Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grapes Coming to a Table Near You

So the next day, Tuesday, we went up to the town of Coachella.  There is a new Retail Partner, Foster-Gardner, that agronomist JW and I visited there. This is a big time table grape area.  (Table grapes as opposed to wine grapes.)  We went to several grape areas, and this one was being harvested.  That's JW checking things out.  Notice the date palms on the left. There was a lot of harvesting going on as indicated by all the packing boxes.
This is what it looks like down the rows.  This site had just been picked.  I guess I was a little self- conscious about taking pictures of the workers.  It was very hot, well over 100 degrees, and they were working hard and I was just standing around watching.
The bunches of grapes are unloaded on a table.  See how nice and scarlet they are.
Then they are loaded directly into a store package and placed in this supermarket box.  So it might be a good idea to rinse them off before eating.  However, I did not follow my own advice and was eating them directly from the bunches hanging on the vines.  Super good flavor..  (Oh, I was discrete in taking this pic of the woman here.  How they work when it's so hot is a mystery to me.  I admire and respect them so much for their strong ability here.)
But unfortunately the grapes are not all nice and scarlet.  These grapes here were not picked because the finicky shoppers want them all scarlet and grapey colored.  There are a lot of these.  Grapes get their color on the vine, and not after picking like some crops.  So they are left and hopefully will color and be picked later.  But here it is late in the season, and maybe they won't have time or labor to keep coming back.  Wouldn't it be nice if there was some sort of foliar nutritional spray that would enhance coloring?  Well cross your fingers.  If you like grapes that is.
After that we went and looked at a nearby tangerine orchard.  Now who doesn't like tangerines?  But those darn seeds.  
Hey, these are seedless tangerines.  How does that happen? Well, it seems that they put netting over the whole row of trees at flowering to prevent pollination by bees.  And so the tangerines grow and mature without seeds.  Here are some in development and they will grow until harvest in the winter. But it seems that tangerines have some of the same issues as grapes with uniform coloring.  Some of the tangerines don't fully turn orange, keeping some green color which prevents marketing.  Maybe there is some way to enhance uniform orange-ness.  We will see. 
So after all of that, it was time to head over the Santa Rosa mountains and back to San Diego so JW and I could depart to our respective homes.  I had never taken this route, and it was some pretty "keep your eyes on the road" driving.  We turned off into an overlook to see greater Coachella-Indio-Desert Palm in the background.  And look at the curvy road.
There are a number of wild fires going on in California.  Which is sad due to the terrible drought. This is a view of the smoke from the so-called "Lake Fire" in the distance to the North.  Too bad about that.
Did I say San Diego?  Wait, I have a daughter and son-in-law and GRANDSON in San Diego.  Well it would just be rude not to stop by.
So I did.  He's almost four months old and certainly happy to see his Grand-dad.  I was happy too in case you can't tell.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Imperial Visit

 So I was on a fertilizer mission earlier this week to Southern California.  About as far South as you can go, to the Imperial Valley.  I have reported on previous visits, most recently last March where we were setting up some applications of Fase 2 on olives.  Well here they are some two months later.  Can you see a difference?  Well of course not, but we'll find out come harvest in the fall.
 Here are the olives already forming.  It was really hot, but they like that even if I don't.
 Here is a brand new planting of olives.  Now do you see that they are a desert crop?  Amazing what water can do.  Water is a precious commodity here in California, but unlike the rest of the state, the source is still pretty good here in the valley.  Their water comes from the Colorado River.  The plan is to have Pro-Germinator and micros running through the drip tape in the future.
 This is just a little ways from the above picture.  Pretty barren.  Nothing grows without water.
In fact, there is a military bombing range nearby too.  Who knew so much was going on in the desert.
Another desert crop in the area is dates.  I don't know much about them, but they are pretty as they go into date production.
Soon they will put bags over the dates to keep birds from eating them.
 I talked about the Salton Sea in a blog post on February 28, 2014.  But I had never been right on the shore of it till last Monday.  A quick review:  It was created in 1905 by an engineering accident where irrigation channels were overrun by flooding of the Colorado River.  The unchecked water ran for two years and formed a lake some 35 miles long and 15 miles wide.  It was a low area that had salt mines, and there is no outflow.  So naturally the water became salty, more so than the ocean.  It became a popular recreation area back in the 30's and continued through the 70's.  But the water became saltier and also had runoff from agricultural land, such that it was no longer fun to go there. Now there is no recreation on it, other than some pelicans who may find a fish to eat.
 Now the water level is receding due to diversion of water flow into the lake for municipal water needs.  Plus it's hot and there is evaporation loss.  Here is a picture of thousands of fish that died years ago from the increased salt.  So I would imagine that this probably affected family visits to the place.
 And did I mention that it was hot?  This is from my rental car Monday afternoon.  Now I was driving in the streets of downtown Brawley, so it was likely hotter than outside of town.  By a degree or two.
But the upside is getting the jump on eating olives and dates.  And no shoveling snow half the year like in Michigan.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Applications and Evaluations at the NCRS

So I was on a fertilizer mission last week, but Stephanie sent me these pictures of field crop research activities.  Like a sequential side-dress application in corn with the Hagie.  We are testing application timing, equipment and additional nutrient combinations with the nitrogen. 
 The MSU interns Matt, Quinten and Chris have been busy with a variety of plot evaluations.  Like head counts in winter wheat....
 and soybean counts and vigor.  Lots of data is collected and we are glad to have the extra hands and eyes from these sharp student.
So it's summer now.  What does that mean?  Soybeans better get growing.  Now that the days are getting shorter, that's a signal for soybeans to start thinking about reproduction.  Well if they had a brain I guess.  But it's going to happen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Early NCRS Tour

 So by "early" I meant "early in the season" and certainly not early in the day.  But this was a farming basics tour for the AgroLiquid employees in the corporate office and Ashley manufacturing plant.  We have sessions every so often to go over the basics of farming and how the fertilizer is applied and how it works.  This primarily for those who may not be too familiar with what all of this fertlizer business that they work on is all about. After a little a welcome and history by me, agronomist Dan Peterson from Wisconsin covered nutrients, products and discussed the GMO situation.  I talked about planters, gps, and the different ways farmer apply our Liquid.  (I should probably get me one of those selfie stick things to better show me in action.  But really it was very interesting.  I listened to every word I said.)
We went into the field to see a variety of the research plots we have, and pointed out fertilizer differences.  One of the stops was where Dr. Zouheir Massri has one of his phosphate fertilizer studies.  He is measuring P movement from the application band as rainwater moves through the soil.  We should be getting some early results very soon. 
He showed the collection procedure in the syringes from the buried lysimeters.  Very interesting and pioneering research at the NCRS.
We also stopped at the apple orchard where researcher Jacob Emling talked about the high-density orchard and the plans for the upcoming installation of the fixed spray canopy systems.  Everyone volunteered for a taste test.
 On the long drive back to the NCRS office, agronomist John Leif talked about the timely topic of cover crops.  What they are, what they do and why they are seeing more acres of them each year.  Also interesting, it was.
So that is yet another reason why the employees of AgroLiquid are the most knowledgeable anywhere about the job they do plus the company they work for.  Or I mean, ...the company for whom they work.  Even our grammar is good.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mammoth Cave

So there was a Wednesday between the field days on Tuesday and Thursday last week.  How to spend it?  Well there was a company wide corporate conference in the morning that told us about many new things going on in the Land of Liquid.  Here we are being good employees and tuning in. Proof of attendance for John, Jourdan and Quinten.  And me too.
 Hey, why not go visit one of the Earth's biggest holes: Mammoth Cave.  It was pretty close.  So we did.  The part we visited was discovered in 1921 by a guy named George Marshall who noticed a depression and cool air coming out of the ground.  It was a few miles from the historic Mammoth Cave entrance.  We had to go down some stairs to get to the entrance.  Which prepared us for lots more stairs after entering the cave.
 He found a cave and actually got his younger nephew to tie a rope around himself and venture into the hole.  He soon needed much more rope.  Now there is a steel stairway that descends several hundred feet down.  It is an engineering marvel to install the stairs.  But it was quite a trip.
 There were all kinds of cool cave sites.  Like this.
 And this.
 And this column.
 Oh, and this.
 And don't forget this.
 I kind of wanted to dive down into this pool.  But a sign said "No Diving".  So I didn't.
 Towards the end it felt like something was in the dark corners.  All kinds of scary beings could be around the next corner.
So George Marshall made this cave passable back in the '20's.  And it had lights and everything.  He called it the New Entrance to Mammoth Cave.  But they made him prove it to use that name.  So he tied a rope around his poor nephew again, and he did come out in the other part of Mammoth Cave, so they got to keep the name.  But after the main cave became a National Park, he eventually sold out to be part of the park in 1931.  Since it was the Depression, he took the generous offer of $290,000, which would be a zillion dollars today.  If you go, take a jacket as it is in the 50's all year round.  There is plenty to see and do in Kentucky besides field days.  Which are pretty cool anyway.

First Field Day of the Year at Security Seed in Kentucky

So I think field days are a great place to learn about growing crops and the products that make it happen.  You can see for yourself what is working, as opposed to a farm show or company meeting where you just listen to someone talking.  (Oops, there goes my cover for the show season.)  Last week I had the opportunity to attend the wheat field day put on by Security Seed and Chemical at their research farms in Hopkinsville and Morganfield, Kentucky.  There were some grower there, but mostly their agronomists and sales personnel attended from the 14 locations throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.  I have been working with their research manger Patrick Hurt for several years now.  They do a great job of providing local research to support their products which includes Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers.  Here is Patrick telling the people here in Hopkinsville to load up the wagons and prepare to learn. 
In the field Patrick talks about corn fertilizers.  The dog must have heard it before as he is already a believer. 
Here is a plot that received 300 lb/A of a broadcast dry blend of 9-23-30.  These are 4 row plots, and the dry doesn't measure up very well to the adjacent plots of Liquid. 
They also make applications of experimental products, as in this one with a test formulation of phosphorus plus Kalibrate and Micro 500.  It really responds to the sulfur in these products.  Hopefully we will see this product in the near future.
Here is the test plot planter that they use.  It is a great set-up for the plots here.
Now we are in Morganfield and here is my old friend Lang who is the fertilizer specialist for Security.  Lang is an AgroLiquid alumni, and he and I used to travel a lot together.  He is very knowledgeable of our fertilizer products and speaks about how they work here.  I learn plenty from listening to him talk about the research and on-farm results of Liquid and a variety of product additives.
 One thing that is apparent is the wheat response to sulfur fertilizer inputs.  Plots with Kalibrate and AccesS look very good.  One plot that looked really good was this one where one gallon of ferti-Rain was applied with fungicide at wheat flowering.  It was the biggest and thickest.  Now of course ferti-Rain has 1.5% sulfur in it, and the foliar application seemed to be the right product at the right rate and the right time at the right place.  You can see how it is taller and thicker than the adjacent plots. We predicted that this plot will be well over 100 bu/A.  What could be easier than adding a gallon of ferti-Rain to this application?
 Here I am at Hopkinsville talking about foliar application of fertilizers on soybeans.  Now there aren't any soybeans planted yet, but there will be after wheat harvest, and the best and easiest way to provide nutrition is through well-proven folair application.  After my explanation, I lead the wagons of attendees in a round of singing the AgroLiquid jingle.  No really, there is one.  It was written by Doug Cook many years ago.  "Agro-Culture Liquid is the one to buy. Liquid plant food is the reason why.  Agro Liquid makes your crop tops, so have a Top Crop in every drop."  Now why aren't we still using that?
 Tom Daniels talks about wheat management.  Under the tent is Caleb who talked about the Y Drops that I showed us using at the NCRS and Todd talked about the Soil Scan which gives in field analysis of soil nitrate.  Agriculture gets more high tech all the time.
 We also had the chance to see some vegetable plots nearby.  In fact it was in the town that has the Jefferson Davis monument that I have chronicled in this blog in the past.  Didn't have time to go up it this time.  But here is Billy from Security Seed and SAM Jourdan, MSU intern Quinten and agronomist John slogging through the mud to look at the Liquid fertilizer on tomatoes, cantaloupe and watermelon.  There had been plenty of rain of late, and the fertilizer is being applied through the drip lines and then foliar later.  Can't wait to chow down at harvest.
 So that was a good and informative week.  Thanks to all at Security Seed and Chemical for a well-run field day at both locations.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Congrats Furniture Row Racing

So I like to watch a NASCAR race every now and then.  I turned on the race from Pocono today and saw that Martin Truex from Furniture Row Racing was ahead, so I watched it to the end.  Some may recall that AgroLiquid was associated with Furniture Row Racing through car owner Mr. Barney Visser, who also owns the Furniture Row fine chain of stores.  He is also a farm owner in Colorado who promoted agriculture through an organization called Farm American back in 2011.  And AgroLiquid was a supporter of that and even got the LIQUID logo on the car a couple times.  The blog featured a visit to a race on August 20, 2011.  Here Martin does the burn-out after his victory. I'm sure he is enjoying the taste of tire rubber from the smoke in the car.
 Anyway, Martin Truex won today, and it was his third career victory and Furniture Row's second.  Evidently Martin is well liked by fellow drivers who were happy for him.  And it is the first victory for crew chief Cole Pearn below on the left with Martin.
I say all this because Barney Visser farms a large amount of dryland ground near Denver, and uses Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. He even visited the NCRS a couple of times.  So of course I'm happy he won.  Now he can buy some more fertilizer.