Monday, June 30, 2014

Slogging Through the NCRS Scavenger Hunt

So recall that I recently had a blog post that showed the NCRS staff going through a scavenger hunt practice run before the real one with the various Sales managers and some of the office staff.  Well that happened last Wednesday when the sales managers and agronomists were in town for a meeting.  Here are a bunch of them eating lunch before heading out.  The group certainly did not get loaded down with food so that they would stay hungry...for the right answers.
Stephanie and Tim gave mission instructions prior to being released.  Everyone was assigned to a team of four Liquidites of various job backgrounds.
 Transportation mostly consisted of the official sales car: the Taurus or van.  Remember that this event required diagnosis of crop and fertility questions and use of the Research iPads.  They all had their maps and questions.  Another challenge was that it had rained the previous two days, so those that brought boots were envied.  Here is the start.  I don't know why no one is running.  They only have two hours.
 Here is a team looking at some vegetable plants planted in plastic covered beds on Farm 2.
 At first most people left the cars parked on the road.  A little risky driving on the grass lanes here on Farm 7.  Hope this team is on the right track.
There were questions about various crops, agronomic practices, nutrients, soils....and a bunch of other stuff that the Research managers came up with.  This team on Farm 7 must have had a disagreement or something since there is no solidarity in their walk.  Now,'s just a game.
SAM Jourdan is either confident of Victory, or maybe is off to the second stop.  Or has to take a number 2.  (I'll pay for that.)
 Galynn and I mostly drove around with me taking pictures and him bothering the farm staff at some of the stops.  Here is that Farm 11 puzzle stop that I showed earlier.  Phil reminds Galynn that it's "i" before "e" except after "c" in the spelling of the Fase 2.  Galynn appreciated the help.
After awhile some teams were tired of walking and took to driving on Farm 7.  There was a stuck Taurus there, but the team pushed it out.  Too bad that wasn't part of the hunt.   Also too bad I didn't get picture of that.  But it was teamwork.
Now here on Farm 5 was a cool event: a tractor obstacle course.  But nobody was doing it.  Well one team did stop by later.  Admittedly there were far more questions than time to do them.  So Galynn and I visited with Mitch of the NCRS and agronomist Reid.  They look pretty skeptical at believing whatever it is Galynn is saying.  Like that he could complete the course the fastest.
There was backing, turning, more backing, and no speed limits.  Hit a flag and you're out. Here Galynn takes one of many turns.  Well we all did.  And it shames me to say that he did in fact end up with the fastest time.
A corn conundrum on Farm 3.
Now for variety there was a potato sling shot.  Farthest spud wins.  Gerritt is about to let it fly. I wonder if they needed helmets for the two holders?
After the hunt was over and a treat of NCRS strawberry shortcake, the group took a wagon ride over to the high density apple orchard so Brian and Dan (far right) could give an orchard update.  It was an interesting learning opportunity especially since most people aren't too much in the know on the particulars of orchard nutrition and management.  But this is the place to learn.
So Mother Nature gave us a break as the rain held off during the afternoon event.  Tim and Stephanie scored the team answer sheets and gave out prizes.  However I don't really remember the rankings.  But you know that if personnel from AgroLiquid are involved, then their heads are full of...knowledge for a top crop.  Yes, that's what I meant.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kentucky: Plots and Goal Achieved, At Last

So I hope everyone visited Blog Post #400, and filled out comments to the FCC about keeping RFD TV on Comcast.  Even if you get it on another source, or don't get it at all, they need to hear from you to keep the voice of agriculture accessible.  Don't let the suits win this.  OK, now back to affairs of state.

Last week I went down to Kentucky to see the field plots established by Patrick and Dustin of Security Seed at their research farms in Morganfield and Hopkinsville.  Well loyal readers will recall that I would always pass this monument for Jefferson Davis at his birthplace of Fairfax, Kentucky.  But every time I stopped to visit, it was closed.  Well here it is last Thursday morning as I made my way to Hopkinsville.  I had a meeting set, but I swung in to see if it was open.  And it was!  But only till 5 o'clock.  So I vowed I would be back before then.  This is a quest!
 But first I had some research plots to visit.  First we drove up to Morganfield where Security Seed and Chemical has a research farm.  I reported from their field day here last summer (August 1 to be exact.) Well there is another one on July 31.  Here are the various product signs along the highway.  AgroLiquid is down the way.
And guess who my escort was?  It was Lang, their chief agronomist.  Lang and I go way back.  I mean waaaaay back.  It was good to see him, although he still is on the phone alot.  People seeking answers I guess.  Anyway, this farm produced outstanding crops last year due to a great growing season.  This year it went in ok, but it was a wet spring and now is turning dry.  I hate it when that happens as you don't get a deep root system and it is more subject to stress from lack of rain.  So a good root-building fertilizer program can really help.
 Here is a commonly used broadcast dry program, usually 9-23-30, a blend of DAP and potash.
And here is an if-furrow application of 6 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 + eNhance + Boron. This has been the research proven program of choice here, and it shows.  It is definately healthier looking and able to withstand the dry conditions better.
 Here is a view looking back on the wheat plots.  They are almost ready for harvest.  There was a lot of wheat being harvested in the area.  And most all of the ground will be planted to soybeans, which is a great opportunity for foliar applications after they are up and growing.  
 After that we headed back to Hopkinsville, to the other field research site.  There I was met by SAM Jourdan.  How come everyone talks on the phone so much when I'm around?  I should call him to ask.
 Earlier it was reported that the plots did not look as good as those in Morganfield, again due to wet conditions.  But things are coming around now that the sidedress N has taken effect.  Below is another broadcast dry standard on the left compared to AgroLiquid in-furrow on the right.  After seeing this, going to the field days and seeing the yield differences, I can't understand why everyone doesn't use Liquid.  Maybe they need just one more year of research.  Well here it is.  And come to this field day on July 29.  I know I will.
Now, I was able to wrap up business in time to go over to the monument.  It's just minutes away from the Hopkinsville field.  I made Jourdan drive me over.  Here it is.  I reported extensively on its history in a blog post on April 19, 2013.  So history buffs can re-visit that for complete details.  But isn't it impressive?  It's 351 feet tall, and is the tallest unreinforced concrete obelisk in the world.  That means it has no rebar in it, due to being build in 1917 during World War 1.  It was completed and dedicated in 1924.  
 Now it was opened in 1924, but the elevator wasn't installed until 1929.  And here it is, the original one.  It still has the 1929 inspection certificate. I wonder when it is due for another inspection?  But it was actually nice and roomy.  I was afraid it would be small and hunchy.  We were told that for the five years before the elevator, people had to go up the stairway of over 800 steps.  In fact our guide said that at the dedication on June 8, there were Boy Scouts that escorted people up and down, making numerous trips each.  I'm tired just thinking about it.  But you can't take the steps anymore.  Jourdan and I were going to race.  I would have given him about a 700 step head start.  Although I probably would have changed my mind after he started up, and taken the elevator anyway.
And here is the view from the observation room, some 310 feet above the ground.  This is looking to the North.  There is the highway between Hopkinsville and Bowling Green that I took the pic up at the start of the post.
 Here is Jourdan looking out the East window.  Jourdan used to live in Bowling Green for several years, but never made the stop here.  He was glad I made him, so he can cross this off the bucket list.  (I just assume this was on it.)
 Here is the East view.  That church down there is where the cabin supposedly was where Jefferson Davis was born.  In case you missed history class that day, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America.  That didn't work out so well.  But he did get a cool monument.  Although he died 35 years before it was opened.  
 Here is a view of the visitor center, and Jourdan's white Taurus 351 feet below.  Sadly, they have bars on the window so you can't throw things on cars.  I had to stick my arm out and aim the camera down and click.  After several tries, this is the view.  Pretty cool.  Since it was almost 5 by this time, there weren't any people still there.  In fact, Jourdan and I were the only people up the tower at the time. But we kept the guide entertained with deep and thought-provoking questions and comments.  Like about the terminal velocity of a watermelon dropped from the top.
So what a perfect day.  I got to be in Kentucky where I ate catfish.  I got to see Lang and Jourdan, and Patrick too, plus see some good test plots where AgroLiquid shined on corn.  And I got to finish the trip with a visit to the Jefferson Davis monument where I had been denied for so long.  Which made me appreciate it all the more.  Now who can top that?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Milestone....And a Call To Action for Agriculture

So who woulda thought that the little blog that began four years ago would reach it's 400th post, and in the process become the wildly successful accounting of life at the NCRS as well as a source of agricultural information and entertainment from around the country?  (Whoa, that sentence almost had 400 words itself.)  I am pleased and shocked.  I don't think I've ever done anything 400 times.  Well on purpose anyway.
 But as we celebrate, there is a serious agricultural concern going on right now.  This is a call to action, and every one of you reading this can help.  Now surely everyone enjoys it when various Liquid personnel appear on TV on RFD Live or Rural America.  And who doesn't look forward to the weekly education and antics on Ag PhD?  Plus market and industry news, plus entertainment.  And where else could you watch the proceedings of the National FFA convention?  Well all of this is on RFD TV.  It is unique in the airwaves, and something those of us in agriculture have come to count on.  But there is a crisis looming.  On Rural America Live tonight, the founder of RFD TV, Mr. Patrick Gottsch was on telling of a threat to this great channel. One of the carriers of RFD TV is Comcast, the cable company and they are seeking to merge with Time Warner, another cable carrier.  Together they would be even huger.  But Comcast is wanting to drop RFD TV, and in fact, did so last year in Colorado and New Mexico.  At hearings about the merger before a Congress committee, a Comcast VP explained the drops because they are "primarily an urban-cluster company".  Well some kind of cluster certainly comes to mind.  Especially since two days later they added the Al Jazeera network.  How American is that? Well RFD TV is a voice of rural news, but there are many urban followers as well.  It is explained at the RFD TV website.  They need your help in notifying the FCC that you are a follower of RFD TV.  Comcast already upset rural Congressmen on the panel, but it takes more than that to get action.  They need many thousands of comments from the public.  Go to the website and click where it says.
Then you will get a description of the issue, and how you can help.  Click where it says, but remember the number 14-57, as it says this is the proceeding number for this....proceeding.
You will go to the FCC comment site.  And click the 14-57 place.  You are more than welcome to comment on the many other proceedings, but do the 14-57 first.
You have to give your name and address, I mean this is official Congressional business.  And then you can add your comments of what Rural and RFD TV means to you.  This is my comment, I mean it's now public information anyway.  Click Continue to review and then Confirm and they are off to the FCC. You will get a website (shown) where you can track your comments, and others too, I presume.  This is also important to show other cable and satellite carriers that RFD TV has a large and vocal following. (Fortunately I get mine from Dish, who is evidently RFD friendly.)
Now what else is going on in the Ag info-world?  Well did you see this?  Last week USA Today put out a supplement about agriculture.  It was pretty big with all sorts of farming and ranchingi information, and about our food source.  And there was this cool ad from...AgroLiquid, Ag PhD and the  Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation.  We all want what he wants..affordable and abundant food.

So these two issues are certainly related.  They all center around telling the viewing and reading public how our food continues to be the envy of the world...affordable and abundant.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Eyes in the Sky

This is Stephanie and I am happy to once again be a guest blogger. Earlier last week Marketing Department Manager Albert and I took a field trip to Indiana to check out some of the new tools available in the agriculture industry. We attended Successful Farming’s Tools of the Future Tour which was held at the Purdue University Beck Agricultural Center in Lafayette, Indiana.  At this event, a variety of companies showed off some of the newest technologies geared towards helping today's farmers.  Some of the things we saw were specialty designed equipment tires to reduce soil compaction, wearable computers and micro climate sensors. However the main reason for our trip was to check out the latest UAV/Drone technologies.  Two companies were there showing off their hexacopter style drones.  Here is a close-up of one from Precision Drone.

The other company was Crop Copter and they were actually flying one around while we were there.  Here it is before it takes off.
Here it flies over our heads and a over corn field.  (Be careful what you are doing or hiding in fields from now on.) 
In talking with these two companies, we learned a lot about many of the cool things that drones can do. Their main market tactic for farmers is that they can scout a lot of acres in a short period of time from the air and have documented pictures.  As a researcher I got really excited about all the ideas on ways we could use one of these to scout at the NCRS. Our current (and past) interns would be happy to hear that there is a seed research company out there that uses these to do stand counts. They just program the drone to fly the plot area and it takes pictures or video of the crop close enough that you can count all plants to get the total established stand. We could also use these to help us see and record deer and raccoon damage that we have to deal with each season.  More importantly we could monitor changes in plant health or in fertilizer treatments differences with the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) images. This is what devices like the Greenseeker use for variable rate nitrogen applications in corn and wheat.  And the nice thing is they are all taken while recording the GPS location.  So these images and data can be put into our GPS software and maps can be overlaid with our planting treatment maps to pinpoint locations of concern.

I am going to continue to research the possibilities of what drone technologies could provide for our NCRS test plots, and ultimately to growers.  Maybe sometime this summer we will have a hexacopter test drive.  So stay tuned.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nothing But Research....As It Should Be.

So last week got off to a busy start at the NCRS.  Of course there were days of rain that followed.  But with crops growing, rain is ok with us.  But Monday was a day of making some test foliar applications on corn experiments.  Here it comes spraying a plot on Farm 6.  I should probably move.  I told Tim not to stop for anything.
 And there it goes.  The plot Hagie contiues to be a great research machine.  In addition to spraying, it is also making sidedress applications in corn as well with the Hagie nitrogen bar.  I'll have some pics of that some other time.
 While looking around I noticed this experiment on Farm 5.  The plot on the left had no planter applied fertilizer while the plot on the right had an in-furrow application of Pro-Germinator, Sure-K and micros.  This experiment is testing experimental additives for nutrient enhancement.  Well it looks like there is quite a fertilizer effect already.
Here is Phil spraying Sure-K on a field of alfalfa that had been harvested the previous week.  Spraying after harvest to the new growth ensures that the fertilizer goes into the leaves and then throughout the plant to promote regrowth.  With the cold spring, first cutting was late this year.  But hopefully we will get our four cuttings this year.  It would help if it would warm up for a whole week.
Lot's going on.  And can you believe tomorrow (Saturday) is the first day of summer?  And this year, by coincidence, it's also going to be the longest day of sunlight for the year!  Don't you dare miss it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fun on the Farm...And a Learning Opportunity

So last Friday was a fun event at the NCRS.  It seems that there is going to be a meeting of the AgroLiquid sales managers next week.  And one of the activities is a scavenger hunt at the NCRS.  Only this scavenger hunt isn't to find a pair of socks on the clothes line, or something traditional.  This is to challenge your ability to answer agronomy questions at the NCRS.  So we had a run-through with the farm staff.  And you had to be able to navigate the experiment information contained in the Database program on the iPad.  (I think I used an eyepad once for a stye.)  Anyway, they divided up the NCRS staff into teams.  This included the mowers, interns, summer help and full timers.  I came out, and Stephanie had me as an observer.  No way, I wanted to play.  So I joined a team.  Stephanie and Tim, with help from Brian, worked hard to put together a challenging game.  They succeeded.  Below Tim gives instructions before the start.  I will say that everyone was very competitive.  
 Here is my team working on a fertilizer mix calculation.  No problem.
Here Emily is showing proof that we answered one of the questions by showing a soybean seed. Sadly, this was not the correct answer.  But it should have been.
Does this look like a safe backpack sprayer application?  Just asking.
Solve this puzzle.  Hmmmm.  It was very windy and a challenge to keep the pieces from blowing away. I say extra credit for keeping the pieces on the table.
You also had to prove that your team was at a correct location in an exercise by taking pictures with the iPads.  Here Emily, Dan and Josh of our Team 4 spell out A(gro) L(iquid) F(ertilizers).  I took the picture, not thinking of the selfie approach like other teams.  (Although we should get extra credit for spelling.)
Like Nick, Kalvin and Tim.  I think Tim is hungry...or has gout.
I think this team should remain anonymous.  (Is that ok with you Mitch, Kelly and Phil?)
So while the teams worked on the hunt for two hours during the morning, Brian cooked brats on the grill and Stephanie and Tim put out other lunch items.  Upon return, we had a great meal.  Thanks for that.
 And there were strawberries from the garden and a great desert of Bratberry ice cream.  Yum.
So it was fun.  And with learning.  But no one could answer all of the questions in the two hours that flew by.  It will be a challenge for the sales guys (and girl) next week.  Although they are also going to be joined by some office staff I think.  But it was fun and I will say that it was a very competitive event.  It made me miss being at the NCRS full time in the summer, but glad I could participate for a day.