Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Week in Review

So I showed quite a few of the research activities at the NCRS and elsewhere last week.  But by no means was that everything. I showed some of the research on winter wheat that we are conducting where we are combining fertilizers and fungicides.  The wheat on Farm 8 was at the flowering stage, or anthesis, last Tuesday, so we made some more applications with a different fungicide.  Phil is at the wheel here in these large replicated plots on Farm 8.  Each "plot" is around 2.5 acres.
Some people may be surprised that wheat flowers.  The yellow anthers are visible on the spikelets below, in a nice picture taken by Stephanie.  The anthers produce pollen that land on the top of the flower called a stigma, and makes a pollen tube that grows down to fertilize the embryo which gives rise to the grain.  Flowering starts in the middle of the head, continues up to the top and then the bottom.  So when you see anthers at the bottom of the head, you know that fertilization of the head is nearly complete. 
The wheat runs right up to the new apple orchard.
At the same time as the wheat was being sprayed, there was activity within the orchard.  Below we see Dan and intern Kirk, himself from a family apple orchard, doing an important operation on the new trees.  They are "feathering" them.  I am an apple novice, and Dan says it's important to maintain the dominance of the top stem.  Otherwise, the tree won't be nice and straight.  So you need to pull off any lower young developing stems just below the top that are longer than the one at the top.  With over 3000 trees in the orchard, this takes some time.  But they made quick work of it. 
Below is a properly "feathered" tree that will grow straight.  This is nice information even for home use.  Dan's orchard knowledge will certainly be useful here.
Remember I showed them putting together this irrigation pipe earlier.  Now they have the drip tape attached.  By the end of the week this was buried and the tape was connected to the drip tape running at the base of the trees.  They gave it a tryout on Friday and I understand it worked.  Sadly, I wasn't there for that.
Another operation of the week was the sidedress application of nitrogen solutions to the corn research plots.  There are hundreds of plots in different experiments all over the NCRS, and Tim and Stephanie knocked them out in just a few days.
I know everyone talks about it, and everyone is probably tired of listening to it.  But this weather is so different from year to year.  Last year we didn't turn on irrigation until July.  We rarely run irrigation in May, but we have been plenty dry since the downpour several weeks ago.  So the overhead linear irrigation systems were started up for an initial run.  Below we see the one on Farm 3.
And here is the one on Farm 5.  This ground was planted the previous week for the fertilizer demonstrations at the Research Field Days in August and September. 
The rest of the farms will have to wait for rain from the sky.  Below is Farm 6 which tends to be very subject to drought due to the coarse textured soil.  Right now it looks nice here with the 30 inch soyean rows fitting perfectly down the middle between last year's corn rows, just as they should.
Well here on Memorial Day Monday, the farm is closed until tomorrow.  But hopefully you are now up to date.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Parade

So it's Memorial Day weekend here in Wacousta, Michigan.  Time for the annual parade.  It was nice to see that the soldiers were back this year carrying the flags.  (Unfortunately, they were right on the tail of the leading firetruck, so I couldn't get a nice marching picture.  They probably didn't want my advice on that, so as hard as it was, I kept quiet and respectful.)
Here comes the band playing You're A Grand Old Flag.  It was nice to see this community band of kids and adults marching together.
Here are some local 4-H kids and their animals.  It was nice of that one girl to carry her tired young goat.
And here are some antique tractors.  Cospicuously absent was any tractor of a green variety.  I will have to show this to Troy to answer the call for 2013, plus maybe a Farm American banner.
There were a few more paraders, but it was pretty much over in a few minutes.  But as always, there was a good crowd.  The assembly moved down to the cemetary by the Civil War statue and words were said to cause us to be thankful for what we have and who made that possible.  If you haven't already done so, why not pause right now for some thoughts of those in uniform who stepped up for Freedom.  Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Road.....I Mean "Air" Trip

So I got the call that a customer in Missouri needed 5 gallons of Carbo ASAP.  All the usual means of transport were unavailable, so of course, they turned to Research.  I called able pilot and Sales Account Manager Adam Beck, and he dropped everything and stepped forward to help.  Adam lives near Lafayette, IN, so I drove down there Tuesday night and yesterday morning we strapped the Carbo safely aboard his plane and headed West.
I'm ashamed to say that in the haste of the journey, I did not take a pic of Adam and his plane, a Piper Cherokee.  But here is one from our last journey together in 2010.  Both plane and pilot have improved with age.
We had a great day for flying and made good time.  Adam is a natural.
We were in the air for around 3.5 hours.  I am fortunate to have a strong stomach, and not bothered by flying and/or bumps.  But of course my concern is the lack of a rest room on board.  But I practiced for several days ahead, and did just fine.  Below is my view.  I presume Adam knows what all of those numbers and dials mean.   
We finally reached our destination and landed on a small and isolated air strip in Western Missouri for the Carbo drop.
Did I mention that we also were working with a researcher in the area?  There were some planter fertilizer plots in corn.  They are looking good, although some rain would certainly be welcomed.
This experiment is evaluating different planter fertilizer treatment comparisons.  Growers there still think they need dry fertilizer in the fall, so all of the plots had that.  But is planter fertilizer still helpful?  Well the rows on the left had no planter fertilizer, and the rows on the right had 2.5 gallons of Pro-Germinator + 2 quarts of Micro 500.  Quite a growth response I'd say.  But I am a trained scientist.  Hopefully you can see it too.  I made the picture extra big to help. There were several other planter additives too that will be measured for effect on yield.
On the way back to Indiana, we crossed the Mississippi River.  I guess if we didn't cross it, we would be going the wrong way.  It is fun to look at farmland from the air.  Look at the fields on the East side of the river in the floodplane.  I would imagine some years it is more suited for rice.  Look at the line of trees on the edges of the fields, I guess where the water stops.
Feel up for a planting challenge?  Then take a turn in the fields below.  I don't think gps guidance would be of much help other than maybe finding your way out.
This is why yield maps are all different colors.  You see alot of this in the air where there is quite a variation in soil types like here in Indiana.  (The color differences are not due to water as it is quite dry all through here.)
So shortly after this we landed Back Home Indiana.  (For those that don't know, that's the state song. You would have heard it sung by Jim Nabors at the Indianapois 500.  I've been several times, it's moving.  Poor Jim is quite ill now but is supposed to sing via recording at the race this weekend.  But enough on that.)  Nearly seven hours of flying there and back, but it saved two days of driving.  I then drove back to Michigan getting home very late last night.  But it was an interesting trip.  Thanks to Adam Air for the nice ride.  (But would it have killed him to offer the passenger some peanuts or something?)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bizzy (as in Show-Biz) Monday

 So yesterday I said we were done with soybeans, but we had some ground left and I found something else to test.  So Doug planted the final plot this morning.  OK, now we are really done.
Look who's back: the Creative Services crew to take some more footage of the season of NCRS research.  We plan on making a through-the-year record of the different parts of what makes research at the NCRS so extensive and complete.  Today was Brian's turn to explain vegetable plot establishment.
Epic footage indeed!
Here is Tim making fungicide and fertilizer applications in wheat plots on Farm 5.  They look a little close, but I assure you: No cameramen were injured in the filming of this movie.  So this will continue through the summer, but maybe I don't want to spoil how it turns out.  I may keep the rest of the production under wraps until the premier this fall.  So keep it on your radar.
In the meantime, Stephanie started the operation of running the lines for the edges of the plots.  Recall that Ron built this for us and it works great.  Using gps and autotrack for guidance, it accurately and quickly marks the lines.  Then we can just use the field cultivator to clean up the rest of the alley outside the lines..
Looks good so far, but there are many other Farms to run.  I like Stephanie to do this so she can also keep an eye out for any plot oddities that may appear to her trained eye.  Plus she understands where all of the lines should go.
Next order of business for the field crop folks is sidedressing of corn, while Brian still has some transplanting to finish.  This is just Monday, so plenty more action this week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Really Busy End of Week (Probably could have added a few more "really's")

So the end of the week saw a flury of activity.  Many days of planting turned into nights of planting, as seen in the picture below of Tim planting soybeans on Farm 5 on Thursday.  Stephanie took this artsy pic to let me know that I'm not the only one that can take a cool pic around the farm.  I'll give her due credit for this.
Friday we had visitors from the office.  New corporate accountant Craig, who incidently started the same day as Tim, came out to see what goes on at the farm.  I'm sure he left thinking how easy he has it in town.
Lynette, who brought Craig out, had not paid us a visit in some time.  Stephanie gives her the low down on treatment mixing.  Hopefully she can see that we really do need and use all of the expensive things we have out at the NCRS.  Craig is in the tractor with Tim in the background.
Here Tim shows Craig all of the things he has to watch while planting a plot: display monitor, pressure gauges, red balls, speed, auto track, etc.  Lynette had a turn too. 

 Meanwhile back on the Farm 8 orchard, John Nye of Trickl-Eez irrigation was here to start the drip tape installations.  John lists his job as President and Chief Installer.  He did give Liquid a nice compliment as he has business all over the country and said that he has never seen a company so dedicated to research as Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers.  He said we are way ahead of most universities as well.  John is discussing the layout with Brian and Doug.  Ron A and Randy are in the background putting in fittings and electricals for the main water supply pipe.  I hope you can all stop by and see this in the future as it will likely be the premier orchard research operation in the country.
Tim B looks like he just cut off his thumb, but he is telling me to take my camera and get out of the way, as he has work to do.  But I know he feels hurt if he isn't in the pictures.
Tim and Dan install the drip tape fittings. That's a long push for the water to feed all of those trees.  It will be so cool to see the other lines running through the trees themselves.  This will be quite a place.
Meanwhile, summer student Jake ran the drill most of the day, as we see here on Farm 9.
Late Friday there were still some broadcast pre-emergence applications of fertilizer on corn up on Farm 10.  Tim and Stephanie see to it.
And the last planter operation of the week was Doug planting soybeans on new Farm 11.  We are testing some new experimental nutrient formulations on large plots with eight replications.  The sun was just going down when I took this. 
And with that, the corn and soybean plots are complete.  In spite of some weather delays, to be finished with the plots on May 18 is quite an accomplishment, especially considering we have 2 more farms this year.  But a top crew can do that.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Something Different

So today, in addition to the field crop planting that continues, there were several other activities that made for cool pictures and projects.  With all of the rain and cool weather of late, growers in the area are concerned with diseases of winter wheat and are spraying fungicides.  Hopefully you recall that we have done experiments with adding foliar nutrition to fungicide applications in recent years here at the NCRS.  We found significant yield increases, particularly with NResponse.  So everyone should be adding this to their fungicide applications.  Well I think they should anyway.  Why else would we do all of this work?  We have some good sized areas of winter wheat on Farm 8 and today made some field-sized applications to replicated strips of fungicide with and without NResponse, as well as no fungicide or fertilizer.  Each strip was over 2 acres in size.  The grain heads were just emerging.  Below Phil makes the application.  Next week will will do some more with another fungicide at a later growth stage.   
I showed pictures recently of the setting of transplants into the field.  Next on tap is transplanting into plastic-covered beds.  This is some good research and is reflective of grower practices.  First fertilizers are applied in bands on the ground.  You can see a band of liquid fertilizer to the lower right of Brian on the tractor.  Each bed has a different fertilizer treatment that is replicated several times.  Then Brian drives his machine over it that shapes the bed, drapes plastic over the bed, and buries irrigation tape under the bed.  So in essence, this is a shaper-draper-taper operation.  ( this thing on?)  Anyway, we see Tim at the end waiting to cut the plastic and the tape.
Tomorrow they will transplant green peppers, and I hope to be here with camera in hand to record this.  Below is a look at the covered bed area on the South end of Farm 3.  It looks pretty cool, and will even more so after the plants are in.
So once again, every day is an adventure at the NCRS!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Keep Planting

So here is a rare mid-day posting of Live From the NCRS.  This has again been a busy week with decent weather for getting lots planted.  Although it did rain some last night.  That slowed things up some this morning.  So here are a few pics to bring you up to speed.  On Moday Brian and Tim started planting the potato plots.  Again, the mechanical planter seems to have done a great job with fertilizer application at the same time.
Doug plants corn up on Farm 10 with the Monosem planter.  We had three planters running at the same time yesterday.  Now that's the way to get plots planted.
Here is a pic of the strawberry plots.  They are all flowered and ready for some fertilizer to get into berry production mode.  Everyone knows there is such a big difference between fresh-picked and store-bought fruit.  But there is nothing like fresh-picked strawberries for taste......Oh, I'm sorry, must have zoned out for a minute dreaming of eating strawberries.  Dreams become reality soon.
We are generous to a point.  Brian and Dan put up a solar powered electric fence line to discourage deer.  As I have shown in the past, there is no shortage of deer damage to plots of all types, and hopefully this will encourage them to move on.

Ron works some ground on Farm 5 for one of the last corn plots to be planted this week.
Phil drills.  Soybeans that is, on Farm 5.
Stephanie and Kirk mix up the next soybean treatment for loading into the Kinze planter.
Tim's planter kicks up some dust planting the 15 inch row soybeans.
And before we knew it, the day was over.