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Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Tillage Comments

Lots of ground was getting worked or had already been worked today. I had the unfortunate experience of needing to sample some of it that was very rough. Below is a DMI Tiger. It generally leaves the ground in rough condition which is not a huge problem to me, but I don't like the cause of the roughness. Usually the ground is too wet to till when it is really rough.
Today, this field was not too bad. The untilled parts seemed very moist, but for the most part ground was in reasonable condition on this field. I also sampled some fields where the soil was tilled when it was still gummy. Gummy is not good. It was not only very rough, but I suspect there was some compaction at the chisel points and maybe it was even wet enough that the tire tracks caused some deep compaction.

This field was disked fairly shallow. It was gummy at about 4 inches. This disking keeps the compaction close to the surface. It also gets some soil on the stalks and gets them to start decomposition. If things dry out enough to do some deep tillage that would be OK. If not, I think a soil finisher could make an acceptable seedbed in this field in the spring, especially for soybeans.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vertical Tillage

I was duly impressed with the vertical tillage tool below. The tool lifted and shattered compaction in the upper part of the soil profile. It also creates a very narrow compaction footprint. The points ore on 30 inch centers. The soil was profoundly softer where this tool had been used as opposed to untilled soil in the same field.

This soybean stubble was vertically tilled with very little residue lost. This could be used in notill fields.

This corn ground was vertically tilled. Even the wheel tracks were relatively soft.

More information in November

Information on shallow vertical tillage

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fillmore - Witt

Combines were going in full force today. Most working on soybeans. corn is about 85% harvested. Soybean yields are great. 60 plus.

Today I noticed a few places where sprayers took out a good part of a row. With guidance systems it might be a good idea to go perpendicular to the rows. I suspect it would do less damage to yields. When riding the combine a few days ago, I could see a 10% drop where a row was damaged by the sprayer. I know this is not across the whole area with and 80 foot boom, but still I think it is worth a try to go crossways.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Irving - Witt

I took a lap around Irving and Witt area today. Corn harvest is almost over. About 10% of beans are harvested. The corn is ahead of IL weather and crop report for our area. The soybeans are about right on target with NASS. Corn harvest is way ahead of the average, but the past two years have pulled the average down a lot. However it is surprising that 57% is ahead of all years back to 2000. Soybeans are about on target. 8% of winter wheat seeded is a bit ahead of average, and it its a bit too early to plant anyway.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alfalfa Production

Now is a good time of year to look at alfalfa fields to make sure they are ready to continue to produce next year. Getting the plants in good condition will help to prevent winter and spring heaving. Start with a good soil test. Alfalfa can draw down levels of potassium and calcium. This will reduce future yields. Good soil tests in alfalfa should include micronutrients. Boron is often needed to maximize yield and keep plants healthy. Alfalfa uses about 50 pounds of potassium per ton of alfalfa. Also, remember that it is really too late to harvest alfalfa right now. The plant needs to grow strong crowns in order to overwinter. Late harvest will weaken the crowns. If you really need the extra production, harvest after a hard freeze. This may not be a great idea, but it is better than harvest growing plants right now.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Posts Saturday

Post later in the day will be by Twitter. Check back Sunday evening for a full update.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harvest Loss

The field below was harvested around the first of September. It looks like lots of corn went out the back of the combine. Some people think this is just the chaff on the tips of the ears, but I have seen some normal kernels in some fields too. I guess that is OK if you want to feed the birds. I hope every one is taking time to make adjustments as needed. We also know that we are getting some header loss this year because we are harvesting dry corn. Notm much can be done about that, except maybe slow down.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Greenfield IL

Second posting today is unusual, but my first field day in a week. Overall trip about 60% of corn harvested. Between Carlinville and HWY 111. Only a few fields harvested and end rows were rutted and sometimes liquified because of repeated travel with heavy auger wagons. Sampling went well, but the ground was muddy in most places at a depth of 3 inches. I saw a few people doing deep tillage. What a mistake. Chisel points will cause compaction in these muddy conditions. My solution would be to disk very lightly just to cup up residue and get it decomposing. I know a disk is a compaction tool, but at least the compaction will not go as deep. The disking will help residue decompose. Be patient and wait till it is dry enough. If it is still untilled in the spring, at least you will have managed the residue. It might be a good time to consider no further tillage. Bean stubble could get the same treatment or maybe an aerway.

Combines were in the field, maybe not quite full force.

I saw one field soybeans harvested near Shipman on the way home. Combines in a nearby field harvest in beans too.

Welcome and Thank You

To all of you who visited yesterday, thanks for coming back. To my faithful followers, thank you for your support. This blog is dedicated to observations I am able to make and comment on in my travels as a soil consultant. That will continue to be my primary focus. For reference, travels take me from Quincy, IL to Springfield, IL and points south. Most of our work is west of I- 55, but we have some acreage to sample east of Hillsboro. I go as far south as Red Bud, IL and Columbia, IL and we have a growing clientele in West Alton, MO. I hope to keep you up to date with what is going on in crop production in my area. Occasionally I travel to other places for business or personal reasons and I pass along my observations in those areas as well.
When I am working in the field, my blogs may not be posted till late in the evening. I post photos as I am able. I am a documentation photographer, not an artist. If you visit once a day I hope to have something new for you each day. When I am in the field as today, I post to twitter as appropriate. My tweets are shown to the right through the day as soon as they are posted to twitter. On office days, I try to give timely advice and opinions as I did yesterday. I sometimes post links to other sites when I think they do a good job of their explanations. Like this one.!/notes/university-of-illinois-montgomery-county-ag-and-horticulture/plan-for-phosphorus-and-potassium-fertilization/10150092150858206

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nitrogen Management

Why so much advice on Nitrogen management? It is an imperfect science.

That said. I hope we do not start seeing Nitrogen being applied any time soon. In our area, soil temperatures should be below 50 if you are even going to try it. The Boundary is Rt 16, but I would use caution as far north as I-72. I would advise anyone in the state to use a nitrification inhibitor like N-Serve if you are fall applying. The weather is just too unpredictable. I question about the ethics of fertilizer dealers who sell N before it is time. Our soil test results show that fall applied N is not likely to be there in the spring.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wheat sowing dates

Yesterday I saw someone hauling seed wheat. Looks like we will see more wheat in the area than last year. Checked on Planting dates in the IL Agronomy Handbook. In my area, fly free dates are Oct 2 to 9th. This is based on average first date of frost. Waiting till the fly free date was an old practice to avoid Hessian Fly infestations. Now-a-days some varieties are resistant to hessian fly. Still a good reason to wait is that the aphids that cause barley yellow dwarf in wheat are active in early planted fields. Yields do decline a bit within 10 days of the fly free date, so timely planting is important. Thanks to U of I for the information.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Compaction again??

I talked to a guy today who was more than satisfied with his yields. He adds to my ammunition concerning this years' disappointing yields. I think the culprit is compaction. People who have had good yields have put air into the soil either with tillage or drainage. Soils that have low clay content in the subsoil are also doing well. See a pattern?

Prairie Farmer discusses compaction issues this month.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Precipitaion year ot date

As of yesterday, you can see our departure from the average on precipitation. Western IL has been very wet. Southern and Eastern IL on the dry side. Southeastern IL is especially dry. We have been complaining all summer about too much water while our friends in the southern part of the state have been complaining about too dry. We never seem to get exactly what we want. An inch of rain every Saturday evening during the growing season seems like it would be ideal, but some one would complain. Click on the map for a closer look.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fall Weed Control.

Not sure how I feel about this one any more. I know that killing weeds in the fall can make farming easier in the spring. With cover crops gaining popularity though it looks like you may be giving away a free cover crop. The biggest advantage I could see is that you might be able to kill some of those glyphosate resistant weeds, especially marestail.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Field tools for sampling and investigation.

I use a soil probe made by JM Clements and Associates. Sample tubes can be bought with a wet or dry tip. The wet tip is more tapered and constricted. in certain soils, augers, mud augers, bucket augers, and dutch augers may be more effective. I can probe deeper by adding extensions. Usually my probe just pushes into the ground. I have it marked with a file to make sure I get right at 7 inches of topsoil for fertility sampling. Sometimes I carry 2 probes. One with a wet tube and one with a dry.

I have a 10 pound slide hammer for hard soils and deeper investigations. I have only used it once. It is awkward to use, but great to have when you need it.

I have heavy handle for hammering on. usually topsoil is soft enough to probe, by hand, but I have used this for fertility sampling in very dry soils.

I use an ATV to get around in the field most of the time. In late spring, early summer, corn sometimes gets ahead of us and we need to walk. I love my Honda. If I were designing something from scratch to use in the field, I don't think I could come up with anything better.

I have several GPS's, but this Juniper by Archer is ruggedized and can take a lot of abuse. I have a Garmin wireless receiver to use with it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Farm Safety Week

A reminder during farm safety week. There are lots of old trucks like this one on the road during harvest. Give them plenty of room. Drivers are always in a hurry to get back to the combine so the machinery can keep moving. Remember too that they need a lot more room for braking than your car does.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lock and Dam 26

Lock and Dam 26 also known as Melvin Price Lock and Dam is vital to midwestern agriculture. It is the second to last of a series of locks and dams starting in St. Pail MN. The locks and dams are used to maintain a 9 foot deep navigation channel on the river. It is a myth that they have any effect on flood control. Some of the lakes on tributary channels do hold back flood water.

These locks and dams are vital to agriculture because a huge amount of the grain exported goes through them. 26 and 27 have 1200 foot lock chambers that allows a full upper river tow to move through without being broken down. Most of the locks have only a 600 foot chamber and tows have to be divided to move through. Dividing them slows the locking process down. Barge transportation is considerable cheaper than rail or truck and helps keep our crops competitive in foreign markets. The Corps of Engineers is planning to some day replace the older locks and dams installed in the 1930's with new ones similar to 26.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

West Alton Mo and Columbia IL

I started the morning in West Alton and the ground was very wet in low areas. I finished and went looking at harvest progress on other customers. People were in the field on higher sandier ground. I went to Columbia to visit family. Got to ride the combine. Yield was running 200 plus on some pretty average soil, but the really sandy spots dropped to zero and so did the wet spots. Too much rain and not enough in the same small area. Seemed like everyone was in the field south of Columbia. This combine is not the one I rode, but it seemed like a good shot from the top of the levee.

Monday, September 13, 2010

West Alton

Sampled a bit in West Alton today. It was very wet although in corn stalks I did not sink in too much. I did come close to getting stuck in a hole that was wet all summer. They had 2.9 inches of rain. Harvest in our area was held up because of rain. It started up again today between Shipman and Litchfield. I expect to see even more happening tomorrow.
THe picture is some Indian Grass in our Weigh Station Prairie north of Litchfield. Illinois owes it's excellent soils to the fact that prairie grasses accumulated Nutrients and organic matter near the surface for thousands of years before the land was settled and farmed by Europeans. Did the Indians farm? Yes they did, but not as intensely as we do. Loading potash on avariable rate spreader.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chicago Trip

We came south out of the city on I-57. No crops till past I 80. Soybeans further north were really dropping leaves. Corn looked mature for the most part. There was activity in the Field at Clifton and some from there on although maybe 10% of corn was harvested the rest of the trip. South of Champaign there was one field of soybeans being harvested. More corn harvested in Champaign County than anywhere I have been except West Alton. As we went south, soybeans got more green and corn seemed more dry. There were a lot of trucks lined up and unloading grain at Cargill in Tuscola. We saw some harvest activity until Pana. I think we must have gotten into the heavy rainfall area from there on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Heat and corn yield

Sorry I missed yesterday. Got busy with VRT recs and map drawing on a new field.

I was talking to a producer yesterday who had low yields on his flat better ground, He and I both think it was the wetness, not the heat that was the biggest factor in his yield loss. I think you can add 3 years in a row of wetness and the compaction that comes with that. One of my clues that the heat was not the problem is that I have a customer in an area that had a few dry periods, but his wet ground was still bad yielding. His sandier ridgetops topped out at 234 bushell per acres. If heat was a problem, it should have showed up on the sandier soils. Low ground ran out of nitrogen too, because of de-nitrification under the saturated conditions.
Observation is the beginning of science.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Long day

Got to bed at midnight. Left for Shipman at 6. Got to West Alton about 7:30. In the field around 8. Sampled over 300 acres. About 70% of the corn is harvested. Some are finishing up, a few just getting started. About half the soybeans are yellowing. I was not very observant the rest of the trip. I was doing VRT recommendations till midnight. ON the way home I went to Edwardsville, then dropped off Samples in Shipman. Got a call from an applicator who needed help, so I went to Hettick. Home around 7:30. Just got everything carried in and on the charger. Photo is of the most mature beans I have seen. Sorry it was into the sun.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Harvest Report.Macoupin

One customer reported he started harvest at 23% moisture now down to 17%. I saw lots of combines going in the field. His yields are comparable to last year. 180 to 210 bu per acre over about 1000 acres harvested so far. Pretty good for mostly claypan and timber soils. The earliest planted soybeans I know of was April 24. They are still dropping leaves. I saw a nearby field that had dropped most of the leaves. I saw one combine running before 9AM so corn must be pretty dry. Tried to post a video of him tonight, but no luck.

I had a new customer today who tried out his variable rate controller. It worked perfectly. He loaded about 200 pounds of material extra and he had about one shovel full left. It was interesting riding with him and watching the equipment turn on and off as prescribed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What is Mature Corn

You can certainly tell corn is mature when the ears point down instead of up. If the ears have not dropped, you need to pick an ear and check the kernals. If the kernal is black layered then it is mature. You may have to flick off the tip to see the black. The picture shows one mature ear and one not mature. In the immature ear, you can still see a milk line. That is, the corn is still adding starch to the kernal. Last year some of the late planted corn froze while it was still not mature. 95% of the corn I saw Saturday was mature. The immature corn came from a field that still looked very green.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

High speed rail

News reports had been somewhat vague about where work was being done on the Chicago-St Louis High Speed rail project. Work crews are laying concrete ties near Shipman. I could not get close enough to see the actual work crew, but here they are unloading ties on a siding to take to the work area. A closer view of the ties. They appear to be a bit bigger than wooden ties. Not sure how they fasten the rails to them. I heard they plan a Chicago to St Louis run in 4 hours. I would be hoping for 2 to 3 hours myself, but if they run mostly on time, it will still be faster than flying. Air time is only 30 minutes, but can easily take 5 or 6 hours with parking, waiting, and getting rental cars. I would take the train if it meets my schedule, even now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I got a good tour of Macoupin County today while delivering VRT stuff. The customer could not read shp files, so I had to go to the office and get him tgt files. Most corn is mature. I saw one combine in the field. Otter Creek was out of bank near Hettick shown in the picture below. Most of the corn field damage had previously been drowned anyway. If the water did not get into the ear, it will be good to harvest. It may weaken the stalk. Some soybeans are turning fairly yellow. Most were still green. At one point or the other I was in Litchfield, Carlinville, Standard City, Hettick, and Shipman.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What about stalks?

It would appear that high yields. triple stacks, and smart stax, have made corn stalks sturdier than ever. Many people are trying to do something to speed up decomposition. One reason to speed up decomposition is to release nutrients for next year's crop. I have seen a number of fields with stalks chopped. It seems like a wasted trip to me. Several other alternatives might be just as effective or better. If you put some UAN in when you spray your fall chemicals, that would save a trip. Also, tillage alone will inoculate the stalks with some soil and help start the decomposition. Another concern with the chopping is that you may create a mat that holds in excess moisture if you do not get the tillage done. Any tillage will work from something as light as an Aerway or light disk, to a chisel plow.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Montgomery County - East

I had an office type appointment in the Eastern part of the county this morning. We have had upwards of 2 inches of rain. It might be a few days before anyone is back int he field. about 20% of fields are starting to turn. A little SDS in very wet spots. Might just be lack of oxygen. All but one corn field I saw was mature.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prairie Tour - CCA Credit

The Natural Area Guardians Committee (NAG)of Montgomery Co. SWCD is hosting a tour of the Weigh Station Prairie along old Route 66 just south of N 16th Ave. Henry Eilers and others will lead a tour of the prairie and identify native plants growing there. The group will also visit the Doug Dressen Farm and discuss Prairie Restoration.

The tour is scheduled for 4 PM on September 9 and will adjourn at 6 PM. CCA credit for Soil and Water Conservation has been applied for.

GPS coordinates are 39°13'44.59"N 89°38'30.72"W.

Wet Swales

Wet swales in St. Charles County will reduce otherwise good yields. Some still have water in them.

You can see that this swale was too wet to drive the combine through. Farmers are leaving ruts again this year.