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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Working in the Chesterfield area today. Land was somewhat rolling, so it was not too wet. I rode through very little water. Soybean stubble had fall applied anhydrous. We heard rumors that corn is being planted in St. Charles County Mo. We will check it out next week.

I also spotted a nice looking Water and Sediment Control Basin (WASCOB). Some call them little dry dams. They provide a stable outlet for small waterways or stabilize small gullies. Most farmers who install them on their own do not build the dam this high. A 3 to 4 foot high dam will function best if you build one yourself.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I started to see wetness west of I-55. Worked southwest of Shipman. Soil was about as wet as I care to work in. The good news is that we had sunshine and drying winds. Tommorrow and Thursday are supposed to be warmer and windier so the surface should dry off fast.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I had to go to Edwardsville early this morning. We had 3/10ths of an inch
Saturday and Sunday combined. It looked much wetter as I travelled south. On the way back I stopped in Staunton and was told they had an inch over the weekend. At least the forecast for the rest of the week is for dry and warm, so I am still optimistic that planting will be more timely this year. Accuweather has us looking good till April 7.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prairie Fire

Yesterday I caught a local bird hunter and CRP owner burning his Prairie restoration. Witnessing such an event gives you an idea why the prairies were not settled first in Illinois. The fire is uncontrollable/ It would be scary to have that possibility to contend with.

Prairies is burned to maintain the health of the plants growing there. The owner of this prairie was leaving unburned areas for birds to nest, He was very experienced and had been burning since 1988.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Soil Temperature

My first reading of soil temperature at a 4 inch depth is 33 degrees. It got below 30 last night so I expect it dropped some from yesterday. We had 4/10ths of an inch of rain. The daffodils are looking good.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I had a small job in Strassburg this morning. Not much going on in the field. It drizzled on me the whole way over there. I stopped for gas in Shelbyville and a former SCS State Soil Scientist from Idaho recognized what I was doing and visited a bit. We had friends in common.

On the way home I saw this tractor about 1/4 mile away. Thinking he was doing field worked, I turned off to see what was happening. Instead of field work , I see a tractor that has been sitting for a while. I am curious as to how this happened.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I worked in the area of Macoupin Jersey County Line today. I was on both sides of the line, but only worked in Macoupin. One large farmer was applying Anhydrous with 2 large applicators. It was making the field rough, but probably a good thing to get going. There are still wet spots in the fields, but they were tiled fields so not too bad. He was also getting some ground ready to plant with a field cultivator. I expect to see a planter in that field next week.

The possibility of material being unavailable at times makes it all the more important to get field work done when you can.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I worked near Cornland today. Yes that is a real place. It sounds like it could be anywhere in Illinois. Soil is starting to dry out nicely. I told the hired man at my first stop that I would be surprised if I did not see someone working in the field today. Yes I did see someone about 2 PM. He came along with and anhydrous applicator. It was on hilly ground, so it appeared to be working well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Deep Boring

I travelled to Edwardsville and Nokomis today. I know, opposite directions. Nothing new in the Edwardsville direction.

I did some 5 foot borings in the Nokomis direction. Soil moisture was at field capacity to about 3 feet. Below 3 feet was saturated. This is really about where we want to be going into spring. We had less than a quarter inch of rain over the weekend despite the fact that it drizzled all weekend. The lack rain is good news as well. We might dry out this spring yet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Went North again yesterday. Not much new to report. Rain started up there around noon. It looked like there was no rain here until after 5 PM. We hope the rain is light and sunshine returns on Monday.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Went to Shipman today to drop some stuff by the office. At least 4 different farms had tile machines or plows going. Tile is much needed in this part of Illinois. In the past, University advise was that our claypan soils were not worth tiling. Tile plows and small tile on narrow spacings have made that idea obsolete. One contractor who I respect a lot said that he estimates a 25% increase in corn production in tiled fields. That increase will easily pay the cost in short order.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Old Farmer

I turned down a dead end road to photograph the above corn crib. I am photographing them to preserve a bit of Illinois history. Almost no one stores and dries their corn in a crib anymore. Most of them like this one are in some state of disrepair.

Not knowing the road was a dead end, I drove almost a mile before I found out. When I turned around, I was face to face with an old farmer coming home for lunch. He rolled down his window and we chatted a bit. He told me he farms with is son and grandson. He also has a great grandson who is a baby. He said he hopes he lives long enough to have his great grandson give him a ride in the combine.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2009 Corn Harvest

Corn Harvest is still not over. This corn is on Logan - Sangamon Line. Fields were still wet, although tilled fields grayed off in the sunshine in the afternoon. I thought about soil temperature but not when I was near my thermometer. It is probably not relevant anyway. Rain and cold this weekend will cool it off.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today I worked on a field that has been notilled for a long time. Higher organic matter in the top 3 to 4 inches was very evident. I also found a little used and old chisel plow on the farm. I think it is used to fill in ephemeral gullies. I saw no sheet and rill erosion on the farm. Also, there were no ruts cut last fall. The soil probed easily. The farm did have erosion issues in areas with concentrated flow. It looked like more waterways with tile were in order.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Working with Nature

My friend Kelly Robertson sent a few of us a video about fish farming with nature. I did not understand the commentary entirely, but the video does prompt a question. Are you working with nature or fighting nature in agricultural production? I think we don't necessarily do a good job implementing the idea of working with nature. An example is " Why do we run cattle on the range in the west?" Bison are adapted to the environment much better than cattle. I know there are not enough Bison to "feed" the world, but we could work in that direction. I am not sure why we are doing research on Miscanthus in the Midwest when we can grow switchgrass. I know there is an issue of energy content, but I bet there is some "super" switchgrass out the there somewhere waiting to fill that energy need. Intensive grazing is an excellent production system that works with nature. The idea was started as something called holistic grazing. I think the term was unpopular with the general ranching community because it sounded like something out of Mother Earth News. The idea behind intensive grazing is to use a system that simulates how the bison grazed. The good news is that it is a highly productive system. It easily doubles production over conventional grazing systems.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Trying New Things

Farmers in the modern day world have a chance to prove what works on their farm better than ever before. Should you buy seed treated with fungicide, insecticide or both? Try it and see. If you sense is that these things make you money, then go for it, but6 leave a check strip. On the other hand, if you just want to try something small scale then do it, but make sure there is a control strip. Don't try to check one field against another. Do it side by side. Plant your strips so that you can just take your yield monitor data and use it for comparison.

Your results may not be publishable in a professional journal, but it at least tells you what is going on on your farm. That is what matters most.

Overnight rain was only a trace, so we are hoping to work in the field tomorrow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


4/10ths of an inch of rain since yesterday. I think we can live with that, but it looks much wetter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

St. Clair County

Went south today in hope of getting some work done. I got rained out before I got anything done. The customer had a wheat field that he planted on October 12. It looked very small for that date. Not a great stand but it will produce some wheat. His ground that is going to corn was disced in the fall and looked ready to plant. I saw some ground north of Edwardsville that was tilled and ready to plant as well. The land is often the first planted in this part of Illinois.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BMP Challenge

I received information in the mail about the BMP challenge. There are actually 2 challenges. One related to Nutrient management, and one related to no-till. The program is sponsored by AgFlex, IPM Institute, and NRCS. you need to be prepared for check strips in your field. More information is available at Or phone 608-232-1425. Your income is guaranteed under the program, so no risk involved for a bit of on farm research.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I attended a meeting on NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act). NEPA is a law that tells federal agencies what process to follow in implementing federal actions. In order to implement projects, Federal agencies must be in compliance with a number of acts, orders, and policies. One policy is protection of wetlands. In addition, agencies must comply with: The Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Farmland Protection Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and Endangered Species Act. In addition, public review is required. How does this affect farmers? Farmers implementing conservation practices under USDA programs cannot receive funding unless they are in compliance with NEPA. This is not usually a problem on cropland, but could affect non cropland practices easily. If you are turned down for cost sharing because of NEPA issues, this does not usually mean you cannot do the project, it just means the government can't help.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Macoupin, Jersey, Greene

Soil Moisture is dropping, but seepy areas are still very wet. I noticed some soybean stubble that had heaved. I know dead plants heave easier than live, but it still prompts me to remind everyone to check on wheat and alfalfa to see how badly is has heaved. FYI I sampled mostly soybean and corn stubble. There was still frost in random places. Nothing was tilled. I samples one field of alfalfa and it looked ok. It has not been warm enough yet to break dormancy. Rain is on the way.Check Spelling

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Corn Harvest

Corn Harvest was finished in the Hillsboro area this weekend. We are only 3 weeks from the start of spring planting season.

St. Louis

Travelled to St. Louis. Not much new in agriculture after travelling I-55 3 days in a row. It would however be timely to pass along information on Nitrification inhibitors. Iowa State University comes through for me on that issue. It looks like the further south you are, the more important it is to use something. Keep the nitrogen on the farm longer and you will also make less contribution to hypoxia.

Friday, March 5, 2010

St. Clair - Monroe.Counties

We saw one supplier pulling an anhydrous wagon and applicator. It looked destined for a field. Also saw someone working on laying tile. Ground is starting to gray off. No rain in site till Monday. Too bad I have other things to do this weekend. We know there is still frost in the ground in places. That might be OK for the chisel plow or other tillage, but watch for loss if you are trying to put on nitrogen.

Weather was cool but beautiful. Started getting colder about 3 PM.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Monroe County

Went south today. I saw one farmer tilling some sandy soil in the bottom. Saw someone hauling Manure in Northern Madison County. Yesterday's experience showed it is still wet and cold. Saw Kevin Donoho of NRCS on TV this morning. He had a reminder to contact NRCS before tiling Highly erodible land even if you need to close up ruts. Some pictures would go along way toward helping NRCS make a decision. The decisions are on an individual basis.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Southern Macoupin

I worked in southern Macoupin County today. Frost 10 inches to non existent. A few beans unharvested have dropped most of their pods. Not too wet on rolling ground. Flat ground saturated. Got very sloppy in the afternoon because of frost coming out.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crop Report

The monthly crop report is out. Only 28% of wheat is in good to excellent condition. That is what little wheat there is. Statewide precipitation was blow average. Temperatures were 5 degrees below average for the month. West and West Southwest areas were the only areas with precipitation above average. Wouldn't you know it would be our area. The good news is it was barely above average.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Field Work?

Working on maps today. Might try field work Wednesday. I will have to go slow, but it would be good to be outdoors. Today is a bit more damp than expected, but Accuweather is saying 50 by Friday. Looking forward to the. Rain starts on Monday, so if you think you can go, be ready later this week.