Saturday, June 29, 2013

Since I was already in Iowa...

So after the 4R summit, I had a few other things to do while in Iowa.  On Wednesday afternoon as I was headed West on I-80, there was a sign for a turnoff to a historical train robbery site.  Well that was a calling I couldn't ignore, so off I went...and in a short time came to this spot.
So right here on this spot Jesse James and the James Gang made history.  They reportedly took $3000.  And this is the 140th anniversary year.  Not sure if any festivities planned on July 21.
Evidently that Jesse pulled up the tracks on either side of the train to prevent it from following them.  I guess it was never re-built. 
The next morning I saw this in a field.  Alternating strips of corn and soybeans.  There were 6-30" rows of corn and 12-15" rows of soybeans.  Certainly not a common practice. But there are advantages.  The reason is to take advantage of the extra light received on the outside rows.  The planted population is higher in the outside rows too, up to 50,000 or more.  Yields have been in excess of 400 bu/A in this arrangement.  It was found that the 6 row strips are superior to 12 row strips.  The soybeans suffer a little from the extra shading from the corn, but the corn yield more than makes up.  Now this would increase food production for those 9 billion people in the future.
I also stopped by one of our contract research locations.  Here I saw the "tote" corn that Sr. Agronomy Mgr Cory has been running for several years now.  Here is corn growing under different fertility programs in the 330 gallon fertilizer totes.  Drainage water is collected from the bottom for nutrient leaching content.  But here they are now.
There are also some soybean plots there with different applications of experimental and exsitng products.  You can tell this is research by all of the flags there.
And as I got closer to home on the long drive yesterday, dark rain clouds appeared on what had been an otherwise dry and sunny day.  Minutes later it was slow down and windshield wipers on full speed in the proverbial torrential downpour. 
Sure hope any stray N and P don't find their way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

4R Summit in Iowa

So this week I attended a fertilizer conference in Des Moines, Iowa.  Only this was not your typical conference.  It was The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit put on by The Fertilizer Institue and the International Plant Nutrition Institute.  AgroLiquid is a supporting member of 4R Nutrient Stewardship, and the conference was to bring members up to date on the current situation with regard to nutrient management in the environment.  The big issue is management of nutrients, mainly N and P, that find their way into the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf of Mexico which leads to plankton and algae blooms.  Then as the plankton die and sink, bacteria decompose them which leads to oxygen depletion, or dead zones.  This is called hypoxia.  But I'm getting ahead.  I drove out on Monday, and look what I saw on I-80 just after entering Iowa.  My goodness, these trucks are everywhere.  Godspeed to you, deliverer of nutrition. 
Des Moines is a nice town, in spite of their anti-agriculture newspaper.  Here is a view of town from where the conference was.  The aptly named Des Moines River is pretty high and mighty with the recent heavy rains.
The summit was attended by a large number of people with various backgrounds, including The Fertilizer Institute, industry (like me), state department of agriculture people, state ag business associations, university researchers, USDA-ARS, NRCS, NIFA and other acronyms, EPA, Canadian agricuture representatives,  a number of representatives of The Nature Conservancy, and probably lots more.  But it's not going to be easy.  The hypoxia problem is still being studied, and there are no clear answers.  It is acknowledged that even without fertilizer and farming, there is a lot of N and P naturally released from the soil to the Gulf watershed.  There were presentations on potential for nutrient reductions like rotations, application timing, rates, cover crops, buffer zones and the like.  But weather is the dominating factor.  Last year in the drought, there was reduced nutrient flow.  But this year with the excess rain, there is to be more.  So it is not easy.  But all presenters are hopeful that any strategies will be voluntary, and not mandates.  Especially when there is no clear solution.  But studies continue.  However we all know that using Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers enables reduction of nutrient application while maintaining yield.  But we will have to provide the lead in that strategy. 
 The lunch speaker the first day was Sara Battelman of the EPA Agricultural division.  Despite the often adversarial position of the EPA, she was actually very pro-farmer, and advocated promotion of on the farm activities that are being done to farm responsibly.  She also spoke of promoting the rich agricultural heritage by multi-generational farms.  So that was refreshing.
The lunch speaker the next day was Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  He is very popular in Iowa and is a leading member of the Hypoxia task force.  He spoke of the rich heritage of farming in Iowa. He mentioned that his favorite part of the job is the annual awarding of the Century  and Heritage Farms which recognizes farms that have been in the same family for 100 and 150 years.  He also noted that we need to show progress in nutrient management through voluntary efforts in order to prevent imposition of regulations.  It was mentioned several times that in spite of the goal of reducing nutrients to the watershed, the demand for food is ever increasing.  So elimination of farmland is not a good option.  Case in point: by 2050 we will have to feed over 9 billion people.  And one presenter mentioned that with increased standard of living, those 9 billion people will eat like 11 billion people.  Today the world has around 7 billion people. 
The conference was just down the street from the gold dome of the capitol building.  It's shiny in the sun.
So like many situations, everyone knows that there is a problem, but what to do about it is not clear.  Just slapping regulations won't be a solution since it is not known how best to achieve the reduction since so many factors are in play other than just the actions of the farmer.  But with that in mind, every grower has make sure that nutrients are being applied with the Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place.  These are the 4 R's of Nutrient Stewardship, which is what Mr. Cook promoted many years ago before this was started anyway.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Head em' up, Move em' out....

So just like we were promised, moving day to the new office did, in fact, occur last Friday at 4:00 pm EDT.  It was a parade back and forth of carrying our worldly work goods to our palatial new digs.
Below we see our leader Troy making a wagon run.

Now how many companies are there where your boss actually moves your stuff into the office for you?  My back was mysteriously sore, but cleared up right after he dropped off the load.  Thanks, Nick.
Here we see Lynette and Nikole moving some boxes into Nikoles office.  Again people helping others.  I must try that sometime.
Well here we are at my new work station.  Time to get things put away and get my bobble heads set out.  (Just kidding, Troy.  They are still in a box far away from the office.)
A sad note amidst all the mirth.  New Sales Account Manger Ashley is leaving us now for her new home in North Carolina.  It was so nice of her to come by to see the move before leaving town.  As you will recall, Ashley helped out quite a bit at the farm, riding in the grain cart weighing plot harvests, and lots of other stuff.  So it is sad to see her go, but happy for the opportunity to have her steer growth out East.  Good luck and safe trip Ashley!
Even Doug is getting his new place set up for business.  He is upstairs on the second floor.  (Did you know in England, what we call the second floor they call the first floor?  And what we call the first floor, they call the ground floor.  So this may be confusing if we ever open an office over there.) 
So here is our new home now that it is open for business.  There are still some finishing touches to be done, so you may hear some hammering or something when you call.
But it's an exciting time, and hopefully all of you readers will get a chance to pay a visit at some point.  But alas, another fertilizer missions beckons, so after a brief visit Monday morning, off I go.  But it will be enjoyable and I hope I can report back.

(By the way, surely many readers will know that the blog title refers to the old TV show "Rawhide".  Now that's a show.)

Trailer for sale or rent....

So I've said that my office for nearly the past year and a half has been in a trailer in the warehouse behind the main office.  This since I relocated from the farm.  For the past while I have been sharing space with the marketing department.  I've enjoyed this arrangement very much and enjoyed seeing their projects develop and sharing comments.  (How else do you think I made the front cover of the last newsletter?)  Anyhow, with moving day just a few days off, it was time to remove the trailer from the premises.  Saying goodbye below is, me, intern Ashley (from Saginaw Valley State University.  Go Cardinals!), Renee and Albert.  (You can tell I'm not a marketer since I'm not wearing black.) But fortunately we are only a spitwad toss away from each other at the new place.
On Thursday they really did haul it away.  I could not bring myself to watch, so was away that day.  Bye trailer.
But happy days definately lie ahead.  Friday was moving day.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Picture Perfect

So sorry for the long delay in posts from your favorite blog.  This past week was pretty hectic for me with the office move (next post, coming up) and a short fertilizer mission out of state.  But in the meantime, the AgroLiquid NCRS staff took the opportunity to pose for the annual picture last week.  We also wore our Research Field Days costumes.  I, of course, like the color, and had no say in its selection.  So hope you can come see them up close at an RFD, which start next month with the Specialty Crop Field Day on July 31.  Consult web site for all the details.
It was also noteworthy that he field crop crew planted its last plot.  Here we see cotton being planted in the demonstration plots on Farm 12.  (See the mountain range in the backgroud. Great skiing in the winter.)  We have planted cotton with varying degrees of success at the NCRS in the past.  Cotton needs warm soils to germinate and grow.  We have never gotten cotton to actually make a boll.  We usually get a frost around flowering.  Just not enough heat units this far north to carry it to maturity.  We have tried earlier planting to give it longer growing time, but had no emergence.  So it is just for demonstration.  This included using the AgXcel units for splitting up the planter fertilizer between in-furrow and surface band behind the press wheels.  Cotton is also sensitive to higher rates in furrow, and this could be a great new way of applying fertilizer to this crop.  With the completion of planting, the field crops crew have over 1800 individual plots in experiments at the NCRS.  The specialty crop crew have planted over 950 indivuidual plots. 
So there is little time for things like posing for pictures.  But we owe it to the fans of research to look nice once a year.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Out on the Wyoming Plains

So most people in agriculture know that farming is tough.  But it has to be tough ++ in Southeastern Wyoming.  This week I was out around Lingle, Wyoming. What, you don't know Lingle?  Well it's just North of Veteran.  Veteran?  Why it's just Northeast of Yoder.  Yoder?  It's just South of Torrington.  Torrington?  Come on, Torrington's the county seat!  Well I was near the Nebraska border just West of Scottsbluff.  Scottsbluff?  Never mind.

But this is kind of a new area for AgroLiquid, and it was worth a visit.  Accompanying me was AgroLiquid field agronomist Alan and Sales Account Mgr for WY, Bruce.  On the right in the picture below is Area Sales Mgr Alan (no relation to the other Alan) who takes the fertilizer orders for here.  We met the grower Larry, in the Cowboy hat, in one of his alfalfa fields.  Larry explained that exactly a week ago there was a bad hail storm that flattened the alfalfa.  But thankfully it has stood back up and will be cut soon.   
This is some of Larry's corn in a field next to the above alfalfa.  It too was knocked down by the hail, but is now recovered and growing.  You can see some shredded leaves.  But you may remember that I paid a visit to Larry last December and showed a picture of his strip till and planter unit.  That is, the planter was attached to the strip till unit.  Well he used it and admitted that it took a little getting used to, but ended up doing just fine.  Surely the High NRG-N through the strip till and Pro-Germinator through the planter have a lot to do with that.
Here is the field of alfalfa that Larry was cutting when we interrupted him with our visit.  It did not get hailed on, but this spring has not been the best for growing crops like alfalfa due to persistant cold weather.  So it is behind.  Corn planting was delayed too from cold and late snow.  But it's warm now.  The Liquid fertilizer will be a help too. 
Irrigation is not an option here.  Well I guess there is an option: pivot irrigation or furrow irrigation.  There is no dryland farming here.  Although many irrigation systems are run by wells, there are plenty that are fed by irrigation canals from the Platte River.  Due to persistant drought, there will be less available days of water in 2013. 
Here we are on Wednesday at second year AgroLiquid user Chris.  Chris is an enjoyable guy to be around, and went 100% Liquid last year, which was one of the dryest years ever in that part of Wyoming.  But he had good results, with some top yields ever for some fields.
This field is just across the road from where we are standing.  This is a furrow-irrigated field, even with that slope at the far end where the irrigation pipe will lay.  But I show this for contrast of practices.  There is getting to be more strip tillage around here, including this field.  This doesn't look like strip tillage because there should be undisturbed crop residue between the rows.  But here, strip tillage is used to apply fertilizer, and perhaps for some deep tillage under the seed.  But in furrow irrigation, it is important to remove crop residue so that it doesn't clog up the flow of water down the furrows.  So in this field, which is corn after corn, the stalks are baled and removed in the fall, and then the ground is disked.  Additional tillage in the spring keeps the soil surface clean, and then nitrogen is applied with strip till machine, and then planted.  Chris does strip till and plant in separate operations.  Chris puts on half of his High NRG-N with the strip tillage, and then sidedresses the other half.  This is because it may be risky to put all of the nitrogen down early, and then have some sort of weather disaster destroy the crop.  So he spreads out his risk which is smart for his operation.  This corn had an in-furrow application of Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 + Boron + eNhance and is looking good.  We dug around and there is good moisture despite the temps in the 90's.  (But it was a dry heat.) 
Here is another field with a problem that can occur here.  With all of the tillage to remove the residue, the ground can be kind of fluffy.  Well this field had a thunderstorm after planting and caused some crusting.  It was rotary hoed, but that doesn't always help.  You can see an emerged corn plant next to one that couldn't break through the crust and is leafed out underground.  It wasn't all like this.  But you can see how thick the crust is.  You might think some irrigation would soften up the crust.  But this is a furrow irrigated field, and the water isn't available yet.  And there is still good moisture there.
Another major crop in the area is Pinto beans.  They make a good rotation with corn.  Here are some of Chris's beans.  He used 2.5 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 2 qt/A of Micro 500, staying within our 3 gal/A limit on in-furrow application to beans.  The roots look good and healthy, and the ground also has good moisture to this point.  He used a Rebounder for in furrow, on beans and corn.
Here is a pic of a field of alfalfa that went 9 tons/A in 4 cuttings last year.  This was a farm record for them.  It received Pro-Germinator + accesS + Sure-K.  He said it probably won't yield that high this year due to the cold spring and delayed growth.  But it still looks good here at first cutting.
Well that's probably more than enough for this posting.  So the challenges out here include irrigation management, extra field prep, drought, hail, crusting, visits from fertilizer people, and who knows what else.  So it is tough++.  But everyone we meet is cheerful and optimistic, and keeps after it.  Really like farmers everywhere.  But it was an interesting and educational trip for me.  And hopefully for those we visited as well.  I will never get tired of visiting agriculture in different parts of the country.  And the same parts too, I guess. After a few more visits, Bruce and Alan dropped me off in Casper for a flight back to Michigan the next morning.  But this was the sunset I saw Wednesday night on my loooonnnng walk back to the hotel after dinner.  But it was well worth it.  (No photo enhancements, I promise.)
Got back to Michigan guessed it...more rain.  Again I wish we could spread it around back to Wyoming.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Last week in MI, er...that's Michigan

So after being in the Delmarva last week, it's hard to break the state abbreviation habit.  But while I was away, they were plenty busy back at the NCRS.  Stephanie took these pictures of the field crop activities.  (Sorry veg fans, I didn't get any from the specialty crops corps.)  Anyway, we are working with a new application device in cooperation with Ag Xcel of Kearny, NE.  (Remember the mystery box over this in an earlier blog this month?) It is for soybeans and would enable a planter in 30" rows to apply 3 gal/A in the seed furrow, and additional fertilizer in a surface band behind the closing wheels.  Or in planter lingo: 0x1 placement, as it is 0 inches deep and 1 inch over from the seed row.  This is because we do not recommend in furrow fertilizer rates in excess of 3 gal/A due to seed safety concerns.  But that can leave the crop short of nutrition.  So this is a new approach that we are trying at the NCRS.  The Ag Xcel folks are still working on improvements and easier ways to regulate the desired flow, but we just used orifice disks to put 3 gal/A in the furrow and 7 gal/A behind the wheels.  They had to calibrate with stopwatches and cups, the old fashioned way.  But the delivery was perfect.
And here it is making an application to plots.  I am excited about this as it would also have application in other sensitive crops like cotton and dry beans.  The nice feature is that you wouldn't have to do anything different with the planter.  If you want it all in furrow, like on corn, you just shut off the back door delivery.  What could be easier?  We will be showing this at the Research Field Days, and the developer from Ag Xcel will be there too.  Now that's a draw if I ever heard one.
In other news, I have reported how cold and cloudy it has been so far during planting and early growth.  We have observed some purpling of corn.  Now purple corn can mean several things, like phosphorus deficiency.  But that is not the case here, although sometimes slow root growth can reduce P uptake.  It can also mean slow growth and sugar accumulation in the leaves, as anthocyanin which is purple. Or it's a genetic effect, as is likely the case here since it is all that way.  We are doing some work with longer than normal day corn to see if we can advance maturity.  The corn below is a 114 day corn that I smuggled in from Oklahoma.  We normally plant around 100 day corn.  But I guess that Southern corn wasn't prepared for the cold conditions, and is showing purpling.  It was growing out of it when I saw it Friday.  But this is the only corn on the farm that showed this much purpling.  In fact I don't recall seeing any.
There were other soybean experiments to be planted such as this drilled plot on Farm 7.
And it is time to be sidedressing the corn.  Here it is already 30 days since planting and time to apply nitrogen.  This is how it is being done this year, with the Hagie Nitrogen bar attacments.  We have a 12 row unit, but removed the outer bars for our 6 row plots.  It will be much faster than before because we have 6 tanks that can hold different treatment mixes vs the old one tank system.  The application went great according to Tim and Stephanie.
Many plots and threat of rain meant long days.  This was Saturday evening. 
So that was that.  And another exciting week is just ahead.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Starting, And Ending with: VA

So I will end the Delmarva trilogy with an account of the visit to VA, Virginia.  Actually I started the week in Virginia, but I just got my pictures back from the photomart.  Anyway, I arrived in Roanoke on Monday and was picked up by Benjy.  We drove over to nearby Blacksburg, the home of Virginia Tech University.  You may recall that I was there in early March to set up the research plots, and showed this view on the March 7 blog post, saying: "I hope to show a pic from this same point later in the summer and be able to give more information then."  Well what do you know?  Now it's "then."  Actually we have a fertilizer test on corn in this field where the yellow arrow is pointing.  That arrow is a handy guide for finding the plots down there. 
Our cooperator for this experiment is Dr. Wade Thomason, below on the left in discussion with Benjy.  I know this will be a good experiment because he is a fellow Okie, from Mangum. I have been to Mangum many times, and it is a good place to be from, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, it was a warm day, and Wade and Benjy are dressed for the climate. 
I, on the other hand, was obviously over dressed.  This was even more apparent as I was taking some soil probes from the plot area. But I always try to make a good impression.
One thing that was new to me is the plague of slugs.  Slugs are a problem in no-till corn in this part of the world.  They regularly have to treat them with Deadline slug bait.  Here is a leaf that is showing the effects of slugs prior to control.  Glad we don'thave that problem in Michigan.  Ewww...slugs are gross.
This poor corn plant was too slugged up prior to control and probably will be yet another vicitm to the slug menace.
Now for the reason we were here: corn fertilizer plots.  This program called for a fertilizer application of 160-80-80 (for N-P2O5-K2O).  The plot below had not received any P or K fertilizer, and only around 40 lb/A of N.  It will get 120 lb/A more N at sidedress.  But this is to measure the effects of P and K fertilizers.
This plot below would have received the Virginia Tech standard recommendation.  It has received 80 lb/A each of phosphate and K2O potash, plus around 60 lb/A of N.  It will get another 100 lb/A of N at sidedress.  But the effects of the extra fertility on this plot are visible.  Unfortunately there are a few skips in all of the plots, which measure 4 rows by 25 feet in length.
Now what if you took the VT recommendation and added some Pro-Germinator, Micro 500 and eNhance in the seed furrow?  We will see if this is a good option when plots are harvested.  But it looks good so far.
Below is the total AgroLiquid recommendation that should match or exceed the conventional recommendation in yield.  Part of the reason for this program is to address a fertility recommendation using only in-furrow P and K, and broadcast and sidedress N.  Plus we felt that there was a need for S, so it included eNhance which is an excellent in-furrow sulfur option.  But no high 2x2 rates.  More growers are going with planters today that only have in-furrow application, and forgoing the expensive 2x2 attachments.  Some of the N was applied preplant broadcast, like with weed and feed, so as to avoid situations like we saw in MAR.  I think it looks good so far with good uniformity.  There were a few other treatments, and N variations, so we will see how those contribute to yield in the end.  It was a good visit.  Plus, don't forget I learned about slugs.
After that we left Blacksburg and headed east for Charlottesville for the night.  But en route we saw signs for the National D-Day Memorial.  Now since it was almost the June 6 anniversary, I wanted to stop.  So we did.  It was outside of Bedford, VA.  Sadly, it was past closing time when we arrived, so we didn't get to go in.  This is the sign by the entrance.  It opened on June 6, 2001.

And that is where the memorial is, up on that hill.  This year marks the 69th anniversary of the 1944 invasion of allied forces on the coast of Normandy France.  There were 150,000 allied troops that came ashore that day, and 9000 were killed or wounded.  So why do think this memorial is located in Bedford, VA?  Well it seems that Bedford suffered the highest per capital D Day fatalities of any town in the nation.  Beford lost 19 citizen soldiers on the day of the invasion and several succumbed days later.  So it is good to bring attention to that.  I do hope to be back someday when the place is open as I saw their website and it is worth the stop.
So it was a good visit to VA, both for the plots and the history lesson.  As I've said before, I am very fortunate to be able to see not only the fertilizer research around the country, but also some of the Americana that is seemingly at every turn in our great country.  I really think that if more people today can see where this country has been and the events that have taken place, then they would be more inspired to work together for the future.  And with that editorial, I will wish you a happy weekend.