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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.