Thursday, May 30, 2013

NCRS: Drainage tile getting a workout!

So remember a little while ago that I said a little rain would be nice?  There had been a good two weeks of planting at the NCRS and a little shower would be nice to help get things up and out of the ground.  (Actually that was only 9 days ago.)  Well we have had more than a little shower as it rained 4 days last week and pretty much all day yesterday.  The NCRS received 1.24 inches last week and 2.4 inches yesterday, with a little more this morning.  So it can stop any time. I did take a tour around this afternoon and this was on the Northeast side of Farm 7.  What are the soybeans doing here?  Looks like the backstroke.  But really, this is about the only area that was showing some standing water, and this is on the low end of this field.  The drainage tile is really doing its job and we are glad to have it.  A lot of fields in the area have lakes.  It is interesting to get perspectives from other parts of the country.  Chance, our intern from the Texas panhandle, who actually grew up in Boise City in the Oklahoma panhandle, had no concept of tile drainage.  Out there they do all they can to get water in the ground, and couldn't believe that we bury lines to remove it.  Wish we could send them some. But it's a good education.
Just a little ways up the gradual slope, there is no water standing.  Thank you tile.
Here is a corn plot also on Farm 7, also showing no ill effects from the nearly 4 inches of recent rain.
Here is some of our "production ground" on Farm 7.  It is on too much of a slope for plots.  But there are some no-till soybeans coming up.  What I like here is that there are no corn stalks on the ground to deal with at planting.  This is thanks to the Calmer stalk choppers that we installed on our corn head last fall for harvest.  It did the job of chopping the corn stalks into short pieces and so there were no long stalks to get caught by the planter, especially with narrow 15" rows.  This used to be a problem, but no more.  Money well spent here.
Here is a nice pic looking up the hill on Farm 7 where we again have no-till soybeans planted.
Here is that field of wheat plots on Farm 4 that I showed us topdressing on May 1.  The light strip has no N.
Here is what the wheat on Farm 3 looked like today.  The heads are about 3/4 emerged, which would be Feekes growth stage 10.4.  We haven't seen any leaf disease, thank goodness.  But we will certainly spray a fungicide at flowering (stage 10.5+) for head scab which can be a problem sometimes.
Here again is that corn on Farm 3 that I showed when it got froze at early emergence and again with the twisted leaves caught at the tips.  Well they have unrolled and are generally unscathed.  But you can see the deadness at the tips where the leaves were wrapped and frozen.  Corn can take a lot of early abuse as the growing point is still underground playing it safe.
Here is a look at this same experiment. The no-till corn is looking good so far.  Like all of the corn in the area, it is kind of pale.  This is no cause for concern, even though some may think something is wrong.  Well there hasn't been much in the way of sunshine for 10 days.  Green corn has active photosynthesis, and that doesn't happen as strongly when it is cool and cloudy.  I hate to say it, but I have heard it said that some starter fertilizer will keep corn green even under these conditions. Not true, at least I haven't seen it.  But give it a few days of sun and you will see it turn dark green and take off.  And good row-placed fertilizer (especially AgroLiquid) will really give a benefit at that time. 
Here is the tomato plot area.  These plots aren't affected as they have their raincoats on.  Now those are long plots, and Brian makes his crew walk it all the time.  You can see the drip tape that runs under the plastic to give them a drink later when they need it.
So I hung around town this week hopeing to do some root digs like I did in Kentucky to get an early evaluaiton of treatments.  But I wasn't going to slog around in the mud.  Maybe later in the week if it stops raining.  But I will try not to complain as it could always be worse.  Our SAM Brad in South Central Nebraska sent me a number of pictures like this showing tordado damage on irrigation pivots by where he lives.  This happened Monday evening.  He said there were around 200 pivots down in a 50 mile stretch.   This much damage probably won't be able to be fixed before it turns hot and dry this summer, assuming there is still corn in these fields.  That much damage is hard to look at.
Well there are storms all over these days.  Hope they stay away from where my loyal readers are.  Fingers crossed. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Parade...Small Town Version

So here it is Memorial Day weekend...and if you live in Wacousta, Michigan, that means parade.  This marks the 4th time the Wacousta parade has been featured in this newsworthy blog.  Yesterday morning I walked all the way to town to avoid the traffic.  And here is the parade opening: the local Boy Scouts followed by the local marcing band.  And then there was a fire truck.
And how many parades can claim to have the official 1974 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car?  Not many I'll bet.
And of course there was a long string of tractors.  Most were of the green variety, although for fariness, a few reds were in the show
And then there was an old car followed by the local 4-H kids, many carrying or leading some animals.
And bringing up the rear was a horse.  Good placement.
And just like that, it was over.  They did commemorate the war veterans who are the reason for the Holiday after all.  But next year and another parade will be here before you know it.  Hope your weekend was equally exciting. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How are things in Holland? Funny you should ask...

So if you want read about fertilizer and crops, well go read the last couple postings again.  Because this one is about my trip to Holland.  Well, Holland, Michigan that is.  It's West of Grand Rapids on the Lake Michigan shore.  But us manager types had a company meeting there this week, and you know I can't go anywhere without seeing the local attractions.  Now it seems that this part of Michigan was settled by, you guessed it, the Dutch.  (Although I never understood why they weren't called Hollanders.  What's "Dutch" mean anyway?  Have to look that up some day.)  Anyway, here's a sign that says "Welkom".  I didn't have my Dutch to English dictionary, so have to get back to you on that.  But what this Holland is best known for is the Tulip Time Festival and Windmill Island.  Well we were about a week and a half late for the festival, but Windmill Island is always open.  Now I had never been, so off we went.  By we, I mean my travelling companions from the St. Johns office: Lynette, Colina and Nikole.  They knew they were in for a treat by riding with me and seeing the sights.
We paid our admission and entered the park and saw the windmill.  What a gyp!!!  Oh.  Lynette told me that this wasn't the main windmill.  That's a relief.
So we walked a little farther and there it was...Oh, Nikole told me this wasn't it either.  But it's getting bigger, so we must be getting close. 
Colina confirmed that this was in fact, the big one.  Did you know that this windmill is actually from Holland and is over 240 years old!  That's from the 1770's!  It is called the De Zwann and was brought over in 1964.  Actually, it was the last windmill ever to leave Holland as the country banned the export of windmills making them all national treasures.  Did you know that there were once as many as 9000 windmills in Holland, and now the number is down to around 900.  Unfortunately many were lost during World War II as they were popular targets for German airplanes.  You can see the tulips in the foreground.  But unfortunately they are past peak.  Tulips are really nice, but they don't last long.  Still pretty though.
We went in and got a tour of the windmill.  It turns out that it is still a working windmill and still grinds wheat into flour.  And the Miller, or flour grinder, is an American woman who went to Holland to get training and certification, the only woman in America to do so.  Here is a shot on the deck looking up at the blades.  Each blade is 80 feet long and 6 feet wide.  The Miller has to climb up them to put the sails on in order to catch the wind.  It can be rotated around to best face the wind.  When the blades turn, it is geared to turn the grindstone inside for milling flour.
Here is a section of one of the blades as it was when it came here.  The holes are bullet holes from German airplanes.  But it survived.
And here is one of the old grindstones.  The space was tight inside, so my pic there  wasn't as good as this one.  But you can see that the stone has grooves in it.  This is the bottom stone that stays stationary. The wheat is added in the middle, and goes in between the stones, gets ground into flour as the top stone rotates. It follows the grooves to the outside and emerges as flour.  Sadly, the De Zwaan is down for repairs now.  It seems that they found some cracks in some of the wood beams that are around the milling area, so it isn't safe.  New pieces are being made in Holland, but it will cost nearly a million dollars for everything to be repaired and replaced.  Ouch.  They had ten bags of flour there that they were selling for $100k each, so that should cover it.  I didn't have room in my bag for one though.
Here is the view from the front.  Hate to ruin the story, but they said they built the brick base here to lift it up higher to better catch the wind.  It wasn't like that in Holland.  But the inside is still all orignial, except for the stairs.  The original Millers had to climb ladders all the way up the inside as the grindstones are several floors up. No thanks.
So here were some Tulips that still had some life in them.
We stopped in a store there that sold real Holland wooden shoes.  These were demos.  The one's you could buy were all painted up nice.  They really weren't bad to wear. I was close, but they clashed with my meeting attire, so I passed.  But I know where they are should I change my mind...and find an extra $60 in a pocket that I forgot about.
Here are some more colorful Tulips still hanging on.  There are sure lots of different colors of Tulips.
Well time to leave and head for lunch before the afternoon meeting.  Colina, Lynette and Nikole will always remember the fun morning.
And the fun didn't stop there.  The place we ate lunch had a buffet with soup, and an autographed picture of...that's right...The Soup Nazi!  Some people know everyone!  I made sure I got my soup quickly and moved on.  (I'm sure some people will know about this.)
Well on top of that, it was a good meeting where all of the departments venture a view into the future.  And as a participant, I can report that the future of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers looks very, very good to me.  And that means it will be very, very good for our dealers and growers as well.  I mean really...We had a meeting and everything.  It's official.  Don't miss out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lot's of Stuff Going In the Ground

So remember last week when I showed some pics of the emerging corn on Farm 3 that got frozen.  Can't believe that happened exactly one week ago tonight (Sunday) as it's been very warm lately, in the 80's. I took this picture on Friday afternoon. Well of course the corn survived and emerged, but the frosted part caused the leaves to stick on the ends and fail to unroll normally.  It will be ok as the other leaves emerge, and hopefully push these apart.  It's always something.
I also had to do a job that no one else wanted to do.  Probably because they are all busy with important stuff.  But on our demonstration farm, that being Farm 12 where the field days will be, there is an alfalfa plot that needed spraying with fertilizer ahead of planting.  They are small plots, so the backpack sprayer was called into action.  It's been a few years since I last donned this sprayer.  But like riding a bike....although you walk instead of pedal.  And F.Y.I., we use a metronome to maintain a steady, calibrated pace for ultra-accuracy.  That's the NCRS way.
The field crops crew worked all week and on Saturday as well planting soybeans now.  It has been great planting weather for several weeks.  Well recall weeks ago when I complained about it raining all the time.  Well we could use a shower any time now.  I won't complain any more.  (How many times have I said that?)
Here is a shot of Jeff on the drill and Tim on the Monosem planting soybeans.
There were some visiting agronomists on the farm this week.  The last time we saw Rick and Mike in the blog they were standing in the snow outside the office in February.  Unusual weather for them at the time being from California and Florida.  Now they are transplanting tomatoes the Michigan way.  If the agronomy thing doesn't work out they will have something to fall back on.
MSU Intern Peter is shown doing a different kind of transplanting: Christmas Trees!  Michigan is the Number 1 Christmas tree growing state, so glad we can add to the numbers.  They take a while to grow before harvest.  But it will be reported here first.
Well there was plenty of other stuff going on last week, but it's too late to go any further.  Morning will come soon and time for yet another fertilizer mission.  Should I decide to accept it.  Since all of my bosses will be there, I guess I'd better.  Goodnight. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kentucky Roots Tell The Story

So my fertilizer mission was delayed a day, and I drove down to Bowling Green, KY on Wednesday.  I got there in the late afternoon in time to see Patrick from Security Seed and Chemical (SSC) setting up for some test plots for no-till corn at the Western Kentucky University research farm.  WKU has a great ag program in agronomy, and this is the first year that Patrick, who is a WKU alum, and Security Seed has participated in plots there.  They were looking at several things in this corn plot: dry fertilizer, AgroLiquid fertilizer and combinations of both with a biosolid organic fertilizer.  Biosolids is a polite term for waste treatment  byproduct.  You know....  But it is thoroughly digested, treated and heated and does have organic matter and some nutrition.  It is a way to get rid of the stuff and is said to have a beneficial effect.  So we will see.  I have never worked on the back end of this type of product.  The biosolids are dry, and will be dropped off after planting. So the AgroLiquid is number one, and the biosolids are number 2. Here we see Patrick and Jameson, his summer WKU intern, prepare a Liquid mix.
Now it is pumped over into the planter tank.  SAM Jourdan and Jameson keep watch in case Patrick splits his pants.  Looks more like a Blue Moon of Kentucky.  (Sorry Patrick, I am slapping my wrist as I type.)
And off on another round of treatments.  With the late start, it was getting dark when we finally applied the last load. 
The next morning we went over to the SSC resarch farm in Hopkinsville.  This is where I brought down the fertilizer as featured in the April 19 blog.  Well the corn was planted on April 23 and is now in the 2 leaf stage.  Time for some early evaluations of fertilizer effects.  Below Jourdan monitors SSC research assistant Dustin as he digs up some corn.  Jourdan used to work here and wants to make sure it is done right. 
In these samples below, there is quite a difference.  A lot of growers down there still haven't seen the light and are reluctant to rely on a total AgroLiquid program.  But there are also many who have.  This is shows why they all should.  The corn on the left received planter fertilizer based on soil test, and included Pro-Germinator, micronutrients and sulfur from eNhance.  The soil is pretty high in P and K, but low in micros and sulfur.  A typical progam is to broadcast dry 6-24-24 (enen though this is no-till) and use some 10-34-0 as a starter.  There has been ample rain since planting, and the sidedress N hasn't yet been applied (but will be soon).  Above the ground, the corn looked about the same, maybe even a little taller with the conventional, probably because of the extra N in the treatment.  But looking at the roots tells a different story.  The AgroLiquid treatment had a much larger root system, and did appear a darker green, perhaps from the nutrient balance.  Now think of the advantages of a larger root system, especially if it turns dry later in the summer.  And in spite of the high soil P and K, the no fertilizer corn is small and wimpy.  Although it does have a better root system than the 10-34-0 corn at this time.  (And regarding the extra N at planting, years of testing at the NCRS found no advantage to extra N at planting in terms of yield, provided the sidedress is timely.)
We also looked at some wheat plots where Caramba fungicide was applied 2 days ago along with either ferti-Rain or NResponse.  There was no burning of the wheat leaves.  We have done this before at the NCRS, also without burn.  After wheat harvest there will be double-crop soybean fertilizer plots established.
Then we drove up to the town of Morganfield, about 75 miles to the North and a little West.  There is a relatively new Security Seed and Chemical store there, and also a first year research farm where Patrick, Dustin and Jameson have additional plots with fertilizer.  These are long plots.  This corn was planted more recently and was smaller.  Out came the shovel for more digging.
Comparisons below show the differences of 10-34-0, 6-24-6 and AgroLiquid.  Not sure why the 10-34-0 looks so poor here, but who cares?  Admittedly, in fairness the 6-24-6 looks pretty good.  But not as good as the AgroLiquid which has longer roots, is slightly taller and is darker green.  I say we could stop the experiment now, but I guess we will see it through to harvest.  But these early differences help explain the differences in yield and grain moisture come harvest.  When people are just fixated on yield, they are skeptical of results since they don't understand the growth process.  But looking early and following it through the season makes the yields understandable.  Or more so anyway.  So I was encouraged, and really congratulate Patick and his crew for such a great job of testing fertilizer programs.
And that wasn't all.  In another part of the field were comparisons of some typical programs used by growers.  These were in multiple alternating strips for a complete evaluation.  On the left is a preplant broadcast appliction of 200 lb/A of the dry fertilizer 6-24-24.  And on the right is an in-furrow application of 5 gal/A each of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K with Micro 500 and eNhance (for sulfur).  The advantages of the in-furrow placement was obvious at this time.  Put the fertilizer where it will be used: in the furrow for full root access.  Not spread out so much that the roots can't get it.  Anyway, we will follow this as well.
Do you want to see these with your own eyes?  Well SSC is having field days at both of these places the last week of July.  Actually July 30 in Hopkinsville and August 1 in Morganfield, the way it stands now.  In addition to the fertilizer plots, there are variety trials, chemical trials and probably other stuff as well.  You know I wouldn't miss it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

She's So Cold, Cold, Cold

So last week was a busy week for planting, and the temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees above normal.  Naturally Mother Nature had to balance that out, so it frosted last night.  Temperatures got down in the upper 20's for some 8 hours last night (Sunday night).  Normally we are happy to see corn emerge, but this corn got the cold shock and the first leaf is toast.   It was planted on May 2.  For those in the know, the growing point is still underground and it will regrow.  But we are now going to have to wait before we can "row" some corn.
Some of the grapes on Farm 2 now have some crispy leaves that were frozen.  They are small enough and will regrow from secondary buds with minimal effect on yield.  Hopefully.
The apple blossoms appear to be ok over on Farm 8.  Will have to keep an eye on them.  Did you know this is Michigan's state flower?
The wheat on Farm 3 looks really nice.  If you like wheat that is.
We're not a wildlife refuge, intentionally anyway.  But look at the size of the tracks.  Two kinds of turkeys here apparently.
In the meantime, Brian and MSU intern Erin planted potato plots.  These are Snowden variety potatoes.  You know, for potato chips.  Yummm.  This is a pretty big field as you can see, and it is one row at a time.  I wonder how many miles Erin had to walk?  But she said she was having fun.  And everyone tells me the truth.
And on the field crop side, late this afternon, Tim and Stephanie apply some nitrogen treatments to some recently planted corn.  They were in mid-stride here and were still planting well after dark.  But Stephanie said it was fun.  And everyone tells me the truth.
Well it is time for me to depart on yet another fertilizer mission tomorrow.  Any guesses?  Well it is really important, and I will keep you up to date.