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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Water System

One of the joys of country living is the need to maintain your own water and sewer system.  The well had become clogged with fine sand and lime, so a new well was needed.  The well digger is using hydraulic force to open a hole to drop a well casing into.  It was an interesting day.  Manual labor and plumbing involved.  Neither is a favorite thing to do.  The good news is that the water system was fixed.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breeding Plants for Organic Agriculture

The lead article in this month's CSA News is about breeding plants for organic agriculture.  Some people think that the food we eat is the way it has always been The way it is now.  One of the things that marks human social development is the move from a hinter gatherer society to an agriculture society.  Over 10,000 years ago humans began selecting seeds from superior plants in order to grow bigger, tastier, or higher yielding plants for food.   This chart has an example of selecting our brasicca crops for different valued characteristics. 

About 25 years ago, plant breeders began to work on ways to move genetic characteristics between species.  That is a rarity in natural breeding.  Time, energy and money has been concentrated on developing these transgenic crops and we now have 8 crops that carry transgenic genes. These are know as GMO crops. 

This occur ed about the same time that organically  foods started to gain popularity.  Foods may not be labelled organically grown if they are derived from transgenic manipulation.  A problem that organic producers face is getting seeds with superior genetics that do not contain transgenic material.  Now some researchers are going back to basics to help organic producers.  These plant breeders can use modern technology to check seeds for superior genetic traits even if the plants are selected by traditional breeding methods.  Click on the links for more information.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When is Too Early for Soybeans?

Sometimes we get into a situation where corn planting is done very early.  Do you jump right to soybeans?  Emerson Nafziger looked at yields in relation to planting date.  His ideal date was April 23.  Bean yields dropped off on later planted soybeans, and planting shorter season varieties did not help a lot.  Click on the link for more information.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reducing Soil Test Phosphorous Levels

Reducing soil test phosphorous levels when levels are high is an issue that relates to high levels of phosphorous in our surface water.  I read a study today out of Sweden that looked at phosphorous levels for 7 to 16 years to determine if soil test levels would be reduced if no phosphorous is added.  They found that the levels could be reduced, but not as much as removal rates might indicate.That is the good news.  The theory is that dissolved phosphorous in runoff would also be reduced.  The bad news is that dissolved phosphorous in the drainage water was not reduced.  My theory is that it takes time for the phosphorous to move down in the soil, so it will take a lng time to reduce phosphorous in the drainage water.   I would say, you should not give up.  If your P test  is over 100 ppm, you should find some other place to spread manure in order to prevent future problems.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Permit Requirements For Septic Discharges.

Maybe this is not timely, but I have not written about it, so....  New private sewage disposal regulations took effect in 2014.  Since most farmers have a septic tank and filter field, it seems an appropriate topic.  New and replacement systems need to have a soil investigation completed in order to get a permit from your county regulators.  This requirement is new in some counties.  In some counties, the soil investigation is required before a building permit will be issued.  In other counties, I sometimes do investigations as the home is being built.

Most Illinois soils are not well suited to septic tank filter fields.  Some soils have drainage issues.  Some have permeability issues.  Some have both.  One of the popular ways to overcome the limitations in the past has been to install an aeration system with a surface discharge.  Under the new law, an NPDES permit may be required if you discharge into Waters of the United States. Waters of the United States is broadly defined and interpreted so surface discharges are to be avoided where possible.  An article from FarmWeek News has more information. Click on the link.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How Deep to Plant Corn

I like two inches.  Prairie Farmer published Research done by Iowa State and Pioneer last year that shows that the depth can range from 1.5 to 3 inches.  The problem with 3 inches is that if the surfaces is crusted, It takes extra energy to get that plant our of the ground.  1.5 is fine if your seedbed is even and you don't leave any kernels on top of the ground.  If spring is coo and wet, the shallow end will be a good idea.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Subsoil Moisture

We did a septic tank investigation yesterday in Bond County.  We were on a site where water does not stand.  Subsoil was saturated at 2 to 3 feet.  Above that depth, soil was very wet. It would appear that in that area at least, we are going into spring with good to slightly excessive soil moisture.