Sunday, May 14, 2017

Season Finally Starts at NCRS

So usually we are pretty far into planting by May 8.  But with frequent rain and cold, field activity just got started last week at the NCRS.  And it was nice all week, so it was busy every day.  We are having some more buried drip tape installed on a small field near the field office.  It will be on display at the Agro-Expo.
 Believe it or not, there were frost warnings last Sunday and Monday nights.  So Tim B loaded up some foliar fertilizer into the Prop Tech orchard sprayer and gave the apples a blast during the day on Sunday and Monday.  This is to get some nutrition in the leaves to help ward off the cold.  Well it got down to 27 degrees both nights.  Well actually more around just before sunrise.  We saw no damage.  There were areas around where the fruit trees were hurt badly.  Every fruit growers worst nightmare.
 At the Agro-Expo there will be silage corn demonstrations.  The grower who is working on this part of the Expo came over to plant the hybrid plots, plus the part of the field where the silage choppers will run at the show.  This is also the grower who installed the Precision Planting parts on our planter. Naturally AgroLiquid fertilizer will make for a good show plot.
 I couldn't imagine having to make seed changes on a 16 row planter.  But they are like a pit crew with two vacuums with long hoses to empty out the planter boxes, and then put in the next one.  Everyone on the crew had a specific job, so you didn't want to get in the way.
 Phil and Jay check wheat plots for frost damage.  Hard to say right then.
 Later in the week Tim was applying the banded Liquid fertilizers in the orchard.  It's hard to see, but there is fertilizer coming out of a tube that runs along where the drip tape will water it in if it doesn't rain.  
 So the orchard is fenced to keep out all types of four-legged pests.  As I said previously, there are lots of robins in the orchard.  Now I did not know that robins nested on the ground.  Maybe it's because the trees are too small for nests?  I don't think so.  I will have to check into this. But there are no cats in there, so maybe they like it better.  This was the last nest with babies still in it.  There are larger juveniles around that can fly a little, but mostly scurry on the ground.  It was entertaining.  And by the way, we flagged this so as not to give them a fertilizer bath.  We do that with killdeers out in fields too.  I like birds and we are nice after all.
With the new line of Primagro fertilizers, the fertilizer wagon (or War Wagon) had to be expanded.  It's loaded and ready.
I described the new Kinze planter earlier.  Tim is loading tanks and moving product around and checking pumps.  Certainly more complicated from the old speed and pressure liquid planter used at the start of the NCRS.  But with well over a thousand plots to plant, timeliness and accuracy are important.
It worked great with excellent precision and monitoring everything.
Here are the four college interns who will be spending the summer at the NCRS.  They are learning about loading the fertilizer treatments.  They will have a diverse experience with all types of operations at the NCRS and a variety of other places.  More on them later.  I will say that three of them are from Michigan State (Go Green) and one is from OSU.  Well not the same OSU as me, but that other one just to the South. You know, THE OSU.  But so far so good for all of them.
There was another video made at the NCRS this week. This one about the Y-Drop fertilizer application system from 360 Yield Center.  We have had good results with it in our plots, and actually bought a system for our field Hagie applicator for use on our production corn.  Our friend Stephanie Smith with 360 Yield Center came out to be in the video along with Agro Stephanie and Tim.  I missed the actual video shoot, but reassembled the actors for this fine pic.
So this one should be out soon.  You can see other fine videos from the NCRS on the AgroLiquid Facebook page.  So it was a very busy week, but the work is far from over.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Desert Fruit. No Extra Salt Needed.

So back to the Way-Out-West adventures with Carlos.  We left Yuma in the morning a few weeks ago and crossed the border into California.  It was desert for sure when he turned off the highway into this big melon farm.  It seems that he and Jeramie (remember the golf course Retail Partner?) had worked with this farm to run a comparison with their fertilizer on 12 acres of cantaloupe melons.  Here is a view to the North looking at the AgroLiquid side. 
OK, they weren't given the growers standard program being used, only a soil test and a rough cost.  And it wasn't a high cost program by any means. So they put together a blend of High NRG-N, PrG (hey it's California), Kalibrate, S-Calate, Micro 400 and FertiRain that was applied through drip irrigation.  Here is the West side of the Agro block.  See that road on the right?  That's the border.
 See that same road now on the left?  Well that's the same road as above, meaning we are now on the conventional side.  Good thing I took pictures because you can't describe differences like this.  The soil test was unlike any I've seen.  It was medium to high on P,  Low on K, Very Low on all micros except Boron that was Very High (3.5 ppm), high pH (8) and Very High sulfur from all of the elemental sulfur trying to lower pH.  But the shock was that it had over 20% base saturation of sodium!  Over 1000 ppm!  I have never seen anything growing in such conditions.  But here it is, and as is the case in most stressful soils: advantage AgroLiquid. 
 Here is Carlos looking under the vines for melons.
Here are some Agro melons.  The leaves are scorched from some mildew.  Plus there is blowing sand. They said a real bad storm blew off most of the first flowers earlier.
Want a better look?  Here are a couple to feast your eyes on.  They are a few weeks from harvest, which means by now they should be real close. So I am certainly banking on a higher yield on the Agro side.
In addition they grow watermelons here.  They were just now flowering.  No AgroLiquid here though.  Well not yet.
 Here is what it looks like just beyond the field edge.  They have this bedded up for a future planting.  Amazing what water will do in the desert.  Even in all of that sodium.  You can see sand dunes in the background.
 Sand Dunes mean dune buggies.  Or I guess Sand Rails is what they are called.  I took this from the highway as we drove West. I texted it to Albert who is a big-time Sand Railer (is that what they are called?)  His reply was brief: "So jealous".  Actually he has hauled his machine out to this very place. So he knows.  Never done that myself, and Carlos didn't want to take the F-150 over for a go.
Oh well.  There were more adventures ahead.  And it wasn't even noon yet.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Drone Correction

So I hope everyone enjoyed yesterday's blog about the wheat field.  But early this morning I got a message from Stephanie saying that the NCRS drone flew at 260 feet while taking the pictures, not 500 feet as reported.  (I have since made the correction.)  Legal maximum altitude is 400 feet.  She said she didn't want the "drone police" coming after her.  I don't blame her.  They can be pretty rough.  I regert the mistake, probably the first and only one ever in the blog.
Later that same day, Adam from Marketing went out with the Marketing drone and took some pictures.  Pretty impressive.  His camera takes a real view picture, unlike the RGB image with the NCRS drone.  I'll have to study on what RGB does (something to do with crop stress maybe), but I do like the real view.  Not sure if we have one for the NCRS drone.  You can also see where the drainage tile lines are.  They have been getting a workout.
We will keep an eye on the field as I would expect the urea part to green up sometime.  But the AgroLiquid has a pretty good head start.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wheat Streaks

So a slight detour back to Michigan to show what some wheat near the NCRS looked like.  Well there is an AgroLiquid sign along the road with some light wheat and some darker streaks through the field.  What's up with that?
This is a field of grower near the NCRS who wanted to try some AgroLiquid nitrogen topdress on his field of winter wheat.  He worked with some of the staff there at the NCRS to come up with a program.  Well a common N topdress rate around here is 120 lb/A.  That's what we use at the NCRS on wheat.  So Phil made some strips with the Hagie of 15 gal/A of High NRG-N + 14.5 gal/A of Primagro N + 1 qt/A of Micro 500 + 1 qt/A of MicroLink Manganese.  He applied this the morning of April 14 using streamer nozzles.  It had been rainy before that, but was dry enough to get it applied.  This is what it looked like on the day of application.
The grower was finally able to pull a spinner spreader to apply 200 lb/A of urea (92 lb/A N) on April 24.  There has been several inches of rain since.  But this is how it looked today on May 3.  Which was the first sunny day in some time.  If you are tired of guessing, the AgroLiquid was applied where the dark green wheat is and the urea everywhere else.
Good thing Phil stuck in a flag so you could tell where the border is between treatments..  Now we know that we put on more fertilizer than the grower, both rate and cost.  And the AgroLiquid was applied 10 days earlier.  But that is the comparison vs a grower standard.  Prices are always tough to work with, both fertilizer and crop.  But I rough guess that the AgroLiquid side will have to yield around 7 more bushels per acre to be equal in cost.  The way it looks now I feel pretty good about that.
I asked Stephanie if she would come out and fly our Precision Drone over the field and see how it looked from above.  So she did.  She's nice that way.  Liftoff.  You can see one of the strips in the background.  Let's see what the drone saw. 
 It flew at 80 meters (260 feet) and made four passes over the field taking a picture every two seconds.  Somehow it stitched it all into one image.  This is the RGB image which is pretty much normal vision. Although you can certainly see the green strips, I thought they looked greener in real view.  
But if it's green-ness that you want to see, then the drone also gives an NDVI image.  This is a measurement of green vegetation density.  No question about that in this image.  So we will follow this through the season and get some yield checks to find out the rest of the story.
 On the way to the office, here is the apple orchard that is in blossom now.  Did you know that the Apple Blossom is the state flower of Michigan?  Well it is.  I saluted.  And there were also some Robins in there, the state bird.  My arm got tired from all of the saluting.  It has been plenty rainy lately, but fortunately I didn't see any Brook Trout in the orchard, which is the state fish.
Well the planter and various field equipment is ready to go once it stops raining and dries out.  Fortunately we haven't had as much rain or snow as other parts of the country.  Crazy spring.  But we are still waiting.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Green Grass Where It Counts with AgroLiquid

So before I made it to CA, I started in Phoenix, AZ and met up with Sales Account Manager Carlos Palavicini.  We then met with a relatively new Retail Partner Jeramie Black of RNM Agriturf.  I know some AgroLiquid has been sold to golf courses in some places, but it really helps if you know the business and speak the language.  Jeramie is fluent in golf speak having been a golf course superintendent and general manager for many years in the past.  But he wanted to go into the supply side and work with multiple courses, and is now selling AgroLiquid to a number of courses in the Phoenix and Tucson areas.  He has had quite a bit of success with Primagro N, liking the fast green-up response, plus the extended-release nitrogen for sustainability.  It works great as applied through irrigation systems which all courses in Arizona have.  Well the ones that aren't dirt.  (I must add that Jay Eccleton of the NCRS is a golf course superintendent who used AgroLiquid for several years on St. John's Emerald Golf course before coming to work at the NCRS.  He has also sold to other mid-Michigan golf courses, as well as advised others around the country, including Jeramie.  But again, it takes a special knowledge of golf courses to figure it all out.)

Here we are at Las Colinas golf club SE of Phoenix.  You can see the irrigation running in the background.  That's Carlos and Jeramie looking down and Superintendent Eric looking out.  You do a lot of kneeling down when looking at grass on a golf course.  That's why I stand back and take pictures.  But Eric is pleased with the grass and color and ease of handling.  There are a number of tweeks for different situations, like Sure-K and NResponse as needed on greens.  More to come.
 OK, I'm not a golf turf expert by any means, so I learned quite a bit.  The main grass on golf courses here is Bermudagrass. But it is a warm-season grass that goes dormant in the fall and winter.  So what they do is overseed in September with ryegrass.  They close the courses for a couple of weeks while it gets established.  So that is the green grass that you will see on golf courses here in the winter. Several courses used Pro-Germinator at overseeding and remarked that they had never seen the ryegrass come on so fast.  Makes sense to me.  Well now in late April when I was there, it is a transition time when the ryegrass is fading out and the bermudagrass is greening up.  On this fairway below at Trilogy golf club in Gilbert, you can see the bermudagrass turning green in the rough.  It was watered and fertilized with Primagro N, and the superintendant remarked that it is greening up very nicely.  They typically don't overseed off the fairway.  That bare spot back there on the fairway is due to uneven watering and the rye is fading faster.  However, one trick that Jeramie has found is to hit these "hot spots" with NResponse + water through a hand sprayer and that promotes the bermudagrass.  He said he has it so that you don't even have to water after application.  It's great to have a Retail Partner to know how to use the tools that AgroLiquid offers.  
 Kneeling on the green now at San Marcos golf club in Chandler.  That's superintendent Matt with Carlos and Jeramie.  Matt is well pleased with how the AgroLiquid has worked for him.
Built in 1913, this is the oldest course in Arizona that had grass year round, as they used to play on dirt part of the year.  The fairways are lined with the signature Salt Cedar or Tamarisk trees that are over 100 years old.
 There is a scenic lake on the course as well.  But it has another purpose besides being scenic.
 It is also the source of irrigation water.  And irrigation water is the source for delivery of Primagro N through the irrigation system.  Here are fertilizer tanks, injectors and controllers.
 San Marcos is also in the ryegrass to bermudagrass transition, but it looks very nice to me.
 There is a Crowne Plaza hotel in association with the golf course, and Matt also takes care of the grounds.  He used Primagro N and some Sure-K on the grass here.  Very nice lawn.
 There was another course we visited, that will remain anonymous.  Although it's no secret.  But a couple months ago a disgruntled employee put Roundup in one of the sprayers they use to spray greens....and you can guess the rest.  I guess it wasn't quite a lethal dose, but they all turned yellow and looked dead.  This is the practice putting green by the clubhouse that is now making decent recovery with the help of Primagro N, NResponse and Sure-K.  I don't think that guy was ever seen again.
Water makes the difference.  Just a few miles away, Southwest of Phoenix, you are in the dessert.  A big sand trap for sure.  But pretty.
 We are on our way to Yuma, Arizona.  We could have caught the 3:10 to Yuma, but Carlos wanted to drive.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hello World II

So the blog has had enough vacation and it's time to get back to work.  But first I need to report on our new granddaughter born on April 12.  Loyal readers will recall daughter Elyse's  wedding posted in May of 2014 and the birth of a son in March of 2015.  Well now we welcome Makayla.  I was working my way from Arizona to Southern California recently and met the fam in San Diego. Beautiful kid and proud grandfather.  Notice I am wearing my AgroLiquid uniform shirt so that when she opens her eyes she will imprint on the logo.  So that was fun.  As I said in my Agro announcement: Cute kid in the Wilhm tradition.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First NCRS Lunch and Learn a Success

So the NCRS had a Lunch and Learn event last Thursday.  Stephanie sent me pictures and a report that there were 35 growers plus AgroLiquid staff on hand.  There were tables of information and demonstrations and equipment on display to show the advantages of AgroLiquid crop nutrition.  Plus there was the lunch part that everyone seemed to enjoy.  

Sorry I missed it, especially the lunch.  But based on the success and interest, we will have more during the growing season.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lunch and Learn

So who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?  Well there is at the NCRS on Thursday.  With all of the rain taking place of late, why not throw an open house!  So the NCRS crew has our equipment set up, tables of product information, NCRS history and results, soil test and product needs, videos, and who know what else.  Plus hamburgers and hotdogs.  Local growers as well as not so local growers are invited.  But to reach and even larger audience, the blog has stepped in.
And I see there are door prizes!  So stop by.  The lunch is free.  And if you want to get some AgroLiquid for your farm....well that's not free.  But it pays back much more than it costs. Research proven after all.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Meanwhile Back at the NCRS

So we got a new planter a few weeks ago.  A Kinze 3500 with 15" Interplant system.  Some assembly required.  Quinten, Tim, Phil and Ron discuss what comes next.  The Monosem served us well for over ten years, but time for an upgrade.
Tim reads the meters.
Whether it's 6 rows or 11 rows, this big vacuum fan ought to do the job.  It's huge.
Ron built a tank holder frame, with another one on the way.  It's also getting some Precision Planting attachments.  So it should be ready when planting begins in a few weeks.  Anyone could order a planter in the  fall and take all winter working on it.  But we like to stay fresh with short deadline driven accuracy.
Last week Phil started topdressing some wheat.  It's rare that fields are dried out enough to get on this early.  
Say, wasn't I just with JW in California?  He must have followed me home.  But while here he gave some pruning tips in the orchard.  JW is an apple pruner from way back.  Tim B, Jay and Renae discuss the finer points of pruning.  The orchard is pretty much done as it's that time of year.  But just a few more well-placed snips. 
Snip snip here.  Snip snip there.  And a couple of tra la la's.  (Come on, everybody knows that song.) Thanks for the pointers JW.
Well the days are getting longer and warmer as well.  Although still chilly.  But we're getting that itchy feeling that planting season is getting close.  At least I hope that's what it is.