Friday, July 22, 2016

WY to MT Byways

So last week on my way back up to Billings, MT to fly home, I had a little extra time to see some sights.  Like the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk, WY.  They had a lot of nice historic things on display like this two-headed calf born just North of town in 1943.  (It wasn't still alive in there, that would be cruel).  And small world: while there, I saw a family and the kids had on OSU Cowboy t-shirts.  The Mom was a graduate.  We're everywhere!
I have showed some of the nice crop land, but much of the state is just wide-open spaces.  There is lots of room for people in crowded cities to move out to the country here.  Not sure what they would do once they got here though.
There are interesting rock formations along the highway.  It's easy to pull over and take some pics as there is hardly any traffic.

And there is a lot of pretty scenery if you get off the highway.
 Maybe this was a little too far off the highway.  I had no phone service, food or water, and saw no other traffic.  So rather than keep going on this "scenic route" to the North, I went back to the highway.  In the end I was glad I did as you'll see.
Wyoming is a big oil and gas state.  In some parts of the wide-open spaces there are all sorts of things pertaining to that.  I wonder how often someone has to drive way out here to check on them.
 Here is a building in old downtown Shoshoni, WY.  I thought it had character, or used to.  Pretty dry here with only 4" average annual rainfall.
Here is the old main street I guess.  Not much going on these days.  Now there is more of a town with some actual businesses just to the West of here.  But this was probably a happenin' place back in the day.  
Now crossing back into Montana near Hardin, I did a double-take as I passed this field.  I had to turn around and take another look.  I had never seen a field that looked so heavily plowed. It must have been a giant plow and would have liked to see what kind of tractor pulled it.
But I saved my favorite picture for last.  I was passing through the small town of Belfry, MT and happened to see this sign for the school.  And when I did, I made another U-turn.  This has to be the best mascot name EVER!  The BELFRY BATS!  That made my day.
Kind of hard to see, but they have a bat on the pole by the sign.  I'd love to go cheer at a home football game and get my picture taken with the mascot.
You can tell it's Friday.  Have a good weekend and send any rain our way.  We need it more than you.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Intern on the Move, Plus More NCRS Happenings

So last week NCRS college intern Jake took his field trip to North Dakota.  He was met in Bismarck by Sales Account Manager Brad and Field Agronomy Manager Reid.  From there they went down to the extreme Southwestern part of the state to Bowman, home of AgroLiquid Retail Partner Southwest Ag (well what else would it be called?).  They spent the next several days travelling with some of the Southwest sales agronomists visiting customers both in the Bowman area and near their other site in Mandan, next to Bismarck.  MSU student Jake said that many of the crops looked good but some had been hampered by dry weather and hail.  Now that's a cruel combination.  That's Jake on the right.
In other news...the NCRS has long been Environmentally Verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP, or pronounced "Meep" in conversation).  This is a state program that recognizes farms that keep good spray, planting, application, et al, records, safe storage of pesticides, containment of fertilizers, irrigation records and all of the things that make a farm a good neighbor.  The NCRS passed inspection the other day and was awarded an updated sign, held by NCRS department manager Jay.  This one is cool because it is one of those that shine brightly at night from headlights.  Look for it on your next visit.  Come at night for the ultimate sign experience.
Well the winter wheat research plots have all been harvested, but there were still some production acres awaiting harvest.  Here is our fearless leader Troy taking the helm of the combine, having a last conversation with truck driver Ron.
And he's off.  This actually is some soft red winter wheat.  In general, these kernels are a major ingredient of flour used by private companies that bake cookies.  Yummm.
Faster Troy.   There's cookies to be made!

Drove by our vineyard that is looking good this time of year. You can see some green bunches in the
foliage.  These are Concord grapes, and thank goodness we have drip irrigation.
We are still making applications to the Challenge Plots at the AgroExpo site.  Brian Hefty called for a coulter injection treatment of High NRG-N, Kalibrate and Boron now that the soybeans are in the R2 stage of growth.  So we did.  (Nice picture Lacie.)
Now here's an odd picture, also at the AgroExpo site on Farm 12.  We noticed on a plot area planted to soybeans in 15" row spacing, that every other row was showing severe potassium deficiency while the other rows all looked fine. Hmmm. This soil is quite low in soil test potassium (STK), but even stranger is that there was no fertilizer applied at planting or any other time.  Hmmm #2.  What's up with that I wondered?  Come to the AgroExpo and learn more.
So it has been a busy week, and it's still not over. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wyoming Welcome

So last week I had the opportunity to again visit Wyoming.  Although you may not think so, there is quite a bit of high production agriculture there.  But it's mainly in several key areas.
One of those is down in Southeastern Wyoming where there is ample irrigation water to grow some high yielding field crops.  This is the family farm near Lingle run by Chris Cook, a 100% AgroLiquid user now for several years.  I have reported on previous visits, and it's always a pleasure.  Chris grows alfalfa, corn and pinto beans.  His alfalfa regularly yields in the 9 Ton range which is phenomenal.  It wasn't always that way, back several years ago using dry fertilizer.  But since using Pro-Germinator, accesS, Sure-K and micros, production and quality has soared.  In fact, all of his hay is now shipped to a large dairy in Colorado that produces milk for Wal-Mart.  And he said that there is a code on the jug that lets them know that the hay for that cow's milk came from their farm.  Now that's really farm to table!  So here they are baling a recent cutting.  
They also grow irrigated strip-till corn with all AgroLquid.  He is regularly in the finals for the Wyoming Corn Growers high-yield contest.
And here is a nice field of pinto beans under a new pivot.  He says he really likes center pivot irrigation for the speed and uniformity compared to managing furrow irrigation.  Probably most people aren't aware of furrow irrigation.
With furrow irrigation there is a large water pipe on the edge of the field that has a slide-door or gate over a hole that lines up with the furrow.  Prior to irrigation, a furrow is made with a tillage tool to give the water a clear path.  Obviously the field must be flat.  With some fields, a "sock" is attached to the pipe and the water flows through the sock and down the furrow. The sock prevents erosion where the stream of water would hit the soil.  But you can only run so many furrows at a time due to water supply.  So after a period of time, ranging from 8 to 24 hours depending on the size of the field, the gates are closed, socks removed, and move on down the pipe.  This must be done every day.  So farmers with furrow irrigation have a hard time getting away during irrigation season.  So we just attached the socks and opened the gates in this field of pinto beans.  And yes, I said "we".  Although probably more of a hindrance than a help, Chris schooled me in the art of sock attachment and water flow regulation.
With the Cook's, irrigation management is a family affair, with his wife and two young boys.  Here we are at a field of corn that is tube irrigated.  
You stick the end of the tube in the water, cover the other end with your hand, shake it up and down a couple times to create suction, and set it down quickly so the water will siphon from the source to the ground....and down the furrow.  I watched and learned.
And after a couple shakes, I proclaimed myself an expert.
So where does all of this water come from?  Well we often hear tales of the wisdom of our forefathers, and that is truly the case here.  At the turn of the last century, spring snowmelt and river flooding would put this ground under water, backed up to the mountains.  Well back around 1910, they graded the ground, built large water canals, and then implemented a water distribution system that would pull the water out of the canal and move it all around this valley so that they can irrigate. Otherwise it is a desert.  They are still using these irrigation systems that were built over 100 years ago.  There is no way we could afford to build something like this today, and would it last 100 years?
Here is one of the big canals which doubles as a rock skipping place.
There is always a challenge though, and that is with algae, or "moss" as it's called, clogging up gates and pipes.  Here we see a clump at one of the risers that feeds the pipes.  So you are always pulling it out of the gates.  It comes out of the canal, and they do put up screens at places to block it.  But some still gets through.
So I enjoyed the day with the Cook family, as I always do.  We also talked about crops, soil tests and fertilizer.  This picture was from the night before in Torrington, WY  
Just like in Central Michigan this summer, what looks like rain clouds is only a tease.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Out in Nor'Dakoda, You Betcha!

So last week I made my way to North Dakota on a fertilizer mission.  Coming in to land at Bismarck, the state capitol, you could see the Missouri River.  I just saw it recently in Montana too.  So you know what comes next...just think, Lewis and Clark paddled by here late in 1804.  Still an amazing feat. Anyway, Sales Account Manger Brad drove all the way up from Nebraska to meet me.  I was pleased.
The first order of business was to visit a contract research plot for spring wheat.  It is testing different P and N fertilizers, methods and timing of applications, etc.  It looks good, but it is very dry. You can tell it's research because there are flags.
 Brad and researcher Tanner discuss what's what.
The evening found us in Jamestown.  So how many times have you been asked the location of the World's Largest Buffalo, and had to hand your head in shame because you didn't know.  Well now you can reply: "It's in Jamestown, ND". The sign here says so.  No argument from me.
 They offer buffalo rides, so I can't say no to that.  I like the black hair on top.  Ride 'em Cowboys.
One of the things for the next day was a visit to our new storage site under development in Carrington.  I had never been here, but it looks impressive so far.  That is a half million gallon tank that had been full of Pro-Germinator this year.  But it is down to around 5 inches depth, according to the gauge. But that is still more than 5000 gallons.  See those tanks on their sides in the background? Well those are going into this hole once the lining is put in.  Well just like you, I see the stairs going up the tank, and of course want to go up on top.
Here are site manager Jared and Brad up on top, around 35 feet or so above the ground.
Jared says we can go inside the tank.  Well I didn't want to get wet, but he said we could go down the stairs between the double walls.  Now there's excitement!
Now I knew this was a double walled tank for prevention of a spill should something happen to the inside wall.  But I had no idea that there was this much space in between the walls.  Learn something new every day.
So of course Brad and I wanted to go down.  There was a little delay as no one wanted to go first or second in case the last guy decided to play a joke and padlock the door.  So as the most mature member of the group, I went last.  No incidents were reported.
Down at the bottom, Jared closes one of the valves.  I learned that there are three  lines in this tank: one for filling, one for emptying, and one for sparging, or for enabling circulation I guess. There are no lights down here, this is light from the door (with some brightness editing on the picture.)  Jared said that during filling of the tank he was up and down those stairs quite a few times a day.
 Later that day we went over to one of AgroLiquid retail partners in Hurdsfield, which was a Hefty Seed location owned by Chad Weckerly.  Here we are with Chad and two of his agronomists, Melissa and Emily looking at some corn planted with Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 + Liberate Calcium. 
 One thing you see almost throughout North Dakota is the abundance of water holes in fields, along with numerous lakes and ponds.  It is difficult to manage since to any plans to install drainage tile or work to drain them requires permission from the state wildlife agency (or whatever it is there) as it is considered wildlife habitat.  Well there is plenty of room for them outside of these small sites in a field.  I like ducks, but you shouldn't have to watch these water holes get bigger every year.
 Here is a large field of soybeans that will find their way into bags of Hefty brand soybeans.  A little rain would sure help.
 Well that was a fun trip, as most fertilizer missions are.  
Especially ones to North Dakota.  The Peace Garden State, right?  That's what it says on the license plates.  I reported on my visit to the actual Peace Garden several years ago.  It is on the border with Canada.  It must work as North Dakota is at peace with Canada, as far as I know.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Big Sky Adventures

So to continue my recent visit to Montana...Bruce and I visited some research plots in winter and spring wheat established by friend and long time Certified Professional Agronomist Neal Fehringer. That's Neal below next to Retail Partner Mike Kilzer, Neal's plot agronomist, and then SAM Bruce on the right.
 There were a variety of plots evaluating N, P and seed treatments.  Here is a plot of winter wheat.  It is very dry throughout Montana this summer.
Neal also helped setup a sidedress nitrogen test with an experimental additive.  It is on a nearby AgroLiquid customer's irrigated corn.  So lot's to learn come harvest.
 We also visited some of Mike's customers in the area, like this field of irrigated malt barley.  It is looking good as expected with AgroLiquid nutrition.
And here are some furrow irrigated sugarbeets, also growing well with AgroLiquid.  This is a long-time customer who commented on the purity and effectiveness of AgroLiquid.
No trip to Billings would be complete without a trip to the AgroLiquid rail and storage site.  I learned that before too long it will relocate to another site on the other side of town, as they have outgrown this site.  I can remember visiting this place years ago when they were just setting the tanks thinking how big it was...and now it is too small.  That's growth for you, which is a good thing.
Bruce counts railcars being unloaded.
 After that, Mike and I paid a visit to long-time customer Tvetene Turf.  They grow sod for distribution all around Southern Montana.  
They grow beautiful turf, both fescue and bluegrass.  I recall working on the recipe years ago with Mike, and we were almost there, but there was a missing ingredient to make it super green.  It turned out to be Manganese.  So MicroLink Manganese became  part of the fertilizer blend with excellent results.
The fertilizer is applied through the center pivot irrigation, pumped from the tank there.  There are several pivots at this and nearby locations.   They are a good customer for Mike.  I talked to their field man and he said they love using AgroLiquid.
 They cut the turf in rounds under the pivot.
In addition to growing turf, they also are equipment innovators.  They build and have patents on harvesting and transport equipment like the machine below.
 And here goes a load of sod to some lucky customer who will have a beautiful lawn of Liquid-fed grass.
And since I was in Montana, it was great to see this family of Grizzly Bears.  A beautiful wildlife scene for sure.
Well actually it was a picture in the hotel I was at.  You can kind of see my reflection.  But I was in Montana when I saw it.