Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Making the Most of Farming in NE Colorado

So the second half of my fertilizer mission last week took me to Northeast Colorado.  A favorite part of that was calling on Retail Partner Aero Applicators in the town of Sterling run by Darrel Mertens and his wife Deb.  I have known them for around eighteen years, as near as we could calculate.  
 They operate three Air Tractor 402 turbine powered application planes.  They have been super busy this year. Now they are mainly spraying fungicides and insecticides on irrigated corn, plus some fungicide work on irrigated sugarbeets.  They will often add a gallon of a foliar mix of half NResponse and half ferti-Rain.  Here they are loading a plane in the early morning.
 Aero Applicator's agronomist Wes and I were out checking some Liquid fields and saw one of their pilots, Roger making fungicide application on sugarbeets.  So naturally we had to watch.
No doubt you have seen the wind turbines seemingly everywhere.  Well they have made many parts of farming country unsprayable by aerial applicators.  This particular field was in between two ranges of turbines.  In addition to that there is an irrigation pivot across the field that you can see in the picture below.  So pilot Roger said he was looking all around as he flew and made his turns on the end between passes.  I would call that hazardous duty indeed.  But he completed the job just fine. Aerial applicators are the best. 
Later we were looking at a field where wheat had been harvested recently.  It was next to a field of irrigated corn fed with AgroLiquid. 
Look close and you can see some emerging cover crops, in this case radish, turnip and rapeseed.  Well this is another service of Aero Applicators: aerial application of cover crop seed.
Back at the hangar Darrel showed me the three-way seed mix that they apply at a rate of around six pounds per acre.
 There is a meter that attaches by where Darrel's head is that feeds it into the manifold applicator on the bottom of the plane.  Going 120 miles per hour ensures that the seed is well dispersed.  The popularity of cover crops has given Aero Applicators a new service for growers.
They have been AgroLiquid dealers for quite a while and have a good customer base like this grower of irrigated corn and sunflowers.  But it's still very competitive.  We were reflecting that after so many years you would think there would be a line out the door every morning of customers, since the Liquid works so well in this area.  But like I said, it's still competitive.  (Mr. Cook and I used to wonder the same thing about the line of customers that there should be.  But we keep after it.)
In addition to irrigated crops, there are a lot of dryland crops as well.  Now here is where faith comes in, as many years this is a recipe for crop failure in dry NE CO.  But rainfall has been generous this year and many dryland crops look great, like this corn that has AgroLiquid under it.  They plant a low population like 12 to 14,000 and then fertilize for well under 100 bu/A.  But the rain has raised the yield potential.  The Pro-Germinator, Micro 500 and High NRG-N fertilizer is going to stretch that yield up to higher levels, even though less was put on.  This field has caught quite a notice, and due to the low population, there are multiple ears per plant that should all mature. 
 Another popular dryland crop is Proso Millet or Hershey millet as it is sometimes called.  The first time I came out to this area I took a slide picture of two adjacent fields, one with Pro-Germinator and High NRG-N and one without.  The fertilized field was much thicker and had more seed heads.  Like the fertilized field below.  I read that this crop has the lowest water requirement of any grain crop, which is why it is popular out here.  It is used for flour, some livestock and bird feed.  But it is pretty.
So that was an enjoyable trip to see some good friends and good crops fertilized with AgroLiquid as well.  Now back to the NCRS to prepare for the Research Field Days.  Don't you dare miss it.