Friday, November 10, 2017

Finishing Harvest at the NCRS

So nearly daily rainfall with cold and cloudy conditions, there was virtually no harvest the past two weeks.  But on Wednesday the sun came out and it dried up enough to resume corn plot harvest. Here is the harvest crew on Farm 7.  That's Tim in the cart, Ron driving the tractor and Jeff at the combine controls.
 So I climbed up and rode a few rounds with Jeff and watched the massive 4-row corn head devour corn.  Well it works for us, to harvest the middle four rows of our six row plots.  Every year I am grateful when we finish harvest without a breakdown as I think it would be difficult to find a four row head these days.  Although I think the people who actually do the harvest work would like to have a newer and bigger one.  Well you just don't rush into such a drastic change.
 It was a nice day, but cold.  There were still several experiments to harvest, but they worked late and finished up Farm 7.  Good thing because early on Thursday it started to rain again and continued through Thursday with light snow Thursday night.
Once again here is a picture of Tim taking samples for determine test weight and moisture. This grain cart has a scale for measuring plot production.  The weight from each plot is entered on an iPad and automatically sent to the data network.
Meanwhile back at the NCRS office....Renae takes the samples that Tim collected and runs them through our Dickey John grain tester for test weight and moisture.  She enters those numbers on another iPad, and somehow it all gets merged, sorted and averaged.  
It's come a long way since the sliding balance for test weight, a portable moisture tester, and catching the corn in bags and weighing them later.  Good thing, as modern and accurate research is the norm at the NCRS for it's 24th crop harvest.   Where does the time go?  But they did finish plot harvest today.  Now to decipher the numbers and see what happened.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Acres and Acres of Beautiful Cotton

So when I was in Oklahoma a few weeks ago, I went over to see Retail Partner Parker Christian in Cordell, which is in SW OK.  When I was there last spring, I reported that there was going to be quite a bit of cotton planted.  And there was.  After a good growing season, it looks like there will be a good crop.  This field was just ready for harvest, and Parker likes what he sees.  Especially when it was fertilized with AgroLiquid.  Parker sold quite a bit of PRIMAGRO P for cotton, due to excellent handling and anticipated performance.  Well as you can see, performance was excellent.
A common application was 3 gal/A PRIMAGRO P + 7 gal/A of High NRG-N + 1 qt/A Micro 500 applied 2x2.  (That's in a band placed 2" over and 2" below the seed with the planter).  Remember this is dryland Oklahoma, and rates are usually low because of this.  But in a good year with some rain, production can be be high.  Look at all of the beautiful cotton awaiting harvest.
We looked at several Agro-fed fields and they all looked full of soft, fluffy cotton.  The growers were pleased with how the AgroLiquid  handled during planting and with how it looked now.
Darn traffic congestion.  Can't be in a hurry down here.
Now here is another field with some long-time AgroLiquid growers.  But where is all of the soft, fluffy cotton?  Well cotton is not like other crops where you can wait for it to mature naturally, at least up here where there it can freeze.  Cotton is a plant that starts flowering on the bottom branches and succeeds up the plant.  The pollinated flowers turn into bolls that open when mature, revealing the cotton fibers.  But later developed bolls at the top will still be closed at the time of boll opening at the bottom.  Well, once it freezes, the bolls will stay closed and you can't get the cotton out.  So you have to spray on a plant hormone to promote boll opening.  The most widely used is Ethephon which  converts to ethylene to promote maturity.  Additionally, you will add something to defoliate the plant of leaves so that the cotton is just open bolls, stems and stalks.  This field had been recently sprayed for this. 
See the open bolls on the bottom and the closed bolls on top, that will soon be promoted to open.  The leaves are already starting to dry out and will drop.  Parker also has custom application and sprays a lot of the cotton around here.
Well as a collector of everything, I brought some cotton back to Michigan to show on my desk.  Most people here had not seen cotton and were impressed with how it looks at harvest.  I have some left if you want a sample to take home.
A few people took some home to make Q Tips or something.  But if you are a cotton grower, you should use AgroLiquid.  Well if you want a great crop that is.  If not, use something else!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

OK Wheat Pasture Trial, Year 2

So some may recall that AgroLiquid cooperated on a wheat pasture trail with the Noble Foundation in Southern Oklahoma last year.  Brian Waugh and I went to their headquarters in Ardmore in August 2016 to propose a test, and were fortunate that they implemented a split field trial of 75 acres each of AgroLiquid and dry.  I have reported on some visits there in the past.  It was just a preliminary test. Well we are now in year 2, and it will be a better trial this year.  Last year there was only one herd and they moved it from side to side each week. So didn't really get a chance to measure feed effects on growth.  But this year there will be a separate herd on each side which will enable separate tracking of cows and pasture.  It will be a cow-calf population and should be put out around December 1.

Recently SAM Jay Ostmeyer, Agronomist Reid Abbot and I paid a visit on October 18.  It had been planted almost a month earlier on September 20-22. 
It had been dry, and there wasn't as much growth as there had been at the same interval as last year.  This is a view of the conventional side.  It had a broadcast application of 150 lb/A of MAP (11-52-0) recently.  But no other fertilizer.  They will top-dress with urea later.  There was no phosphorus applied last year.  You can kind of see where the dividing fence will be on the left.
And just to the West of that same fence line is the Agro side.  It had an 11.5 gal/A drill application of a blend of High NRG-N, Pro-Germinator, Kalibrate, Micro 500 and Manganese, same as last year.  It will be top-dressed with High NRG-N later.  I think it looks better, but I'm not a cow.
There was moisture earlier in the fall, but not now.  It is heavy ground too (CEC around 30), especially when dry.  Reid is just able to dig a hard chunk.  Rain was in the forecast, and they did get 0.7" three days later.  So that should help.
They dug a pond last year in anticipation of having a two herd test someday.  This is at the South end of the field and will be just for the AgroLiquid cows.  Sorry, but we have to discriminate for science.  There is another pond at the North end for the conventional cows.  This picture was taken last year on October 21, and reported in the blog on October 25, 2016 (OK wheat pasture update....).  So it wasn't much of a pond then, just a hole.  But it filled up rather quickly.  I was there on January 21, 2017 and it was full.  (See Home on the range, Feb 13 blog).
 And here it is nearly a year later from nearly the same angle.  Those hoof prints may be from last spring as there haven't been any cattle here for a long time.
 And here it is from the dam on the South side, looking up toward the pasture field.  Looks drinkable to me. 
So need some more wheat growth for the the future cow residents.  I will be back some time for an update.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Vowel Movement from 2012

(So back when I used to actually do pumpkin carving, I had a great blog post on Halloween in  2012.  In fact it is heavily requested for a re-post, so here you go.  Kind of like It's A Wonderful Life at Christmas.   So enjoy it again and have fun with your own pumpkin.)

So Happy Halloween to all of you out in Blogland.  Last year I took a stab at LIQUID pumpkin carving with pretty good results.  Here is a re-run of the picture from exactly one year ago in 2011.  So how could I top that for 2012?
I know...instead of one pumpkin (which anyone could do), why not six!  After hours of careful carving and still having all my fingers and thumbs in place, I was finished.  Now to arrange them on the porch.  Hmmm, not as easy as I thought.
A little re-arranging....D'oh....still wrong.  I need a pumpkin spell-check.
Finally. That looks right. 
I suppose now all of the Trick-or-Treaters will be expecting a bag full of Pro-Germinator.  I better stock up.  Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thank You and Good Luck Tim B!

So today we said goodbye to one of our long-time NCRS employees, Tim Brussel.  After more than seven years, Tim is retiring and today was his last day at the NCRS.  So of course there was a cake.
 And a cookout.  Tim gives his parting remarks.  He enjoyed the time here and appreciated working with all of us.  Everyone likes Tim and hate to see him go.  But we all wish him well.
 And the obligatory group pic.
 Tim works hard at the farm, but has lot's going on away from work.  Ministry is a passion for Tim and his wife Pauline.  He has traveled outside the country on several Mission trips.  Here is a mention of the Brussel's upcoming two-week trip to Tanzania from the blog on May 25, 2010.  Check it out.
Tim mainly worked in specialty crop research.  Here he is spraying weeds in the new orchard.

 How many grapes  has Tim picked in the vineyard over the years?  Well it's probably quite a few.
 Tim is no slouch in the shop either.  He had a machinist background and built a number of things for the farm, including a sprayer for the hort crops.
Another passion of Tim's was growing giant watermelons and pumpkins.  But watermelons was his specialty.  Here he is back in 2012.  But he grew bigger each year and attained state championship last year.
So good luck Tim.  He has more Ministry plans here in St. Johns and probably elsewhere.  But Tim lives right next to the farm and we will certainly see him again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Equivalence" Explained

So I needed to get some new light bubs.  (When I was in high school I worked at the OSU health center as an apprentice surgeon.  Ok, as a janitor.  The older lady who was my boss pronounced light bulbs as light "bubs".  So 44 years later, I still call them that in tribute.)  For several years now they  have sold the low energy LED bubs that produce light that is as bright as the older bulbs with higher wattage.  So I noticed the label as saying that this low energy bub with 6.5 actual watts produces light that is "60 watt equivalent."  Hmmm.  Now where else have I heard this "equivalence" explanation used?  Oh yes!  As an explanation of AgroLiquid's unique carbon-based formulations being used at lower rates than conventional fertilizers, due to the lower rates being "equivalent" in performance to the higher rates, due to new technology.  Now consumers like me believe the light bub "equivalence" because we see it work.  So maybe AgroLiquid Retail Partners should carry around some light bubs to explain this "equivalence" concept to doubting growers.  (Note: this occurred to me as a light bub went off over my head, like in the cartoons.) 
In other news, it has been a wet start of the week.  It rained all day Monday and Tuesday.  I live South of the NCRS, and had 3.4" of rain in two days.  And this was after 3.2" on October 15.  So the combine is inside for the time being.  The goal of being finished with NCRS harvest by Halloween is getting to be a challenge now.  Scary. 
But the delay gives us a chance to get some experiments summarized and to prepare for who knows what.   

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lettuce Eat!

So again sorry for the long blog interval, but I've been on a Fertilizer Mission.  I've been meaning to post this feature from almost a month ago.  This summer we worked with a very large  grower that is one of the biggest lettuce growers in Florida, but is actually based out of Michigan.  They wanted to see if they could grow certain varieties of lettuce here in Michigan, and we crossed paths and set up some trials.  They planted this trial in July and it just had a sample harvest here in late September.  A dry base fertilizer was applied and supplemental AgroLiquid nutrition was applied through drip tape.  They had not used drip tape fertilizer before, but in the end were very pleased with the outcome.  It certainly was a pretty test.  (I borrowed this pic from Stephanie.  Sadly it was better than one that I took from the other end of the field.  It was too far to walk all the way down here.)
Growing lettuce and other vegetables is a lot of work with  hand labor for planting, weeding and harvesting.  But at least you can eat what you grow.  They packaged some of the Head and Romaine lettuce and if fed quite a few of us Liquid-ites both at the farm and the office in town. It looks like what you get in the store, but it's from the NCRS!  So we proved that you can grow good lettuce with AgroLiquid.  Who knew?  Well we did but it's nice to convince the growers.  We will see what happens from this next year.  By the way, I really liked salads with the Coeurs de Romaine.  Who wouldn't.
I was surprised that there was no damage from deer or rabbits, as we did not fence this.  I guess here at the NCRS they are used to eating corn and soybeans and stayed away.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

California Wine Grape Research

So it was time to check on more California research. This time in wine grapes.  Wine grapes are grown in almost every state.  But California maintains the premium wine grape reputation.  AgroLiquid is already applied to wine grapes there.  But we wanted more.  So we have been working with a contract researcher on wine grape fertility on a large field of Chardonnay grapes.  This is the second year of this experiment, and the effects of the fertilizer treatment should be expressed now.  Here we see Dylan and the researchers looking at a plot.  The grapes were actually harvested a couple weeks prior to this visit.
Grape fertility is pretty much multiple applications through the growing season.  The method of fertilizer application to the plots is pretty ingenious.  Each plot is six vines, or individual grape plants.  Liquid fertilizers are commonly applied through the drip irrigation line.  So they have a cone tank that applies the plot fertilizer to those six vines of a plot only.  There are four replications, so they move around the site to make the applications.  I also notice that the West facing side of the vines are larger than the East facing side. You can see that in the picture below.  But it's nice that the research is placed in a real vineyard.
 The rows next to the plot rows had not yet been picked by the vineyard crew.  But you can see what the mature bunches look like.  They harvest the grape bunches from the middle four vines of each plot.  I was surprised that they were picking over 400 bunches from the four vines.  Wow.  That's almost as hard as picking strawberries.  They took weights and also a Juice Panel which tested the juice for various parameters.  Well I recently received the results, and the AgroLiquid had the highest yield.  There is plenty of data to review, so I'll get right on that. Look for these results in the Research Report.
Leaving the vineyard and headed for Fresno.  Passed by some dry, yet scenic landscapes.  No really.  It looked just like that.
Well that's pretty much it for my most recent California visit. I always leave anxious to return. And I will.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Strawberry Fields

So the next day Dylan and I headed South to Santa Maria.  It is actually on the Pacific coast, although didn't make it to the beach.  But in many ways it was better.  We met up with Frank who is a PCA with Retail Partner Santa Maria Valley Crop Service (  Frank showed us some fields where AgroLiquid had been used on some strawberry fields. 
 Now if you are ever going to do some field checking on some strawberries, make sure it's when they are ripe and being picked.  That is the best way to check.  And I can say that the this field with AgroLiquid looked and tasted great.  The liquid fertilizer is applied during the season through drip tape under the plastic bed cover. 
 Strawberries are one crop that is experiencing a boom right now. As we learned, they are normally finished by this time of year.  But good price and demand has kept them picking still.  Heck, they are so good I'd pick every last one.  Here is an AgroLiquid field being picked while we were there.
 Now here is a field of organic strawberries.  We didn't know what the nutrient program was, but they sure weren't as robust as the previous field.
Well AgroLiquid to the rescue.  You probably know that we have C-Tech which is an OMRI certified organic product containing beneficial natural microbes plus organic carbon.  This field is on the other side of that fence on the left from the above field, and looks much better.  That's because it had 2 qt/A of C-Tech applied through the drip lines several weeks ago.  The plants were certainly bigger and had more pickable strawberries.  We had a research project during the summer on organic strawberries not too far from here and saw a similar response and higher yields with C-Tech.  That's why we do research on our products: to confirm performance before going to the grower.
The roots from the C-Tech treated strawberries on the left were also bigger which enabled the plant to feed better.
 After that we went to another set of fields.  This one was huge.  Dylan and Frank walk the line where fertilizer programs are compared.  They will keep track of yields.  Frank said that some of these strawberries are headed for Hong Kong!  That's amazing.  I wonder how they keep them fresh for that long trip?  As good as strawberries are, they aren't exactly good for very long.  That's why they should be consumed the day of purchase and repeat the next day.
 This field was also being picked by a crew that was really hustling.  The field pickers would fill baskets in a box and one person would run the box to the  packing operation line around a fifty to a hundred feet away.  Then run the empty box back out to the pickers.  And repeat over and over.  Now that's work.  I, on the other hand, was picking them one at a time.  But I wasn't running anywhere.  But God bless those field workers. 
Now we couldn't really see any differences from fertilizer programs, which is good I guess.  We will see in the end.  On another note, it's terrible all of the wildfires currently plaguing California.  We can only hope that they get controlled and soon.  And hope that the people and places affected get the help they need.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

California Citrus Research

So my other purpose for the trip to CA was to check up on Research trials.  We have a foliar fertilizer experiment in citrus, or more specifically in Mandarin oranges.  This is South of Stockton, where AgroLiquid's California manufacturing plant is located.  Now who doesn't love a sweet, easy to peel Mandarin?  If your hand is  raised, please leave.  This is kind of a different situation as this is a sizable ranch with citrus and tree nuts, but the manager also does contract research.  
Well as luck would have it, there were Agro reinforcements. Here we see me, SAM Armando, the other CA SAM Dylan, chemist Chris and Agronomist JW.  Obviously this is overkill for personnel, but we were travelling on different missions, and met up here to see what's up in the research trial.  So it was a good thing to collaborate and exchange thoughts.  Which we did. I now see that the guys from Michigan are wearing short sleeves.  I guess we didn't exchange thoughts on that.  One of the research assistants showed us around and took this pic.
I was here last March to set up the trial and the trees were just about to flower.  Now you can see the oranges, although green.  They will be harvested in December.  I probably won't be back, but would love to take a bite of some sweet  Agro Fruit.  You can see the drip irrigation hose on the ground.  Without water and nutrients from that: no trees.  Very dry here.
We looked at the different tree plots.  Of course our unbiased eye thought the Agro foliar looked best.  We are testing two different foliar programs.  One simple and one more complex.  While simple is easy, is it as good as the complex one?  Time will tell.    
There were four foliar applications applied through the growing season, the last being in September as the fruit is gaining size.  Foliar fertilizer applications are quite common in citrus, so we look for a new market there.  Chris and JW wonder what Dylan is doing across the way in those other trees.  What do you think those trees are?
Those are pistachio trees.  I took this pic last March  from pretty close to the above pic.  Unlike the pistachios, citrus trees are evergreens, and keep their leaves.  The trees all look bigger now in late September.  Now who doesn't love to eat a handful of delicious pistachio nuts?  If your hand is raised, well you know the drill.
So we hope to have research in pistachios and other tree nut crops in the future.  There is AgroLiquid used on these crops, but research would be good support for wider use.  And who doesn't support wider use?