Monday, September 9, 2013

Research in the Empire State

So did you know that the Empire State is New York?  Well that's what they say anyway. (And sorry for the lack of blogage for so long.)  I went on a fertilizer mission to New York last week.  We are conducting some alfalfa research in Central New York just South of Auburn, which is a little ways West of Syracuse.  There is a company there called Agricultural Consulting Services, or ACS.  ACS does general crop consulting plus a program called Farmer Driven Research, where they conduct scientific plot tests on growers farms.  It is usually a topic that is raised by the grower, and ACS seeks the inputs to make it happen. There are a lot of dairies here. One topic of interest is comparing dry fertilizer, like potash, to liquid fertilizers, like Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, for alfalfa yield and quality.  So we worked on a program of AgroLiquid vs muriate of potash.  They had a field tour of this, and other plots in the area.  Here we are getting the experiment details.  It was a cool morning, in the 50's.  I wore a long-sleeve shirt for the first time since spring.  But some folks, like SAM Benjy, dress by the calendar, and the calendar still says it's summer.

Here we are out in one of the plots.  The fertilizer treatments were applied after the first cutting, with Liquid treatments also after the second and third cutting.  This has worked well to re-apply some of the nutrients that are removed by harvest.  Jim Saik of Finger Lakes Agronomy made the Liquid applications with his Miller sprayer.  Jim is also an Area Manager for the area and has been making Liquid applications to dairy alfalfa for quite a while.  There were three treatment: potash, Liquid after cuttings, and a combination.  The farmer did not want a check plot of no fertilizer.  Go figure. But each treatment was replicated four times.  The plots are pretty big, 90 feet wide and 500 or so feet long.  ACS conducts research following guidelines consistent with those of Cornell University, so that the research results will be acceptable to everyone.  So the Cornell method of yield evaluations in these large alfalfa plots is to throw out a hula hoop in three spots per plot and cut the plants within the hoop.  So for an average sized 40" hula hoop, this represents 0.0002 acres.  But there are three samples per plot, so that is 0.0006 acres.  Not surprisingly, they had a lot of variability.  We did that one year at the NCRS, many years ago.  I did not like it and we changed to methods that enable larger harvested areas.  But that takes equipment, and I guess this is a way for researchers to collect on-farm data.  But it's hard to show significant treatment differences due to variability.  So we will see.  
Here are John, of Finger Lakes Agronomy, SAM Benjy, and Jim Saik discussing what they saw at the end of the tour.
This part of New York has been besieged by rain this summer.  There is quite a bit of yellow corn around that shows the effects of N loss from leaching, as well as growing in water logged soils.  We also have yellow corn around here, but it is from the opposite: no rain.
Activities ended in late afternoon and I didn't fly home until the next morning from Syracuse.  I had never been to the Lake Ontario shoreline of New York, so I turned north for the short trip up to the lake.  I got there in time to catch a spectacular sunset.  This was actually taken with my iPhone with no editing or enhancements.  Pretty cool. 
Well this week its back to the conclusion of the NCRS field days.