Friday, June 30, 2017

Everyone Likes Onions!

So onions aren't exactly like blueberries where you pop one into your mouth and eat it straight.  But onions help make food into good food.  So back to my trip to the PNW last week...on the trip out you could see lots of center pivot irrigation fields, especially here along the Columbia River.  And as you have heard or experienced yourself, not everyone knows what these are.  The guy next to me asked what those round things were.  Rather than be a wise guy and say they're huge putting greens on a 90 hole golf course, I explained that they are for watering fields for food production.  And they still look cool.
So I'm not sure if this is a map of the same place as in the above picture, but Eric and I were given a map to go find an onion field that has a fertilizer test in it.  Now that was a challenge.  This is a very large corporate type farm.  Well it's not exactly a corporation as we know it, but rather a substantial religious operation.  And very well run it is.  
So why water?  Well the picture below shows ground without water and a field of potatoes with water.  No irrigation, no food.
We finally found the correct pivot, and then located the stakes that divided the fertilizer treatments.  I am standing in the division of two treatments.  On the left is the normal application of 20 gal/A of 10-34-0 and 10 gal/A of Pro-Germinator on the right. To me the Pro-Germinator is bigger and thicker. Another treatment in the test is Pro-Germinator + C-Tech.  It looked good as well.  The plots are very big. However there is an unknown in this test.  The fertilizers were broadcast and incorporated prior to planting, which is different than the preferred band application.  But this farm is so large,  that's the way they say it has to be done.  So we will see come harvest.
This is over on the other side of the pivot.  I was surprised at how much of a change in elevation there was.  It's hard to tell in this picture, but I am way up higher than the top of the pivot towers down below.
This is a nice looking field of potatoes.  Not AgroLiquid.  But today onions...tomorrow potatoes.
Several miles away was another series of center pivot fields with this same large farm business. Again we are looking at pre-plant incorporated applications of 10-34-0 on the left and Pro-Germinator on the right.  As before, I am seeing better growth on the right with Pro-Germinator.  This population of onions seems lighter than the other field, and thinner yet on the left.  I moved over ten beds on each side from the center and took stand counts at five equal distances into the plots.  There were 20.5% more plants on the Pro-Germinator side.  But something was odd here.
This is a center pivot field, you can see the pivot in the above picture.  But they are using buried drip tape here for the water source.  That certainly enables increased water efficiency, but really only if the tape can water the whole width of the planted rows.  The picture shows that the outside rows are dry. They are probably getting some water underground, but not uniform for all rows. It was like this everywhere.  This is probably why the stand is thinner here than the other place.
While on this farm we noticed a variety of crops again.  And look at the thick trees at the back of this corn field.
Well this isn't an Oregon forest, but a crop of hybrid poplar trees.  There are some 50,000 acres of these in the PNW.  They are made to grow fast, up to 110 feet in 12 years at which time they are harvested.  Uses are lumber, wood building pieces, chips for pulp to make paper, among others.  It also provides plenty of wildlife habitat.
But how do they grow in this sandy desert?  There is drop tape at the base of the trees.
So that was interesting to see such crop diversity.  There is so much food and consumer products produced here in the Columbia basin where plentiful water enables so much.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Field Harvest of Alfalfa Plots

So I reported earlier about some alfalfa plots that we have on some area dairy farms.  Well those fields were cut yesterday (Tuesday), so it was time to take some yield checks.  I was away on a fertilizer mission, but Stephanie sent these pics of the operation using the methods we came up with.  MSU intern Jacob is in charge, and he assembled this frame that is 15 feet long and gives a rigid border to make the sample cut on the row of fresh-cut hay on the ground.
 Quinten and Jacob load the sample onto a tarp.
Then the sample is weighed on the scale wagon.  A sample is collected and saved for moisture determination to equate the various sample weights.  There were multiple samples collected like this for each treatment.
Samples were also collected as the hay was chopped for submission to the lab for quality measurements. These good field techniques will hopefully provide useful information.  That's AgroLiquid research in action.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Everyone Likes Blueberries!

So as the title says: Everyone Likes Blueberries.  If not, then who are you?  Lots of states grow blueberries, and Oregon is one.  Michigan is #1 in acreage though.  But Oregon's are just as good I'm sure, especially when grown with AgroLiquid.  Eric and I visited this large farm in Amity, OR which is South of Portland.  They are doing some field comparisons with AgroLiquid.
The AgroLiquid program has both drip and foliar applications.  This is the AgroLiquid block on 'Draper' variety blueberries.  They are certainly tall and bushy.  Measure against Eric who is 9' tall. Well probably not quite that tall I guess.  But they are big.  You couldn't easily walk through the rows.
And they are loaded up.  By starting to turn color, harvest is not far off.  It was interesting to note that the place is loud with all kinds of bird noise.  But this noise is out of speakers and the farm has them in place to scare away the birds who are waiting for the berries to turn blue and sweet.  Good luck.  Although I don't recall seeing any of the flying kind.  Just the noise kind.
We also noticed shoots coming from the base for future limbs of production.
Now here is the grower's program on another similar 'Draper' block where other "specialty" type fertilizer is used.  This is in line with where Eric was walking, but there was not near the size and they weren't as green.  They did seem to have lot's of berries though.  But the plants weren't as big so probably have less.  Harvest will tell us.  But you could easily walk through the rows and we did not see very much new shoot growth.  But again, will wait for harvest as I admittedly see things through Agro-green tinted glasses.  But this is what we saw.  We made a video of our visit that hopefully will be shared on the web-site someplace for family viewing.
And waiting for harvest looks like some new harvesters.  They'll need them for sure.  We are supposed to get yield comparisons on these different fertilizer blocks.  So hopefully in the future I can give a report on programs and yields.
So don't those look similar to the ones at Kauai Coffee that has been shown in several blog posts over the years.  Except these are new and shiny.  Well they use blueberry harvesters there for coffee you know.  Since they aren't likely to be using these in the winter here, maybe they can swim them over to Kauai to help with the coffee harvest.  Or not.

Into the PNW

 So last week I was on a Fertilizer Mission out to Oregon and Washington, or the Pacific North West (PNW).  On the flight from Minneapolis to Portland, I had a window seat on the North side of the aeroplane.  Good thing.  Here is a picture getting close to Portland. That is the town of The Dalles and the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River.  And in the background are two mountains that are former volcanoes. 
Here are the mountains.  That is Mt. Adams (12,280 ft) and Mt. Ranier (14,411 ft).  Quite a picture if I do say so myself.  They are on the Washington side of the Columbia River.
 And here is a closer up picture of the dam.  I didn't know at the time that I would stay there the next night (Tuesday).  Well not on the dam, but in a motel.  
 In fact, here is a ground-level view of it.  Not letting out as much water now as before.
 And here is another famous mountain, Mt. Hood.  It was on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  I made Eric stop so that I could take this dam picture, and turned around and was surprised to see this mountain behind us.
OK, time to get to work.  I was working with Sales Account Manager Eric Collins this week.  One of the things we were looking at was AgroLiquid applications for Ryegrass.  We were in the Willamette Valley South of Portland.  It seems that this is the grass seed capital of the country.  The major grass grown is ryegrass (perennial and annual) with 234,000 acres. There is another 30k acres of other grasses like fescue.  There is a Retail Partner, Koenig Custom Application, that we did a grower meeting with, as reported here on December 15, 2015.  Well some of those growers that grew ryegrass seed were intrigued with the possibility of foliar applications of Sure-K on rygrass grown for seed production.  Well they saw increases of 20% or more.  So Robin Koenig is making more applications this year.  Eric and I visited several of these fields to see how they look as they are getting closer to harvest.  Eric moves in for a close evaluation.
But you don't really have to look too hard to see that these foliar applications are having a positive visual effect.  Can you see which sede looks like it is doing better?  Well hopefully it is right side where Sure-K + Micro 500 were applied several weeks ago. 
 This is looking back the other way.  So now the AgroLiquid Sure-K + Micro 500 application was on the left side.  Again, this is visual assessment, but this has shown big response in tests last year.  So hopefully this works out again.  
Now foliar applications of other potassium fertilizers are made to growing ryegrass.  But now with Sure-K, results like this should show growers that there is a new option.  The Retail Partner is very excited with the results and prospects, as are the growers involved.  This is a new market for AgroLiquid application. How many other new crops are out there waiting to be shown the benefits of AgroLiquid?  Well it's probably a lot.
And evidently in Oregon, ryegrass is not the only grass grown for some sort of consumption.  We didn't stop, so no jokes please.
 So this was a piece of equipment in Robin's yard.  What the heck is this for?  Well this is a Rubber Duk applicator built in Eugene, OR.  It is for spreading fertilizer in muddy fields or for application on crops in wet fields that don't want to be tracked up.  Love to see this in action.  Except for the dry spreader part.
We are also working with a researcher on these foliar applications of potassium and micronutrients on ryegrass.  Here is a view of the plot area.  You know it's research from all of the flags.  
 One thing that is common practice of ryegrass seed producers is application of the plant growth regulator Palisade.  It helps to keep the plant standing up. This is a section adjacent to the plots that did not get a Palisade application.  Evidently you want it standing longer, and it does lay over after the heads get heavy with seed.  I've seen Palisade used on wheat, but the effects are not near so dramatic.
So we will have harvest results from these tests later in the year.  But It was fun to see a new crop for me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Last Week at the NCRS, Part 2

So also last week another experiment was started, this to evaluate nitrogen volatility.  Last year Dr. Massri found greatly reduced ammonia volatility from High NRG-N compared to 28%.  There was also reduction from addition of eNhance which was better than conventional stabilizer.  Read all about it in the 2016 Research Report.  (Click "Research" tab on the web site. Not the drop down, but the word "Research").  So that was with broadcast applications.  What about surface side-dress applications?  Many growers still drag hoses on the surface to apply nitrogen solution.  We don't have one of those, but could simulate it by tying the tubes of the Y-Drop applicator to place the stream in the row middle. 
 It did a very nice job.
 Now Zouheir comes to place his passive ammonia samplers over the band to start collecting volatilized ammonia loss in order to compare different formulations.  There's even a broadcast application of urea.  It is so exciting his fans have assembled to watch.
 MSU intern Adam assists by adding a dilute solution of sulfuric acid to a small jar suspended from the sealed top.  It will absorb the ammonia which converts to ammonium sulfate.  Then the solution is analyzed determination of nitrogen loss.  He will collect it every day for a while and then weekly.  I think.  So it's important to place the collector over the band.  So in order to do that in the days ahead after the band "wetness" has disappeared, we marked it with spaced small wooden stakes.

So no stopping till it's done.  But this is quite a different research project for sure.

Glad we have Zouheir to find out these types of things.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Last Week at the NCRS. Part 1

So last week was a busy week at the NCRS, as they all are.  But I was on hand to be able to file this report.  We got some new drop style irrigation nozzles on our linear Reinke system on Farm 3.  They were installed by Farm Services of Lakeview, Michigan, the same people who first put the system together back in 2001.  Or maybe 2002.  But it was awhile ago.   We have been very dry and in need of rainfall lately.  So the two farms with irrigation should be getting watered. The funny, well kind of, thing is that when I came out Monday and saw the linear way up the field to the North, I asked why wasn't it running.  I was told that it was. Sure enough it was.  It's just not as obvious from afar.  And then later that day back at the office, Troy asked me why the irrigation on Farm 3 wasn't running.  I said it was. He thought as I did earlier.  I guess you had to be there.  But we are applying water where we can. 
 On Farm 5 it is easy to tell when the irrigation is on.
 Side-dressing of corn plots has been going on recently.  Here is the plot Hagie making applications with the Y-Drop system that we like.
 It places the nitrogen band on both sides of the base of the plant.  We have found this to be better than the coulter injection in the middle of the row.  And coulter injection is better than dragging hoses which is still done in places.
On the May 14 blog I showed the new Y Drop system for our other Hagie for our production, or non-plot corn.  Well it was initiated on Friday, starting on Farm 12.  Fortunately I was there for the occasion.  We can do 18 rows at a time which should certainly speed up the side-dress applications.
 It seemed to work fine to my critical eye while riding with Phil at the helm.
 Back on the plot scene, it was time for nitrogen applications and hilling of the potato plots on Farm 1.  This is primarily an evaluation of Primagro fertilizers, and Dr. Massri guides Tim B through the plots. These are Snowden potatoes which are used for potato chips.  Did you know that Michigan is the number one potato chip producing state?  Well it is.  And did you know that potato chips are the number one snack food.  Hey, I don't compile all of that, I just report it.  It's on the Internet, so it must be true. 

Remember last week when we were making dry fertilizer applications to the alfalfa plots at the NCRS on Farm 5?  Well a week has gone by and it was time to make the Liquid applications.  Here we see intern Jacob making fertilizer applications with the backpack sprayer.  Did you know that this backpack sprayer was the first piece of equipment that I bought when I started back in 1992? Well it was and I'm glad to see that it is still in action.  Although Jacob wasn't born yet when I first bought it, he's using it now. And like me, still in peak condition.  And by the way, we use an internet metronome to maintain a steady pace.  Accuracy counts.
So it's hard to believe that all of this happened in a single week at the NCRS.  But there is still more that will be reported tomorrow.  And what better way to spend a Saturday night than reporting on the cool happenings at America's premier research facility.  That's the North Central Research Station in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Making Good Alfalfa Better....With AgroLiquid

So hopefully you read in the Research Report about all of the alfalfa trial work that Agronomist Dan Peterson conducted last year in Wisconsin.  Yield was often improved with AgroLiquid applied alone or more often, on top of a growers dry fertilizer program or manure.  Anyway, applications of Sure-K and other AgroLiquid nutrients had a tremendous effect on quality and calculated milk production (formula based on quality components).  So here in Michigan we are taking a new look at alfalfa programs, working in conjunction with Dan.  A couple trials are with local dairymen.  Last week we made applications to fields a week after first cut and harvest.  This field is right next to the NCRS Farm 12.  This is an irrigated field and has had manure applied the previous two years with no additional fertilizer to be applied this year.  So we have two strips of AgroLiquid, mainly Sure-K + Micros.  He was able to irrigate after harvest and had nice regrowth.
There is about 4 to 5 inchees of regrowth, perfect for the foliar application that Phil makes with our Hagie sprayer.
We made a different application to a dryland field of a different dairy operation several miles away. It has been very dry of late and rain would be nice.  These applications were last Thursday and no rain since, and temperatures are in the 90's
This field is right by this nice lagoon.  In fact we put our strip marker flags on the fence.  Didn't see any No Swimming signs, and it is hot.... But this grower will apply potash after next cut, and we will see what the addition of AgroLiquid brings to the yield and quality measurements.

Back at the NCRS, our test field had been cut and harvested the previous day.  So after making the farmer applications, we came back and applied dry fertilizer to the appropriate plots in our test  The following week, which is tomorrow, we will apply AgroLiquid treatments to the regrowth.  We will get a variety of comparisons.   Here intern Jacob applies dry potash and MAP to plots with our dry air spreader, or Blower as we call it.  It does a great job.  I mean we have to be fair in our tests.

We apply the dry components separately so as not to be stuck with left over fertilizer blends.  The dry micros are spread manually.  I use a hand held spinner spreader, but Zouheir prefers spreading by hand.  We often have some differences in experimental technique which often leads to lively discussion.
So we compromise.  He does it his way and I do it mine!