Friday, June 24, 2016

NCRS School

So, again, sorry for the lapse in blog posts, but I've been busy.  But over the past three weeks, the Sales Account Managers and Regional Managers have been attending training and business sessions at AgroLiquid World Headquarters here in St. Johns, Michigan.  They spaced them over three weeks so the group size would be more manageable, I guess.  But what training session would be complete without a visit to the North Central Research Station?  Well, it would be pretty poor. So here are some pics of what went on.  The day was filled with activities planned by the NCRS Research Managers Tim, Stephanie and Jacob with ample support by the NCRS staff as well as the Agronomy Staff.
Dr. Zouheir Masri demonstrated how he extracts plant-usable soil phosphorus at different depths so as to compare different fertilizers for the ability to feed plants over time.
Tim and SAM Brian discuss efficacy of different types of seed-firmers for in-furrow fertilizer application.
Here was a fun time.  Tim planted 6 rows of corn, but some of the rows had an issue, such as too shallow, too deep, doubles, population too high or too low, and one was just right.  So their mission, should they decide to accept it, was to find the seeds and diagnose the issue.  
Tim demonstrated the different types of nozzles used for sprayer application, and when to use which one for the different application goals.  He also showed how the Hagie sprayer can make sidedress applications with coulter or Y-Drops. 
Stephanie talked about field checking corn.  Like growth stage, stand counts and growing conditions.
 All of the college interns have a special agronomy project.  Here, OSU student Trevor talks about foliar applications of fertilizer on winter wheat.  It was an outstanding presentation.  (And Trevor is a student at the premier "O" school: Oklahoma State University.)
Horticulturist Jacob goes over the basics of setting vegetable transplants into a plastic mulch, including fertilizer application.  

 It wasn't just watching, as Bruce and Eric found out.  You need fast hands for this.  Don't quit your day job Bruce.
 The NCRS orchard has plenty of learning opportunities, as Jacob explains.  AgroLiquid has all of the essential nutrients for top apple production, and all are on display here.  There are also some test applicators in the overhead hose lines that are being tested and developed here.  Cutting edge stuff.
So that was just a snap-shot of all that went on.  But the SAM's all left with increased knowledge for supporting AgroLiquid.  Also, there are a number of NCRS tours lined up culminating with THE Agro-Expo on August 16-18.  Want to see some of this for your own self? Well show up then.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Crops Good Enough to Eat!

So here in the Palouse there are a lot of wide open spaces for growing crops other than just wheat. Let's see some of the crops primarily grown around here for feeding people all across the country. This is a field of???.....Austrian Winter Peas.  It is actually a winter crop, planted in the fall.  They are just starting to flower. These field peas are grown for both human and livestock consumption as they are high in protein.  These are grown by Eric Odberg (from yesterday's blog post).
Do you know what kind of winter wheat this is???  It's called Club Wheat.  It is a soft white winter wheat that is mainly used in a blend with other white wheat to make Western White Wheat.  It is sold to Japan and Taiwan for cookies and pastries.  It is used to keep the protein less than 10.5%, which is the way they want it.  (I mean who wants a high protein piece of cake in Tokyo anyway?)  This pic is from one of Eric's fields.
 Here we are looking at another of Eric's multitude of crops.  Now I had never seen this before and only heard of it in a Bud Light commercial several years ago.  Any guesses?
This is the first, and biggest, field of quinoa I had ever seen.  I'm not even sure that I have ever eaten any.  But it is recognized as one of the world's healthiest foods.  And surprisingly it is of the same genus as Lambsquarters (Chenopodium).  Now one of my missions in life has been to kill lambsquarters, one of the worst weeds anywhere.  And now I find that you can eat it's cousin.  Mother Nature is a maaaad scientist.  By the way, do you remember that commercial...where a guy is tailgating before a football game and his wife packed quinoa burgers.  But the last time he ate one, his team he throws it on the grill and has to eat it again.  But he pronounces it all would I if no one told me it's keen-wah.  Incidentally, it is mainly grown in Peru, so help the American quinoa producers by getting some of those burgers.
Now salad bars are sure to have the food produced by this plant.  And as usual, most people have no idea where it comes from.  But it's Garbanzo Beans.  This picture is taken from a rough high-traffic end of the field, but it was raining, so at the time I didn't care to go out further.  This is one of Doug's fields (Doug from earlier blog post.)
It can be a tough crop to grow, so growers will often plant a blend of different varieties shown here. That night at the restaurant in Moscow, Idaho they had a Fried Palouse Garbanzo appetizer.  So of course we had to try it.  I'll just say that Garbanzo beans are best served plain on a salad bar and not cooked or spicey.  But had to try it.
 Here is another crop that is responsible for some good food, especially in soup.  It is another legume.  What is it?
 It's lentils.  I do like them very much myself.  These are some of Doug's and he used some Pro-Germinator and Micro 500 through the drill at planting.  
So that was fun seeing all of those crops that make food that we can eat ourselves, being grown here in such beautiful surroundings.  Hope you enjoyed the gourmet tour.  I will think of these scenes when I see them in the store.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Who Needs Mountains? Go Climb a Washington Wheat Field

So the next day offered up more wheat field adventures.  I have talked about the Palouse of Washington, Idaho and Oregon several times in the past.  It is a hilly area of rich soil in SE WA and SW Idaho.  Look it up.  I have shown pictures from the bottom of some steep fields, but never had the opportunity to climb up one....till today.  It seems that we have some on-farm fertilizer trials, one of which with Eric Odberg of Genesse, ID.  I talked about being there last September 24 to set up some trials, and here we are in the middle of one.  Here we see our friend Kay Mercer who is the Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association (PNDSA) and a couple of Eric's.  Eric O. is a busy guy.  Not only does he farm a large amount of ground in the Palouse, but is also on the PNDSA board, and was selected as a Responsible Nutrient Practitioner at the last National No-Till conference. 
If you have the ability to make this picture large and look closely towards the top, about in the middle, you can see an orange flag.  That is the divide of the plot comparing Eric's normal liquid drill program vs one from AgroLiquid featuring a test liquid phosphate formulation with micros, sulfur and High NRG-N. 
 Well the mountain won't come to us, so up we go.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was having fun making the climb.  The wheat looked great thanks to ample rainfall.  And fertilizer of course.
 Up on top of the hill it flattens out.  But it is noticeably drier on top vs the slope.  I am on the divide with one plot on the left and the other on the right.  Can you see a difference?  Well before long the combine will tell how this story ends.
 Nearby, in one of Eric's fields was a University of Idaho wheat variety plot.  It was interesting to see all the differences in the varieties.
There was another field comparison back over in Colton, WA.  This one was on Kay's family farm managed by brother Frank Wolf.  That's him in the middle.  The guy on the left is Kay's husband Ty. He manages his family farm that is near the Wolf farm.  Ty is also on the PNDSA board and is the Production Ag Manager for the Spokane Conservation District.  So it was decided to put the three drill-applied treatments next to each other on the same farm.  The treatments were one with the test phosphate fertilizer, one with Pro-Germinator and the regular Wolf wheat fertilizer.  
 For reference, that's Sales Account Manager Eric all the way on the other side of the two AgroLiquid plots.  Each plot is nearly 20 acres.
The wheat is quite tall, which was not the case last fall when Kay put marker flags in the ground.  So it took some walking, but the flags were found, and then the wheat itself was marked with orange tape.  But like I said, I thought it was a nice day for a walk.  Or a climb.
Up on top of one of the field hills, you could watch an aerial applicator making a fungicide (I think) application to another wheat field.  There is wheat rust all around that is being sprayed.  Also spotted some Russian wheat aphids.  But not many.  Darn Russians anyway. 
So that was a nice couple of field visits.  On the way back to Spokane we came across an unusual sight.  There was a wheat field that had at least a mile long strip and some other spots that looked like it had been sprayed with Roundup.  Don't know if it was a disgruntled sprayer operator or if someone poured some left over Roundup into an empty fungicide jug and forgot.  Well this is probably a memory jogger.  
Well winter wheat harvest isn't that far away, so we will see how the test turns out.  But the blog isn't through with this trip tune in later.

Monday, June 13, 2016

In Washington Wheat Country

So last week I was on a fertilizer mission out in Washington State.  We stopped at the Hefty seed and chemical store in Farmington, which is in the Southeastern part of the state right on the Idaho border. They are AgroLiquid dealers.  The store general manager, Doug Bruce also farms quite a few acres, and was out spraying for wheat rust when SAM Eric and I got there.  Sales Agronomist Jamie showed us around a little and then took us out to where Doug was spraying.  Well wouldn't you know that it started to rain and that shut down the spraying for the day.

So they loaded up the sprayer so it would be ready to go when it dried out tomorrow.  And Doug gave us a tour.  This was the first time I had been in this area.  It is really pretty.

 Here is a field of wheat that had Pro-Germinator and Micro 500 applied through the drill and topdressed with High NRG-N.  It looks as good as a wheat field can look.
A view of a valley with various crops, many of which fertilized with AgroLiquid.
 Doug and Eric do what all farmers do: count the wheat grains in the head.  It's loaded.
 Here is a wheat field comparison.  The wheat on the left is that of a farmer who uses some sort of conventional fertilizer and the wheat on the right is Doug's who used AgroLiquid.  It starts just outside of the sprayer tracks.  See the uniformity and how the wheat rows closed solid.  Seeing is believing to me.
 Doug has quite an antler collection back in his shop.  It goes around all four walls and has the date and shooter written on the wall.  It is not only Doug and others, but also his daughters from years ago.  He can tell the story of each one.
 Well at least they're honest.
So that was not all of my excellent adventure in Washington.  I can stretch this out a few more days.

P.S.  I finally have my computer back, and that means the return of Picasa!!!  So notice the excellence of these pictures.  I still think Google is hurting itself and loyal customers by ending Picasa.  But enough said already.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First Field Day of the Year Was In Kentucky

So sorry for the time lapse, but I've been busy.  But certainly want to report on the trip last week to the first field day of the year in Hopkinsville, KY for Retail Partner Security Seed and Chemical. They have a research department and several research farm locations, one of which is Hopkinsville. 

Field Agronomist John Leif and Program Specialist Dale Ruff accompanied me on this trip, and we showed up the day before the Field Day to assist in preparation and to get an early look at the plots. Here are John and Dale talking about wheat with Security Seed agronomist Lang French and researcher Dustin.
Research Director Patrick Hurt is the one behind all of the plot installation and is commended for the usual excellent job.  (What a great picture.  Looks like it should be on the back cover of his autobiography or something.)
Plot signs have to be put in place.
Here is a sneak peak.  Lang came up with the following comparisons.  The plot below has a broadcast application of 100 lb/A of K-Mag, and then 6 gal/A of Pro-Germinator + 1 gal/A of Kalibrate + 1 pt/A of Iron and 1/2 pt/A of Boron in-furrow with the planter.  The K-Mag was applied to give an extra balance of nutrients as recommended by the soil test.
This plot had a preplant broadcast application of 300 lb/A of 9-23-30, which is a common farmer practice in the area.
Of course cost is a consideration, especially these days.  The next plot had a combination of Pro-Germinator + Kalibrate + Iron + Boron at the same rates as above, but no K-Mag.  Well this combination had the same cost as the dry program. But has yielded better in previous testing.  All of these tratments had the same total rate of N, made up from sidedress of 32% UAN.  So planter placement and AgroLiquid had the best looking plots, but time will tell.  Again.
On tour day, there were several stops for the attendees.  Like this one about precision farming and utilization of a drone for in-season measurement of crop uniformity plus poor spots that can be identified and corrected.  (Wow that was a long sentence.)  Anyway that is part of the drone in the lower left. It is a rear propeller drone that flies back and forth over the field at an altitude of 400 feet taking pictures.  Then the pictures are "stitched" together by a computer program and then can be viewed using different filters, like Infra Red, NDVI and others.  They said it would work best at a 600 foot altitude, but 400 feet is the highest currently allowed by the FAA.  Darn government.
Here is Lang talking to one of the tour groups about in-furrow corn fertility.  The plot shown above were only part of what was presented. There were some experimentals from AgroLiquid, and other manufacturers.  There were also some other competitive company products, so it was a good comparison to view.  My unbiased eye saw that AgroLiquid reigned supreme.  In the background you can see another group at the wheat plot stop.  So plenty to see.
So that was worth the long drive down, as I learned plenty about growing top crops in Kentucky and saw other products in the field.  Plus we all enjoyed visiting with many of our friends there from Security Seed and Chemical.  Hope to make it back for other field days later in the summer.

(FYI.  Today is June 8 which marks 24 years since my first day at Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. How can 24 years have gone by so fast?  Hope the next 24 will slow down a little so I can catch up. But it has been a great job with a great company, a great family in the Bancrofts, and many great friends, co-workers, retailers and customers, plus assorted odd-balls like myself.  If you think this mention of such a monumental event is too low-key, well wait till next year's Silver Anniversary gala.)