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. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Week in California...Nice Work If You Can Get It

 So last week I traveled out to Sacramento California to travel with Sales Account Manager Armando.  We would make some dealer calls and talk about research and product information.  Now I had not been out to California on the job for several years.  One place I wanted to see was the new plant in Stockton. So we stopped by one morning, and who should be there but Shaun from the St. Johns office.  Shaun is the Facilities Manager and he is also the author of AgroLiquid's second best blog.  It's about the various facilities projects or something. Check it out sometime. He explained that they will soon be doing some expansion here to enable manufacturing.  They just opened the place, and making changes already.  That's Armando and Shaun talking about the plans.
 That's the Plant Manager Richard in safety yellow showing us around.  It's a nice place and a large amount of land came with it.  Well Armando, you better get busy to keep this place running.  I guess I better get busy too.
So I though this was interesting.  Here is a road cut through a hill.  There sure isn't much topsoil here is there? Well actually this is an artificial road bank cover material to look like solid rock.  I have never seen anything like this before, but it was nice.  I admit I was fooled at first. This was on the way into Napa, and I guess they wanted it to look nice.  
Here is the edge of the Napa Valley.  You can tell it is by the sign they have.  I have never been here before and it was a nice place to visit.  We did not make time to stop anywhere.  We'll wait till we get some customers there.  There are some other wineries in CA using some Liquid, but not here yet.
Here is what the grapevines look like in the fall.
Here was a field of grapes being watered.  It was a pretty site.  This is the only one we saw being watered, so don't know what is going on.  I would guess it's because they are thirsty.
Here is a field where another big crop of Northern California was grown.  This was rice.  There are around a half million acres of rice here.  Now regular readers will recall the research plots we have in rice down in Louisiana. And we have had fertilizer on rice in Arkansas, the number one rice state, for years.  But the culture of growing rice here is very different.  For one thing, they use air seeders.  And I'm not talking about the planter type, but the rice is seeded by airplanes.  And they use a roller called a creaser that makes small furrows in the field and the rice falls into the furrows.  It actually looks like it was planted with a drill. Oh yes, and they pre-germinate the rice before seeding.  So that it has a little root coming out to enable faster establishment. That sounds complicated, but what do I know?  I wonder how regular drilled rice would do here?  And the fertilizers used, placement and timing is different too.  So research is needed, and we talked to several researchers about some fieldwork in 2014.  So I will learn more then, and next year I will probably wonder why they don't grow rice in Arkansas like they do in California.  By the way, that terrace in the picture is actually a levee to hold the water in the sections of the field.  That is another difference.  These fields are all sectioned off with straight levees, unlike the contoured curving levees like in the South.
You will see fields flooded for the purpose of making the straw soften up for easier decomposition.  These fields will likely have rice again next year.
Another rice straw management practice is burning.  But it had gotten so smoky in the past that now you can only burn 25% of your rice acreage.  The field below was recently burned and you can see how smoky it is in the distance where burning is still going on.  You could see and smell smoke for some time here, where ever we were.  But you can see how straight the rows are, and that is from aerial seeding.  Those pilots are sure accurate at dropping the seed!  (Please re-read an above paragraph before you call the straight jacket squad.)
We also visited a dealer in an area of intense walnut and plum tree production.  California sure is different.  Here are some walnut trees.  There were orchards all over this place.  Another way it was different is that it was in the 70's in the afternoon all week, much warmer than back in Michigan.
Well here we were heading back to Sacramento last Thursday evening. Pretty sunset on my last night in CA. That's the airport to the right of the sun where I caught a very early flight the next morning to return to Michigan.
So it was a good week, for me anyway.  One thing about California is that there is always something going on cropwise.  So there is always reason to return.  And this was just Northern California.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Some More Interesting Stuff From Last Week

So there was lots of other stuff going on last week that I wish to share.  Here is a cool picture of the new office when I got to work last Tuesday at 6 am.  OK, it was probably a little...or a lot later than that, but it still looked cool all lit up ready for another day of important fertilizering. 
You will recall all of those pictures of big hairy wheat roots that I showed recently from my trip to Oklahoma.  "Well are there root differences here at the NCRS" I asked myself.  Well I wanted to find out and visited this wheat experiment on Farm 7 last Tuesday afternoon.  It was cloudy and cold, like usual in Michigan this time of year.  I couldn't find anyone willing to do the shovel duty, so I had to do it myself.  (I remember how they worked after all.)  But no pics of that.  Here is how the field looked being planted a couple weeks ago.  Unfortunately it has also been serving as a deer smorgasbord. 
So for several years we did some experiments on methods of application and found that broadcast applications of fall fertilizer were as effective as drill-applied fertilizer.  That was the case again this year.  This defies logic, but has proven true in Michigan.   Although it may not elsewhere.  But the narrow drilled rows can use the broadcast fertilizer.  Anyway, here is an experiment of different broadcast liquid treatments, applied after planting.  And what do you know, there were differences.  The picture shows 10 seedling wheat plants from the border rows.  This will be a good test with 265 foot long plots with 4 replications.  Anyway, the Pro-Germinator and Pro-Germinator + High NRG-N applications seem to have enabled a bigger root system than did a higher rate 10-34-0.  So with that documented, we will have to wait till next July or August to see how the story ends.  But I like the start anyway.
And that's not all...not by a long shot.  Troy has been making the rounds in America.  Last Monday he was an in-studio guest of Ag PhD Radio (heard daily on Rural Radio Channel 80 on SiriusXM.)  He talked about fertilizer and the IQ Hub with Darren Hefty and Rob Fritz.  Hope you heard it.  Then on Thursday (Halloween) he was at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY.  He is on the FFA board of directors for Michigan.  While there he was interviewed by Mr. Agriculture himself, Orion Samuelson.  This was a life-long dream I'm sure.  For Troy anyway, not sure about Orion.  Anyway, that was shown live on the RFD Channel which was featuring the convention, and he talked about fertilizer and the IQ Hub.  (That guy in the middle works for the FFA and is a former national officer.)  So that was cool to see.  He made us all proud. 
Fortunately, we can get RFD TV at the office and several of us stayed to watch our leader.  Troy is passionate about FFA being the future of agriculture, and looks forward to the opening of the IQ Hub and having chapter and state events here. 
See, I told you it was an interesting week.  I was glad to be in town all week.  But that will end as embark on a far away fertilizer mission this coming week.  I'm sure there are several blogs waiting to be hatched.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Harvest Is Nearly Done

So I was going through Stephanie's camera card to see what I had missed and found this one taken a couple weeks ago that deserved some distribution.  She's quite the agronomist and artsy photographer. 
Tim sent me this one taken last Tuesday of the last corn plot being harvested.  Always a happy milestone, and yet, a bit sad that another season is over.  Not really.   It's good to get done. 
On Wednesday it it was time to switch from the corn head back to the grain header for the milo plot harvest.   
In the meantime, also on Wednesday the veg crew was finishing up the carrot plots.  Hard work with no mechanical parts here.  But at least they can take a bite of what they are harvesting.
On that same Wednesday, now it was time to harvest the third field crop of the past two days: sugarbeets.  Sugarbeet harvest has seen a number of changes since the farm started 20 seasons ago.  For the past several years we have used this old 4-row WIC beet lifter that did the harvest and then they were dumped them into a scaled cart for weighing.  That was kind of slow and also hard to get all of the beets out of the tank.  We had thought about putting some weigh bars on a new tank for years, but had not made it happen until now.  We can thank master fabricator Ron for the building work.  Here is Tim riding the platform during a plot harvest. 
Actually this one plot nearly filled the tank.  Here we see Tim recording the weight listed on the scale.  It also has some small doors so that some samples can be collected for quality analysis at the sugar lab.  It really helps, and there are a couple of beet experiments yet to go.

So Stephanie had other duties, and I wasn't there for this.  So who took these pictures of the first operation of the new beet weighing system?  Well it was our MSU summer intern Mike who stopped by with some friends to show where he spent the summer.  This was a good day to see something exciting like this.  Now we just use the cart to empty the beets into and haul to a pile on the edge of the field to be collected later.  
Thanks for the pics Mike, and I hope your friends were impressed. 
Incidentally, Michigan State is currently stomping on the poor (not) Wolverines.  Always a mood lifter for me, and all the Spartan fans across the world.  With another big game yet to come tonight.  Go Cowboys.