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.