Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mississississ...Somebody Stop Me!

So last week was my last fertilizer mission of 2013.  I left cold and snowy Michigan...
...for much warmer Mississippi.  It was in the upper 60's last Wednesday and Thursday.  But it was winter there too.  No crops or green leaves.  But I'll take warmth.  We drove by cypress trees in the lakes.
And the kudzu which has overtaken much of the country has dropped its leaves for the winter.  Hard to believe this was an introduced plant from Asia in the late 19th century as an ornamental and for erosion control.  It is the plant that ate the South, and is still spreading beyond control.
I was with SAM Jourdan and Dale from AgroLiquid HQ, and we were to visit with a soil fertility researcher from Mississippi State U at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville.  It is in Western Mississippi, and right next to Leland, MS.  Now I did not know this at the time, but guess who was born in Leland?   Kermit the Frog.  Well actually it was Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.  Jourdan and Dale have fun in the sun with Kermit outside the small museum there.
 Here is a picture of the original Kermit on the right next to a modern Kermit.  The original was made in 1957 out of his mothers old coat.  And the eyes were from a ping pong ball cut in half.  Kermit is actually the name of Jim's childhood friend and they used to catch frogs in the river that runs right behind the museum.
 Here is a picture of the master and all his creations.
Dale and Jourdan play tourist inside. 
There are displays of all the old stuff.  And a store to support the place. 
Kermit and I are now buds.
The river has an interesting Christmas display.  There are rafts decorated by area churches and groups in a parade.  They have lights, so it is probably cool at night. 
Here are the three wise men of course, with camel in tow. 
 And here is Kermit wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
I will say ditto to that.  OK, time to start my Christmas shopping.  I am best under pressure.

Lyle Hynes, One Of A Kind

So yesterday I went to the funeral of Lyle Hynes.  It was at the tiny country Methodist Church next to Farm 3.  I have known Lyle for nearly 20 years, since we started the NCRS.  He was the owner of Farm 5 before it became part of the NCRS.  In fact, I can still remember him farming that 80 acres with his old John Deere 60 and B.  You could hear the 2-cylinders popping several fields away as he was working ground back then.  In fact, the very first year of the NCRS in 1994, we did not yet have a combine and he harvested our winter wheat crop with his old Case combine.  And no cab of course.  I've got pictures around somewhere that I will have to find.  This was pre-digital of course.  I also remember him out walking fields with his hired summer help picking rocks out of the fields and throwing them on a flat rack, and them dumping them in piles on the edge of the woods.  Those huge piles are still there.  He was in his 70's and I remember the high school kids that were helping say that he was hard to keep up with.

We started farming his farm in 1997 as part of the NCRS, and it was purchased some time after that with the understanding that he and his wife Marbeth could still live there.  I remember seeing the two of them sitting out on the porch as we drove back and forth with tractors, planters and combines.  They were asked if all of the equipment traffic bothered them and Marbeth said no, they like the excitement of someone working the farm that they had worked so long themselves.  Sadly she died a few years ago after nearly 70 years of marriage.  And now he has as well.  At the funeral it was said that he was a numbers man.  He could remember crops and yields from his farm by years.  And also the crop price and the production costs.  I remember that we bought a disk from him, and he told Doug and me how many pumps of a grease gun for each zerk.  Like "that one takes 5 and a half pumps."  And of course later we tested it, and he was right.  In the early days of the farm tours, we used to stop at his place and he would address the group and give his views on things.  Later he was known far and wide for his raspberries that he grew out front.  Once when he was ill, we offered to water them, and he told us how many minutes to hold the hose on each spot.  We even put in a drip system, but he preferred to hold the water hose.  Why change what works?

But one thing I did not know about was his military service.  It turns out he was a gunner on a B-26 bomber in World War II.  He flew 25 bombing missions over France and Germany.  Below is his service picture.  Looks just like him.  He was 92, and another veteran is gone. 

But a good and long life it was.  After all, he was a farmer.

Jean Has Left the Building...

So AgroLiquid said farewell to Jean Eldridge last week after nearly 28 years of dedicated service.  She has worked in the Accounts Payable section the past 7 years, but long-time Liquidites will remember her from her days as Distribution Manager.  It used to be run out of the St. Johns office.  Of course we were much smaller then, but during the busy season her office would be covered with state maps and sticky notes with delivery notations.  And there was a dry erase boards with the truck driver assignments for the week.  But it all worked, and she did a great job.  She was just getting started in that when I started and our offices were next to each other in the several buildings over the years.  Well she was given quite a send-off each day last week.  Such as the balloon fest.
The Post-It notes, with cheerful fond farewell messages from employees.
 And of course the foiling.  Thanks to Jill W. for these pictures.
 My favorite part was the good-bye lunch last Friday.  You had to be a seasoned Liquid veteran to attend.  Below we see Dave, Tracy, me, Jean, Lynette, Nikole, Colina, Dale and Doug.
Don't get the idea that Jean has reached the mandatory retirement age.  She is leaving young enough to enjoy life, as she and husband Jeff have trips planned and everything.  However, I have now moved up a notch and only trail Lynette and Dale in employee years served.  But good luck Jean!

Holiday Reading

So as the picture below says: "It's Here!"  The first installment of the annual NCRS Research Report is on the web site.  This is for the NCRS Field Crops.  Thanks to Stephanie and Tim for meeting their goal of completion before Christmas.  The fruit and vegetable section as well as the off-farm research are yet to be completed, but will be soon.  So take a look at what happened at the NCRS this year.
Admittedly, I was confused on finding it.  Go to agroliquid.com, then click on the word Research at the top of the page.  Not the drop down selections.  Then click on the picture there.  Additionally, the past issues of the wildly popular Research Supports Future Growth are back on the website.  New ones will start again in 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not Nice Ice

So we had an ice storm over the weekend.  It was bad....really bad.  And by bad I mean that I still don't have power.   The picture below is the omen of what was to come.  It was taken Friday morning at the NCRS by Tim D.  But the real carnage didn't start until Saturday night with the intense freezing rain and then....no power.
I got up Sunday morning and took a look around.  There were loud gunshot sounds all over as branches broke from trees and then shower down with the ice sounding like broken glass.  Look at the broken trees in this poor schmuck's yard. 
 Oh no, he's going to have a busy chainsaw session in the future.
 Yikes.  Oh the humanity.
 Hey wait...it looks like that poor schmuck is me!  Fortunately no branches landed on the Liquid Taurus...which has become a source of heat and phone charging.
 Well today I looked for similar damage at the NCRS about 20 miles to the North of me.  One broken branch.  Big deal.
I have a wealth of blogs in waiting, but wasn't able to access the blog post machine over the weekend, but will try to get caught up soon.  In the meantime, it looks like I will have plenty of firewood in the future.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Night Lights

So this is the time of year when it's dark when you get to work and also dark when you leave.  This evening a little after 5, Dale Ruff, who has the work station (not a cubicle) next to mine told me to look at the sunset out the window wall on the west side of our section of the office building.  Well he was giving some good advice, as you can see in the sunset picture below.  I have never seen anything like this before.  And loyal readers know that I have shown plenty of sunsets in the blog over the years.  I'm sure there is a name for this phenomenon, but I don't know what it is. 
 I ran (literally) up the stairs to the second floor balcony and took the picture below.  I mean something like this needs more than one picture. That was so cool.  But after sunset it was gone.  So it wasn't some sort of nuclear event.  And I promise that there was no trick photography or photo enhancement here.  This is the way that it was.
There were a number of Liquid employees snapping pics of the sunset, including Dale out the back door.
Well I already had my camera out, so here is the Liquid Christmas tree out in the lobby area.  It was donated and is a very nice tree.  I will say it was a challenge getting it put up in the stand on Monday, and supported by cables.  But it was worth the effort as you can see.  (Well I guess I didn't contribute any effort, but fortunately some people did.)  There is another tree in the back by the entrance to the IQ Hub, which will be open for business next year.  More on that later as the date approaches.
 So someone has done a great job of decoration.  Here is a view of the place from out front.  The green lit tree is actually dedicated to our founder Mr. Douglas Cook.  Can't believe it's been nearly 3 years since his passing.  He was a major influence on my career and I am still so glad that I got to work with him for so many years.
 Here is a closer view from the outside, with the big tree all lit up. So I think the first Christmas in our nice new office is looking top notch. 
So can you believe I have a fertilizer mission next week?  It is a company affair, but hopefully there will be something blog-worthy to report.  I will close by saying that this is an important football weekend for graduates and fans of Oklahoma State and Michigan State University.  Hey, I fit that description!  Well I hope that by this time tomorrow (Saturday) I am happy....and Galynn is sad.  Galynn is is supposed to be at the game in Stillwater.  Hope he has a Sooner red snowsuit as it will be arctic cold.  Hey maybe that sunset is an outer space orange omen that the Cowboys will indeed beat the Sooners!   That orange spike must be a #1!  Glad I figured that out.  Anyway, Go Cowboys... and Spartans too!

Update #1:  Saturday. 3:57 pm.  I could not be more depressed.  Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.  Stupid sun omen.
Update #2: Sunday 12:16 am.  Nothing like a Spartan victory to cheer you up.  Especially since they are Big 10 Champions and Rose Bowl bound.  Go Green!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Play That Funky Music.....

So before I am officially pronounced flipped...a prize to the first person who makes the connection between the title and this post.  Anyway, I apologize for the delay, but last Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) Brian and Tim B had one more field mission themselves.  For the past several years they have been monitoring the growth of cherry trees in a customer's orchard way up North near Traverse City.  And not just any cherry trees, but ones that have been sprayed with the tree growth enhancer Fase2.  Trees receiving applications of Fase2 during the season have had more growth in girth of branches and trunk, as well as being taller than those that were not sprayed.  Well the lateness of final harvests at the NCRS made this trip a little later, and wouldn't you know it, they were met with around 6 inches of new snow when they got there.  Tim can hardly contain his excitement for the tasks that await. 
Below we see Brian using some tree calipers to measure the width of the trunk of a cherry tree, at a set height off the ground for each one.  They did measurements on a number of the same trees that they have been keeping track of for the past three years.  There were trees of different ages, both sprayed and unsprayed.  But the results have been encouraging both in these research blocks as well as with fruit trees and bushes like blueberries around the country.   So don't be left out if you grow fruit.
These particular trees are Tart Cherry trees.  And did you know that Michigan is the number 1 state for Tart Cherry production?  Well it is.  Remember that next time you bite into a cherry pie.  And also thank Brian and Tim for helping bring Fase2 to market to enable even more cherry production without having to apply more fertilizer to the environment.  Well that was a wild cherry adventure wasn't it?
I will say that we are now into the part of the year where all of us researcher types are busily preparing our research reports so that we can share them with all of you out there in blog-land.  So there isn't much to show these days in the way of exciting fertilizer missions and other  adventures at the NCRS.   But there will be several winter missions from time to time out into the Land of Liquid to spread the word and to start preparations for next season.  So the reports will be fewer, but no less informative and entertaining when they do appear.  So check back from time to time.  But in the meantime, this would be a great opportunity to revisit some of the previous 361 posts of your favorite blog.  (And you better have said Live From the NCRS!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Last Field Project....Let's Eat

So as I said in our last blog installment, there was a Sales Management meeting in Dallas last week.  All of the sales managers were there.  To add some balance, a couple of agronomists and some researchers also attended.  That was Stephanie, Brian and myself.  We presented some of our preliminary research results from the NCRS and also from various university and contract research plots around the country.  Much of the results are very encouraging.  Some are head scratchers, but that's research. 
But someone had to stay home and see that research stuff gets done.  So Tim D made the maiden voyage with the new Orthman strip till machine.  Here he is last Wednesday running some of the fall fertilizer applications.  (But no UAN nitrogen is recommended for fall application up here!) They just got it put together in time for this experiment following wheat.  Next year corn will be planted here.   
These strips look really nice.  Our home-made Nutri-Till machine did a fine job for many years.  But it had become tired and was retired.  So it will be different running a commercial machine now.  Tim, Ron, Phil and Jeff all worked hard to get the tanks put on, hoses installed, as well as the pumps and rate controllers, the electronics and wires.  And then it is all linked to the Greenstar controller in the tractor cab.  Tim said the rate controllers from Ag Xcel are amazingly accurate and easy to use.  After a trial stationary calibration of the six row, he entered the outputs, and the computer made some flow meter cal adjustments and some other stuff, and the next time got the exact same output for each of the rows.  Again I will relate my story of the many hours Doug and I used to spend with stopwatches and graduated cylinders back in the day, and calculating tractor speeds needed for a rate.  And then doing it again for the next rate.  Kids today have it so easy.  But it is much more accurate and less tiresome now.  Although it is a little spendy.  But certainly worth it.   
As is the custom at the NCRS...the end of another successful year of research at the NCRS is commemorated with a nice farm-cooked meal.  This was last Friday.  I got there just in time to take this picture and pull up a chair.  Stephanie got a nice tenderloin, or some kind of meat.  She seasoned it with...well, seasoning.  Brian got some farm potatoes and vegetables, and then cooked the whole thing on the grill.  There was pie and ice cream for dessert.  The NCRS crew is the best and worthy of such a feast.    
We are all working on putting the research report together now and getting equipment winterized.  Plus putting  snow removal equipment on some of the tractors and trucks.  Does that mean what I think it does?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wrapping It Up

So last Friday morning I went out to the NCRS to see what was happening.  I mean it is a "happening place" after all.  The field crop crew had harvested the last of the sugarbeets on Thursday evening, and here is Phil getting the ground worked the next morning.  You have to work sugarbeet ground after harvest because of all the big and heavy harvest equipment and the traffic hauling them off.  It's a good thing he did because it rained quite a bit over the weekend. 
Do you know what caused this sugarbeet to be hollowed out?  It was from a deer feeding on it.  Beets are a delicacy to deer.  Although it may have been a last supper with the opening of deer season on Friday.  But it seems that there are always plenty of survivors that will be eating our soybeans again next year.
Here is the pile of plot beets along the road.  A machine called a Maus will suck them up and dump them into a truck.  I showed it in action in the November 4, 2010 blog posting if you are curious.  We had several of these piles around the farm this year.  The beet yields were very good here on dryland Farm 7 with yields over 30 tons per acre.  Look for the results in the upcoming Research Report.
Here is a close-up of the pile.  Most people have not seen sugarbeets before.  I'm not sure how they go from this to granulated sugar.  But I presume somebody does. 
Here are some of the corn stalks from a plot on Farm 7.  I am still very pleased with the performance of the Calmers stalk choppers that were put on our combine before harvest last year.  Again we see even stalk height and no leftover long stalks on the ground to cause no-till planting issues next spring. 
Since I was already on the ground for the previous picture, I crawled over to some of our winter wheat still doing nicely here on Farm 7.
I can't believe I haven't said anything about the NCRS video being up for viewing on our website.  It's been there for a few weeks already.  I showed several instances of making the video over the past season.  So see for yourself how it turned out.  I, of course, thought it was splendid.  Thanks again to our friend Mick and his crew at Creative Services for the nice production. (You can also revisit the RFD Live show from the NCRS last August.)
Well you think I would stay put for awhile, but there is yet another fertilizer mission this week.  It is a company business meeting, so not sure if there will be anything exciting to report.  But if there is.....

Friday, November 15, 2013

This Week, Why Not Florida?

So last week I made a fertilizer mission to California, so this week, why not Florida?  As with CA, it's been quite a few years since I've been on the job in Florida, so this would be a great time to check out some of the research projects and other fields of interest down there.  So here I was on Tuesday leaving Detroit behind.  That's Windsor, Ontario across the river.
I would also be leaving behind the remnants of the first snow of the season.  It wasn't much, but a peek at things to come. 
I thought the clouds over Lake Erie looked cool. 
 So the view over Florida was sans snow.  In fact there is plenty of winter agriculture to see, although I'm not sure exactly what it is.  But I would guess much of it is orange groves, and maybe tomatoes or something.  Back at the NCRS we are getting fall fieldwork completed before winter comes and here they are just getting started with some crops.
Here we are coming into Ft. Myers.  You could see some boats out on the water.  And maybe spending the winter in one of those high rises overlooking the Gulf would be a good time. Hmmmm. But I splashed some Fresca on my face and remembered I am on a fertilizer mission.  It was in the 80's when I landed.  No wonder so many people from Michigan make this their winter address.
That afternoon SAM Paulino and I looked at this field of young tomatoes growing with Liquid.  Keep it coming, they are going to need it.  There is a drip line under that plastic. 
If only this guy would have held on a little longer until AgroLiquid came to Florida.
The next day we were joined by Area Sales Manager Jim and visited a sugarcane test field in Clewiston.  You may recall that we have been doing some wildly successful sugarcane research in Louisiana.  But the growing culture is quite different in Florida.  The cane keeps growing all winter long here, but takes a time-out in Louisiana.  As such, fertilizer applications occur at planting in September/October as well as again here in a few weeks.  The planting season was very rainy, and planting occurred over an extended period of time.  So there was cane of all different sizes that we saw.  These plants were planted earlier and had Liquid, and are of good size.   
Here is a more recent planting.  This is a piece of seed cane that I pulled up.  It is harvested from another field and planted just for propagation.  These pieces are planted right on top of the fertilizer band in a furrow, and then covered up.  You can see the shoots growing from the "eyes" of the cane piece. 
Below Paulino, the farm manager and Jim examine the growth. 
It was really windy out.  The shoots are making sand art with their leaves.  If you look closely, you can see some shoots still coming up. 
Paulino is making some stand counts of the emerged shoots, and has quite a walk to go to the end of the field. 
It was really getting windy with blowing sand.  Hard to believe that it will grow anything.  But it can with fertilizer and water.  I will talk about how they keep the soil moisture good for growing some other time.  But it's pretty cool. 
Well it was a fast two days, but it was good for me to get down there and see what's going on.  There is more research being hatched even as we speak.