research efforts here.) Actually Karen and I go way back as we were Weed Science graduate students at MSU together under Dr. Bill Meggit back in...well it was awhile ago. Unfortunately we really haven't crossed paths much over the years, so it was good to have her out for a visit. She did say that she had no idea how big the NCRS is and how many research plots we actually have. That is why we needed student intern help. So everyone benefits. Below Jeff and Amanda explain how the "war wagon" works.

OK, she's gone. Now get back to work. Stand counts on Black Beans need to be done. I know it's hot out, but at least you are in the shade (until that cloud moves anyway.)

Well I am off on a fertilizer mission for the next few days. I am anxious to go, but it is a much more comfortable time to visit there in the spring than in the summer. Where is it? Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And another thing...

So on Friday I was making fertilizer applications to yet another soybean experiment, this one on Farm 6. I have said before here that I like this field as the plots are 900 feet long which makes for a nice ong run. And what should I see on the NCRS Wildlife Refuge but a deer. Our county is loaded with deer and they treat the fields like their own cafeteria.

Here is something that we see alot, but I really don't understand what it is. Evidently deer pull leaves from the corn plants and just drop them on the ground. I guess corn is just an appetizer before the soybean course.

At least they stay pretty much on the border rows for this. Chance of rain tomorrow. I wouldn't turn it away.