Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biding Our Time

So the vegetable crew is still in full harvest mode. Below we see Troy checking on Jalapeno pepper progress with Brian. No time to visit, Dan and Tim keep picking. Get the chips ready for some hot dip.The field crop folks are getting the combine ready to start harvest. Hopefully we can get started next week as it is supposed to dry out and even be up to the 70's. Last year with early planting and lot's of good heat units, we started harvesting corn even in mid-September. But not this year with the late planting start and wet spring. But it will happen soon as Doug and Ron make sure that harvest will be problem free. (Now there's pressure.)
You can see the drill in the back of the above picture getting ready to plant wheat as soon as the Navy and soybeans are harvested. Below is one of our production fields that was planted early, and is a short-season variety. Hopefully next week I can show the same view with the beans gone.

We will be ready.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crunching Numbers Part 2

So it's good to be back. It has been cloudy and rainy the past several days, but still warm in the 60's. It hasn't frosted since a brief one last week that did only some minor frosting of some crop leaves. On September 5 I made a blog post called "Crunching Numbers" where I talked about how many Growing Degree Days (GDD) we still needed for our corn to reach maturity, or black layer. Growing Degree Days are calculated daily based on high and low temperature. (As a refresher, or for those who don't grow corn, the black layer forms when the kernal is mature and is no longer connected to the cob for nutrient and water uptake. So the "connectors" turn black as their use is complete.) We have received 2550 GDD since May 5 as of today. So any corn needing that much or fewer GDD would be mature. And such was the case of some 98 day corn that we planted on May 5 on Farm 3. It requires 2450 GDD for maturity, and as the picture below shows, it has reached black layer. But not all of the corn is so lucky. The corn below planted on Farm 7 is a 103 day hybrid that requires 2575 GDD to reach maturity, and it was planted on May 10. (Due to the wet spring, our planting sequence got a little out of sorts, and perhaps we should have switched hybrids and planted the fuller season ones first. But who knew.) The corn is still somewhat green, and is next to a soybean plot where most of the leaves have dropped. These were group 2.4 beans.
Since planting, it has received 2508 GDD and still lacks 67 GDD to be physiologically mature. I'm sure there is some "wiggle room" in these numbers, but they are a pretty good indicator. As you can see in the picture below, it is not at black layer, but is close. Now we estimate with current high temperatures in the low to mid-60's, and lows in the lower 40's, that we are getting around 7 or so GDD's per day. So I suspect we will reach maturity with this corn.

But this is probably not the case with all of our corn. Again, due to the exceptionally wet May, some of our corn did not get planted until June 1. We traded in our 103 day corn for a shorter maturity number, and planted some 96 day corn then. That was all that was available then. Now it requires 2410 GDD to reach black layer, and it has only received 2238 GDD since planting. So we are 172 GDD short as of today, and it is unlikely that we will be able to get that many GDD's before killing frost. So it will be harvested wet and with a poor test weight. But we only have one experiment with this corn, and the results will be meaningful. I feel it.

Also on Farm 7 are our Black Beans. Again due to rain and planting delays, they weren't planted till June 27 which is about 2 weeks later than normal. They are now pretty much mature and are dropping leaves. We hope to apply the defoliation treatment soon, but it has rained every day this week, with more in the forecast. Edible beans like our Navy Beans and these Black Beans are usually the first plots we harvest, and the defoliant helps to complete leaf drop and pod drying. Below Stephanie gives them an inspection.

Below is a dry pod that I opened to show the black beans inside. Aren't they pretty? In case you missed it, as I have said numerous times, Michigan is the nations' Number 1 producer of Black Beans. So be thankful next time you eat refried beans.

In fact, I'm headed for the Taco Bell drive-through right now. Adios.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Please Stand By

So our blog is down for a bit of upgrading. As it says: Please Stand By. (Or sit or whatever makes you comfortable.) It will be back. Honest!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back For A Visit

So yesterday we had a couple of return visitors. On the left is Ron Mulford, retired from the University of Maryland where he was manager of the Poplar Hill Research Facility on the Eastern Shore. In fact he was there for nearly 40 years, and has had plot evaluations of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers in corn, wheat and soybeans. Last year about this time he paid us a visit, and was back again yesterday. He was accompanyed by Benjy Conover, Sales Account Manager for Liquid in that area.Even though he is retired, he likes field research so much that he is still going strong with a variety of plotwork for different ag interests, including ACLF. Ron has seen favorable results with Liquid in several tests over the years and has shared his impressions at a number of local meetings. (There are results printed in the 2010 NCRS Research Report on the website.) He brought with him results from this years testing from several sites for wheat and corn. Ron admits that he is impressed by the size and the top of the line research equipment used here at the NCRS to ensure accuracy of applications. One piece of equipment that really caught his eye was our modified air flow dry fertilizer applicator (see May 11 blog). While we are a liquid fertilizer company, accurate comparisons of products is key. This machine ensures that comparison treatments are applied right as we strive for the fertilizer truth. Anyway, it was an enjoyable day discussing results and looking at our plots in the nice weather that we had.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Farm Tour Season Is Not Over

So I guess the word is getting around and folks are still flocking to the NCRS for a tour of the place. On Wednesday we welcomed a small group of growers and dealers from North and South Dakota. They flew here in the morning (and boy were their arms tired. But seriously this thing on?) and headed to the farm for a quick lunch and introduction to the place. And then it was time to hit the fields. At the first stop below, we see Brian talking about the potato plots and what went on there. Next Stephanie talked about the Navy bean plots. North Dakota in particular grows much of the country's edible field beans (along with Michigan.)
Below some guy discusses one of the corn plots using ears as props. Chad does not appear convinced.

After the excitement of the farm, the group drove over to Ashley for a look at the plant. Plant Manager Gerrit Bancroft was our host. Below he shows the manifold system that loads the tanker trucks.

Then we went outside to look at some of the storage tanks, rail car loading, and the area where loaded tankers are parked awaiting trucks for delivery. As has been the case in previous visits, the 9000 gallon "supertanker" garners extra attention. These particular visitors had not seen tankers of this size with the extra axles. They are common in Michigan, but are not legal everywhere. In fact, this tanker is only licensed in Michigan and Ontario. It sure would make deliveries more efficient if they could go more places. They are double the size of the regular tankers.

Then it was back around to the front, say hi to Michelle and Bill, and back to the airport and fly home before supper. The only way to go. It was actually kind of chilly that day and several of the guys were looking forward to getting back to North Dakota so they could warm up. Probably won't be saying that much longer. Thanks to Kevin and Chad for setting this up.

Then yesterday Stephanie and I went over to Michigan State University's Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center near Frankenmuth. We have some foliar fertilizer treatments for sugarbeets in some of their test plots there. There may have been a little more leaf size and slightly greener leaves as well on the beets with foliars. But the leaves are starting to lose some color now anyway as the beets begin to bulk up now that it is getting late in the season.

The experiment below is testing some different treatments for Cercospora leaf spot, a serious fungal disease of sugarbeets. This can be a devastating disease and most beets around here are treated several times a year with fungicides to keep it at bay. In fact, Phil made a fungicide application on our beets today. Fortunately improved genetics have helped too. Whatever they are doing, it doesn't look like much is working. However I was told that these beets were innoculated with Cercospora for the test, so I guess it would be worse than in real life.

Then this morning I was taking a look around and stopped by the grape plots. Brian, Dan and Tim have already started picking these Concord grapes. They are really pretty, and they taste like a bite of grape jelly.

And who should stop by this afternoon but Jeff. Only gone a little over a week, and he missed us so much that he had to come back. Actually he came back for his weed collection for a class. And he wasn't quite finished and had to track down a couple more. Below he is digging up the elusive Jimson weed (Datura stramonium, yep, I still got got it!). One catch to plant collecting is that they have to have a flower or seeds, and these are now flowering.

So it was a busy week, even though it was short with Labor Day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Crunching Numbers

So here it is September already. And here I go again talking about the weather. This is Labor Day, and so the farm was closed today. We were so hot for much of the summer, but lately we have had some nice days in the 70's and 80's, but one warm day in the upper 80's or 90's still shows up on occasion. Saturday was one of those hot and humid days. Doing anything outside made you sweat, and I did. Then today, Monday, it only got up to 62 for a high. Much of the day was cloudy and in the 50's. What gives? And I looked at the weather around the country and it was cool down in Oklahoma. I called my parents in Stillwater this afternoon, and it was in the 70's after roasting in the 100's just two days ago.

So anyway, with the late planting of some of our corn, and the cold start of the season, one wonders how much longer till the ears reach maturity. Fortuntely, Stephanie does a great job of keeping track of things like this, so that when I ask, she delivers. We planted much of our corn the first week of May. So from May 10 through September 1, we have had 2216 Growing Degree Days (GDD). (We normally can start planting around April 24th or so, but not this year.) We planted mostly 103 day corn this year, which takes 2575 GDD to reach physiological maturity, or black layer. So we still need around 359 GDD to reach black layer. We think we should get around 14 GDD per day, so that means we should be able to reach black layer by the end of September, which is good. As long as we don't get a frost. But what about the corn we planted in June??? We planted some 96 day corn on June 1. So from June 2 to September 1, we received 1933 GDD, and it takes 2410 GDD to reach black layer. So we still need 477 GDD for that. So if we can average 14 GDD per day, that leaves us 34 days, or into the first week of October. We have usually had some frost by then, but hopefully not a killing frost. So there will be plenty of thermometer watching and nervous pacing in the farm office.

Well since I made you read through all of that, I am going to take a chance and break one of my journalistic rules, again. I generally don't like to show a bunch of plot picture stuff and get excited about it, only to be dashed by harvest numbers that don't support what I thought I saw. But harvest is a ways off and no one will remember anyway. So here goes....

In preparation for one of the recent farm tours, we picked some ears from one of the corn experiments to see if there were any visible differences. This was a corn experiment comparing applications of all of the different ACLF sulfur fertilizers. This soil has only 6 ppm of sulfur, which is quite low. One of these sulfur additive was the new fertilizer product accesS. Currently we do not recommend in-furrow application of accesS, as it lowered yield on coarse soil last year. It should be placed 2x2 or with N at sidedress. But this test was in heavier soil. For in-furrow on corn, eNhance has shown to be an effective sulfur treatment in combination with combinations of Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and Micro 500. Anyway, in the experiment we applied a number of sulfur treatments with 3 gal/A Pro-Germinator + 7 gal/A Sure-K + 2 qt/A Micro 500 through the planter. These ears were picked from one replication and are in the picture below. Three consecutive ears were picked and the two most unifrom ears were in the picture. And this corn was one of the late-planted plots, inserted into the ground on June 1.

On the left, labelled 3-1 was 2 qt/A of accesS in 2x2 placement. Next was 2 qt/A of accesS with in-furrow placement (3-2). Next was 2 qt/A of eNhance with in-furrow placement (3-5). And on the right is in-furrow planter fertilizer with no added sulfur (3-9). So it was apparent that the ears that received sulfur were bigger, and at the time of picking, were darker yellow indicating advanced maturity. But again, harvest will tell the real story, more so than two picked ears from one replication. But a guy can dream, can't he???

So it was nice to see some visual differences anyway. Something to tide us over till harvest I guess.

Hope You Like Peppers

So I've said that one of the best things about working at the North Central Research Station is that you get so much great produce to eat. I quit my home vegetable garden years ago. But the problem is that it takes manual labor to get the great eats. This is when I really miss Jeff, Amanda and the Jakes. But last Friday it was time to pick green peppers, again. So Stephanie and I decided to be nice and help Brian with the task. There were both Green Peppers and the purple Tequila Peppers to be picked in a test. It really isn't too bad, as long as you don't mind lots of bending over. I often go to the just sit on the ground method. Pepper plots are picked numerous times once they become the right size.
This isn't just for fun, it's an experiment. So the pickings must be weighed, as Stephanie does below, and counted.
And then after dumping into the tote, go back and do it to the next plot. This tote will soon be on its way to the Food Bank, after some is taken to meet the requests of fellow Liquid employees at the farm, office and plant. You don't have to tell us to eat our vegetables.

There are still plenty of peppers on the plants that will continue to size up, and be picked the next time, and the next time and the next time....