Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Off the Beaten Path at the NCRS

So as if I haven't said enough about our Research Field Days, our crack video crew from Creative Services sent me a "teaser" of a piece they made last week from one of the tours.  Watch it if you dare, but it is me talking about research tour stuff.  (Click on it and then click to go to the link.  It's on You Tube.)

In other news, last week in the morning before one of the tours started, I was on the back side of Farm 8 where we planted some cover crops after wheat harvest.  I had not been back there since planting and drove over to take a look.  Below are some of the oilseed radishes that we planted.  We also planted some strips of field peas.  They look pretty nice in this picture.  But in other parts of the field it is hard to look at all of the volunteer wheat growing.  But that's cover as well I guess.
Here is a picture of the back of the orchard from the wheat stubble on Farm 8.  It looks pretty cool with all of the wood structures holding the wires.  But in a few years you will better see all the trees.
So that is it for now.  I am on another fertilizer mission in parts unknown for now.  I suspect good things to report.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Big RFD* Week (*-Research Field Days)

So this was a busy week with three Research Field Days at the NCRS.  With three this week and two before, that makes....wait a minute.....um....five!  And the headcount is nearly 400 visitors to date.  There are two more on September 11 and 13, so there is still time if you want to make a visit.  When the NCRS staff gets all dressed up in our new shirts, this makes a good picture opportunity.  So on Tuesday morning, we smiled and posed for 1/400th of a second with the results below.  There is another version on the website, so I put this one here where far more people would see it.  In case you don't know, from left to right are Tim, Stephanie, Brian, New Tim, Doug, Ron, me, Phil and Dan.  When you look this good, of course the tours will go well!  (I have a lot of pictures on this posting, so you better be sitting down.....)
Every morning there is prep work to get things ready for the tour.  One job at the potato stop is to dig potatoes from the different fertilizer treatment plots to show.  Here are Tim, Dan and Brian doing that.
Last time I showed pictures of the afternoon field tour.  But in the morning are six "demonstration" stops where a different aspect of crop fertilitiy is featured.  The crowd is divided up and makes the rotations.  Here we see Field Agronomist Jay from Indiana help out with showing and explaining corn plots treated with different nitrogen fertilizers and rates.
Stephanie discusses the effects of different planter fertilizer placement on corn and soybeans.
Also at this stop Doug shows the different fertilizer placement options on our plot planter.
Brian had had a variety of topics at his stop including aspects of fertilizing transplants, in this case, butternut squash.
Navy beans are an important crop, but not many growers on the tour actually produce them.  So Tim gave a nice presentation on edible bean growth, as well as some fertilizer aspects.  In this case he shows the effects of foliar fertilization with ferti-Rain.
Growers always have a bunch of questions about everything from fertilizers to soils to general crop growth.  Here at the Q & A stop, our chief know-it-all Cory gives explanations of how it all works.
And at my stop on effects of different fertilizer P and K products and programs on corn growth, I show roots, ears and corn plant height.  There were some dramatic differences, especially here where there was no added P and K.  The corn was over 14" shorter with samller ears and roots than other P and K fertilized plots.  (Certainly worth the trip right there.)
On Wednesday we were happy to see that Mr. Darren Hefty had made the trip to the NCRS, accompanied by his son.  Darren said he enjoyed the tours and his son said he enjoyed the ice cream and candy bars.
Poor Darren.  There is no escape from the paparazzi even at the NCRS.
During the morning Troy prepared another batch of 2-cylinder ice cream.  That's Troy in the brown shirt on the left making sure nobody tries to get an early taste.
After the morning demonstrations, it was time to eat.  The meal was great, barbeque brisket and chicken.  And ice cream.
Our lunch entertainment was provided by our lunch sponsors.  Here is Jim from the Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation, or the RNMF if you prefer.  His message was to the effect that we need to get science behind farming practices before the uninformed non-farming public implements regulations.  Farm Guy agrees with Jim.
Another day featured Darrell Bruggink of the No-Till Farmer magazine talks about their publication and especially the National No-Till Conference coming up in January in Indianapolis.  He said that the last conference had over 900 attendees, a record.  Liquid fertilizer is a partner in this conference and attends every year.  See you there.  Farm Guy might even be there.
And after lunch there was a riding tour of some of the research plots around the NCRS.  At the stops we hoped to impress upon the grower visitors the vast amount of research that is conducted to support both existing products and practices, as well as the development of potential new products for the future.
So that was a week.  We will get rested and ready to do it again in September.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Journey Into Dryland

So there is drought over much of the country this year making it tough for growers, ranchers, and pretty much everyone.  Can fertilizer enable better production in dry conditions?  That will be the unintended findings in some tests we have in Oklahoma this season.  It has definately been dry for the past several years there.  I was down yesterday to have a look.  Here is our replicated plot fertilizer test in milo near Hinton.  It has held on pretty will with less than 0.2" of rain in the last month and temperatures regularly over 100.  In fact it is ready to harvest.    
We also have a cotton test at the same location.  It is looking kind of rough.
Look at all of the flowers that have been shed onto the ground.  Hopefully they will get some rain to enable the cotton to hold onto the bolls that it has now. 
Below we see Sales Account Manager Jake and Area Manager Parker giving their views.  After much discussion it was concluded that some rain would be helpful. 
It is good to get out to see how things are in other parts of the country.  Wish I had better weather news.  After this I left for a continuation of the fertilizer mission to another place and some other crops.  Again, stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Research Field Days Are Underway!

So this past week was the first of our seven Research Field Days at the North Central Research Station.  The tours consist of a morning session rotating amongst six different "hands on" type of demonstrations.  The one that I was hosting was root digs, where we dug up around corn roots that had different fertilizer programs.  So last Monday, Doug got a mini Track hoe from one of our plot sponsors (Miller Brothers Excavating) and dug out the soil between plot rows.
Then it was my job to wash the soil from the roots to see if there were differences.  There were.
We had ten different fertilizer plots where we dug out the roots.  Besides roots, we also observed effects on ear development and stalk height, which is what that white PVC pipe is for.  It told a pretty good story.  I may do a feature on this in the future.
The first tour on Tuesday was great.  We had a good crowd and good weather.  But the second tour on Thursday had a good threat of rain, and so we had several charter flights postpone their visit.  But wouldn't you know it, despite some occasional drizzle and a little mud, it was a good day to be in the field.  Farm Guy welcomed our visitors.
After a great and filling lunch break, it was time for the research plot tours to give visitors an idea of all of the new things being researched at the NCRS.  With the cancellations due to weather, we combined the groups into one tour.  So I got to see what Tim and Stephanie were saying.  Below Tim talks to the group about the sugarbeet plots. 
And here he is talking about the Navy Bean plots.  Now only a few in the tour group grow these crops, but there is always something to learn.  I think growers like to see other crops anyway.  Tim did a great job of explanation, calling on his many years of USDA plot work in these crops.
Below Stephanie talks about soybeans and the different foliar programs and products being tested here at an experiment on Farm 7.  Stephanie is a tour pro, this being her 13th season at the NCRS.  I'm sure that whatever she said was true and correct.
Here is a strip-till plot where the nitrogen was purposely left off for a few feet at the end of a plot to show the effects of no N.  OK, maybe it wasn't on purpose, but it makes a nice demonstration.  That N source here is our experimental nitrogen product N-10 which may be a new product someday soon.
There was plenty too see and comments from the visiting growers has been very positive so far.  We will take a week off and then have three more the following week.  In the meantime, I am off on another fertilizer mission and hope to provide updates here in the days to come.  Have a great week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


So first, Tim sent me a reference on the fungus from our last episode.  The fungus is of a group called  Stinkhorn fungi.  They are kind of common and there is no prediction as far as where you can see them.  I had never seen one on the farm.  It does say that the spores are in a sticky goo on the end  (I did reference the sticky end), and flies land there and get spores on their feet, and then fly off to where ever flies go, and deposit the spores.  According to the pictures, this one is a Dog Stinkhorn.  Well I do like dogs.

In addition to all of the prepratations for the Research Field Days coming up, Stephanie and Tim took a couple of days to attend the Farm Journal Corn College down in Coldwater.  They enjoyed it and it was a good learning experience.  So you can ask them anything on corn and expect an accurate answer.  Here they are with their diplomas.  There were some others from Liquid that went too.
On Friday, Dr. Karen Renner of MSU came out to visit intern Kirk and see if we were treating him well.  She is his advisor and was making sure we weren't just running a sweat shop.  Well, I have seen him sweat I guess.  But it went well.  She came last year too to see Jeff and Amanda.  I think I said then that Karen and I were in graduate school together at MSU, well let's just say it was a few years ago.  Stephanie took this picture of them in the apple orchard where Kirk explained his tasks there, which were recorded here.
Later on Friday Stephanie, Tim and I took a drive around the farm to see how the plots for the tour were looking.  Here is Tim in the soybeans on Farm 7.  Things were pretty dry until we got some rain recently, as Tim shows in the tall soybeans there. 
And still later, we took a driving tour around the farm to make sure that the drivers knew the routes.  Here we see Stephanie, Kirk, Nick, Phil, Tim, Brian, Ron and Doug at the sugarbeet stop.  A big thumbs up from them.  (As ordered.)
But the sugarbeets do look pretty good.  We have never grown beets here before, and used Nutri-Till to put them in.
Well that was quite a week wasn't it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Always Much To Do

So like the title says, there is always much to do here at the NCRS.  We start our Research Field Days next week, and that takes preparation.  Look at these Navy Beans in an experiment on Farm 3.  They are filled in nicely and will be shown on the Field Crops tour.
But there is still plot work to do.  Crops don't care about tours.  Here we see Brian making a fungicide application yesterday, again with the wonderful Prop-Tech sprayer.
Today though, it was back to the backpack sprayer for fertilizer treatment applications to these carrot plots.
There are a lot of vegetables in this field, all in fertilizer testing plots.  You can barely see Brian making the long walk back for another fertilizer mix. Then do it again.  Better than a day at the gym.
Who doesn't like broccoli?  Well that leaves more for me.  I love the stuff, especially with melted cheese on it.  So here was a basket of it sitting out today.  Where did it come from?
It came from the broccoli experiment of course.  Here we see Dan and Tim making a harvest.  Broccoli grows so fast that plots are harvested twice a week.  Lots of work here.  (Time for me to go.)
The cabbage is only a few weeks from harvest.  Tim and Dan are glad it is harvested only once.
So guess what I saw in one of the corn plots?  No really, tell me. I don't know.  I have never seen this before.  There were two of them right next to each other.  Obviously some sort of fungus.  It was kind of sticky on the brown end.  I will say that it was in a plot that received urea, if that means anything.  I was by myself, and as I bent in close to take this picture, I did kind of think about that scene in the movie Alien where that thing came out of the egg thing and attached itself to that astronauts face.
That sure wasn't very pleasant for him.  But fortunately that thing I saw didn't have an Alien inside.  Or it wasn't ready to come out yet.
And here is field crop Tim at the end of the day making foliar applications to sugarbeets.  Why are the beets so small?  Well we had a sugarbeet experiment here that was planted in mid-April, but one day in early May we got nearly 3 inches of rain and it collected on this part of the field and killed the stand.  This rain kept us from planting for several weeks.  But it was decided to re-plant (we hate the "R" word) on May 21, which is late for sugarbeets. And it became mostly a foliar experiment.  So we will see what happens.
So this was a busy day, and I didn't even show everything that happened.  But I'm tired just writing about it.