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Saturday, December 31, 2011

My choice for blogs to look at again.

Here are some of my blogs that I consider well written, but did not have huge readership.  If you missed them check them out. Have a great Holiday. New Blog Monday.

Soil Surveys and Precision Agriculture

Soil Surveys and Precision Agriculture - 2

Midwest Fruit IPM final Report

Postal Service in Rural America

Soybean Inoculation

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Five Photographs this Year

Door County Cherries
Farm Progress show
Difference that soil type makes
Winter in Montgomery County
Mississippi River From Danzinger's Vinyard and Winery, Alma, WI

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Correction of Imagery for soil mapping

I just read an article entitled "Considerations for atmospheric correction of Surface Reflectance for Soil Survey Application" by Matthew Levi and Craig Rasmussen.  It was published in Soil Survey Horizons.  Methodology is available to adjust photo tones that may be "off" because of camera angle, sun angle, and clouds.  The authors had trouble getting the whole system to work because their images did not meet all the parameters required for correction. 

My take on this issue is that it is possible on many circumstances to use a number of images to make decisions about soil line placement and soil boundaries.  How is this done?  The miracle of Google Earth.  Google Earth has a large number of images available.  Not all significant features show up in images every year.  I have been successful in identification of significant soil features by examining a number of different images.  The miracle of this is that Google Earth is available at no charge.  Features can be digitized and saved as KML or KMZ files.  A good GIS such as Global Mapper can import the KML or KMZ files so you can make them a part of soil  management zones. 

Relying on only one image for designation of management zones can be misleading.  Multiple images can be useful in identifying problem areas.  Camera angle, crop cover, time of day and time of year can all affect the usefulness of remote sensing data.  In addition, some data is only useful on the day it was recorded.  Infrared comes to mind.  Timing is everything in Infrared for ag interpretations.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Blogs in 2011

 These are my top blogs in terms of page views.  A lot of the traffic is based on links and Re-tweets.  Thanks to my readers for helping me out. 

July 17 Toughbook Update
February 12 Silos
March 8 Wheel Trencher
August 31 Vertical Tillage at Farm Progress Show and September 1 Vertical Tillage at the Farm Progress Show 2
March 21 Contrasting Soils

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Corn on Corn

I just read some articles about the poor performance of corn following corn in some areas this year.  This should come as no huge surprise.  One of the things that researchers track long term is continuous corn and corn on corn rotations.  Results usually indicate something like  a 10% yield hit.  I have heard lots of people say they do not have that problem, but 6 years in a row with even performance and then a year with a 60 or 70 bushel hit would certainly set your average back at any yield  level.  Does this mean you should not grow long term corn.  Certainly you should consider the consequences.  We have one customer who has grown corn continuously since 1954.  Am I going to tell him to switch off?  I don't think so.  I look at what he is doing. He maintains high soil test levels.  He has well tiled fields.  I bet he watches which hybrids work best in continuous corn.  If you decide to go for it, do so with realistic expectations.  If you can't stand the risk, then switch to a corn soybean rotation.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Litchfield Overpass in Review

January 15

February 18

March 29

May 5

May 30

June 16

July 8

September 2
October 6

November 9 I am more proud of this series in retrospect that I was as I did it.  The photos were taken through the year from the first I-55 overpass North of Litchfield, Illinois.  As I look in review, I am thinking I need to find another place to give an overview of the passing of the seasons in farming.  I actually started the series in December of 2010, but left that one out as it is the wrong year.  You can still find it in the archive.  I do wish that I had a good mid-August picture, but I was in Missouri most of August. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Meramec Caverns Barn

These barns used to be more common, but there are still farmers willing to to use the Barn or Barn roof as a billboard  This one is along I-55 North of Edwardsville.  Have a Wonderful Christmas.  Probably no new posts till Monday morning.  Looking at some kind of year in review next week. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nutrient Management

Illinois Soybean Association posted this information about updated nutrient management standards by NRCS.   I cannot improve on the information, so just check it out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Irrigation water management

I found the Link to this video on  Most places in the Midwest, we are blessed that we can grow wonderful crops without irrigation.  Some sandier soils can benefit from irrigation, but we do not really have issues with supply in the groundwater.  Some parts of Illinois do not have any reliable aquifer, but in the major river bottoms water is plentiful. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weather Extremes

This year brought us the unfortunate experience of extreme wet and extreme dry and hot. An article in  Scientific American says we can expect more of the same.  It is interesting to see what "experts" think about our weather and climate.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Deep Banded Fertilizer

Lots of people are using various methods in applying fertilizer in bands.  People we are in touch with have found that it offers no real advantage in yields.  University of Illinois researchers have found the same thing.  Prairie Farmer has published the results recently.  Environmental benefits may go to the banding in strip tilled fields.  As Phosphorous levels increase in the soil surface, so do the chances that dissolved phosphorous will get into surface water. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What happens when corn residue is harvested

When crop residue is removed from fields, what happens to fertility levels.  Residue removal certainly has a number of implications.  Harvesting silage, baling stalks, and removing residue for biofuels, all have implications for soil quality and fertility.  Crop residue partially replaces nutrients removed from the soil.  Properly managed, the residue can also contribute to the maintenance of soil organic matter.  Both are important to maintain soil health.  Organic matter provides a slow release nutrient bank and helps maintain the tilth of our soil. While I continue to stand by the need for soil testing, it is important to consider how much is lost by harvesting stover along with grain in the corn crop.  This article from Iowa State give you some ideas to consider about what is lost when corn residue is removed.  Don't rely just on nutrient removal charts to make your fertilizer decisions.  A strong soil testing program is a necessity in all fertility decisions. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Livingston County Courthouse

Livingston County Courthouse in Pontiac, IL has a beautiful Civil War Memorial.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Low yields and fertility

I recently read and article on soil fertility and drought.  It really applies to any low yield situation.  Generally, nutrients applied and not used by the crop, should be available nest year.  I would urge caution in counting on unused nitrogen being available.  If you think nitrogen might be available you should use a presidedress nitrate test to determine how much additional nitrogen to apply.  In our program we encourage annual testing for other nutrients.  With close monitoring, you will have confidence in your nutrient levels.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sidney OH

We travelled from Hillsboro to Sidney, OH today.  Soils looked very wet as we road across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.  Driving around a bit in Ohio.  IT has been very wet fall and we saw corn still in the field and full wagons waiting to be unloaded.  It makes me grateful that we have been able to finish harvest for the most part in Illinois.  Creeks are running bank full and in some cases flooding for the whole trip.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Charting soil fertility

Today I am working on fertility charts for one of our customers who likes to keep close track of the trends in his fields.  It is a bit time consuming because the data has to be lined up correctly in a separate spread sheet before I copy and paste it into the spread sheet that makes the charts.  If you soil test less than yearly, I am not sure how useful the charting would be. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bio-tech yields

A study on biotech yields suggests that yields with biotech are not much better than yields without biotech.  This is somewhat surprising, but it is interesting that our hybrids have huge yield potential even without bio-tech.  The real importance of biotech is, how much did it save us on insecticide use?  How much fuel did it save?  How much soil did it save?  The soil savings especially as a result of roundup ready must be large.  Roundup ready allowed the producers to no-till much easier and at lower cost than past products.  It is too bad that the product is no longer effective in all situations.  It is time to move on to Liberty link genes or go back to residual chemicals where resistance is a problem.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Variable Rate Lime

I read an article about variable rate lime today.  One of the first uses of variable rate technology that you might want to consider is variable rate liming.  Soil pH controls the availability of all the essential nutrients to one extent or another.  I sometimes use maps like the one about to illustrate the need for variable rate lime.  In general what happens on full coverage applications is that some areas get too much lime and some the right amount, or some areas get the right amount and some areas not enough.  The map above shows that in general, the slopes have not gotten enough lime because they have higher clay content which in turn gives them a higher exchange capacity.  Higher exchange soils need more lime to move the pH.  Over time, a situation as shown above can develop.

Even if you do not have the equipment yourself, hiring someone to spread your lime by variable rate should pay off in savings on materials and in better crops through more favorable soil conditions.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


As a rule, I do not take barn photos.  Everyone does barn photos and I cannot improve on that body of work.  Today's photos come from Macoupin and Dekalb County.  I photograph falling down barns because they pique my interests and thoughts.  Barns were the center of the American farmstead until maybe the 1960's.  They were built for their versatility and to support the diversity of animals and crops that were a part of farming.  When I see a barn that has fallen down or is in terrible disrepair I am curious as to what happened.  Especially when I see large barns like these.  These barns look to have been part of a once prosperous operation.  What happened? 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dekalb Trip

I took a trip north to deliver a Christmas Gift to my son and daughter-in-law.  Because I  had some time to knock around, I visited Eureka on the way north.  I ended up wishing I had time to take pictures on the way north because there  were some great potential shots along Route 117.  My ride home I took another sidetrip  of sorts down route 23 out of Dekalb.  The overnight dusting of snow allowed me to take this contrasting photo near the Dekalb-Lasalle County line.  I had the time and inclination to take lots of corn crib pictures along the way.  I traveled on to Ottawa, Streator and Pontiac to the end of Route 23.  It could certainly compete for the title of the "Heart of Illinois Corn Country Route."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Postal Service in Rural America

Rural America is facing something of a crisis in reduced services and close post offices.  There is nothing new in history concerning the closing of post offices.  A familiar history of Monroe County, Illinois called Arrowheads to Aerojets documents the opening and closing of post offices in that little county.  Recently a small community in our county had their post office closed.  I had used that little post office in the past and the service was excellent.  After January 1 a number of other post offices face closure. 

I continue to use the postal service to ship soil samples because of the convenience of having shipping points all over and also because of the competetive rates offered by flat rate boxes.  Yes UPS and FEDX provide excellent service as well, but I hate to have to call for pickup and face an extra charge.  It seems to me that postal service needs someone to look closely at how to continue to provide its service in a business like manner.  The Citizens of the United States are it's stockholders.  Just like any other business, the Postal Service needs to find a way to keep our shipping and first class mail moving.  It is an amazing bargain to think that you can put an envelop in a mailbox and have it shipped all over the country for $.44.  It would be a bargain at twice the price.   Maybe we will be paying twice the price if the Postal Service is privatized.  What would Ben Franklin think?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nutrient Removal App

A nutrient removal app was recently introduced.  The app is free, and free sums up what it is worth.  What good is it to know how much was removed from your soil if you do not know what was there to start with?  Removal charts are based on averages.  They are not based on the reality of what happens in your field and in your soil.  So load up the app if you want to play with it, but don't forget the soil test is still the most important part of your fertility program.  When you can get an accurate soil testing app, then you might have something.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Meetings

Today seemed like the first day of winter for a lot of reasons.  One is that I was reviewing my continuing education for my certifications.  In the past year I have accumulated a lot of hours because of the Midwest Fruit IPM class I took.  In addition, I went to a number of other classes that are continueing education.  Some count and some do not.  I am looking ahead to this winter and what opportunities are out there.  I am sure one of the highlights of the winter meeting grind will be Farm Futures Summit in St. Louis.  I just got my notice of Illinois CCA meeting coming up.  I went last year and it was not too bad.  It is open to the public too.  Illinois Corn Soybean Classics are coming in January.  Topics have some appeal to me.  I need to register soon if I am going.  Illinois Soil Management Seminar is one I went to last year.  If you are a Livestock Manager with over 300 animal units, you need to attend one of these seminars around the state once in 3 years.  I am interested in the 2012 Specialty Growers Conference  on January 11-13, but can't  find a full agenda. 
Illinois Grape Growers is also coming up. I hope to see some of you at some of these meetings.  I will probably attend a few vendor meetings as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan

I just finished my final exam for a class I took in Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning (CNMP).  The final exam was a plan that covered a dairy farm and 2 fields totaling 48 acres or so.  The CNMP's are written to help livestock farmers make decisions about facilities management and manure management.   They are required to be in writing for CAFO's (Confined Animal Feeding Operations with over 1000 animal units.  Smaller producers must still follow all the rules, but the pans do not need to be in writing unless they want USDA cost sharing to make improvements to the operation.

The plan I wrote was 40 pages long.  Who reads this stuff?  NRCS has invented a Producer Activity Document that is only 13 pages long.  It is supposed to be for the producer.  13 pages?  Still too long in my mind.   I have condensed it down to 2 pages for my customers in the past.  One sheet shows how much manure to apply to which fields and when.  The other sheet shows how much fertilizer to apply to which fields and when.  To me the most important part of the plan is keeping soil test p to date to make sure that nutrients are not over applied.  Controlling soil loss is also an important part of nutrient management. 

In addition to the effort required to produce the long document, I am concerned that a producer could hold me liable if he thinks he is doing what I told him to do and he creates some sort of spill or other environmental disaster.   I am not sure that I will ever do another plan like this as a consultant.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nitrogen Management

One of my favorite topics is on tonight.  No-till Farmer talks about growing a corn crop without nitrogen.  The title is misleading because the producer used cover crops as his nitrogen source instead of fertilizer nitrogen.  The fact that he grew 190 bushel corn using cover crops is certainly remarkable.  There is no listing of yields where nitrogen was added.  There is no mention of soil N tests or stalk N tests.  I would like to see data when something like this is published.

My friend Kelly Robertson also discussed the cropping season as relates to nitrogen on his Blog.  Kelly got his best results on sidedressing.  Kelly does a simple cost analysis that shows the value of using the correct nitrogen management. 

No system will work perfectly in any given year, but some N testing, some tissue testing, and taking some time to look at the results would be worth the time spent.  All this proves is that nitrogen management is not as easy as it looks, and that there is not a one size fits all plan that is foolproof. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Year to Date Rainfall

Springfield has been reporting below average rainfall for the year.  It did not seem possible to me so I checked out NOAA records.  The above map from NOAA shows above average precipitation in our area although Springfield is certainly blow average.  South and east of us is even more above average.  The gray areas are average.  Does any of this correlate well with crop yields?   I think our southern neighbors took a  pretty big yield hit in corn because of the  high rainfall.  I am not sure how the dry weather to the north affected crop yields. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Brush Cleanup

It was kind of a mundane sounding thing today but my brothers and I along with my son cleaned up parts of trees that had fallen into fields.  Many of our fields are surrounded by trees.  If we don't clean them up, we lose acreage.  I know it does not sound like much, but it is a continuous encroachment if we let it go.  We worked hard, but it was also an enjoyable family get together.  I am not sure I have ever cleaned up brush with my youngest brother.  This is just one of those winter time jobs on the farm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Weather and Crop Report

Crops must be 100% done.  I know even our local laggards are done.  There are still a significant number of reports of topsoil moisture being short.  That is really hard  to believe now.  When I sampled on Monday, topsoil was saturated in my area. 

Wheat condition is over 80% good and excellent.  It also looks like everyone planted all the wheat they wanted to.  It will be interesting to see how this works out.  I have not seen any bad looking wheat. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


By Randy Darr - President - Soil-Right Consulting Services, Inc.  

October first of this year Soil-Right celebrated its 25th year in business.  My goodness that makes me feel old.  Over the last couple of months on the days when things were going well, I have had the chance to think back on the struggles of starting a business fresh out of college, the joys of success, the disappointments of failures, raising a family along with all of the other activities of living.  This evening I had the unfortunate task of attending the visitation for a long time client.  It wasn’t one of those tear jerking events of a person passing to the next life too soon.  It was a client in his 80’s who had lived a good life, raised a large family of good people.  He took a chance many years ago and started a machinery company.  Now it is one of the largest dealerships in the area.  His sons and grandsons are running the operation now along with their farm.

The reason I mention this is because 25 years ago Walt was the first client that I began working with that called me first.  I was green and hardly knew what a crop consultant was, but, he trusted me to help him.  I will always have a special appreciation for him and his family.  I am so thankful for the friendships that I have been able to make through this adventure of helping people get and keep their soil right.  I am most thankful for being in an industry where more often than not people care about each other.  Agriculture is the greatest industry in the world, where people care and friendships are long lasting.    

Carpe Diem,

Randy Darr, CPCC-I, TSP

Monday, November 28, 2011

Staunton and Sorrento

I had 2 small patches to finish sampling in the Staunton and Sorrento area today.  The ground was firm enough because it was not tilled, but it was very wet.  The soil wetness made it seem like spring sampling.  One field I sampled was where a client tried some narrow row corn.  I think he had to wait on someone to harvest it.  The other client, I talked to a bit.  He was pleased with yields over all, but they did not sound great.  He did have some wheat that made 50 bushel in June and then he double cropped with soybeans and had 37 bushel soybeans.  He should have made some money there. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forms of nitrogen fertilizer

We sometimes are asked to name our favorite form of nitrogen fertilizer.  I don't have a particular favorite, because each form has its advantages and disadvantages.  Will a particular form guarantee higher yields?  I probably cannot guarantee that.  Some forms have distinct advantages for certain uses or methods of application.  AY-204 is a 1986 Bulletin from Purdue University that is still relevant.  It does a good job of covering the various forms.  It does not discuss manure or compost as a nitrogen source.  Organic forms such as manure and compost, add microbes and other nutrients that can make them a superior nitrogen source, but the nitrogen is the same no matter what source.  The nitrogen is the most available for plant growth in the nitrate form.  Microbes get the nitrogen to the nitrate form.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Farm Sale

I attended a farm sale in Monroe County today.  717 acres sold at auction.  619 acres of it, about 580 tillable,brought over $6500 per acre and all sold to one bidder. about 340 acres of it was pretty good farmland for the Mississippi River bottoms in that area.  The rest of it was very wet.  Crops have been limited in that wet ground in the last 4 years.  98 acres unprotected by levees sold for a little over $2100 per acre.  Compared to $10,000 per acre land in the Illinois Prairie, this sale was probably about comparable.  There were over 200 in attendance, but only about 40 had bid numbers.  A very limited number of people were bidding.  One or 2 more serious bidders could have driven the price up a bit by putting in higher bids on the better ground.  The farmland part of it was bought by local people.  I am not sure about the hunting land.  The seller's agent seemed happy with the price.   

Friday, November 25, 2011

Precision Conservation

I just got my latest edition of Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.  The issue features "Recent Advances in Precision Conservation."  The idea of precision conservation is not a new one.  The father of soil conservation, Hugh Hammond Bennett invented the Land Capability Classification System in order to show how each acre of land has a limitations for particular uses.  Precision Conservation follows in the footsteps of Dr. Bennett's work.  He would be proud to see that his ideas live on and are still being refined by modern ideas and technology. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monroe County, Illinois

This is a view of the Fountain Creek Bluff Near Fountain Gap in Monroe County, IL.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  See You Late Friday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Farming the Averages

Since I began consulting, I have become more aware that we farm the averages.  What do I mean?  Corn after corn has a 5 to 10% yield drag over corn after soybeans.  That is on average.  Some growers are successful in maintaining good yields on those conditions.  No-till corn seems to take a bit of a yield hit, but good no-tillers don't take the hit.  30 inch row soybeans take a 10% yield hit over narrow row soybeans.  Why are there so many 30 inch rows?  If you look at most research results you will see a scatter to some extent on the raw data.  What might all this tell you?  If you are looking at a certain practice, you might be able to make it work on your farm even if research shows it is not the best on average.  One use for your yield monitor might be to do some on farm strip trials.  Be sure to calibrate them well.  You may need to do some manipulation to get the results to display properly. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Greatest Tractor of all time? is running a greatest tractor of all time contest.  Click here to check it out. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small Machinery

Sometimes we think that only large farmers can use the latest in farming methods.  The inline ripper below has 3 shanks so that it can be pulled by a smaller tractor.  It is not exactly new, but it is modern. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I know I have mentioned horseradish before.  Collinsville, IL bills itself as the horseradish capital of the world.  There was a time when 80% of the United States Horseradish was produced within a few miles of Collinsville.  The production has been reduced a bit.  The production area has also expanded a bit, but still most  horseradish produced in the United States is grown within 50 miles of Collinsville.  The part we eat on our prime rib and in our shrimp cocktail is a large root below the ground.  It is ground up for the tangy condiment.  You can celebrate horseradish at the  International Horseradish Festival.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Increase soybean yields

Are you looking for improvements to make to your farm for next year?  One of the things you should consider is narrow row soybeans.  No-till Farmer has compiled recent research data that shows a yield advantage to soybeans in rows of 15 inches or less.  This confirms past research showing similar results.  I know that some people don't like the uneven spacing in drilled beans, but soybeans are much more adaptable to uneven spacing than corn.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Silage Blower 2

Contrast this with the Blizzard I loaded a few days ago.  It uses a power takeoff to run the fan that pushes the silage into the silo.  It is also on rubber tires instead of steel. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Longhorns in Illinois

I ran across some Texas Longhorns today near Brighton, IL.  They are located on a small ranchette that also has alpaca and goats.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I finished up mapping and sampling a new customer today close to home.  Lots of anhydrous ammonia is being applied.  Temperature and moisture are good for now.  A wet spring plays havoc with fall applied nitrogen.  Wheat is looking good in the area, but that is not unusual.  Spring is the critical time for wheat.  Disease control is critical.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Birds!

Much like the Alfred Hitchcock movie, the birds were thick on this field.  We pulled in to our customer near Freeburg and there were blackbirds everywhere.  It looked like most were grackles, but we could see a few redwing blackbirds and undoubtedly, there were some starlings.  As we rode across the field on the 4 wheelers, they seemed to stay about 75 yards away.  In the corn fields, it was not so obvious just how many there were.  On the more bare soybean stubble as below, they were easy to see.  In some of the bare trees, the blackbirds made it look like the trees had leaves. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Old Silage Blower

Check out this old silage blower I noticed today.  I am curious as to how long it has been there.  I have been coming to this farm for 5 years, several times a year, and i just noticed it.  It has steel wheels and was driven by a belt pulley on a tractor.  I love the name. Blizzard.

Ed Scholz, @scsfs , provided the following information via Twitter.  4 those who may not know-the corn was brought to the "Blizzard" whole-the "Blizzard" then chopped it and blew it into silo! neat!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Night Sampling

With Standard time in order and shorter days, I recently ran out of daylight trying to finish sampling a customer.  The headlights showed the way across the field and the GPS kept good track of my location.  Still seemed a little dangerous with ruts and rills in my path.  A curious neighbor came out to see what was going on too.   

Friday, November 11, 2011


I ran across this small field of turnips today.  They will be used for winter grazing after the cattle ore done grazing corn stalks.  Turnips are planted after corn or in the corn as early in the fall as possible.  Note also, the solar panel being used to electrify the fence.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I went north today.  Harvest is virtually done.  Wheat is sowed.  Nitrogen is being applied, in fact that was the main farming activity observed.  Keep in mind that only 2 forms of nitrogen should be used in the fall.  Ammonium Sulfate and Anhydrous Ammonia are the only forms that are safe to apply in the fall north of Illinois Route 16.  All others contain nitrates which are subject to leaching.  Di-ammonium Phosphate is also used in the fall mainly as a Phosphate source, but the nitrogen content should be considered in the overall amount of nitrogen applied.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November at the overpass north of Litchfield

This completes a year of Litchfield overpass photos.  They demonstrate the cycle of farming in south central Illinois.  They were taken all in the same general direction off of the first overpass north of the Litchfield exit on I-55.  This photo shows that tillage is fairly typically done on half or more of the land in our area in the fall.  You may also be able to see the ditch cleanout work along the dark line in the middle of the picture.  Drainage is much needed to produce our bounteous crops in this area.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Farm Bill

Work on the new farm bill is well underway. I hope the farmers in my audience are tracking it better than I am.  We like to think that our commodity groups and farm organizations are looking out for us.  There is power in groups representing large constituencies, but there is also power in the individual.  I am not sure what kind of ratio congressmen use, but I have heard from several that letters, emails, and phone calls from individuals weigh much more heavily than contacts from groups.  Congresspersons expect to hear from groups, but when individuals get involved, that adds more weight to opinions.  Learn what is going on in the debate and then get a hold of the guys who will be voting for you.  Keep in mind that many of them will be home for Thanksgiving and will have office hours.  Meantime, here is an update from one source.  Check it out and track down more information.  Also, do not hesitate to call on your farm and commodity groups for updates.  I am sure there are many who blog on farm policy.  One good one listed to the right is Farm and Ranch Country by Bill Graff. See what Bill and others are saying.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deer Track

The owners of this farm are managing it for trophy.  Judging from the deer track below, they are having some success. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nitrogen Management 2011

With many people using fall applied anhydrous ammonia, now is a time of year to stop and ask what you are doing and why.  This article on 20 ways to save on nitrogen is interesting.  Some of the 20 items are contradictory, but it just shows there are different ways to manage nitrogen.  One thing they do not mention is nitrogen testing.  I believe you should do at least some testing to at least learn what is happening with nitrogen in your soils.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Field Fire

I spotted this field fire on Wednesday.  It was contained by tillage.  You can see one of the tractors on the right. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


I worked near Eldred today.  Harvest seemed pretty much over in the Illinois River bottoms.  I saw fields with nitrogen applied and a few nurse wagons on the road.  It seems a bit early, but soil temperatures have been holding at 50.  Use nitrification inhibitors.   We see lots of nitrogen loss when we test in the spring, so really do not like fall applied nitrogen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Old Stuff

This is a wagon lift that was used to lift the front wheels of a wagon to dump corn into an elevator that conveyed it into the corn crib.  It had a pulley drive that attached by a long wide belt to the belt drive on a tractor.  Often the tractor was one that had to be started by hand by turning the exposed flywheel.  you can see grape vines growing up the cables that lifted the wagon. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wheat condition

Wheat is looking good this fall.  The picture below is in the American Bottoms between Valmeyer and Columbia. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Big Red Tractor

This tractor with chisel plow was stopped by the side of the road.  Lighting was good and it was not moving, so an easy shot. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weather and Crop Report

Today's weather and crop report says 89% of corn is harvested and 94% of soybeans.  This seems pretty close to what I have seen.  The farm I was on today had double crop soybeans done, but 50 acres of full season soybeans and 30 acres of corn left to harvest.  Temperature and precipitation are below average.  Today's soil temperature was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so Nitrogen is a go for those who cannot wait.  It is still early, so go with nitrification inhibitors for sure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nutrient Removal.

I recently received an article about using nutrient removal rates to calculate fertilizer needs.  It is an old concept that should be put to rest.  We find that a better concept is "what is the fertility of the soil, and is it enough to get through seasonal variations and produce a top yielding crop?" Nutrient removal also does not necessarily take into account variations within the field, although some people are looking at yield maps to determine fertility needs.  Looking at yield maps does no good unless you already know where your fertility levels are.  Also, keep in mind that the soil does not always do what the book says it will.  The best way to determine fertilizer needs is a good soil testing program. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Amish Country

I drove through Amish Country in Douglas County yesterday and spotted this working corn picker parked next to a well maintained corn crib. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fertilizer Time

I went to Champaign for a class I am taking mostly by webinar.  We had to make 3 visits to campus and today was the last one.  On my way home I took the scenic route so I could take pictures.  I got a number of good ones, but perhaps none with more information than this one.  In the foreground is a pile of lime waiting to be applied.  Lime is important because in addition to providing needed calcium and possibly magnesium, it helps to control soil pH which effects the availability of all 16 essential nutrients.  In the middle of the picture is a fertilizer tender truck.  It is used to carry fertilizer to the field for the spreader in the background.  They are probably spreading Phosphorus and Potassium.  Some people add micronutrients as well, but most soils in Illinois don't need them too produce corn and soybeans.  We do look at micro-nutrients, but only after we get the major nutrients in order. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fillmore - Witt - Geenville

I made the rounds today fairly close to home.  Farm activity was dampened by the drizzle yesterday and this morning.  One farmer yesterday told me that beans were dry, but stems were too wet.  Corn was working better,  Sunshine will get harvest going again by tomorrow afternoon. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Interesting story

I read this story today in Farm Week News .  I found it to be a bit humorous, but what made it worth posting is that it shows a farmer helping the local law enforcement officials and in turn his community.

In other news, harvest plods on.  I expect it to slowly wind down in the next 2 weeks.  I found soil temperatures to be 60 degrees this week.  Still too warm for Nitrogen application in my area.  I have to admit I am on the borderline for fall applied nitrogen anyway.  I really do not advocate it south of Springfield.  If you must, use nitrification inhibitor, but even then it is a dicey proposition.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big Tractor

I ran across this Versatile 856 still doing the job.  It is at least 25 years old.  Here are the stats on this big tractor. 

Monday, October 24, 2011


We headed north today to the Pike-Brown County line.  Harvest is about done in that area.  My customer has had about an inch of rain since June 28.  His corn yields were disappointing, but soybeans were above average.  He is done with his harvest and wheat is sown.  Wheat had been in the ground for a week and it was still not spiking.   He wants to wait a while before tilling.  He is thinks it is too dry.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

3 row corn picker

This 3 row corn picker caught my eye on the way to Springfield today.  Know whose farm it is sitting at, I don't think it has been used in some years.  Back in the day, Probably early-1960's, this would have been quite the machine.  It implied that the farmer probably had a 6 row planter too.  That would have been big machinery.  My dad had a 4 row planter and  2 row picker.  We did have neighbor with a 3 row corn head on the combine.  My non-farm and younger readers my not know that corn was picked on the cob and air dried in a corn crib before being shelled to be sold.  It could be ground whole for cattle feed, or fed on the cob to hogs.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Roundhouse Winery

I attended and participated in the Illinois Soil Classifiers annual fall field day held this year at the Roundhouse Winery and Vineyard near Centralia, IL.  My part on the program was to discuss soil health as relates to plant health.  David Gaines pictured in the foreground with me in the background, discussed the history of grape production in Illinois.  Gaines is also a grape grower in the Centralia area.  Our hosts were gracious and accommodating.  Their winery is in a beautiful setting.  They have wine waiting to be bottled as soon as their label is approved.  Photo is courtesy of Sam Indorante,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hillsboro to Centralia

It looks like about half the beans are harvested on this run.  I saw some very uneven stands.  Corn is maybe 75% harvested.  Worked in Winchester so not muchto report there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I made my way to Winchester today to sample in the Illinois River Bottoms.  Harvest progress is about 90% on corn and 80% on soybeans.  Soil was dry.  Usually chisel plowed land is less than ideal to sample, but today it was kind of welcome because at least I could probe it without a hammer.

One field was planted to wheat.  I wanted to take a picture, but I think it would have been difficult to see the what.  Emergence was pretty good for as dry as it is.  The are where I was working looked like it had around a quarter inch of rain in the last few days. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rainy Days

We have had 1.3 inches of rain in the past 2 days. Hoping the soil will probe better now.  I am also hoping there is enough moisture to cut down on combine and field fires like the one below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicago Run

A family emergency took me to Chicago and Dekalb in Sunday and Monday. I took 251 thru Lee and LaSalle counties for old time sake.  It looks like this week's weather and crop report is pretty accurate regarding corn and soybean harvest.  Northwest and Northeast are a little behind the rest of the state.  Corn harvest was going  fast along 251.  Combines were in the field in every direction I could see.  Soybean harvest is ahead of corn harvest in Northern Illinois.  We had an inch of rain in Hillsboro in the past 24 or so hours.  U should not saturate the soil for more than a day. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Roundup Resistance

I have been in the field almost daily in the spring for the last 6 years.  When I started consulting and soil sampling, we were just hearing about Glyphosate resistance.  I saw some the first year I worked in the field regularly in 2005.  It has steadily gotten to be more prevalent.  The first time I saw Roundup Ready genetics at work was in 1997.  I was amazed, but I had a sense that using it every year in corn and soybeans was not a good idea. 

Recently, the Liberty Link gene has allowed the use of herbicide containing Glufosinate.  Glufosinate seems to be a good way to rotate herbicides to overcome resistance.  Another way to overcome resistance is to tank mix 2-4-D for burndown.  This article covers the use of 2-4-D tank mix.  2-4-D resistant corn is also on the way. My preference would be to eliminate the glyphosate altogether every other year, but it is important to have choices.  The important thing is to kill the weeds to reduce the amount of resistant seed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Grazing Stalks

Cattle Grazing stalks used to be a much more common practice that it is now.  It is an inexpensive way to get cattle some decent feed. 
In other news, Harvest was not quite as far along in Staunton area as it has been in other areas. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Greene County

From Greenfield, Wtights, Berdan, White Hall and Roodhouse were all on my route today.  Harvest is progressing very quickly although a
= few late soybeans are still not mature and double crop beans are still a week to 10 days from harvest.  It was possible to go to some wide open spaces and not see anything that needs harvested.  I have finished 2 customers this week and one is done except double crop beans.  With more open land now, we seem to be making good progress.

Soil temperature today was 62 degrees.  So far I have not seen any nitrogen application.  Soil temperatures are too warm.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Medora Again

I was in the same area as yesterday.  Yesterday the weather did not allow me to finish my work.  I think we had only 3/10 inch of rain today and in the corn stubble, it did not penetrate much.  The farm I was working on was a new one so I had to map it before sampling.  When I start out I look at key breaks and then try to figure out how to break the bigger areas into smaller sub areas to sample.  I did get all the major breaks mapped yesterday so I could subdivide with my GIS. 

Deer are moving around a lot with crops off.  That is a big safety issue in rural areas.  I hope the dampness has helped with the fire hazard.  I saw a burned combine with a lot of corn burned too.  Keep machinery as clean as possible and be careful about parking hot trucks in dry residue.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Southeastern Macoupin County today.  It was a drizzly fall day, although temperatures were pleasant enough.  Dampness kept me from doing as much as I would have liked.  There was not much field activity today.  Harvest has progressed nicely in our area. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Harvest Moon?

Looking at the moon near full,was going to say it was the harvest moon.  I found out the Harvest Moon is actually the on nearest the autumnal equinox and only comes in October less often than September.  Tradition has it that farmers could work into the night because of the brightness of the harvest moon.  Tonight's moon is the Hunter's Moon or the Blood Moon.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Black Walnut, MO

I spent the day near Black Walnut Missouri.  The first paring lot on the Katy Trail is located there.  Corn is 95% harvested in that area.  Soybeans are about 75% harvested.  Some of them are double cropped beans and will be ready in  maybe 2 weeks.  Soils are dry in the sandy areas, but some of the swales still have water in them.  I saw a few people sowing wheat,  It is not a big acre crop in that area, but some like the double crop opportunity.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nitrogen Management

One of the problems with fall Nitrogen application, other than wasting money on nitrogen loss, is that the lost nitrogen has potential to enter drainage tile and eventually surface water.  I will admit that an advantage to applying nitrogen in  the fall is that it leaves one less thing to do in spring.  If that is your motivation, you still need to consider 3 things.  One is that nitrogen should not be applied till soil temperature reaches 50 degrees. Use nitrification inhibitor.  The last is, consider a bio-reactor.  No-till Farmer just published an article on bio-reactors. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Old Iron

Got a couple of decent antique machinery pictures with my camera phone at Witt Labor Day parade.