Friday, August 30, 2013

Research Field Days Continue

So this past week there were two more Research Field Days at the NCRS.  So from all of the field crop and fruit and vegetable tours so far, there have been some 500 visitors to that little ol' place we call home.  And there is still a chance to visit us on the last tour on September 10.  I thought I would start with this picture taken a couple of days ago showing the sunflowers on Farm 2 that are in full bloom.    
The film crew from Creative Services were on site for the Tuesday field day and got a lens full of activity from that tour.  I wasn't able to take any pictures during the tour that day, but afterwards they recorded Brian talking nice about the apple orchard.  It will be part of  the upcoming action-packed film: 2013 Year in Research.  Unfortunately the title The Avengers was already taken. 
We actually got some much-needed rain this week.  It rained a little early Tuesday morning and a little more on Wednesday morning to the tune of 1.1 inches.  That was nice, but not too far away were reports of up to four inches.  I guess that defines scattered showers.  But 4 inches of rain would have made the Thursday Field Day more than a little muddy as it was already.  Below Stephanie talks about different sulfur fertilizer sources for field corn at one of the research tour stops. 
Across the way, we see Tim talking about fertilizer applications in strip tillage with the new Orthman 1tRIPr in the background there.  The new trailers continue to impress with comfort and sound speakers. 
Here are the corn ears that I showed at a stop about different corn fertilizer programs in a long-term sustainability experiment.  They were three successive ears collected from the border rows of plots.  The first set is of a low-rate (equal pounds of nutrients as AgroLiquid) conventional fertilizer application consisting of potash, 10-34-0 and 28%.  Next would be the full rate conventional, then the all dry conventional, then N only (no P or K), and then it's the AgroLiquid treatment.  On the next board is the Pro-Germinator (no Sure-K) treatment and finally is the Sure-K (but no Pro-Germinator) treatment.  Even though this soil has medium P and low K, the only Pro-Germinator looks better than the only Sure-K, illustrating the importance of early phosphorus to corn.  It has yielded this way in the past too. However there is a little K in Pro-Germinator which helps.  But I thought that was interesting, but yields will be the final proof.
Back on the demonstration tour we see Cory in orange who talked about soybean growth and fertilizer placement.  He and the others are watching Derek from M&W Ag Services talking about the Ag Xcel dual fertilizer placement tool and the value for seed sensitive crops like soybeans. 
And here we have Galynn in red (again) and intern Mike (in beautiful orange) talking about N fertilizer placement options in the demonstration corn plots.  The Hagie applicator with the nitrogen applicator bars again proves popular.
So that was the way it was here at the NCRS.  Glad it's Friday and a Labor Day holiday weekend at that.  And most important: It's time for College Football!  Go Cowboys!  Go Spartans!  And Go whoever you are cheering for...unless it's Sooners.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Famous Potato" Land

So this week I was on a short fertilizer mission to Idaho to look at some fields and plots of...what else...potatoes.  I was picked up yesterday morning by SAM Bruce and we first drove to Twin Falls.  There is a bridge there that crosses the Snake River.  It is called the Perrine Bridge, named after an early 20th century business man who spear-headed irrigation in the area and is credited with the early development of Twin Falls, which is a very nice city, by the way.  It is 1500 feet long and 486 feet above the Snake River.  It was opened in 1976, and it replaced the bridge built in the 1920's that once was the highest bridge in the world.
Here I am at the tee of the par 12, 953 yard 13th hole of the Snake River golf course.  I only needed a 7 iron to get across.
This bridge is world famous as a BASE jumping place.  We were in luck to see a guy jump off, and fortunately his parachute deployed.  It is all legal, and people literally come from all over the world to do this.  I was content to watch.  He did make it down safely, and touched down on land.
But enough with the sight seeing, and we went to see a near-by potato field that had all Liquid fertilizer on it.  No 10-34-0.  No 32%.  No dry.  OK, there was some urea on top of the High NRG-N, but that was all.  It was farmed by the Manager of the Hefty Seed store in Buhl. 
Here is Van digging a hill from the field.  These are Umatilla Russet potatoes which are mainly used for French fries.  Van had a group visit from a potato processor just the other day, and they made some digs and had a current yield estimate of over 600 cwt/A, which is beyond outstanding.  They are now bulking, and increasing by around 7 cwt/A/day.  They should be dug around October 1, so a big yield is anticipated.  (Note: potato yields are often reported in "cwt" per acre, and cwt means "hundred weight" or 100 pounds.  So 600 cwt is 60,000 lb of potatoes.  Actual yield is further affected by potato "grade" or sizes.  So final numbers will vary, but so far so good.  Some areas report yield in tons, which is too confusing if you are used to "cwt".)
Here is how they looked.  Lots of good sized potatoes.  Some day when they ask if you want fries with that, say "Yes".  You should eat a potato daily, or at least order one even if you don't eat it.
Next we drove over to see our contract research plots in Rupert, ID, which is back to the East of Twin Falls.  It is a big place, specializing in potato research.
Here is our group discussing the plots and all things potatoes.  From left are Zack and Phillip from the Hefty Buhl store, Jeff Miller of Miller Research, SAM Bruce, Van and Trent, also of Miller Research.  They are very good in plot research and know pretty much everything there is to know about potatoes.  We will be anxious to get the plot results which are comparing different fertilizer programs, including P and N fertilizers.
It was good to have Van along to get perspective from both a Liquid dealer and a grower.  We are all anxious to learn.
We are also having them run some fertilizer plots on sugarbeets.  However these were about 15 miles from the other plots on their home farm.  Again, fertilizer comparisons including some experimental products.  Looking good so far.
So that was yesterday.  Normally I would stay a little longer, but again, the NCRS calls to prepare for the big Research Field Days next week.  I took off early this morning from Pocatello, ID and flew to my connection in Salt Lake City.  I looked out my window to the East as we were descending to land and caught this nice sunrise in the clouds pic.
Here is another one seconds later.  I liked those clouds that were poking up.  As you can see I am easily excited.
So I landed in time to venture up to the NCRS.  We were hopeful earlier in the week when it said there was a chance of rain on Thursday and Friday.  But chances turned to zero.  Not used to being this dry in the Great Lakes state, but crops are suffering around here.  Complaining won't help, but I do it anyway.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Research Field Days Kick Off Last Week

So last week the Research Field Days started up again, with more to come.  But they just don't happen by themselves as there is much preparation involved.  Like below on the Friday before, we make a practice tour run on Farm 7 to make sure that the three tractor/trailer drivers don't make a wrong turn.  (They didn't.)  Stephanie makes sure the trailer speakers work. (They did most of the time.)  
Earlier that morning, Phil digs some trenches to show corn roots for fertilizer effects comparison.  This is an annual part of the field days. There was no moisture in this ground.
Then early evening on the Friday before the Field Days (August 2), our Orthman 1tRIPr showed up at the NCRS.  Since it was kind of heavy, Phil and Dan used fork lifts to lift it up and the trailer drove away.  So we didn't have time to get the liquid lines on it, but would set some tanks to let people know that this will be a Liquid machine on the Field Days.
Then on Monday, the day before the first Field Day, I washed away the soil from the roots.  I have done this many times over the years, but never had as much trouble as I did here.  This tour is on our new Farm 12, and that soil is extremely dry due to lack of rain.  And when it is dry, it becomes packed like concrete.  So it took awhile, and I was a muddy mess.  Good thing I found a Tyvek suit.  Not sure how roots grow in that, but there were differences.

 The next day was show time.  And again on Thursday. 
Prior to the start, the research Hagie sprayer with the nitrogen toolbar applicator was placed in the demonstration plots for N applications on corn.  That's Jeff who brought it over and is standing there because I made him.  Well somebody has to document what goes on around the place. 
We had a good crowd the first day, as they were still coming in prior to the start in the pic below.  There was even coffee and donuts. And fertilizers in jars for some color.  And posters, fliers, product info, orange-shirted NCRS and agronomy staff, and probably lots of other stuff too.
Then it was time to start the driving tour on Farm 7.  So the three tractors and six trailers set off to see some of the replicated research plots on Farm 7.  But on the way we stopped to listen to Dan tell us what is happening in the new apple orchard.  He included explanation of the high density planting concept and future operation of the fixed spray systems.  That guy in the front refused to wear the popular orange shirt and showed defiance by wearing one of crimson and cream(puff).  He did ride in the front of the trailer so he could be sooner. 
The trailers split up to go to the three stops on Farm 7, and each made the rotation.  Below Tim talks about our strip tillage research with the new 1tRIPr in the background.  Next year the plots will have this as the applicator.  But folks did get off the trailers to have a closer look.  Everyone likes equipment.
Here Stephanie talks about sulfur fertilizer options in this corn experiment.  Intern Mike helps by holding her ears...of corn.
And don't think I wasn't going to take part.  This is the experiment where we are running the same fertilizer programs in the same plots in a corn:soybean rotation.  So this is the soybean half.  This is the third year, and we hope to run it for ten years as we did in the past to prove sustainability of yield and soil test levels.  So far so good. 
And here Intern Erin helps show fertilizer effects on corn ears.  There were some, and you can sure tell where there was no P and K applied.  After a couple times of hearing this, Erin started to believe what I was saying.  Even though this farm is rain fed (still like that term), and hasn't been fed very well in the last month and a half, it was showing no effects so far as this is good soil here.
After lunch it was time for the up close and personal demonstration stops on Farm 12.  They divided up into four groups for the four stops.  Here Tim shows some of the different planter fertilizer attachments on the Monosem planter.
And here are the root trenches, with ears showing.  Now this part of the field is especially dry compared to the rest of the field.  You can see the corn is dry and rolled.  Unfortunately there is no rain in the forecast.  We had some issues getting a well put in, but hopefully it can be completed this week to give some relief before the next field days at the end of the month. 
Stephanie covers nitrogen options for corn.  There was also a stop on soybean fertilizer placement options for different row spacings, and some new equipment.  But I didn't get a picture of that.  Brian also showed a group some of his vegetable plot research.  But no pictures from that either.  So hopefully next time.  But there was plenty to see.
 After that everyone got to enjoy some of Troy's 2-cylinder ice cream and have a chance to ask any questions before it was time to leave.
So that is a synopsis of the Field Days for last week.  Hope you have made plans to attend one of the  Field Days yet to come.  We still could use some rain.  I talked to Area Manager Jerry Cordell who is North of Wichita, KS and he said they have had nearly 22 inches of rain since the middle of July.  Last year drought and this year flood.  How about sharing?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RFD Live from the NCRS

So guess what?  The wildly popular TV show RFD Live came to the NCRS for a live broadcast from our farm.  I had been on the show twice from their Nashville studio and always invited them to come up to the NCRS for a show.  Well what do you know...they did!  So yesterday (Monday) in spite of preparations for the big Research Field Days that started this week, we took time out to appear on the show.  After a busy day in the field getting things in order for the field day on Tuesday, everything stopped to get ready for the live broadcast at 8 pm EDT.  Well there was some makeup necessary so that we wouldn't be so shiny.  RFD producer Becky doubled as makeup person.  But wouldn't you know that Stephanie locked the door to the office that doubled as makeup room, knowing that I wanted to take a picture.  Well she didn't close the blinds on the window, so here she is getting made up for the big show.  She already looked nice as usual, but now she isn't so shiny.
Brian required a little extra work however. 
In our non-shiny mode, Stephanie and I are looking over the set in our shop.  It looks nice with some equipment and Liquid displays that were brought in for the show.  Nerves are on high alert.
Prior to the live show, RFD Live host Mark Oppold had an on camera interview with Stephanie, Brian and myself which would run on the RFD TV and radio news. Mark is a great guy and I was very happy that he was there for the show and to see the farm earlier in the day as I showed him and the producers around. 
Showtime at 8:00 with a live studio audience even.  It would not only be on TV, but on radio as well.  Rural Radio Sirius/XM channel 80 broadcast the show as well, but it was a little harder to see. There were a number of guests who had come in early for the field days to watch and participate.  There were a number of questions asked from the audience of guests from Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska and Maine.  Now there is a cross section of growers.  In addition to the questions, we described what the NCRS is all about, how we do research here and elsewhere, and what is going on in the upcoming farm tours.  They also showed videos of the farm and tours, plus pictures of various research plots from around the country.  It was actually a good time and I thought it was the best show ever. 
Well I of course, DVR'd the show and watched it today after work.  It was good but always hard to watch yourself on TV.  (I need to keep my hands still.)  Here we are as we looked on the TV. 
Stephanie answers a question from the audience.  Notice that she is not shiny. 
So that was yesterday, and it was a good time and good show.  Today was the first Research Field Day of the week, but that blog post will be later tomorrow.  Hope you enjoyed the show, and if you couldn't see it, it should be available on our website soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Everyone Was Mint Today

So if it's the second weekend in August in St. Johns, Michigan...that can only mean one thing: The Mint Festival.  In recognition of the area's mint heritage, the annual Mint festival includes a fair with rides, queens, craft fair, and of course the parade on Saturday morning.  AgroLiquid has always participated in that, and we assembled at the staging area for final rehearsals. It's fun to get family, kids and friends to go along. Below is most of the group, some were off petting llamas or something.
We always show off one of the tankers driven by one of the truck drivers.  Well all of the real drivers were busy, so we settled for Dale.  Actually Dale, who has been with the company practically from day one, used to make truck deliveries back in the day.  So I'm sure this reminded him of that, although the trucks are a little bigger and nicer now.  His Dad rode with him to make sure he didn't speed.  Here he is getting the final polishes made.
It was time to start, and here is the Liquid banner leading the Liquid entry. 
 This is the Liquid float which has a picture of the new office, an invite to the open house, and crates of vegetables from the NCRS to pass out to the parade public.  No really, it's a tradition.  What's that on top of the tractor?  It' a bird.  It's a plane.  No, it's a bird.  Where did that come from?
On closer inspection, it's a wayward pheasant.  I guess it wanted to have a birds-eye view.  That's Stephanie's husband Ryan at the wheel and son Gabe looking at his mom, brother and sister who have to walk.  Ha ha to them. 
The parade route wound through the tree-lined streets of St. Johns.  It was funny to see how excited kids got at receiving vegetables.  Anyone can pass out candy, but we are different.  We had green peppers,  sweet corn, various squash and cauliflower.  We are proud that we are improving the diets of the town.
Business was brisk.  It was run back and forth to fill your vegetable bag and then pass them out.  By the way, if you ever come to the parade, choose a watching spot closer to the start as we ran out towards the end.  Sad.  Despite our perception, we are only human after all.
Shaun passes out a pepper to a cute little girl, to which she replied: "Thanks, Daddy."  Guess what's for dinner tonight?
And down the stretch they come.  Driving to the finish through downtown is Dale and the tanker.  We untangled the mailboxes and phone lines from the back end before the home stretch.  (I'm sure I'll pay for this as my desk is right next to Dale's.)
Looking for a last pepper or rutabaga to pass out.   
Then it was back on the trailer for the ride back to the office.  And that's a wrap.  Fun for all it was. 
Well fun aside, it will be a scramble to get everything prepared for the first Research Field Day on Tuesday.  And I already mentioned the shooting of RFD Live from the farm on Monday night.  Didn't I already say that we are only human?  Well hopefully super human for a day.  Don't forget to watch.