Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day Shift at the NCRS

So did you know that our first Research Field Day tour is only one week from today?  Yesterday I wanted to take a look at one of the demonstration stops. It is a comparison of different planter and dry fertilizers on corn growth.  We plan to bring back the ever popular root trenches for better looks.  So I dug up some plants from each of the 10 plots to see what is happening.
Below are a couple of the comparisons.  On the right is an in-furrow application of 5 gal/A of Pro-Germinator, and on the left is Fertilizer X.  The Pro-Germinator has much more root volume than Fertilizer X.  Actually we will reveal the identity of Fertilizer X next week.  There are many other Fertilizers in this comparison stop.
We actually got a half inch of rain last night.  It was a surprise, and do we ever like surprises like that.  We also got nearly 2" late last week while I was gone.  But below is one of the demonstration sites on Farm 5.  It is a second site just in case there were issues with the one on Farm 3.  Looks like we will go with Farm 3. 
You know with all of my travels of late, I kind of have trouble remembering my way around the NCRS.  Fortunately my Taurus has GPS capability for easy guidance.  It was alfalfa harvest day, so I drove it on over to watch.
Around 11 am it was dry enough to start cutting the alfalfa.  Ron operates the haybine for each plot.
Late in the afternoon it was time to bale it up for weighing.  It is ok if it is wet as we aren't storing it.  It will be cow food pretty soon.
Phil lowers the bale for weighing and sample collection by Stephanie and Tim.  I know I showed this for the last cutting, but it does make for nice pictures. 
So now for something completely different.  Brian made fertilizer applications to the new apples today.  There is a tube on the tractor that puts a stream of fertilizer at the base of the trees.  (Weed control was applied earlier in the week.  Next year residual herbicide will be applied in the spring.)
There are lots of different things going on every day.  Lucky us.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

LIQUID Again at Ag Ph.D Field Day

So in the last episode of Live From the NCRS, I said I was off on a special fertilizer mission after the Growth Conferences in Atlanta and Denver.  I flew to Sioux Falls, SD Thursday night in time for the Friday opening of the Ag Ph.D Field Day up in Baltic.  Fortunately most of the set-up work was done the previous day.  So here is the LIQUID tent.  Again we were fortunate to have the Furniture Row/Farm American #78 NASCAR race car.  It was a good draw, besides the opportunity to talk to us about fertilizer.
Wouldn't you love to talk about fertilizer with these guys?  Well fortunately plenty of others do.  Here we see Jim from the RNMF, SAM Brad, and top-AM's Kevin and Chad.....at your service.  (In the LIQUID tradition, there are lots of acronyms here.)
I had been in touch with some of the Hefty folks and heard how dry it was and was expecting the show crops to look not so good.  But I was amazed when I got there Friday morning.  They all looked great.  Both the corn and soybeans were green and tall, with no rain since the middle of June.  Well Hefty agronmist Mike explained that there is a good foot of topsoil and then some heavy clay, that in years like this, really helps hold soil moisture.  Good thing.  Below we see some folks looking at the corn and soybeans that were fertilized with LIQUID.  Very impressive.
Wow.  Look at the crowd that came down to our tent!  They must really love LIQUID.
Or maybe that's where the tour started.  Here we see Brian and Darren up on the stage truck to talk about the different show plots.  Naturally there were good things said about LIQUID nutrition.
Brian and Darren lead the crowd down the midway, and there was plenty to see.  I liked the big flag.  It was actually cool and cloudy in the morning, but did heat up later.  But it was a nice day for July.
One of the featured guests was the 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlan from Western Nebraska.  She is from a rural background and talked to the lunch crowd about rural values and silly laws which is why she wants to become a lawyer and maybe a Supreme Court Justice or President. 
One of the things they had was a corn wheel where the rows of corn get narrower towards the middle.  Here on the edge where the rows are 4 feet apart, the ears are big, and the silks are starting to brown.
At the middle of the wheel where the rows are less than a foot apart the ears are smaller and the silks aren't yet fully emerged.  I guess this shows something.
Hefty agronomist Mike spent the day in our tent and visited with many growers that stopped by.  He has seen good results with LIQUID and has become an excellent spokesman for its use.  He talks to a grower out by the demo plots.
Pat from Furtniture Row/Farm American talks to some big NASCAR fans about the race car.
Finally at the end of the day Brad drove me out to the Blank Slate plots.  On the way our we passed corn that was on sandy ground that was burnt up.  But the Blank Slate corn must share that clay layer that is keeping it looking good....so far.  It has to rain eventually to finish strong.
So that was my day.  Now it's back to the NCRS to prepare for our tours coming up in August.  I guess we won't have Miss America, but maybe Brian can wear a sash or something.  We'll work on it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spreading the Word

So this was a busy week of fertilizer meetings.  This was the week of the Corporate Growth Conference in both Atlanta and then Denver.  It was for the dealers, or Area Managers of Liquid fertilizer.  Of course a major part was the Research Update.  Below we see Stephanie on Tuesday morining in Atlanta talking about, well Research.  It was a Research Update after all.  She also gave an update on the rapidly approaching Research Field Days.  In fact one of them is already sold out.  There was also other stuff presented at the conference, and there was a good turnout of our great Area Managers, without whom, none of this would be possible. 
As with any Liquid event, it isn't all work.  Due to our association with Farm American and Furniture Row Racing, we got to visit the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  There were some folks from Furniture Row Racing to give us a tour and presentation about what is going on with Farm American.
We also got to ride in a pace car around the track.  Well not all at once.  So it took awhile, but we also got to see the turfgrass around the track that was fertilized with....that's right, Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers.  Sales Account Manger Jason Garcia was the point man on that project.  Although Stephanie did have input.
My turn.  Here we go.  We were going 130 mph.
Jay offers some back seat driving.
After that, we got to go up into the fancy box where the swell's seats are and have a great dinner.
After dinner, Troy addressed the group on topics as a LIQUID history lesson, our vision for the future and congratulations for a great sales year.
They had a trophy with the winners of all the NASCAR races at the Atlanta track on it.  Adam, Jay and I made nice for a pic.
Then it was back to meetings on Wednesday morning, good bye Atlanta, hello Denver, and do it again, except for the visit to the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  There was another group of Area Managers ready for some knowledge from Brian about the Fruit and Vegetable part of reseach.  There was another race-related activity planned for this afternoon.  That was a visit to the Furniture Row racing garage, as Denver is the headquarters for that team.
Alas, I had to miss that event as I am off on another fertilizer mission.  Rest assured that it will be reported here.  But it was a very enjoyable and knowlegeable week, hopefully, for the Area Managers and spouses who attended the meetings this week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Feels like it's 500 degrees out. Must be Louisiana in July.

So Monday after the NCRS RFD planning meeting I went down to Lafayette, Louisiana to visit some of the contract research plots there in Arcadiana.  We had some good results on some of the Southern crops, and are hopeful for more of the same this year.  Now I know it has been very hot all over the country, but hot takes on a new meaning in Louisiana with the high humidity.  It was only in the 90's by afternoon, but sweat was rolling freely.  There were plenty of people doing all sorts of outdoor jobs all over the place.  But I would imagine you have to be born and raised there to do it.  I can't see how you could move there from elsewhere and do it.  But I digress, as usual.  First stop in the morning was a visit to our second year sugarcane plots.  We had excellent results last year where Liquid outyielded the conventional dry and UAN.  (Yay! See Research Report or RSFG on Research Tab of web site.) Below we see Sales Account Manager Reid heading down the walk between plots.  By the way, how many know what fire ants are?  I found out the hard way by stopping and standing on an ant hill.  Also made the mistake of wearing shorts and my Keen sandals which enabled easy access to my flesh.  I see how they got their name, but lived to keep plot watching.  I did wear my mud boots the rest of the time though.
We also looked at some dryland cotton plots.  This cotton is small due to late planting due to dryness earlier in the season.  Odd year.  Very dry at the start of the year, and now pretty wet with numerous thunderstorms, almost daily, lately.  This has things looking good now.
Next we went to see our rice plots.  This is the second year of these plots, and also had very favorable results last year.  We were able to produce better yield with fewer application trips last year.  Again, these results are available on the Research web site.  In this part of the world, liquid fertilizer of any kind is viewed as weaker than dry. So this is our challenge.  So far, so good.
We also have several soybean experiments down there.  One is testing Liquid planter-applied and foliar vs dry broadcast (the norm).  One new test this year is using a Liquid input as a soybean seed treatment.  There are some nutrient seed treatments being used, but with some shortcomings.  So we are seeing if Liquid will turn that into a longcoming.  Also there is a repeat of using foliar fertilizers as a way to increase yield of soybeans that have been flooded.  What?  Well soybeans are often grown in rotation with rice in levees.  When there is heavy rainfall, the levees will flood temporarily causing stress to the soybeans.  In experiments last year, we showed that application of foliars, including 2 gal/A of ferti-Rain provided a 3+ Bu/A yield increase at several different floodings.  That was encouraging.
As I said it has been raining alot lately.  And wouldn't you know it, but here is what I was talking about where soybeans in rice levees can flood and cause stress.  Here was a real field with just that.  See how yellow the beans are?  This is just like our plot test last year.  After the ground dried, the fertilizer was applied.  I'm not so sure how it would be if the ground was still wet due to the plants kind of shutting down due to suffocation.  But maybe we could try that in the future.  Aerial appliction makes this easy.  There are lots of aerial applicators down there.  They provide essential services in disease and pest control, and why not add foliar fertilizer application?
And it's no secret to what else I like about Arcadiana: the food.  After a sweltering day, we went back and got cleaned up and cooled down, and went to our favorite restaurant in Lafayette: Randol's.  Not only is the food outstanding, but a Cajun band provides live music to eat by.  Reid didn't feel like dancing, so we left after eating.
Laissez le bon temps roule!

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Hard to believe we are only a few weeks away from the start of the Research Field Days (RFD) at the North Central Research Station.  Since many of us have been away on fertilizer business, it was time to take advantage of all of the NCRS research principles being there Monday, and have a planning meeting.  By this time the tour stops and activities are pretty much planned and laid out.   But we wanted to take a group consult.  Below we see Tim, Doug, Stephanie and Brian in deep planning discussion mode.  It will be great.  Likely the best one ever. 
See how the corn is of different heights in this plot.  This is evaluating different fertilizer placement methods.  And not just placement, but different fertilizers as well.  What we see here is.....wait, I'm not going to spoil the ending.  Find out on the RFD tours.
One thing that we have at the NCRS this year is heat and dry conditions.  Fortunately here on Farm 3 in the RFD field crop demonstration area, we have irrigation.  And it has been running steady to make up for lack of rain.  Dr. Brian has been runnng the drip tape on all of the fruit and vegetable plots as well.  Lots to see here.
It's not too late to register, but some of the days are nearing capacity.  So go to the agroliquid.com website to make your plans to attend the ACLFNCRSRFD here in St. Johns, Michigan.  After this session, it was time for my departure on an important fertilizer mission, which I hope to share in the next episode.  Stay cool.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Soybeans: Foliar Applications and Planting (?)

So the foliar spraying of soybeans continued at the NCRS this week.  There were hundreds of plots sprayed as foliar applications are a big part of the research program in field crops.
But planting of soybeans was also done this week.  What?  Well with the early wheat harvest, this may be the year for successful planting of double crop soybeans.  We are testing the effect of a fertilizer seed treatment compared to no treatment.  This would be for double crop soybeans after wheat harvest, but in the picture below Tim is planting some strips in the deomonstration area for the upcoming Research Field Days.  (The first ones are less than a month away, hope you have made plans to attend.  Go to the agroliquid.com web site for full details.)
There have been some alerts to be on the lookout for the Two-Spotted Spider Mite.  Now this pest shows up in dry years, and that is certainly the case this year.  Tim and Stephanie found a few infested soybeans.  Tim took this through a magnifying lens, and you can kind of see the webbing of the mites.  Actually that is how they travel, by letting the web silk carry them along in the wind currents like a balloon.  They must be pretty good travelers, although I'm sure some get wayward and end up in some non-bean fields.  (Hmmm.  I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.)  But there is just occasional infestation at the NCRS so far.  So nothing to lose sleep over.  Zzzzzzz.
Well I hope you are doing a rain dance.  It seems that most of the country is in the midst of extreme dryness, as are we.  Good luck where ever you are

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Looonngg and Busy Week

So this was a long and busy week.  Even with a couple of days off for the 4th of July, which also fell on Independence day this year.  On Monday I drove to a contract research test in Iowa.  I met Cory there on Tuesday morning.  Below is a soybean fertilizer test.  You can tell it's research because of the flags.  To the right is a test for corn.  You can tell it's corn by the way that it is.
They also have some tote tank tests.  Cory has seen to these for several years now.  They plant corn in these 300 gallon totes filled with soil.  The same totes are used each year for the different fertilizer tests.  There is a total dry, conventional liquid and all Agro-Liquid.  That one is in the middle below, which also is the biggest.  They will take yields on this later.
So we have been starving for rain, and actually got some early Thursday morning.  It was spotty for the area, but the NCRS got 0.7".  It really made a difference.  Remember that thirsty corn on Farm 7 that I showed just last Monday?  Well the corn below was near to it, and look at it now after the rain.  It's actually tasseling now.
It is even starting to silk, so pollination will soon follow.  (We will give them some privacy for that.)  But it is still so hot. 
Today we harvested the last wheat experiment which was on Farm 5.  I even got into the action.  Everyone wanted to be outside in the grain cart taking samples and recording plot weights.  But I pulled rank and got to do it myself.  Why be in an air conditioned cab when you can be out with nature?  The way you's lollygaggin around here, you'd think it was a hundred and twenty degrees.  Can't be more than a hundred and fourteen!  (Who said that?) 
And here is the last strip of wheat plots.  And before you knew it, we were done!  And some of the plots even yielded around a hundred and fourteen,  bushels per acre that is. 
The lack of rain and all this heat made the usually spectacular lawn on Farm 1 be pretty dry.
And how hot was it today?  Well this was at a little after 5 pm.   But it was only 98 during wheat harvest a few hours earlier.  (Do you like the cell phone holder Stephanie gave me?)
Well glad that's done.  There is still plenty of work to be done at the farm.  It's supposed to cool off by Monday, which will be good for continuation of foliar spraying.  And we plan to put in some double-crop soybeans for the first time ever at the NCRS.  I am off on a week-long fertilizer mission.  But I hope to be in touch via photo sharing to keep you informed.  Have a good weekend.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wheat Harvest on July 2? Believe It!

So today was the start of wheat harvest at the NCRS.  I never would have thought we would ever harvest wheat in the single digit dates of July.  But here we are a good 10 days earlier than even an early harvest.  But it was ready, and a number of growers around the area have started too.  It was hot today too, in the mid-90's.  Cooler than much of the country, but still hot.  Below we see the combine going through a plot in the wheat test on Farm 7, with the grain cart close behind.
Tim and Stephanie are recording the weights and collecting samples outside in the cart, while I keep watch from the air conditioned cab.  If you are new to reading about our harvest operation, the scale on the cart is set to two pound increments, which is plenty of accuracty for a 10 x 265 foot plot.  (We plant a 15 ft wide strip, but outside the tram lines is border).
Phil is all concentration as he guides the combine.  He also checks the monitor regularly to confirm with Stephanie and Tim which plot is being harvested.  Accuracy is my middle name,  (that's better than Leo don't you think?)
And round and round they go until finished.  They also harvested the plot on Farm 3.  There were 40 plots in the experiment on Farm 7 and 50 plots on Farm 3.  There is another test on Farm 5 and that big fungicide + fertilizer test on Farm 8.  Then some production wheat here and there.  But they will make short work of it.
Our poor non-irrigated corn is showing the effects of no rain and hot temperatures. It is rolling up in the hot afternoons.  This ground has produced 200+ bushel corn the past few years, but prospects are getting lower each day without a drink.  And nothing is in the forecast except chance of thunderstorms.
I had a fertilizer mission in Iowa and left soon after this.  Driving across Illinois in the late afternoon, it was hot, but the corn was not stressed like this.  They must have gotten some rain, and even so, the darker and  heavier ground probably holds water better than our light soil.  I did see corn starting to tassel along parts of I-80.  But I will remain optimistic.