Search This Blog

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bald Eagles

I had business today  in the Columbia Illinois area today and on my way home I drove on the levee to see what I could see.  Several Bald Eagles were soaring as I drove.  I tried pictures, but no luck with that.  I did catch these 2 roosting a rather large tree.  You can barely see the white heads on a large tree branch.  Most of the Bald Eagles in Alaska and Canada make their winter home on the Mississippi River withing 100 miles north and south of St. Louis.  When the river gets icy they move further south.  Ar first when they made their way to our area they would concentrate around the locks and dams because of easy fishing.  They are still in those areas, but they have spread out some as well.  Seeing them in person, it is easy to see why such a majestic animal was chosen as a symbol of our country.  We now have a few nesting pairs in our area and they stay here year round. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Soil Grinding.

It is our goal to collect and test a sample that represents the actual fertility levels in the field we are sampling.  Today, my son is grinding samples for his master's project so I thought I would pass on how we assure we have a uniform sample to analyze.  Our normal sampling procedure is to pull 10 to 15 cores per sample area.  Usually we crumble the samples and take out about a cupful to send to the lab.  Sometimes when the soil is very wet or very high in clay or both, it does not crumble well.  After we dry the samples, we can either send the whole sample to the lab or if we want to save some space and weight, we can grind the samples ourselves.  The samples are ground and thoroughly mixed at the same time.  From the  sample we send to the lab, many of the tests use a 5 gram sample that is scooped out of what we send in.  When we send crumbled samples, the lab grinds them for us to assure thorough mixing and uniformity.  One thing you might want to look into is if your lab grinds the whole sample.  If not, then your tests may not tell you what you want to know because they do not have a representative 5 grams of the total sample. 
Grinder is on the right with samples waiting to be ground.

This what the inside of our grinder looks like.  Most are some variation of this. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

4R Nutrient Stewardship - Nitrogen

Now for the 4R nitrogen stewardship and management.  As I have said often here, nitrogen is the most difficult nutrient to manage.  It is critical for high yielding crops, but availability is affected by many environmental and biological factors.  In order to be the best stewards possible, we need to consider all those issues in our nitrogen management.  Nitrogen is critical for all the grass crops grown in our area including corn, grain sorghum, wheat, oats, and etc.  The crops start to need the nitrogen near to when it starts the grain production cycle;  in corn, right before tasselling.  In wheat, right before boot stage.  This means that nitrogen applications made closer to when the crop needs it will have the most likelihood of be utilized by the crop.  Also consider that later nitrogen applications require less nitrogen. 

All that said, I am hard pressed to say that fall applied nitrogen on corn is a good idea at any time, but there are some circumstances where it might meet the 4R criteria.  Fall nitrogen applied late in the fall when there is little likelihood of nitrification taking place might be ok as long as nitrification inhibitors are used as well.  This year, suppliers were as restrained in that regard as I have ever seen.  I hope it keeps up.

Urea is a form of nitrogen that has the potential to go awry.  First, it should not be used in the fall.  Second, consider urease inhibitors.  Third, incorporate immediately. 

What makes nitrogen management even more difficult, when you apply, is seen as a time management issue as well.

The ideal would be to use the presidedress nitrogen test on corn and sidedress all your nitrogen.  Some say that timing and weather make this a dicey proposition.  Sampling technique is also critical to get accurate tests.  It is probably also a good idea to consider potential release of N from organic matter.

What about the "new" amino N test developed in Illinois?  So far the literature review of the technique gives mixed results at best.   Some say it gives them an idea of what to do, others say it does not correlate with response to N fertilization at all.  If it does work, we need more consistent results in order to make recommendations.

Some say split applications are good.  I think it may have some merit in low exchange soils, but why not put on all of your N at the time when you would have made the last application.  This will give the most bang for the buck.

Monday, December 27, 2010


We went to Grafton yesterday to enjoy the ambiance of the Grafton Winery.  Grafton is located at the confluence of the Illinois River and the Mississippi River.  Until sometime after the flood of 1993, It was know as a quaint fishing village with fish markets, antique shops and a one or two bed and breakfast's.  It  has become quite the tourist community and development outside the floodplain has increased the population a great deal. 

The photograph shows a towboat pushing a full tow of grain barges up the Illinois River.  There are numerous barge loading terminal elevators located on the Illinois River where grain is loaded and shipped to New Orleans where it is transferred to cargo ships and exported around the world.  About half of Illinois grain reaches export markets because of the convenience of river transportation.  The river also makes higher prices available to Illinois farmers because of the inexpensive water transportation. 

I should also explain that a full tow upstream of St Louis consists of 15 barges and a towboat.  The towboat actually pushes the barges.  They are not pulled as the name implies.  Fifteen barges arranged in a 3 X 5 pattern can lock through a 1200 foot lock chamber.  There are only 2 1200 foot lock chambers on the Mississippi River.  When using the 600 foot chambers on most of the river, the tows have to be broken in half and locked through separately.  This slows the process of locking through considerably because of needing to break them apart and then re-connect them.  There are 27 locks and dams between St Louis and Minneapolis - St. Paul.  They are of huge importance to Midwestern agriculture.  At some time and point, River transportation grinds to a halt as ice blocks the River either by freezing over or by the buildup of ice flows on lock gates.  Yesterday there were a few flows, but it looks like grain is still moving. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas in Illinois

Irrigation rig near Valmeyer, IL 

My Truck

Front yard

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ramsey - Vandalia

We took a little trip to a quilt shop in Ramsey today.  I know not really ag but it is rural lifestyle and time to lighten up from the technical stuff for a day.  There were a few people trucking grain, but farm activity is as close to a standstill as it gets.  There is still a little snow on the ground in fencerows.  We went to Vandalia to pick up last minute groceries.  I enjoyed the sunshine on my face as I waited in the parking lot. 

The Alpaca below was in a small pasture with about 10 Alpacas.  They were close to the fence when we drove by, but when we went back to take the picture this was the only one I could get.  It does serve to emphasize the opportunities for small and specialty farms.  Also note that this is the 400th post of my blog.

I would like to thank all my readers for your support and wish you all an outstanding Christmas Holiday.  My sons will be home sometime with us and for the first time ever, both as married men.  Next blog will be Sunday evening.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

4R Nutrient Stewardship

The Fertilizer Industry in the US and Canada has recently developed the 4R Nutrient Stewardship concept.  More information can be found on the Fertilizer Institute Web page.  Ford West made his case for the concept at the CCA meeting last week.  Someone asked him if he thought we were not already following that concept in making our recommendations.  He responded in a positive way. 

I think the concept was developed for two reasons.  To emphasize to the public that we know what we are doing, and to stress to consultants and fertilizer dealers the need to be mindful of environmental stewardship in making our recommendations.  The whole idea begins with having good scientific data to make good decisions.  Reliable Soil Sampling techniques, Reliable laboratory data, and reliable interpretations of the data are needed.  Right now, in Illinois, the Illinois Agronomy Handbook says that once in 4 years is often enough to sample.  Since sampling "error" is the most likely source of error in  soil testing, is that often enough?  We prefer yearly sampling to allow us to tweek fertilizer amounts applied every year.  We also get a much better picture of trends.  You could make a case for every other year in a corn soybean rotation where fertilizer is applied on corn only.  Less often than that does not follow the $R concept in my mind.

The idea of fertilizing according to what the crop removes is easily carried too far if not backed by data.  Environmental factors such as microbial activity play a big role  in nutrient availability and soil test levels.  We need yearly data to capture what is going on with those variations.  I have seen soil test levels go up with no fertilizer applied and I have seen levels go down with no crop grown.  Soil Balance is an old concept, but still a good one.  If one test level is too low, it does not matter what the other levels are.  In the long run, an effort to bring all levels to an ideal   makes management easier for the producer and the consultant.  Properly implemented variable rate application can help us manage our soil and balance fertility levels. 

Nitrogen management is a whole blog in itself if we are to follow the 4R concept.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Compaction and No-Till Farming

Continuing my series on the CCA convention in Springfield. 

Dr. Sjeord Duiker of Pennsylvania State University spoke on Soil Compaction, Reduced Tillage, and Some Cover Crops.  He has done a good deal of research on the topic, which my readers and I both consider to be important.  Soil compaction is an issue whether soil is wet or dry, because it changes the air, water and plant root interactions in the soil.  In wet weather, compaction will reduce air in the soil even further and speed up denitrification.  It will increase runoff.  In dry conditions, compaction can slow down root penetration and reduce available water capacity. 

Dr. Duiker's research has lead him to conclude that No-Till Farming is the best farming method to keep soil in good condition.  I probed lots of compacted soil this fall.  Even to the point of developing extreme sore shoulders.  The least compacted soils I probed were soils where the producer used no-till, very minimal tillage, or used a No-till Ripper.  Dr Duiker was not as excited about the No-Till Ripper as I am, but he did admit that it was preferred over most other tillage tools. 

He attributes a lot of compaction problems to moldboard plowing, large grain carts, and high tire pressure.  He says to avoid compaction problems: Reduce Tillage, Use Radial Tires with lower pressure, Try to keep weights below 10 Tons per axle.  Use larger Tires, and use cover crops.  He did not mention controlled traffic patterns, but with RTK technology, that is also a possibility to consider.  He found that some radishes put down their roots as deep as 16 inches and do an excellent job of breaking up old tillage pans.   Alfalfa can also do the same with its taproot.  My old friend Dan Towery promotes Annual ryegrass for its positive properties as well.  check his blog listed on the right hand panel of mine.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fertilizing for 300 Bushel Corn

Gyles Randall of University of Minnesota made a presentation on Wednesday about fertilizing for 300 bushel corn and 100 bushel soybean's.  He was both entertaining and informative.  His first topic was - Can very high corn yields be produce with very low soil Phosphorous.  The short answer is no.  His data showed that with a 50 lb per acre P test, good yields could be produced no matter how much additional fertilizer was added or how.  Low P test was 20 bushels per acre lower even with more P added and no matter how it was placed.

This has an interesting implication for producers who are giving high cash rents.  We hear that many of those paying top dollar are "mining" the nnutrients in the soil by not applying Phosphorous and Potassium.  This data would lead me to believe they may be cutting their own throats in the long run. 

Dr Randall also discussed nitrogen management.  He is concerned that higher nitrogen rates needed to grow high yielding corn will also lead to higher nitrates in surface and ground water.  Right now, split applications show no advantage, but in the future we may need to look in that direction,  He also thinks that precision application with chlorophyll sensors hold promise.  I agree on that issue. 

Dr Randall also anticipates Sulfur, Zinc and Manganese issues.  Dr Randall has a longer article that looks very worthwhile in the Fluid Journal That was publicized today. 

My conclusion is that farmers and agriculture researchers are always striving to increase yield and profitability.  Both are challenges that I expect those of us involved in agriculture to meet.  Food, fiber, and energy demands lead us in that direction and currently the corn plant seems to be the best equipped genetically to meet the demand.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Litchfield, IL Prairie View 2010

This Photo was taken Saturday from the I-55 overpass just north of the Litchfield IL exit.  I think I will make this a monthly shot for 2011 to show what is going on in the area if anything.  Sort of a long term time lapse.  As you can see, right now nothing is shaking as expected.  I did see one semi hauling grain on the nearby country roads. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazed to Be Recognized

Thursday,, the Sucessful Farming website, recognized the top ten from their A-List in 2010.  I am honored and gratified that they include my blog on their list.  I appreciate the comments and the link.  I would like to have everyone read all my blogs, but under the same assumption they use, I will give you some of the highlights over the year and maybe the life of my blog.

First the top three in hits.
1.  Vertical TIllage
2.  One of my favorite topics - Nitrogen Management
3.  Really kind of a surprise - Soybean Vein Necrosis

Some of my better photographs.
1.  Got Stuck
2. How wet is it.
3. Vertical TIllage 2
4. Blue Skies

Some good ones that have not had many views.

1. Nitrogen managment
2.  What is Mature Corn
3. Working with Nature

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sulfur Fertilization

Dr. John Sawyer of Iowa State University presented their data on sulfur fertilization at the CCA meeting yesterday.  He said their best response to sulfur fertilization came on sandy soils.  He was disappointed with soil test sulfur being used to determine response.  His experience was that the test level was not a good predictor, but I am wondering if other factors could be involved.  It did seem that about 20 pounds per acre was the break point for economic payoff.  His did briefly discuss Illinois research as well.  I have seen the research plots during the growing season and there is a much bigger visual difference than the yield data would indicate, but still it is something we should be considering.  Common sources of sulfur are gypsum, ammonium sulfate, and elemental sulfur.  Check out my previous post   as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CCA Convention

I attended the Certified Crop Advisor Convention in Springfield, IL today.  It was my first time at this event and I was very surprised at the size of the meeting.  Presenters and topics were very diverse.  It was refreshing to hear from private industry and out of state presenters.  I will be attending more of these events in the future.  I saw customers, potential customers, and colleagues.   I have material for several blogs. 

One of the presenters, Emerson Nafziger, analyzed the past growing season as relates to corn production.  Many producers and agronomists have blamed hot summer nights for the disappointing corn yields.  My observations on September 10 were that disappointing yields were related to wetness and nitrogen loss.  September 10 Blog  .  Emerson must have read my blog because his analysis was similar to mine.  He admitted that hot weather might have played a small role, it was wetness and running out of nitrogen that was the biggest contributor to the lower than expected corn yields. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Road Trip

I took a road trip to Patterson today.  Really not much to report on.  Fields are snow covered and there is lots of tillage done just like everywhere I have been this fall.

I know we have still not celebrated Christmas, but most people are looking ahead to spring planting season.  What are some things that might make a difference in the operation for the coming year?
1.  Some sort of autosteer.   If you are still manual steering, you could save a good bit of money just by not overlapping as much.
2.  Make sure you  have top quality planter parts.  Brushes, tubes, meters, etc.  Good accurate seed placement can make a big difference.
3. Row shutoffs.  If your planter is bigger than 4 row, row shutoffs will save on seed costs and help reduce endrow overlap.
4.  Nozzle shutoffs for your sprayer.  Cuts down on chemical waste and overlap.  It is a greener way to farm. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Animal Premise ID

Animal Premise ID is in the news this week.  The idea seems to be more controversial than it should be.  I am hard pressed to say why.  Several years ago I observed an emergency exercise for a foot and mouth disease outbreak.  The most difficult thing to do was to find all the livestock in the county.  A premise ID would protect the producer and help isolate their livestock in times of a disease outbreak.  It takes only  a few minutes to register.  I think that even 4-her's should be taught how to register their operation.  Yes it is more government getting into our business, but it seems much less intrusive than full body scans in order to fly.  Go for it. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Erosion and drainage.

December 2010 Crops soils agronomy magazine reports on research concerning how subsurface hydrology affects soil erosion.  It appears to say that saturated soil erodes more easily than unsaturated soils.  This research confirms a practical idea that we have known for a long time.  Grassed waterways are constructed to protect the land from erosion.  In order for them to work properly, tile must be installed about 1/4 of the way across the waterway.  On the surface, it does  not make sense because it appears that water is running off too fast and needing to remove it from the subsoil should not be a problem.  However, in order to prevent erosion in the grassed waterway, saturation needs to be kept to a minimum.  I have advised many people who were repairing waterways that job would not be complete without tile.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Relics of the past

Corn cribs must be seen as critical to the economic development of Illinois.  They come in many styles, sizes and shapes.  In most cases they are abandoned.  In some cases they are under utilized storage buildings.  It is very rare to find one still used to store corn as the last photo shows.  Ground ear corn is still a very good feedstuff for feeding out beef.  The top two photos were taken last week on my way home from Peoria.  The bottom one was taken 2 or 3 years ago. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Valmeyer Yesterday.

Sorry I did not get to post yesterday.  Went to Valmeyer and worked outdoors a bit.  Weather was pleasant for winter.  Took a few probes and found the ground to be moist, but did not go deep.  Water standing  in the sloughs was frozen.  Visible ag activity is minimal at this time of year.  There is still lots of construction delays.  bean ground I worked on was disked and looked ready to plant in the spring.  Tomorrow might be snow pictures. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Soil Condition

Most of the time I probe 7 inches deep.  From time to time I do an investigation for a septic tank filter field.  By law those borings must be at least 5 feet deep.  I like doing them to keep my soil classifying skills sharp.  I also like the chance to examine soil moisture to a depth of 5 feet. 

Yesterday was one of those days.  I was working within 5 miles of Hillsboro.  The area I was working was an old pasture and soil moisture was just where we want it in the winter.  Even though it has been 2 weeks since we had much rain, a wetting front was still moving through the soil at a depth of about 3 feet.  Soil moisture is at field capacity in the upper 5 feet.  This sends us into the growing season with moisture just about as good as it can get.  Why do I say it sends us into the growing season?  With evapo-transpiration almost non-existent in the winter, soil moisture will not change much until crops and or weeds start growing in the spring.  If we do not get excessive early spring rains, soil moisture should be perfect at planting time.  What all this means in terms of next year's crop is that a complete crop failure is unlikely at least in my area.  I would be curious about moisture in the drought stricken parts of southern Illinois.  I suspect they could still use a little more rain before spring.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Soil - Not Oil

Soil, Not Oil, Is Essential to Sustainability

By Henry Lin - Pennsylvania State University  -
Published in Soil Survey Horizons - Fall 2010

The unsung hero of our planet
  is quiet, invisible and hidden underground
  yet it gives us everyday food, fee, fiber, and fuel

The underappreciated gift from nature
  is fragile, sensitive, and complex
  yet it is the home to the largest biodiversity on Earth

The crucible of all terrestrial life
  is fundamental, conservable, but hard to be renewed
  yet is suffers increasing wounds from anthropogenic impacts

The hidden half of the world underneath feet
  holds a key to global sustainability
  yet has no price tag while oil holds extreme high price

However, it is soil, not oil
  that feeds the world
  and controls environmental quality

Without soil there would be no life
  without soil, there would be no oil
  without soil, there would be no sustainability

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Windmill Farm

Photos below show the windmill farm north of Lincoln along I-155.  Noe of them were taken from the highway.  I went to East Peoria today for a meeting of the board of directors of the IL Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.  Other observations along the way is that there is lots of ground fall tilled this year.  I hope we don't have high winds this spring.  I did see a few fertilizer trucks either on the road or in the field spreading fertilizer.  It was a very cold day today. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Manure Management

I have been the author from time to time of Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans for livestock producers. I h ave not done enough of it to have it seem routine, but I have developed a decent working knowledge. There are some considerations that I like to incorporate into my plan.

Usually Hog and Chicken manure is high enough in phosphorous that over time, soil P levels will increase. This is especially true if manure is applied to meet the crop nitrogen requirement. I prefer to spread the manure around to different fields in different years to minimize the buildup of P. I also like to have the nitrogen applied at such a level that some fertilizer N will be used as well. Overall N can be reduced a bit because fertilizer N will speed up mineralization of the manure.

In No-till situations, manure can still be knifed in and meet the no-till standard most of the time. One reason to incorporate manure is that N loss will be greatly reduced. This extra N will more than pay for the trouble by reducing the need for fertilizer N. Whether your operation is big or small, Manure needs to be used in an environmentally sound manner. Not being sensitive to the environment comes back to haunt farmers in so many ways.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Late Fall

Sumac is a great subject in the fall.  Leaves are the first turn bright red.  Seedheads provide great late fall color.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wheat Condition

This field of wheat looked to be in good condition with a dusting of snow on Thursday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Biomass Fuel

Winter is the time to catch up on reading.  Today I picked up my October issue of Crop Soils, Agronomy News.  The magazine contains a great article on biomass.  As an alternative to fossil fuel, biomass is being touted in some circles.  Many people think of using biomass to make ethanol, but that is only one of many ways to get the energy out of biomass.  Maybe the most efficient in terms of total BTU's is burning the stuff directly.  University of Wisconsin at Madison is getting set up to do so by 2013. 

There are lots of biomass fuels out there.  It seems that some of them are going to waste now.  How about we chip all the Timber slash and burn it.  What about corn cobs.  I have seen some pretty neat looking inventions to separate corn cobs from stover and use the cobs.  Why?  Lots of BTU's per pound in the cobs as opposed to cobs and stover combined.  Also, keeping the stover in the field provides erosion protection. 

Surprisingly, there is some long term research available to simulate what happens to the soil when all the above ground portion of the plant its removed.  ARS plots near St. Paul MN have had corn removed as silage for 19 years.  The removal does show a degradation of soil organic matter as compared to removing grain only. 

What about using CRP land to grow biomass.  Wildlife people are against it, but sooner or later, those contracts are going to run out.  If farmers could sell the biomass maybe every other year, they might be more inclined to renwe the contract and continue to provide permanent cover on highly erodible ground.

What about fertility?  Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test.  Fertilize, Fertilize, Fertilize.

To me this is an exciting topic in agriculture right now.  I will probably blog more on the topic. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

N Rate calculator.

The N Rate calculator has been on line for 4 or 5 years now, but I am not sure how many farmers use it.  I guess you could say this is a followup to Yesterday's blog about regulation. 

Many farmers have been using a yield based N rate for 30 to 40 years.  That approach says that you should apply N at the rate the crop will need to make a given yield.  Yield potential should be based on a five year average on that farm or field.  We have many farmers approaching a 200 bu per acre potential.  A corn crop uses about 1.2 lb of N per bushel of yield.  that makes for easy math.  200 bushel corn should have 240 lb of N applied. 

Researchers in the Midwest have been looking for other ways to make the nitrogen decision for about 10 years.  Research data was collected from hundreds of sites to develop the data needed to determine the ideal N Rate.  That data was plugged into the model that runs the price based N rate calculator.  N Rate Calculator .  Using $820 per ton anhydrous and $5 per bushel corn, the N Rate that will maximize profit in central Illinois is 168 pounds per acre.

Where does the extra nitrogen needed to make 200 bushel corn come from?  It comes from soil organic matter.  Before Nitrogen fertilizers became commonplace, everyone could see the value of the high organic matter soils in central Illinois and northern Illinois .  We have overlooked that value with a one size fits all approach for many years.  Using the N rate Calculator will set you on a track that is both economical and environmentally sensitive.  Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have their data included in site.  Missouri participated in the studies, but is still wrestling with the data.  I say, at least take a look at it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nutrient Management Regulation

Nutrient management regulation is here with the finalization of rules in Florida.  Unfortunately I can't find anything on how the proposed water quality standards will be implemented.  It is difficult to tell what kind of hardship might be created.  FLORIDA WATER QUALITY STANDARDS
Another article in Agrinews talks about a group targeting Ag pollution in Illinois.  Ag related pollution I used to believe we could hold off regulations by good stewardship practices, but it looks like regulation is in our future.  A TMDL study is currently underway on the Illinois River.  This study could result in Florida-like standards in Illinois too. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Soybean Vein Necrosis Virus

A "new" virus has been found in soybean fields In several states including Arkansas and Illinois.  It would appear that some varieties are resistant but researchers and not really sure.  Also, it looks like it is spread by thrips, so controlling the insects will help.  Researchers are looking at identifying resistant varieties and trying to get resistance into other varieties.  Seems there is no end to the need for talented researchers. The article  Soybean vein necrosis out of Arkansas is fairly easy to understand.  Information on Illinois research is found here.  SIU Scientists looking to counter a newly identified soybean virus

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Day of Sampling

We worked in the Kane and Berdan area today.  The soil was very moist and in some places downright wet.  Low parts of the field had standing water in them.  One of the fields had plenty of ruts from harvesting wet ground.  The crib below was near the property at Kane.  We left the office in the rain and we rode home in the rain.  In between we had only a few sprinkles, but this is the kind of day it is really nice to be able to check the radar on the Blackberry while I am in the field.  Wind was also very blustery. 

Looking to the winter, my blog will shift gears a little bit.  I will not be travelling as much.  I have a plan to make a circuit around Montgomery County once a week if I do not get out anywhere else to report on anything interesting and maybe take a photo from time to time.  Saturday and Sunday will probably be photo days.  Weekdays I will report on meetings I attend, pass along useful information I have run across and comment on what is going on in the agricultural world.  Look for something fairly technical from time to time related to Agronomy and soils. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fall Colors

Weather was beautiful and so were fall colors.  I took a few photos of the scenic type just to show why I enjoy consulting so much.  Not too many jobs where you can work in surroundings like below. 

Near Fillmore, IL

Close to the Illinois River Bluff North of Fieldon

Mississippi River Valley Bluffs South of Columbia, IL

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We don't Rent Pigs

I drive past this sign fairly regularly and it caught my eye today for some reason.  It is one those things that raises more questions than it offers answers.  Do they have pigs?  Do people ask to rent them often?  What prompted this sign?  I looks like an add-on, but it also looks like it has been there for a while.  Roger DeWitt is an artist who uses agriculture as its subject matter. Check out his website  .

Friday, November 26, 2010


Went to Murphysboro for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  It rained on us the whole way.  Snowed for about 30 miles coming home.  We had 4 inches of rain in the past 48 hrs in Hillsboro.  The drive takes us throught the heart of Illinois wheat country in Washington County.  Wheat crop looked pretty good although none of it was much beyond just being out of the ground.  When we got into Jackson Co.  It looked a little spotty probably because of dry weather.  Hard to say what will happen with that wheat untill spring.  I am not sure how many acres are reported planted, but it seems like  alot more than in recent past years. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Thanksgiving traditionally marks the end of harvest in the Midwest.  In the modern world, we hope to have all or most of our fall work done by Thanksgiving.  From planting to harvest, it was  a challenging year in our area.  Very little field work was done last fall, so seedbed preparation and fertilizing was crammed in as early as possible.  Early planting got our corn crop off to a good start, but wet weather, compaction, and possibly heat cut into top production.  Soybeans were planted later but still yielded a record crop at least in Illinois.  In my area, the early part of harvest was still plagued by wetness and ruts, although we at least harvested dry grain.  as Harvest progressed, dry weather became a concern at least for wheat growers who would have liked a rain to get the crop off to a good start.  In our area at least, residual moisture was enough to get a decent stand of wheat germinated.  Today we are happy to have some rain falling to recharge the moisture in the topsoil.  It won't take much to recharge subsoil moisture because we were wet until crops were mature.  I know some areas of the state are not so lucky and welcome the moisture even more than we do. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday tomorrow.  I suspect I will be taking a day off of blogging, but will probably Tweet a few times. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I worked on the Illinois River Bluffs today overlooking Spanky and int he distance, Hardin.  Weather was not bad for November and soil moisture was OK for sampling.  Last night's rain was still soaking in.  The farm I worked on was about 25 % apple orchard.  The hillside is the picture is fairly long and steep, but showed little erosion because it is no-tilled.  Soils in this area are very deep loess similar to the Palouse region in Oregon. These soils are very productive despite the slopes.  In Illinois, Farming in this rugged terrain is rare.  We had around one half to one inch of rain in the area.  Some areas were graying off this afternoon.  Mostly ridgetops are farmed in this area.  One 46 acre field had a 4.5 mile perimeter. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


Pushing out hedgerows seems to be popular with Illinois Farmers .  Jonathan Baldwin Turner encourage farmers to plant hedgerows as a windbreak and live fence.  Most have now use for fence of any kind any more.  Many think that hedgerow is a detriment to growing crops, however I have seen fairly recent research that proved just the opposite.  The hedgerow reduces wind stress and evapo-transpiration on corn plants a good deal.  You can deal with water removal by using a root plow.  It is a single point subsoiler that runs about 3 feet deep.  Use with caution around pipelines and buried wires.  Keep in mind also that the rabbits need a place to hide from coyotes.  You should really give serious consideration to keeping hedgerows on the North and west side of the field. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ag advocacy

Now that harvest is over and things are calming down a little bit, it is time to take some time and make some effort to contact your legislators.  Lots of them will be home for the holidays and having office hours in their local offices.  In person contacts can be very effective.  Make sure you know your stand if you have an issue to discuss.  Make sure you are discussing the right issue with the right guy.  It does not do much good to discuss federal issues with state legislators.  It does almost no good to discuss statewide issues with federal legislators unless there is a federal angle too.  Addresses and phone numbers are easy to find.  Remember that the politicians listen most to those who take the time to voice an opinion.  Talking to staffers is just as good as talking to the legislator.  Remember that staffer is the trusted "expert" to the legislator.

This is also a good time to concentrate on your social media activities.  Tell your story to the public.  Volunteer for ag in the classroom.  Show a newspaper reporter your innovative idea.  Make sure that people know that their food does not come from the grocery store.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vegetable Grower

I sampled a vegetable grower today.  It is always interesting to see what he is growing or has grown.  He has asparagus, turnips, beets, strawberries, zucchini, lots of cabbage, broccoli, green beans, sweetcorn, spaghetti squash, horseradish, pumpkins and I suspect just about any common vegetable you might find in the Midwest.  Most is sold out the door or at his local retail outlet.  We collect extra samples because the fields are small.  He also grows field corn, soybeans, and wheat.  It is not a big farm, but lots of diversity. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting ready for next year.

What are you doing to get ready for next year.  I suppose everyone has seed ordered already.  I know the seed companies are pushing you.  Going to classes?  We are planning on the Farm Futures conference in St Louis. That will be the big one anyway.  I will hit a few extension things as appropriate.  I would be interested in what things others might be interested in attending.  We still have a little sampling to do as well.  Traveling seems less exciting now with little field work still being done and no growing crops except a little wheat.  I can say this about wheat.  It is an obvious observation.  Wheat sowed in moisture looks good.  Wheat sowed dry is spotty at best.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rain so far

Rain looks to be on the way if I don't jinx it by saying so.  With that in mind I started looking at National weather service maps showing departures from "normal" for various time periods.  I was looking to show how dry the fall has been, but the maps don't seem to capture it as dramatically as I thought.  A big rain in mid-September in a lot of places skewed the results.  I think we have had a year of extremes with a wet spring and summer and now a very dry fall.  The map shows the departures from "normal".  I think a better term would be average.  It is normal to be dry in fall, but how far off average are we? 

Anyway, the departure from normal for the year to date precipitation shows the wide range of extremes this year in Illinois.  A good bit of the state has been 2 inches above normal to 4 inches below normal; however, the extremes are very extreme.  In Hancock County, rainfall has been as much as 20 inches above normal.  In several southern counties there are good size areas that are as much as 16 inches below normal.  Probably some small areas as extreme as 20 inches below normal. 

The really big question in all this is "What about next year?"  I have no idea except that with La Nina apparently in full swing, we might expect dryer than normal.  I hope it does not mean dryer than this year for my friends in southern Illinois. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I went to Chambersburg today and did some sampling.  Soil probed pretty well. 

In reference to yesterday's blog about yield monitors, I think you should put the breaks in on the maps at points that are significant to you.  Figure out what yield should cover your variable costs.  Figure out what yield makes a profit.  Figure out what yield you could live on.  Put breaks on the maps in those places.  I see too many yield maps where the user just lets the computer put in the breaks. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harvest is Over

For grain farmers, harvest is over and it is time to think about what do we do next.  One of the things you should be thinking about is yield data.  It might even have been a good idea to do this before crop planning, tillage, and fall weed control.  If you are not recording your yield data, you are just spinning your wheels.  When I was young, Dad might record how many wagon loads of corn came off of field and that was the best we could do.  I know some producers who have a yield monitor, but they are not recording the data.  They usually write down the field average, but that is it. 

In the modern world, one of the biggest things we can do to grow better crops is to look at the yield data and figure out what went wrong, or if we are lucky we can figure out what went right.  Yield data from only one year might have lots of information that only applies to that year, so it is good to look at multiyear data.  That can be done by normalizing the data.  Knowing costs and field operations completed is important.  Then you can figure out parts of the field that made money or not.  To me the most important aspect of yield data is looking at it to see where the trouble spots are and what we can do to overcome the trouble.  Some soil related problems can be fixed.  Others not so much.  Or if you can fix them the fix is expensive. 

I have reservations about variable rate seeding, but if you are trying that or sold on it, the yield data is needed to write your prescription for next year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Made it back

We went to the big city for my son's wedding this weekend, which was excitement enough.  I have tweeted Ag reports on the trip up there, so I will not add to it.  My reflection on travelling across Central and Northern Illinois is that there is no place like it that I have ever been from coast to coast.  The land mass of the most prime crop land in the world is incredible.  There are soils that are as productive in other places, but nowhere that I have been can crops be grown with less potential for soil erosion, and under such naturally fertile conditions.

We also went past the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences several times.  It is a tribute the value of food production in Illinois that big city students get the opportunity to prepare for agriculture related careers.  It has been some time since I have been there and I was surprised to see the amount of land that is used to grow one crop or another. 

Another exciting thing was that my Motorola Q had a dead battery.  The cost of  a battery and  anew phone were not all that far apart so I bought a new Blackberry Curve. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

North on I-57

I managed to find a connection and a little time so here I am.  Chicago via IL 16, I-72, and I-57.  Harvest seemed complete except for some corn at Peotone.  Like the home area, people are laying tile, building conservation practices, applying fertilizer and lime, and applying anhydrous.  We are getting a bit of rain here tonight but nothing too heavy. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guidance systems and controllers.

This may be my last blog till Sunday night.  Thanks for your patience and watch for Twitter updates anyway. 

I tried to help a customer get started with his new setup today to spread VRT.  It was kind of like the blind leading the blind.  I have seen several of these, but never really tried to use one.  They are not intuitive at least not to me.  They all seem to be a bit different.  In the end he had to call the vendor and get a little help.  He got it going with the vendor's help.  I am always concerned that the producer be able to use the files I furnish him.  So far, when they tell me what they need and I give that to them, my files have always worked. 

I am finding VRT prescriptions to be more work than I originally thought they would be.  In addition to the maps, I have to give them a materials spread sheet and spread maps.  I use Global Mapper to draw my maps, add the required attributes, and export them to shp files.  I use Arc Explorer to print out spread maps.  Some machinery requires an addition step to get information into their proprietary file.

The good news is that in the end with the high price of fertilizer,  We can save the producer a good bit  of money.  In addition, we seem to be helping the environment by keeping soil phosphorous levels down a bit. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Double back wheat

One of the things I hope to do with my blog is show people things they might not see every day.  The picture below shows wheat planted with a 15 inch row planter.  The farmer then doubled back to try and make the rows 7.5 inches wide.  Why would he try this?  I suppose because he did not have a drill.  A number of years ago, researchers looked at row width for wheat.  The found that 10 inches was not terrible, but anything wider was too wide.  The person who planted this wheat was trying to take that into account, but the double back was not too accurate.  It would be interesting to know yield, but not sure whose land it is. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Corn Supply - Meredosia

One sure sign of a bumper crop is the amount of corn stored on the ground.  While this years crop is a decent one, it did not meet expectations.  My thoughts early on were that we were set up for a record crop because of early planting and generous moisture.  It turned out the moisture was too high.  Below is a photo of corn stored on the ground at the Barge loading facility at Meredosia on the Illinois River.  This is one of the few places I have seen corn on the ground and it looks like the storage is sophisticated enough that where it is stored is not a factor in grain quality.  Also I expect that the grain will be loaded on barges and shipped to New Orleans as soon as barges become available. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scenic Photo

This was out the window of my truck at 70MPH.  I know not the safest thing to do.  It was the most vividly colored rainbow I have ever seen.  The down side of this is that we had just a sprinkle of rain. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Combines have always been the state of the art in farm machineryThe two old combines were on a farm I sampled recently.  This is sort of a regression of combines.  Quite a contrast between the old and new. Even more of a contrast if you could see the controls.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Conservation Farm

The farm I worked on today was a wonderful conservation farm.  Yes most farmers make some effort to be good stewards, but some do better than others.  This farm seemed to have every conservation practice in the NRCS Technical Guide.  Ib view in the picture are terraces in the foreground, and water and sediment control basins.  The pond is beautiful and well protected from sedimentation.  The alfalfa showing green on the right is in excellent condition.  Timber and pasture is in the far background.  All the land is farmed with No-till practices.  The field in the foreground is planted to wheat that could use a rain and a bit of warm weather.  This owner also has grassed waterways, Riparian buffers, constructed wetlands, and a timber harvest going on.  Everything is well kept.  It was really fun for an old NRCS guy to work this farm. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vertical Tillage 2

On September 29 I wrote my most popular blog ever.  It was about a tool I saw in action on a customer's farm.  Today I saw the same tool only on a 3 point hitch bar instead of a caddy and with 5 points instead of 7.  I have since learned that it is a no-till ripper made by DMI.  I do not endorse products or sell anything, but I do tell my customers when I see something that works.  The guy using this ripper is a long term no-tiller.  He has been using no-till long enough that he has a noticeable organic matter buildup in the surface 3 or 4 inches. 
One of the biggest complaints about no-till is that it makes the ground hard.  This year has been especially bad for compaction as this is third year in a row that we planted in wet soils.  Harvest in Illinois started out wet in September.  That early part of harvest added to compaction in many area.  Soils are now fairly dry, so they are very hard in many places.  If you look here regularly you may have seen on my link to Kelly Robertson's web page that he bought a power soil auger to help him deal with the hard soils. 
That should set the stage.  Today as I went over this customer's field, I sampled corn and soybean stubble.  The corn stalks had been ripped this spring and that was the only tillage operation.  The bean stubble had been ripped 2 years ago.  The customer was also ripping bean stubble today.  On what he had ripped today, my probe took almost no effort to push in.  On the corn stalks and bean stubble the ground probed as easily as anything I have sampled this fall.  I have sampled about 10,000 acres so far so that represents a good bit of land.  The soil moisture was good for no more rain than we have had.  My other customer told me that this tool helps him overcome the 10 bushel yield lag on his no-till. 
I know other manufacturers have similar tools and I am not saying don't look at those.  I am just saying if you have some land that needs to be no-tilled you should look into something like this. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I worked in the Fieldon area today.  It is near the Illinois River bluffs.  The weather was beautiful.  I was in an area where I should have seen lots of deer, but they were hiding.  The main field work I was seeing was dry fertilizer application and Anhydrous Ammonia application.  Soil temperatures seem to be OK for Anhydrous, but the hard part is what will happen in late winter and early spring.  I know that some think it gives them an early jump on corn planting.  The problem is that warm and or wet weather too early in the year can cause huge losses.  The photo below shows Anhydrous Ammonia being applied.  The tank wagons have the Anhydrous in them and the blue applicator knifes it into the soil. 


Most of the land I worked on Tuesday was corn stalks.  It was very rough.,  One cause of roughness was that some of the clods from spring were still there.  The clods did not seem to affect the stand.  Another roughness factor was that the corn was harvested when the ground was very wet.  I suspect that harvest was in Mid-September right after a big rain.  The third roughness factor was corn root balls.  Some of the corn had been pulled out by the roots.  It looked like maybe the rootworm resistance did not work.  There was lots of lodging and it was obvious some of the corn was too flattened to pick up.  The farmer blamed the brand.  I would lean toward blaming the variety to an extent.  I am also curious to know if there might have been a mini downburst or something like that. 

The good news is that he had at least 100 young steers to turn lose on the ground.  There is lots of feed out there for the steers. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Illinois weather and crop report Nitrogen Management

Illinois weather and crop report says corn is 98% harvested and soybeans are 99% harvested.  Around 50% of the state says they are short on moisture.  My area, West Southwest has had a bit of rain, but not much.  I have not been finding it short except in chisel plowed ground.  The deep tillage can certainly be justified this year after 2 wet falls in a row and 3 wet crop years in a row, there is lots of compaction.  It looks like Anhydrous ammonia is being applied everywhere that it is considered to be suitable.  Remember that IL rt 16 is the cutoff.  If you are not in or north of a county that route 16 runs thru, you should certainly not even consider fall applied Nitrogen.  My experience, gained by nitrogen testing is that even around Route 16, Fall applied nitrogen is very hit and miss.  It might work, but a warm wet spring might mess it up for you.  South of Route 16 chances are that sometime during the winter warm weather will cause nitrification and leaching.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scenic obsolescence

Yesterday I took the day off from sampling and blogging to fulfill community service obligations.  I have been a member of Kiwanis for 22 years.  Kiwanis is the only service club dedicated to serving the children of the world.  Two or three times a year we raise funds so we can continue to help kids in our community.  Saturday was peanut day.  I spent the day standing on hard surfaces, which wore me out.  Then it was trick or treat time.  Seeing the little ghouls and goblins is always great fun. 
One of my favorite things to photograph is corn cribs.  These cleverly designed buildings have become obsolete, replaced by grain bins. 

I don't usually photograph barns because every seems to have a barn collections. This barn however caught my eye.  The sundog in the photo seems to add to it in a way because the barn is a dim image of its former self.  I saw this barn and it made me curious about it's past.  Barns are now replaced by livestock confinement buildings and pole barns. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Grafton - Jerseyville

Went west today.  It was a beautiful day.  Soil Temperature at 4 inches was 44 degrees.  Air temperature went as low as 30.  I did not see anything needing harvested today.  It seems nearly impossible for it to be done before Nov. 1.  Lots of fertilizer going on.  I expect Nitrogen to start Monday if it stays cool at night.  I would rather wait another 2 weeks, but I know people are antsy.  I was on a farm today that had some well maintained terraces and Grassed Waterways.  A retire NRCS guy always likes to see that stuff.  Also some great no-till. The no-till ground was the softest I have probed this fall.  Ground was in very good shape.  Dry fertilizer and lime were the main activities today. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We have notice sulfur test levels going lower and lower each year.  For the past 2 years, Dr. Fernadez at University of Illinois has been researching crop response to Sulfur.  He has found as much as a 50 bushel response to sulfur.  If you have not looked at it, you probably need to find out your sulfur levels in your soil.  Some common sources of sulfur are Ammonium Sulfate, elemental sulfur, and gypsum.  15 ppm is thought to be the critical level. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I worked east of Brighton today.  There was one small field of corn that needed to be harvested.  I saw lots of deer stands, but no bow hunters.  Soil was moist.  Not sure how much rain fell, but it was enough for now.  Wheat is looking good in the area.  Tillage seems to be done for now. The main field activity was spreading fertilizer and lime.  I think some may be waiting to do it after applying nitrogen.  Soil Temperature was 50 degrees at 10AM.  The state wide map is still showing soil temperatures over 60 degrees on bare soil.  I was checking soybean stubble.  Cooler fall-like temperatures may lower the temperature later this week. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I had a short afternoon of work in Irving.  Weather is on the mind today.  The storm blew through this morning and left 1/10 of an inch of rain.  More would have been welcome at this point.  Dust was flying where chisel plows were running.  The tillage was looking good at this point.  It is dry enough for deep tillage to do some good. 

Monday, October 25, 2010


I worked south of Valmeyer today.  There is lots of wheat sowed in the American Bottoms of Monroe County.  Most of it was looking good.  This is a contrast to the USDA wheat condition report that says it is the worst crop in years.  I saw one field of corn to be harvested and a few fields of double crop soybeans that still have green stems.  I worked in mud for the first time this fall.  I was in a wet area and about a half inch of rain fell through the night.  Some of the wheat ground I worked on had just recently been planted and it was rough.  Rain will help get it out of the ground. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baled stalks

These bales of cornstalks were rolled up between Carrolton and Greenfield.  These stalks will be used as winter feed for cattle.  This could become a more common sight as we move toward cellulostic ethanol. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Made a circuit today

First stop was North of Carlinville.  Early harvested corn was rutted.  Soil Temperature at 9:45 was 50 degrees.  Stopped at a field west of Hettick and soil temperature was 50 degrees.  Then on to Greenfield.  Sampled 2 small fields.  I went south to Piasa and sampled some corn ground that was just harvested.  I saw a field of horseradish being harvested near Rockbridge.  Finished the day North of Shipman on a newly harvested soybean field.  Then back to Hillsboro.  I did not see any unharvested corn fields. I would have to say corn is 99% done, because I know there are some little corners yet to do.  Soybeans appear to be about 98% harvested.  Horseradish was just getting started.  I saw wheat out of the ground at Piasa.  It looked good.  Lots of fertilizer being applied, but dealers are showing restraint for the most part on nitrogen.  That is good. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Filter Strips

 The photo below shows the area where I worked today.  Most of my sampling was in the valley of Coop Creek in the far background of the photo.  I was a great day with great fall colors.  Soil temperature was 50 degrees at 10AM.  That was in soybean stubble. 
The photo below is immediately adjacent to Coop Creek.  It shows a grass filter strip along the creek. Filter strips are very effective in keep pollutants out of the water. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Livestock Management

Below is a state of the art dead animal composting facility.  As hard as producers try to keep animals healthy and growing, from time to time They lose one.  One of the best ways to dispose of them is by composting.  Note that the facility is covered to prevent seepage of polluted water.  This producer is using sawdust to provide  a carbon source.  One the process is complete, the compost can be tested and used for fertilizer. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It was a nice cool fall day in Brown County.  Harvest is almost done with lots of rough looking tillage already done.  I don't mind the roughness, but I worry about the compaction that was caused down deep. 

Today was the first reading of 50 degrees on the thermometer.  Warmer weather is expected this week so it would be good to continue to hold of on Nitrogen application although technically it is a go. 

Lots of farmers in the area where I worked are also deer hinting outfitters.  I saw lots of deer stands on the edges of fields. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Soil Moisture and temperture.

Cut a Wide swath today

I started my day in Fillmore where soil temperature at 10AM was 55.  Crop progress was excellent and I worked on a customer who is done.  He had lots of wheat sowed.  I have seen more wheat sowed than I have seen in many years. 

I went to Staunton and then to Livingston.  Progress was good in those areas too.  It was interesting that everywhere I worked today, I could see the Coffeen power plant. 

Illinois Crop Report came out today.  Harvest progress around the state is progressing at record pace.  I found myself working on land that did not get done until November 27 last year an I know I was wearing insulated Carhart Coveralls.  It was interesting that 62% of the people were reporting short on moisture.  My observation is that topsoil moisture is OK in undisturbed and no-tilled areas.  Chisel plowing has caused all the topsoil moisture to go away in those ares that are tilled.  We could use a bit of rain, but wheat seems to be emerging without rain.  I would not call it short.  I don't keep records, but it seems we have not had any rain to amount to anything in over a month.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sampling Philosophy

We  pull soil samples by management zones.  Zones can be determined a number of ways or a combination of ways.  Soil types can be a good place to start.  We like to use landscape position as a criteria.  Yield zones can sometimes show variability well.  Yields from several years that are normalized work best.  We like zones as apposed to grid sampling because a grid sample too small of an area, even if it represents only 2.5 acres.  In order for grid sampling to work, grids would need to be smaller than one acre.  That would be cost prohibitive.  Pulling plenty of cores per sample improves the representative nature of the sample. 
There are lots of ideas about how often to soil sample a field. Some say every four years is often enough. Some say every crop cycle. In other words, in a corn soybean rotation, every 2 years. Our service provides annual sampling. Why is that needed? It allows us to track your fertility every year. It allows us to monitor your field every year for other soil health issues that we may see. It also takes the guesswork out of how much fertilizer you need. You don't have to worry about how much last year's crop took off, or how much fertility is left. By having the data you know where your fertility levels are. Also, the more familiar we are with your fields the better we can advise you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I worked in the American Bottoms around Valmeyer today.  Harvest is progressing about like everywhere.  Still a little corn standing, Some beans are still a little green, some ripe ones being harvested.  I saw wheat out of the ground for the first time.  Other areas had wheat sowed and some was being sowed.  Monroe County is traditionally atop 10 wheat producer in Illinois.  Weather was wonderful.  Red tail hawks are beautiful soaring on a day like today.  I think I saw a Peregrine Falcon as well.

Friday, October 15, 2010


I had views like the one below all morning.  A wonderful cool fall morning in Illinois.  I was working in the Fillmore area today and soil temperature at 10AM was 58.  Why was it warmer than yesterday?  The ground was drier.  Dry ground warms faster than wet ground.  Not sure if the bean stubble vs corn stubble had anything to do with it.  Just proves you need a thermometer to check each field.  Today was the first time since fall of 2007 that I used a hammer to sample.  The ground is not extremely dry, but just hard from compaction.  IT is cracking so that will help on the surface at least.  Tillage now that it is dry would help too.  Just keep conservation plans in mind.  There were still some soybeans with green leaves, so harvest could stretch into November but 80% of beans were done and maybe 95% of corn.  Field activities include harvesting corn and soybeans, fertilizer application.  Lime application, and wheat sowing.  Yes I saw my first drill in the field.  I know many are sowing, I just have not seen them. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tiling at Greenfield

 I worked in a field that was having drain tile installed.  This was 12 inch tile to provide an outlet for an adjacent farm.  The tile helps to remove saturation from the soil  Those who think things are drying out should note that water was still running in an old clay tile.  I thought it was fortunate to be able to get these pictures while I was sampling.  The last 3 wet years have made more and more people realize the value of drainage tile.  It seems that as the harvest winds down, people are taking advantage of the relatively dry weather to improve their land.  This was one of several I saw today. 

Tiling Machine installing a 12 inch main

The depth of the tile is controlled by this laser

Old clay tile on the right will be connected to new plastic on the left.  Note that water is running in the clay tile.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I think it might be time to lighten up a bit.  Today I was working south of Jerseyville.  I was about 1/4 mile from one of my favorite orchards and country store.  I have had a taste for some of the Firm Gold apples that are found in that area.  I was finishing up a field before noon and so I decided to ride my 4 wheeler down a field road to the store and pick up some apples.  When I got there I told the owner I hoped he had some of the Firm Gold apples because I have been wanting to work in the Jerseyville area all fall so I could get some.  He said' "And you rode your 4 wheeler all the way here to get some?"

Soil Temperature was 65 degrees at 10 AM.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soil Temperture and Nitrogen Application

When Anhydrous Ammonia is applied to the soil it grabs a hydrogen ion from water and becomes ammonium. ammonium attaches to the clay particles, but when temperatures are warm, bacteria begin to work on the NH4 and turn it into Nitrate. This is called nitrification. Nitrate is available to plants, but also moves with water in the soil down into the ground water and into tile water. When Anhydrous is applied when soil temperatures are above 55 degrees, nitrification occurs. If you apply on warm soil, you will lose nitrogen. I like to see anhydrous applied at 50 degrees just to allow for a little variability. To find out soil temperature, checking it yourself is best.   IN the fall always use nitrification inhibitor. 

Illinois State water survey tracks soil temperature, but not sure how close together their sample sites are.   Click here to see the site

A map from the site is below. 

Monday, October 11, 2010


One of the things I hope to do with this blog is bring you things that you might miss unless you look closely.  I was riding across this field when I noticed that the very top of the soil was drying out.  The ground was undisturbed so moisture was good.  Then I looked closer and noticed that all the dry soil was actually worm casts otherwise known as worm poop.  The earthworms eat the residue and help decompose it.  They then deposit the nutrients in the form of worm casts, sometimes right on the surface.  A few of the casts were large ones indicating nightcrawlers, but most them were small.  There are a number of species of smaller worms like red worms.  In any case there was lots of worm action in this field.  I find it especially interesting because I know this customer is not a no-tiller.  Usually no-tillers will tell you how much worm action they get, but I found there is lots of worm action even in a tilled field.  I would not have noticed it except the conditions were just right.  The lighter colored soil is the worm casts. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bond County

We took a little trip to Greenville today to visit Marcoot Jersey Creamery south of Greenville.  We bought some of their delicious cheese and cheese curds.  They also sell Milk produced and bottled at another dairy.  They sell cheese, ice cream and butter from their dairy as well as meat.  It was and impressive operation and I wish them the best. 

My crop report is that once again it looks like about 95% of the corn is harvested.  75 to 80 % of soybeans are also harvested.  It looked like most farmers were taking a rest from harvest because we only saw one combine in the field.  A lot of the remaining soybeans are ready to harvest but the field below will not be ready for a week or so.  We saw several fields with various states of greenness, so harvest will not be done for a while even though it is progressing nicely.  Also saw 2 fields of grain sorghum that are not ready to harvest.