Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Week at the NCRS

So while I was away, the spring planting kept right on going.  Many corn experiments were established last week.  It was still pretty cold,  but it is time to plant and there is alot to do.  Stephanie took these pictures.
Here Doug and Tim confer at the Monosem.  About what?  Their backs are to me, so I couldn't read lips.
The new Kinze planter saw action last week for the first time.  Here we see Doug loading it with fertilizer.  Glad the reflectors are working.
We have emergence!  Here is a sugarbeet out of the ground on April 26 that was planted on April 9.  It has been colder than normal of late, but beets are pretty slow emerging anyway.
Here is a look at a kernal of corn on April 27 that was planted on April 19.  In normal years, I expect to see corn emergence in around 9 days.  This is going to be longer with the cool temps.  It was only in the 40's this weekend, but supposed to be in the 70's this week.
Brian and crew planted onions and carrots this week.  Below Brian is seen making backpack fertilizer applications over the rows.
And finally, Stephanie is all smiles at the arrival of the new hydraulic soil probe.  Sadly, some assembly is required.  Oh the fun she will have.
I will be back to the farm later this week.  I hope to not impede progress.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"The Waving Wheat, Can Sure Smell Sweet" and other stuff

So after the big RFD show, I had to get back to work.  So by the picture below, can you tell where I am?  Now I grew up in Oklahoma, and I always admired Johnny Bench.  I had been through Binger many times as I travelled around to OSU Research Farms working on my Master's degree.  So it was fun to see it again.
Remember that liquid fertilizer application equipment that Doug built?  It is now attached to a plot planter and it will be used to establish some cotton and milo fertilizer plots with a contract researcher.  Stay tuned for updates later this season.
Here is the field where the replicated plots will be.
Later we went to look at some grower's fields where Liquid fertilizer was used.  Here is Area Manger Parker Christian and SAM Jacob in a wheat field.
The wheat is looking great thanks to the regular rain that has fallen this spring, unlike last year's drought year.  The wheat heads have good size, but it would be nice to have another shower to get them filled good.  This field had Pro-Germinator and Micro 500 at planting and topdressed with High NRG-N and 28-0-0-5 and eNhance.  We looked at a number of fields.  The best looking fields we saw had Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 at planting.  The drought made growers a little wary about spending money on wheat fertlizer at planting, but the ones that did are glad they did now.
Here is another wheat field fertilized with Liquid that is looking really good.
Growers are also baling alfalfa now.  Here we see Jake's father and brother running balers on a field well fertilized with Liquid.  Namely a stream-bar application of Pro-Germinator and accesS at green-up.
Below is a field of corn that had an in-furrow application of Pro-Germinator + Sure-K + Micro 500.  Well for a while, one of the rows on the planter had a problem with no fertilizer applied.  You could really see the phosphorus-deficient corn next to the well-fed corn.  The grower, who was a long-time Liquid user was pretty impressed with Liquid performance.  Nice to see, but check your rows for flow. 
So it was a great week seeing interesting things and people.  I start the trek home to Michigan on Sunday with a stop at a new research site in Missouri on Monday.  Hope to show highlights then.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"RFD Live": Their Best Show Ever

So yes, Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers was the guest on the TV show "RFD Live".  It is done in Nashville at a production studio.  It was an exciting opportunity.  The only thing that made me nervous was the "Live" part.
Here we are at the planning meeting in the afternoon several hours before the show.  Tonights guests are Sr. Agronomy Manager Cory, and  Joel Armistead, a grower from Southern Kentucky who has used Liquid fertilizers for several years, and has also been a winner in the Corn Growers Contest for Kentucky.  I have been fortunate to know him for a few years and he is a great spokesman for Liquid and innovations in farming. He is a well know speaker besides.  Oh yes, and me!  (You didn't think I'd go to all this trouble if I wasn't involved do you?) Below we are going over our lines and video content with  Heather the producer.  Lonny and Albert were also there for production support.
Next was my favorite part, the pre-show meal.  We ate in the celebrity dining room.  Well thats what I called it anyway.  We were the only ones there.
Next it was off to the dressing rooms to get our game clothes on.
And of course, make up.  You didn't think we wanted to be all pasty with shiny noses.  Or in my case, head.  Cory keeps asking her to slow down.  But Deanna kept watch and made him sit on his hands.  She was nice and had done make up for a long list of famous singers, actors and politicians.
Here we are in the hallway outside the RFD Studio.  There are a number of studios here that have filmed lots of stars, mostly Nashville singers.

And here we are on the set just before go time.  The guy on the left is the RFD Live host, Max Armstrong.  He is also a really nice guy and a real pro.  Did anyone reading this see the show?  Well don't despair, it will be shown several more times this week.  But it won't be live.  What did we talk about?  It was about what makes Liquid fertilizers different, the importance of Research (yay!), and how a farmer (Joel) has used Liquid successfully.  There were also some viewer call-in questions.  We were all pretty nervous before, but it was fun and the hour flew by, just like Max said it would.  I'm sure I talked too fast, but I haven't seen it yet.  But overall, I thought it was a good show.
So I am very tired, but knew the blog audience would want to see what the mystery trip was about.  More to come this week as my travels continue. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not Live, But Yesterday

So there is a lot of activity at the NCRS as spring unfolds. Yesterday I talked about the orchard progress. Well there was also corn planting going on that I will show today. It rained today, so no outside action to report, so a perfect time for a recap. Yesterday morning, since I wasn't there to help, Stephanie found a new assistant. She said things went better than usual.
This was a no-till corn experiment on Farm 3. Tim had things rolling along. Look at the blue skies and sunshine in the morning.And then when I finally showed up, the clouds rolled in and there was the threat of rain. We all had our cell phones out looking at the radar. My how things have changed. I used to just use my rope weather gauge. But I figured that if we quit and went back to the shop, then it wouldn't rain just to spite us. So we went ahead and started planting an experiment on Farm 7. The rule is, once you start, you can't stop. Poor Stephanie. Her pump controller quit working and she had to go back to the old bucket system of measurements. Tim prepares to make another round.

So it did rain off and on after we started. But the ground was dry and soaked it up pretty good, so we were able to finish this one experiment. Then we called it a day and went back. Today it rained almost all day. But next week looks good for getting back in action.

I stopped by the wheat experiment on Farm 5 on the way home. It looks good. We used stream nozzles since the wheat was pretty tall at topdress, thanks to the early warm weather. Then it didn't rain for several weeks after topdress, and the wheat didn't have a lot of green up. But it rained last weekend and the wheat is now looking like it should.

I haven't shown Doug much lately. He has been busy on some equipment issues and some new farm drainage chores. But another thing he has been working on is a new fertilizer rate controller set-up for me to take down to a researcher that will do some plot work for us. Phil also helped quite a bit. So I wanted to show them and their work. Hopefully I will be showing this in action in the near future. Thanks guys. Excellent as always.

In fact, I am off on a rather lengthy fertilizer mission starting next week. I will give a clue to part of it. If you get RFD TV, there is a show on Monday night at 8 pm Eastern time that you may want to watch.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Johnny Appleseed Would Be Proud of the NCRS

So there is still a lot of work to be done in the new apple orchard. Below is a picture from April 4 when the trees were planted. You can see where the root stock was grafted onto the tree. Well evidently it is important to get that graft covered up for protection. So here we see Brian on his tractor with a blade that pushes soil up over the graft.
It looks kind of rough at first as in the picture below, but the apple crew smooths it out to look nice.

In the next picture we can see Tim B working on the trees today while a fencing crew puts up a fence. This is to keep out other workers on the farm from stopping by and picking apples to eat. Oh and deer too.

Here is a shot of the gate and the finished fence. Better remember to keep the gate closed. Sadly we are overpopulated with deer around here.

Below Brian is inspecting the irrigation tape that will be put in the orchard. Also a lot of work. Not sure what Phil is doing. Maybe he is walking the straight line to prove that all of those bottles yesterday weren't his.

Well till next time.....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Corn Planting Started Today

So today we started planting corn here at the NCRS. This is an earlier start than in most years. We had some rain over the weekend, and we needed it. This is light ground here on Farm 3, and there was good soil moisture for planting. We started with our stip till or, as we call it, Nutri-Till plots. This is where we have the ability to place fertilizer in the seed zone as well as 8 inches deep, like for nitrogen. We have a number of different fertilizer comparisons, as well as timing of application. Some strips were made in the fall with application of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K. But as stated many times, we do not recommend application of solution nitrogen in the fall. We did it once, and found the same thing as have others: It is not a good idea unless you want yellow corn. Too much leaching potential up here.After I got started, Tim joined the fun with the planter. We are also comparing planter applications to those with the Nutri-Till machine. This has worked very well in the past. But one of the advantages with all of the fertilizer being applied with the strip till operation is that the planter can just go and not have to stop for fertilizer refills.
And just in case the no-tillers were about to stop reading, we did have some no-till plots. I jumped out of my tractor to snap this pic. It looks like it's doing a nice job. We have some no-till corn tests this year.
Tim and I prepare for a game of chicken.
OK, how many more times are you going to have to see this? Probably a lot as I am not only the writer, but also the editor of this here blog.
Seen on the way to the farm. So do you think this guy is tired of picking up empty vodka bottles out of his yard by the road every morning? (But you have to admire the litterbug's brand loyalty.)

It was good to get started. One step closer to the end, although you can't see the end even with binoculars yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....April?

So I was away on a fertilizer mission the second half of last week, and I missed the planting of the Christmas trees by Dr. Brian, Tim B and Dan. They planted 500 Dougals Fir and 500 Fraser Fir trees. So with the 3000 apple trees planted recently, that makes 4000+ trees now on the farm. I can't wait to get up there tomorrow and breathe all of that new oxygen, and with an evergreen fragrance to boot. Like with the apples, they used the gps guidance for row straightness. And I believe that is the new, old tree transplanter that Brian found last year. Apparently it worked. I guess I will have to come up with a new name for these hard workers as they have definately expanded beyond the veg-head stage. Planting is done, but the work is just beginning. Michigan ranks third in Christmas tree production (behind Oregon and North Carolina). But check back soon as this may have put us ahead. Good job guys. (Thanks to Brian for the pic.) On a sad note, I read in the paper this morning that 10,000 acres of grapes grown for juice succumbed to sub-freezing temperatures recently in Southwest Michigan. You may recall the exceptionally warm weather we had in Mid-March, and this caused trees and vines to come out of dormancy early, long before the threat of frost is past. Well in recent weeks temperatures returned to normal and these grapes were among the victims. It said that Welch's Foods gets 17% of its juice grapes from SW Michigan. I have heard that there is similar havoc in the Tart Cherries in Northern Michigan (Michigan is the #1 producer of tart cherries), but haven't heard any numbers yet. Not a good start for the year for these poor farmers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Exciting Day Makes It Official

So today was the official ground breaking ceremony for the new office building and headquarters for Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. There was quite a crowd of people on hand anxious to see and be seen at the most happening place in St. Johns, and maybe even in all of Clinton County! It was a nice sunny day, but still cold and windy. But everyone was in a festive mood, especially when Troy gave his remarks. He talked about the history and growth of the company and the history and growth of agriculture, and why we needed a new building to enable ACLF to keep up with the growth.
The Farm American-Furniture Row NASCAR race car was on display along with several antique tractors and a new one with a new planter on loan from the NCRS.

And what would a ground breaking be without a bunch of dressed up guys in hard hats taking a shovel full of soil from a perfectly groomed yard? Well that was also part of the festivities. (Does anyone else remember an episode of the Berverly Hillbillies where Milburn Drysdale had a similar ground breaking ceremony for the new Commerce Bank building, and Uncle Jed and Jethro were surprised that everyone left after a single shovel of digging, when there was obviously much work yet to be done. So they stayed up all night and built a cabin where the bank would go, thinking they had done Milburn a favor. Hilarious. They don't make them like that anymore.) Below we see Troy and Nick in the middle along with some others from the architect and construction companies. After this everyone went inside for some of Troy's 2-cylinder ice cream.And here is a sign showing what is to come next year. It really will be a unique building that reflects the agricultural roots of our company, and yet be a modern facility that will be a landmark for the area. (I do like the reference to the importance of research to all of this.)

Here is where this building will go. Some wheat will have to be sacrificed, but it does so with honor and purpose.

So next July please stop by and help me carry my desk over into the new place.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seed Meets Soil - 2012

So field crop planting started yesterday with the insertion of sugarbeet seed. I think this is about the earliest we have ever planted at the NCRS. Looking back at last year's blog, the sugarbeets were planted on May 3, which is on the late side. But last year was much colder and wetter, so we were happy to get an early start this year. But don't let the pretty picture fool you as it was cold and windy yesterday. But soil conditions were good to get going. This experiment was with strip-till, or Nutri-till as we call it, on Farm 2. I showed the strip tillage operation earlier. The beet rows in this plot follow the tillage strip running in between last year's corn rows.
You know it is spring planting time when you see Stephanie mixing the fertilizer treatments at the "War Wagon."

Here is Tim planting a second sugarbeet experiment on Farm 7. This is better ground here and with the early planting we are hopeful for good yields and treatment effects. With the auto steer, Tim is able to keep an eye on the monitors and the Capstan.

With the orchard planted, the specialty crop crew is waiting on the installation of the irrigation system. They are also still planting trays of vegetable transplants. Here are the earlier planted cole crops that have been in the greenhouse for awhile now. The greenhouse system has sure been good for growing nice transplants compared to the old way of keeping them in the growth chamber for a longer time and then bringing them out to the farm closer to the actual date of transplanting. Now they are becoming well acclimated to the sunlight.

There is plenty of work ahead, but it's nice to be started.