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.