Sunday, June 24, 2012

Never-Ending Orchard Work and Foliar Feeding Soybeans

So are you like me, a corn and soybean guy that didn't know how much work it takes to grow apples?  Well I imagine that after they are up and producing, you can just put your feet up and wait for harvest.  Well there is probably more to it than that.  But in the new orchard on Farm 8, now with the posts and wires in, it is time to start training the branches.  I talked a little about this from my trip to Washington this week.  The idea is to get the branches to grow sideways, parellel to the wire, and not out into the row middles.  Plus you want lateral growth, not straight up growth.  So like kids, you have to start training them early while they are still pliable.  Below we see Intern Kirk using big rubber bands to bend the little branches down.
Here is a close-up.  Also notice the wire around the tree that would hold it to the wire and not flap around.  They did this prior to rubber banding.  Recall that there are over 3000 trees here. 
Below we see Dan applying rubber bands to the trees in the border row.  There is no wire here.  These are for replacements in case a tree dies out in the main part.  Pray for no tree mortality.  (By the way, all of those weeds in the row have been recently sprayed.)
So you can barely see Kirk back up the row.  They will be at this for awhile.  (I had important fertilizer issues to deal with, so I was unable to provide assistance.  Plus they would have had to re-do it all anyway.)  So did I say we have been very dry at the NCRS?  We did get nearly 4/10" on Monday, but could sure use more.  Doesn't it look like the sky is about to open up here last Thursday?  Well you know how it is when about 5 big drops fall, and that's it?  That was it here.
Meanwhile on Friday, the long process of soybean foliars started with applications to V4 soybeans, here on Farm 3. Here Tim makes applications in the Hagie on Friday.  (Photo credit to Stephanie.)  Now that we are into summer with the days now becoming shorter, this will trigger flowering soon in these soybeans.
Well that was a week.  Other than the dryness, things are going pretty well here at the NCRS.  I sure hope you are planning to attend one of our six Research Field Days coming up in August.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Visit to Washington (the good one, that is).

So I hope you're sitting down as there is lot's to look at in this episode.  This past week I spent several days in Washington, the state out west, not the other one.   Anyway, we have some contract research plots out there, so it was time for me to pay a visit.  It is in a thriving agricultural area called the Palouse.  This is an area of fertile hills and valleys that originated as grasslands, but now have substantial areas of wheat and legumes.  The Palouse is generally in Eastern Washington, NE Oregon and West Central Idaho.  It's very pretty.  While much of the country was baking last week, on Monday it was only in the 50's with light drizzle throughout the day.  Below is one of our spring wheat plots evaluating different phosphorus and nitrogen programs at planting.  Couldn't really see any differences at this point, but they are well laid out and should give good information come harvest.
Here is another wheat plot in another location, this one evaluating different N and S applications.  You can see some of the hills that are a characteristic of the Palouse.  There were some farmer's fields that were on incredibly steep hills.  We marveled at how you would plant, much less harvest on such steepness.  I guess you do it at night so that you can't see where you really are.
Here is a test plot of peas, another important crop in the Palouse.  Again see the hills in the background.
And right next to that is a fertilizer test on......lentils!  This is the first plot work that I am aware of for Liquid on lentils.  Made me long for some soup!
After that we made our way towards Pasco, WA, taking the scenic route.  Here is an overlook of Lewiston, ID on the left and Clarkston, WA on the right.  Guess who they were named after?  There are two rivers flowing together to make an important new river.  The Clearwater River on the left is flowing to the West to meet the Snake River flowing to the North, to become the Columbia River.  You can kind of see that here.
That night we stayed in Pasco, and ate dinner down by the Columbia River in Kennewick.  Below is the bridge between these two of the Tri-Cities. It was very pretty at sunset.

The next day we went up the river to Sunnyside where we have an apple experiment.  I did see a number of orchards using this trellis design where the limbs are trained along wire on posts and not have any limbs growing out into the middle.  It enables better traffic through the trees, and makes maximum utilization of sunlight.   It is similar to the new orchard at the NCRS, although the NCRS orchard has closer planting and this one did not have the fixed spray lines through the canopy along the wire.  But it did make a nice set-up for treatments.
Below my traveling companions Sales Account Manager Paulino and ACLF Agronomist Alan take a closer look.
Right next to the apples was a hop yard, which is what you call a place where hops are grown.  The Columbia Valley supplies 75% of the hops used by the nation's brewers.  See how they grow up the string.  This was the first year for these hops, which are perennials and regrow each year.  We have had some fertilzer used by hops growers, but have never done plots.  Hope to do that next year.
After the apples and hops, Alan headed home to Idaho while Paulino drove me back to Spokane so that I could fly back to Michigan the next day.  I like Spokane.  These falls on the Spokane River made a nice view for dinner.  OK, I don't always have dinner by such great views like tonight and last night.  But it's kind of hard to avoid in Washington.
Can't wait till my next trip out there.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Orchard Progress...and more!

So it was a busy time last week at the NCRS.  "Busy" is a common description anymore.  But on the Farm 8 orchard, posts and wires were installed for the apple tree management program. 
The posts were set between every 10 trees, and two levels of heavy wire were installed.
On Friday, Brian showed Doug how the branches of the apple trees will be trained along the wire, and not out in between the rows.  Irrigation lines will also be strung along the wires in the future for application of nutrition and pest control materials.  The installation company did a great job, especially when they learned that this will indeed become a showplace for research.
In other news, the wheat is rapidly approaching maturity.  Here is the experiment on Farm 3.  Stephanie predicts that we will be harvesting around the Fouth of July, which this year coincides with Independence Day.  That would be about a week earlier than in the past couple years.
Here is the Navy Bean experiment on Farm 3, with the beans emerged and growing.
Remember our new Farm 10?  We have some new treatment comparisons there in large sized plots.  There were visible differences on Friday with the treatment on the left looking bigger than the treatment on the right.  But will it yield more?  That's what we will find out, us being researchers and all.
What was I doing this past week you ask?  I was in Nebraska checking on some of the research plots we have established out there.  Below I am getting the low-down on the corn plots.  Things are dry out there, as they are in Michigan.  Fortunately, they were about ready to start the furrow irrigation.
So again I am off on a fertilizer mission to see how research plots are coming along in another part of the country.  Hint: I am going 3 time zones away.  So join me next week from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Or not.
Oh yes...Go Thunder!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another Week Gone Bye

So remember that big tall tower we have at the farm next to our office/shop building?  It is a relay for the internet from the St. Johns office to the Ashley plant.  Well it seems that there is a lot of wasted space up there, so we wanted to add some stuff for our benefit at the farm.  We are going to put in our own gps base station for better Greenstar reception.  And also we will have an antenna for communication radios.  We have them, but they won't communicate to the far reaches of all of the farms.  I did not know that you had to have a certified tower climber in order to do this.  So we were never able to use the short straw approach.  Here is a picture that Stephanie took of the ascent.  He did make it to the top and did whatever it was he was supposed to do.  Now there is still some ground wire work, but it will be soon.
Last week was also busy finishing up field crop planting.  Experiments were planted of Navy beans, grain sorghum and sunflowers.  And that finished the field crops.  We are all in.
The specialty crop crew was busy as well planting cantaloupes and watermelons, plus cucumbers.  They have a few more vegetables next week and a final planting of sweet corn and they will be done.
While all of this fun was happening at the NCRS, I was in South Dakota and North Dakota visiting some contract research plots in corn, spring wheat, canola and potatoes.  I also had a chance to stop by Hefty Seed in Baltic and visit the Blank Slate Plots, Year 3.  Recall that a late hail storm messed up the field last year.  The planter applications were of a 50/50 blend of Pro-Germinator + Sure-K with Micro 500.  Below I am standing between 16.5 gal/A on the left and 10.5 gal/A on the right.  It is hard to see in the picture, but I thought the higher rate had better color and was a little taller.  And more so with the 21 gal/A rate.  What?  Did he really apply 16 and 21 gal/A?  Did I mention that this was in-furrow?  Well it was, and we saw no stand issues with the higher rates.  This is the third year of this.  It is higher than our regualar "safety" max of around 10 gal/A in furrow.  But this is a test for soil that is very low in all measured nutrients.  And it is good to see such seed safety. 
Well that was that.  More next week.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't Be De-turd!

So the other day I was getting a haircut in St. Johns.  In the usual chit-chat, the girl cutting my hair asked where I worked. 
I proudly said "Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers." 
She said "Oooh. I always cover my nose when I pass that place."
I asked her why.
She said "Because I don't want to smell all of that manure!"
So I got out of the chair and gave her a dope slap and said "How stupid do you have to be to cut hair in this place?"  Well thats what I thought about doing.  But in reality, I told her that while manure can be used as a fertilizer, most complete fertilizer starts either in the earth or the air that we breathe.  We just re-arrange it so that plants can use it as food.   I added that there is no manure in the fertilizer that Liquid makes.  She said "Oh."  Well it was a start. 
We all have to spread the word about the goodness of agriculture wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

Happy Anniversary!

So does anyone know what we, or at least me, are celebrating today?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Well would you believe that 20 years ago today (June 8, 1992) I first walked through the Liquid doors as an actual employee. Well I did.  And what a time it's been.  In the picture below on the left is my employee picture taken on my first day.  Well actually it was at the Annual Sales Meeting in July at Eagle Creek State Park in Findlay, IL.  (Was anyone reading this actually there?)  The banquet had a Hawaiian theme.  (Man I was good looking.)  And the picture on the right is nearly 20 years later actually in Hawaii.  That was January of 2012.  Wow, full circle, kind of.  (I'm sure that some of the readers will know where I am in that picture.)
Now I found that 1992 picture today in a picture album at the office.  (Someday I should put in some of the other pictures that I found.)  Look how eager I was, as I was just beginning the jouney of high usability plant nutrition.  Am I worn out now?  Heck no, I'm looking forward to the next 20 years!  (Can't wait for that picture.)  Fertilizer life is so good that I have had only had one sick day in 20 years.  Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers was quite a bit different back then.  The word hadn't quite gotten out like it has today.  We didn't have all of the luxuries of today, and it was quite a challenge.  This is true: shortly after starting I kind of had some doubts, and said that I would just work here until I found something better.  Well, 20 years later, I'm still looking. But I don't think anything better will come along.  I am so fortunate to have been around in the early days and especially glad to have spent so many great years working with Mr. Cook.  So I'm committed to Liquid as the Research Proven way to superior crop nutrition!  Happy Anniversary indeed. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is it June already?

So the week started really hot, into the 90's on Monday, and 80's on Tuesday.  But by Thursday and Friday, the highs were only in the 50's.  I did a little travelling around the state on Thursday and Friday, and people are talking about maybe being able to double-crop soybeans after wheat here in Michigan, at least in the Southern part of the state.  This is not a normal practice here with normal wheat harvest in mid-July or later.  But with the early warmth and wheat looking farther ahead than normal, well this could be the year.  In fact, some gowers have already made calls about getting some soybeans ordered. But many more days in the 50's for highs will put the brakes on that.  But we will see.

At the NCRS this past week it was time to start taking stand counts of the corn and soybean test plots.  This is extremelly boring, which is why we have our summer students do it.  But they need to learn that not everything in fertilizer research is so exciting.  Below we see Jake and Kirk counting corn in a no-till plot.  For corn we use a 25 foot chain, and soybeans, a meter stick.  This will tell us of any treatment effects on stand, plus let us know if our actual stand matched our intended stand at planting.
It was also time to start evening up the ends of the plots.  Recently I showed how Stephanie uses gps and a special tillage tool to mark the plot edges, and below Ron runs tillage along the track.  Now the plots and replication blocks will be nice and straight.
Now that we are big time farmers of over 500 acres, we can have have tanker fertilizer delivery from the Ashley plant.  Below we see Dennis and Tom unloading High NRG-N into our bulk tank.  Recall that the floor of this fertilizer storage building is shaped to enable recovery of any spills.  Fortunately it wasn't put to the test today.  But we were ready none the less. 
We have been very dry, with no rain for several weeks, and the crops are showing it.  Fortunately some of the NCRS is irrigated, but most is not.  The forecast for rain Thursday night came through, and by Friday afternoon we had received around 2 inches.  It was a slow and steady rain which will be very beneficial.
This was the view from my old office window at the NCRS....
....which gives a much better view of what is happening outside than the view from my current office in town.  But you can hear the raindrops hitting the metal roof if you listen carefully.  That is if the neighbors next door are being quiet.
Well I am off on a fertilizer mission next week, so stay tuned and have a great week yourself.