Tuesday, October 29, 2013

IQ Hub Mission

by Stephanie Zelinko
Field Agronomy Research Manager

Last Friday a couple of us researchers (Tim D and myself) took a cross country airplane ride to make some visits to some places that would help us in the layout of some of the displays in the IQ Hub. As always I took a bunch of pictures of our adventure, so Jerry asked me to again be a guest blogger to share some of the highlights of our day.

For those that don’t know, the IQ Hub is an agricultural education center that is part of our new office facilities.  A few displays have been developed but there is a lot more work to be done before the grand opening next summer.  IQ Hub Manager Burt Henry joined us on the trip.  

We had far to go and much to see in one day.  So we did the logical thing and took a private airplane.  Here is Burt ready for takeoff.
Our first stop was in Moline, IL at the John Deere Pavilion.  They have their own educational center that we wanted to check out.  Here is the multiscreen display that welcomes guests.  It's quite an attention getter.
  Tim had to try out their simulator.  Here he is digging a hole with the back hoe.
 Next stop was Omaha, NE.  Here is a picture shortly before landing.  Are these signals to aliens?
We were met at the airport by Troy Bancroft who just happened to be in the area.  He took us over to the main focus of this trip, a visit with Midwest Labs.  They do the majority of our soil test analysis and we there to discuss a collaborative effort in developing some soil test displays for the IQ Hub. While we were there we also took a tour of the soil testing lab.  Here  is their IT Manager John DeBoer.  He showed us some of the thousands of soil samples that were received that day. This is their busy season and there were people everywhere processing samples. 
It is a small world after all!  During the tour Tim found a friend.  Actually, it's his cousin Tara.  She works in the soil analysis part of the lab.  After catching up on their families, it was back to work.

At the end of the day we established a good plan on how to set up the soil testing displays in the IQ Hub with the help of Midwest Labs.   By 4:30, we loaded back in the plane and headed home.
Now the work begins, putting all of our ideas into reality.  We will keep you updated on the progress.  Be sure to come visit the IQ Hub when it opens next year! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

More Big Hairy Wheat Roots

So after my previous day in Oklahoma looking at crops, mostly wheat, I met up with another Area sales manager, Ed Grainger, down by Gracemont.  Ed has been using and selling AgroLiquid for a long time.  We went out to see one of his fields of recently planted winter wheat, and I asked him to take that shovel and put her to some good use. You didn't think I was going to do it did you?  Who would take pictures?
As expected, again we already see a well-developed early root system that will support good wheat growth into next year.  Ed's program is similar to that of Parker: 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 1 qt/A of Micro 500 + 3.75 gal/A of High NRG-N for a total of 8 gal/A.  Sometimes he will adjust the rates one way or the other based on soil test, but this gives the developing plant a good dose of usable phosphate and nitrogen.  Plus the all-important micronutrients.  But I feel that 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator is a good rate for winter wheat here.
We felt that we weren't actually getting all of the young roots as we dug, since there were always some broken pieces in the soil on the ground after we pulled out the plants.  So this time I had Ed hold the shovel still after another dig.  Look at all of the roots now!  I believe my work here is done.
Here is that same field from the other side, now with the sun at my back.  Look at the good dark green color.  And this has been in wheat for several years. 
Not too far away was a big harvest operation going on.  Do you know what this crop is?  Well it's sweet potatoes.  I guess I never knew where they grew sweet potatoes, but this is a fairly new operation in the very sandy ground near Ft. Cobb.  I used to do weed control test plots in peanuts not too far from here as a student researcher back in the day.  (That day being the late 1970's)  Anyway, they had used some Sure-K earlier and hopefully would be up for trying some more Liquid in the future.  We will see when they are not so busy.  Sweet potatoes in Oklahoma.  Go figure.  Makes for a nice and needed rotation crop. 
And here's another even more unusual crop that I saw the other day near Hinton.  Know what this is?  Hopefully you never find out the hard way, but this is a crop of peppers that are used in making pepper spray.  I was told that the workers in the processing plant wear protective suits, like Haz Mat suits.  This was close enough for me.  I made sure the wind was at my back.  Not sure who the grower is, but I would imagine the fertility needs are similar to other peppers.  And Liquid works wonders there.
So as with most of my travels throughout the Land of Liquid, this was an informative and pleasurable trip.  And hopefully there will be even more new crop market penetration next time. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wheat, Cotton and .......Crabgrass?

So this week I made my way to Oklahoma for some research and field support activities.  On Wednesday I met up with Area Manager Todd Woods and Regional Sales Manager Sean in Okarche, which is South of Kingfisher, which is West of Guthrie, which is South and West of Stillwater, where I used to live.  Anyway, we met up with a wheat grower who had some winter wheat with some different drill-applied liquid fertilizers next to each other in a field.  Below we see them on the edge of the field, with the windmill generators in the background.  There are a lot of them around here and they were really blowing that day.  I kept losing my hat.  We had to act fast. 
Part of the field had received 8 gal/A of 6-24-6 fertilizer, part had no fertilizer, and part had 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 1 qt/A + 3.75 gal/A of 28%.  This would keep the total rate at 8 gal/A which is what the drill was set to apply.  One thing that we look for on small crops is root development.  Here we see Todd digging up some plants.  He did it at the same distance from the edge for all three treatment comparisons.
Here is what we found.  It wasn't obvious just looking out into the field, but when cleaned of soil and laid side by side, there were obvious differences.  The wheat with the Pro-Germinator had the biggest roots and were taller as well.  They also appeared to be greener, but that may have just been my biased vision.  The grower was kind of stand-offish when we got there, but really perked up when he saw this.  Now of course the yields will be the true test, but I like to see these early differences to help explain potential differences in the future.  Hopefully that is. 
We looked at some of his other fields that had the Agro-Liquid fertilizer, and also with big hairy roots.  Hey, that's what I live for.  On the edge of one field were some round bales of hay.  What kind of hay you ask?  Crabgrass hay.  Now I grew up around here, but had not really been familiar with crabgrass as a forage crop.  But it's one weed that has a decent use, and the quality of crabgrass as a forage is actually pretty good.  I guess nutsedge hay never really made it though.
Later that day I stopped by Hinton where we have some contract research plots.  The grain sorghum plots had been recently harvested so I will get those results soon.  Here are the cotton plots.  This was kind of planted late due to wet weather, and there was not much open bolls.  But they had sprayed boll opener (Ethephon plant growth regulator) on it the other day. 
 Then I met up with Area sales manager Parker Christian over by Cordell.  Here is Parker in a field of cotton that received 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 1 qt/A of Micro 500 at planting.  It looks good this year thanks to decent rain this summer.
This field had that planter application, and it is full of bolls.  I will be anxious to see how this yields.
Here is a field of wheat nearby that had 4 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 1 qt/A of Micro 500 + 2 gal/A of High NRG-N.  This wheat looks good and also had the big hairy roots that we like to see.
Parker is a good crop scout and checks this field of wheat on wheat for pests like wheat mites.  They got the all clear today. 
So that was fun.  The weather is nice and the wheat should really grow fast with good soil moisture and Liquid fertilizer.  But my mission is not over yet. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pre-harvest Plot Check in the Thumb

So the Thumb in this case is the Thumb of Michigan.  Everyone should know what I'm talking about, right?  But it is prime agricultural land out there.  The land is flat and the soil is fertile.  There is a research effort out there called TARE: Thumb Area Research and Education.  It is run by MSU Extension, although they are self supporting and managed.  It is research for farmers.  We had them run some corn nitrogen plots there last year, and continue this year.  They don't have a liquid planter yet, so hopefully we can help with that for next year.  But SAM Kurt and I drove out there last Friday to look at the plots that they had at two locations.  They should be harvested any time, so this was a good time.  Below we see Kurt at the end and TARE technician Jim Vincent telling us what plot we are in.  The corn looks pretty good, and should yield well.
I like these plots because they are good and long.  That's because they are on farmer cooperator ground, so are not restricted like some research places.  It was hard to tell any treatment differences by the feel the cob method, so we will have to wait for the harvest report.  The stand is excellent, with Jim having made some planter improvements with a grant from the Michigan Corn Growers Association.
So it was a nice and sunny day, until I got back to the NCRS in late afternoon.  As I was leaving to go home, I saw this telling shot of heavenly light shining down on the NCRS office.  That's a relief.
Well blessing or not, this week will again be pretty rainy, as it was over the weekend.  So not sure when harvest will resume.  The time has come to act, and act fast.  I'm leaving.  On a fertilizer mission, that is.  But as I was leaving the farm, I saw this new paint scheme on a van trailer.  Or should I say picture scheme.  It's sure different.  And eye-catching too.  Hope no one drives off the road looking at all of the cool pics.  Not sure if there is to be some sort of company unveiling ceremony...but you saw it first here on Live From the NCRS.  Look for one on a farm near you.
What do you think of it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

48 Hours: at the NCRS

So everyday is a full day at the NCRS.  On Monday we filmed the final segments of the 2013 NCRS video.  I have shown earlier takes of this on previous posts.  Below we see Mick of Creative Services getting Tim all miked up for his talking part.  Notice we will have an action shot of a real (versus a cheap model like other companies might use) combine in the background, waiting for the "Action" cue.  That's Michael and Doug getting the camera ready.  I learned that Doug recently worked on a feature documentary of American Idol.  I actually shook the hand that shook the hand of Jennifer Lopez!  Pardon me, back to the, uh, research video.  This year's feature will be out soon...so be on the lookout for watch parties in your neighborhood.  Tim did a great job...you'll see.
 In a nearby field on Farm 2, we see the harvesting of potato plots by Dr. Brian and the vegetable crew.  (And yes, potatoes are classified as vegetables.)  I hope they've noticed that there is nobody driving that tractor.
Look at how big this cover crop of winter peas has gotten since planted after wheat harvest on Farm 4. 
 Tuesday morning I took some soil tests from some plots where we are monitoring nutrient levels over time in response to different fertilizer applications.  We have a hydraulic probe, but I like the old way.  After that I went and watched a video on VHS tape and sent out some mimeographs.  (Love that smell.)
 In the meantime, it was time for corn harvest.  Soybeans are done.  Here is Stephanie weighing a plot load of corn.
After a while it becomes necessary to unload the corn from the grain cart into a truck.  Stephanie and Phil look at each other with that "Who's going to take this to the elevator" look.
Never fear.  Here's Neil Hall called out of retirement to be our truck driver.  Neil used to be the truck mechanic back in the day when the company used to do that type of thing themselves.  Neil also installed a platform in the grain tank of our first combine, a Gleaner K back in 1994.  It was for me to stand on and catch the grain in a big bag for weighing later.  That was a horrible task compared to now, but I didn't know any better at the time.   Can't believe that was nearly 20 years ago, and I'm sure I haven't changed.  I'll bet Neil feels the same way.
It was my turn to help some with harvest.  Well Phil was in the combine and Tim was recording plot weights and Stephanie was measuring corn plot moisture and test weight back at the farm office, and Jeff was planting rye cover crop, so I drove the tractor pulling the grain cart.  I wish we had a retractable grain auger that would make it easier to line up under.  I hope John Deere is working on this as I'm sure there is a huge market for one.  But it was fun to be back doing some real work. 
Although Tim was doing the closest thing to work having to stand up and pay attention to the scale readout.  Here we are unloading some more plot corn to fill the truck for Neil to haul.  Fortunately we are always 1 pound under legal load limit. 
And on and on it went, past sundown and into the night.  That's when things get a little scary here on Farm 7.  But nothing dared bother Research in Action.
And all of this in the first 48 hours of the week!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mixing Business and Pleasure in Montana

So this week I took some time off so my wife and I could go visit our daughter who found herself living in Western Montana.  Why would anyone leave Michigan?  Well that's another story.  (Our other daughter lives in California, but that's another story too.  Is it something I said???)  Anyway, no matter where you go in this vast country, you're never too far from some Liquid research.  So after several hours of scenic driving yesterday, we arrived at the Montana State University (MSU) experiment station near Conrad where there are some fertilizer test plots.  I reported on my last visit here in July.  Here we are walking out to the equipment barn.  That's my wife Cathy following the group out, anxious to see whatever it is I do for a living.
Here is Area Manager Jeremiah Gulick from nearby Fairfield with research technician Robin and Dr. Olga Walsh of MSU.  There is ongoing discussion about the research drill here and how it is set up for fertilizer application. 
Jeremiah actually built the liquid tubes for this drill.  But as always, there are still some things to make it better.  We want to put the fertilizer in the seed furrow compared to beside the seed furrow as it was set up.  So this will be done for future plots.  I guess the "CAUTION" on the drill platform refers to the cat who really wants to help.
After that we went out to look at the winter wheat plots that were just planted.  I'm still trying to convince my wife how important my job is. 
Jeremiah and Robin probe for seed.  The soil is dry and crumbly at the surface, so a good rain would be needed for uniform emergence. 
After that it was time to head back West to the mountains.  Here is where the plains give rise to the Rocky Mountains.  Spectacular scenery, both the plains and the mountains. 
One of the top items on my list of things to do was to see Glacier National Park.  But that was not to be as explained by the small sign.  (Insert expletives here.)  I wonder if they had those signs already printed before the actual shutdown?  It helps to be prepared I guess.

 So I guess that will have to wait until a future visit, provided the country is back in business by then.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Harvest Helpers

Soybean harvest continues at the NCRS as the weather continues to be favorable.  This harvest scene was last Wednesday.  Is there any way to make this operation work better?
Well maybe, as the AgroLiquid field agronomists stopped by Thursday afternoon for a few hours of intense harvest help.  Below we see Alan, all the way from Idaho help collect soybean samples during a harvest operation on Farm 5.  Probably a different experience than wheat and potato harvest in Idaho.
Likewise a different experience for Mike from Florida.  But both of these guys leave home for agronomy support all over.  So they probably step into a soybean field from time to time. 
Who is this guy here picking bell peppers?  That's no agronomist...it's Sales Account Manager Paulino from Florida.  What's he doing here?  He was up to the office for some business, but when the call went out for harvest help, he pushed his way onto the bus to the farm.  I'm sure he is also the best dressed pepper picker that has ever worked at the NCRS.  Thanks Paulino. 
And here is agronomist Jay from Indiana also harvesting bell peppers.  This is the last picking here, so Jay pulls the plants and picks the peppers at the same time. 
Well thanks for all of the help guys.  Stop by any time. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Check Out These Melons!

So last Saturday was the Giant Pumpkin and Watermelon contest at Andy T's Farm Market right here in St. Johns.  I usually attend, but was at that football game.  Brian and Tim B went and submitted some entries.  This picture is from the Andy T website, and I believe that's Andy himself in the yellow shirt.  You can also find produce from the NCRS at the farm store there.  It's worth the trip.  Anyway, their pumpkins didn't win...well this year anyway.
Here is Brian's melon on the scale.
But it was Tim who took home the gold melon.  His weighed 239 pounds. 
 Here it is.  I think he is having it bronzed.
And the crowd goes wild!  "Tim....Tim....Tim....Tim".
Thanks to Andy T's website for pictures 1,2 and 5 (www.andyts.com).  Time to start planning for the 2014 contest.