Friday, May 30, 2014

Beautiful Bride...Proud Father

So I was kind of busy away from the world of fertilizer the last few days.  It seems that my daughter Elyse and her fiance Chris picked Thursday May 29 to get married.  Why get married on a Thursday you ask?  (And so did lots of their friends and relatives.)  Well it was the date that they met in San Diego five years ago. But her mother and I were pleased that they wanted to get married here at home in Grand Ledge, Michigan in the church where she grew up.  I took this pic after the ceremony. Certainly she got her good looks from her father, ok...make that her mother.
She worked briefly, well very briefly, at the NCRS back in High School.  But I'm sure even that experience helped to make her the person that she is today.  And living in California, having a little knowledge about fertilizer and farming can't hurt.  So best wishes to her and Chris.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Up to the Minute

So field crop planting continued on Tuesday with Phil spraying for weed control after planting.  Here he has his boom set for 45 feet which sprays three 6 row passes at a time.
 And here is Jeff finishing up a small field of production corn.  By that we mean that there are no replicated plots in this particular place.  But we will still monitor production with the chosen Liquid fertilizer program based on soil test.
 Here is something new and cool that I wanted to show.  It's our new weather station down on Farm 7.  (And still lot's to see in the background of this pic.  Like Phil and Jeff, ......and a Redwing Blackbird.)
 But here is why this is cool.  There is an app that enables you to check the up to the minute weather conditions here.  We have one station here and one in the apple orchard on Farm 8.  Not exactly sure how it works, but the signal goes somewhere and then somehow gets to my phone.  So I could be anywhere and know what is happening weather-wise back at the NCRS.  But it also helps the sprayer and planter personnel get the application weather conditions more quickly than having to measure it with a thermometer and hunidity and wind measuring devices.
Now that's progress.  And weather is always on a farmer's mind.  Especially research farmers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

No Time to Rest Now

So planting is delayed by the extra rainy spring, but true researchers push on.  Or plant on, that is.  Like last Friday, as the Specialty Crop crew, with Brian at the wheel, transplanted celery on Farm 12.  Salad bars everywhere await ways of growing taller and crunchier celery.
 From behind we see interns Kelly and Jimmy as they drop the transplants into the revolving wheel to be set into the ground and get a squirt of Liquid and water.  The celery that is, not the interns.  That's Dan following behind to make sure they are all set correctly and collect anyone that falls off.
 And here is a look at the celery experiment in progress.  Replicated plots of different fertility inputs.  Stay tuned.
The field crop crew worked steadily all weekend and even on Memorial Day Monday to try and make up for so much time lost to rain.  It rained 1.6 inches on Tuesday and Wednesday keeping the planter parked most of the week again.  So here they are on Sunday planting a corn test.  Stephanie and Tim load another test batch of fertilizer into the Monosem.  It's obviously Blue Shirt Sunday.
And off on another round. 
Here's Mitch working some ground with the new vertical tillage tool that same day to get the next plot site ready. 
Jeff was planting production ground also on Farm 7 and Phil was spraying after plots were planted.  At least it's fun.  Isn't it?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Liquid Adventures in the Sunshine State

So earlier this week I made my way down to the Sunshine State of Florida to follow up on some research and grower activities.  Now it was a busy time and there were lots of pictures.  I considered making two shorter postings, but with the Memorial Day holiday, I figured you would find time to make it through one long one.  I was met by AgroLiquid field agronomist Mike and Area Sales Manager Jim near Tampa. First we went to a contract research plot on tomatoes.  Below Mike and Jim confer on whether it is in fact to-may-to or to-mah-to.  I didn't want to take sides.
We are testing some different Liquid products and rates applied through drip tape.  It is nearing the end of the experiment, and here is the second of a planned three pickings.  So it was a good day to visit to see how the harvest operation is performed.  Two guys pick the pickable tomatoes from the 50 foot long plots.
 Then they are weighed and recorded.
Next they are graded and sized by using the hole board.  The numbers by size are recorded on the clickers at the top.  Very clever.
For the two outside border rows, no fertilizer was applied.  They did get watered and sprayed for pests.  But no plant food like the rows on the right.  This shows what fertilizer can do for sure. 
 For the different liquid treatments, they use this tank system where the different treatments are applied through the appropriate drip lines.  Here they are making some other applications for some other test.  But this is how they do it in our plots.  Brian uses similar application methods at the NCRS, although with smaller tanks. 
 For dinner that night we ate in Mike's town of Venice, Florida.  We walked down the long pier after dinner and lots of people were fishing.  Saw this cool bird at the end.  As a former bird watcher, I believe it's a juvenile Great Blue Heron.  Right?
You know I like taking pictures of sunsets, so here is the sun going down over the Gulf of Mexico.  Very pretty.
 The next day we visited an orange grove where they are using some Liquid.  Harvest was completed several months ago, but you can see the next crop already sizing up on the tree.  They are green now and kind of hard to see.  But they're there.
 Here is a pallet of Woody Plants & Trees being used and and one of several totes of foliar products awaiting further application.
We also visited the sugarcane plots.  Getting taller all the time.  It is nearly time for the next application, which will now be made by airplane.  It's too tall for the ground rig by now.  It will continue to grow taller until harvest, probably in January.  
 The leaves are really tough and sharp on the edges.  I think I showed a closeup in a previous post.  (Yep, on July 16, 2011 from Louisiana.  You could see a closeup of the serrations like a knife.)  Here is a shot down the row a bit, and how thick the leaves are.  The lower leaves turn brown from lack of sunlight.  But it's the stalks that are harvested.  
In previous visits I was always sad that I never had seen an alligator in the ditches.  Jim and Mike are keeping watch for me.  I think.
 Success!  In fact, this one was one of several seen this trip.  But he was the only one that smiled for the camera.  I am standing one foot beyond the gator striking distance.  Well that is what Mike and Jim told me anyway.
I had no desire to wrestle one though.  I'll leave that to the professionals.  Or whatever they are.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day at the Museum

So sadly, the weather forecast was correct.  Stephanie sent me this view of Farm 7 taken on Thursday morning.  Several inches of rain for the week.  You can see the rain water from our neighbors farm set to run into our Farm 7, and past the catch basin that I described in last weeks drainage tour blog post. But the grass waterways are working at carrying the water.  Needless to say there was no planting at all last week.  I do feel this is cruel to show the folks in drought-stricken Kansas, Oklahoma and California our water problems.  So while all of this was happening, the AgroLiquid senior management staff gathered in Chicago for the annual planning meeting.  (Senior management consists of the owners and department heads, like me and Research.) 
For an activity, on Wednesday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  We used to take our kids to this and the other wonderful and famous museums of Chicago.  But it's been many years since my last visit here.  Galynn can't wait to get inside.
 One of the areas of the museum was dedicated to life on the Farm.  So naturally we wanted to see what that was all about.  They had a combine simulator, with yield monitor and Ag radio on in the cab with host Max Armstrong.  It was fun to harvest corn in May.
They also had a module simulator of gps guidance for a planter.  You were supposed to watch the monitor and adjust steering to the track line.  As Troy found out, the steering was a little over sensitive. But they didn't have auto track steering anyway for the hands-free experience that many farmers are using today.
Here is Troy's wife Jill in the greenhouse display where many of the crop inputs are displayed.
I thought this was interesting for the museum, an explanation of Bt corn and what GMO is.  And it was even positive!  They had the Bt corn on the left that was tall and healthy (although the model needs a little work with the ear up so high) and the non-GMO corn was short and sorry looking.     I will tell you what it said.  "Wouldn't it be great if plants could make their own pesticide?   Well that's exactly what Bt corn does.  Bt corn is an example of a genetically modified organism (GMO) created using biotechnology.  Bt corn contains a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, a common soil bacteria.  The Bt gene makes a protein that kills insects that eat the corn, including the destructive corn borer, so it keeps them from infesting and killing crops.  Bt corn saves farmers time and money on labor and chemicals. It produces higher yield than hybrid corn that does not have Bt protection."  Now who can argue with that?  I asked the display manager whom we met if there had been many complaints about the GMO portrayed in a good light (which is the truth.)  He said in the years it has been on display, there was only one complaint.  Well I hope non-farm people are reading this.
They also showed what is involved in insect control using integrated pest management.  But they did say that chemical control is often necessary when pest thresholds are reached and other means aren't effective.  So again, that was interesting to see.
 Here is a picture of the Periodic Table of Elements with the essential elements needed for plant growth.  I had not seen this explanation format before.
 And I liked this next display.  They showed a field of corn from the field work, planting and growing over the summer.  It showed growth at different days after planting and the temperatures and rainfall since planting.  I don't know where this was, but probably Illinois. They had a camera posted where you could watch it grow from the same spot.  It was a good year, although it did get a little dry around pollination.  But then it got several inches of rain before things really dried out.  At the end you were supposed to guess the yield.   Spoiler alert!  212 bushels per acre.
There were a lot of city kids looking at the displays like this combine.  Don't know how much they picked up about farming and food production.  But hopefully they learned that food just doesn't magically appear at the grocery store.  They also had displays on dairy and hog production.  So it was nice to see.
 They also had lot's of other stuff there.  Like the only German U-Boat captured in World War 2.  It was late in the war, but it provided some information.  The leader of the battle group that captured it was from Chicago, so when they got all they wanted from it, and the war was over, he made arrangements to send it to this museum.  Good move.
 They also had the Apollo 8 capsule.  This was the mission at Christmas of 1968 that was the first manned space ship to orbit the moon.  And return.  I actually remember that as a kid seeing the message from them at Christmas that year.  All the cool stuff happened when I was a kid.
They also had a display of the little known attack on a United airline flight by the German Luftwaffe (air force).  Fortunately due to good evasive flying by the United pilots, no passengers were hurt that day.  Take that you Germans!
So that was a worthwhile trip.  Stop by next time you are in Chicago.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nice weather if you're a duck

So I don't like the looks of this with so little planting done.  Today was correct.  Thunderstorms and heavy rain.  There was lots of lightning in St. Johns and the office lost power for awhile.  Fortunately the generator kicked in so that we could all keep working.  No really, we did.

I know a farmer should never complain about rain.  But we obviously have a distribution problem here where some get too much and others get none.  Figure that one out somebody.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Finishing the Week at the NCRS

So after the ambitious start of planting at the start of the week, there were several more days of rain that pretty much closed down field operations.  Although they were able to finish the potatoes.  One event that occurred was an NCRS tour by the county drain commission on Thursday afternoon.  They had a big regional meeting at the AgroLiquid office in town and some came out to see what is going on at the farm.  Nick and I explained what it is we do there, and I pointed out some of the drainage issues that we have faced and corrected, and some that we are still facing.  We have had drainage tile installed on six of the twelve farms that make up the North Central Research Station.  Like here on Farm 7, we not only have to deal with our own rainwater runoff, but runoff from several hundred surrounding acres that finds its way here.  We have had catch basins installed and planted grass waterways to divert runoff.  It's not cheap. I still chuckle at one of the college interns we had at the farm last year who was from the Texas Panhandle.  Tiling ground was an out-of-this-world concept to him as he couldn't believe that people here actually had to remove water from fields where they most often couldn't get enough water into their fields back home.
Here we are on the West side of Farm 10, that we started farming in 2012.  Well we are at a culvert that drains many acres of a dairy farm to the West.  That first year there was terrible erosion and wash through our field from this.  So we had the field tiled, put in a catch basin at the culvert and buried pvc drain pipe from the catch basin to a county drain at the other end of this field.  And brought in rocks to place around it to try and hold the soil.  And planted a grass water way to further manage surface drainage.  Water can be both a friend and aggravation.  
 This is how it looks now. I have a picture somewhere of the way it was before that I will show sometime.
In other news, I went out to the farm on Friday to get some stuff.  Brian said that the specialty crop interns were were picking asparagus from that experiment.  Well when I got there they were just leaving.  This site below has asparagus, strawberries, various landscape trees and other stuff too. Leaves are just starting to unroll from buds now.  I will say that one thing that Brian has found is that foliar applications to the asparagus ferns after the season will increase yield the next year.  I thought that was interesting.  Yes I did.
I like asparagus.  Steamed and still firm.  Soggy asparagus is gross.  But I grabbed some from them for home consumption as they headed out.
One thing that has to be done soon is on Farm 12, the so-called demonstration farm featured on our Research Field Days.  Well it has unusual soil in that there is a high organic matter soil of about 12 inches over sand.  Must have been a swamp or something in the past.  (I keep my eyes out for dinosaur bones.)  So last year was the first year there, and it did dry out by late summer.  So we knew that irrigation was necessary.  After considering several overhead options, it was decided to install subsurface drip irrigation.  It was much less expensive too.  One catch though, you had to install it yourself.  Well, the tape burying device showed up Friday, so with around 50 acres to do, it was decided to get started right away.  It was a little wet, but went well.  This rig set the tape 60 inches apart and 14" deep.  
Here is the tape going into the ground.  They say this will last up to 20 years.  Let's see, mark your calendars for 2034 to check the blog for an update on this.  I know I will.
The plan is to have a line of tape under each row.  But we plant in 30" rows, and this machine is set for 60" spacing.  So that meant having to come back and make another run splitting the tracks to make 30" rows.  Thank goodness for gps guidance and autotrack steering or this would not have been possible.  It will all be recorded on the Greenstar system so that the planter can go right over these rows.  Well that's the plan anyway.  After all of this, there is still a header manifold line that must be installed to feed the buried lines.  Life is sure complicated.  But hopefully very rewarding here.
Well my work here was done.  Although not much work for me, but the NCRS crew pushed on into the night.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Encore! Encore!

So it shouldn't have to come to this....
Especially if you can tune into RFD TV!  (on Dish and Direct TV that is.)  Because the wildly successful show Rural America Live is re-showing last week's episode featuring Galynn and me!  It's on tonight (Thursday) at 10 pm Eastern and again at 4 am Eastern tomorrow (that would be Friday.) Why not be there for both?
It's also posted on the website.  But isn't it better to watch it on a real TV with a refreshment and bowl of popcorn?  (Remember not to get so caught up in the action that you try to call in with a question.  Just sit and watch quietly.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And They're Off....

So finally Mother Nature gave the NCRS a break, and planting was able to begin.  Several weeks later than desired, but finally seeds are in the ground.  First plot on Monday was a sugarbeet plot.  Tim pilots the planter through the plots.
Monday was also the first day for the college interns.  From the classroom last week to another learning experience here.  Hopefully their heads have some room left for some fertilizer knowledge. Where do you think the term "fertile minds" comes from anyway?  Stephanie shows Kalvin and Emily the workings of the fertilizer wagon, aka "War Wagon", and the mixing of treatments.  Poor Emily saw my camera and tried to back her way out of the picture.  She'll soon learn the ways of NCRS bloggery and the fame that goes with it. 
On the other side of the farm we see Brian planting potatoes.  There are two more interns, Kelly and Jimmy, working in specialty crops this season.  They check the planting and will no doubt be back in this field many times.  At some point I will have a feature about the interns.  But they are all agronomy or hort majors, so we are in good hands and hopefully it will be a good experience for them. 

Meanwhile, Phil was busy spraying those pesky weeds that always seem to show show up in wheat. This is a field of production wheat on Farm 7.  Keep it clean, Phil.
Glad I can report that the season has begun here at the NCRS.  Since it takes more than one day to do all of the planting, there will be plenty more to come.