Search This Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring season arrived today.

I went to Winchester today to do some sampling and help train a new consultant.  I was surprised at how dry the ground was.  I was not surprised to see a lot of nitrogen being applied.  Dry fertilizer was being applied.  Ground was being prepared for planting.  Everywhere the entire trip, there were signs of farmers in the field.  I got to Shipman around 7 PM to unload and there were still a few employee vehicles in the parking lot.  The ground I worked on probed well.  Even the heavy black ground was OK for the most part.  there was one wet spot about an acre in size. 

I also saw this post about Work in Shawneetown on my facebook page. 

Corn Supply and planting intentions report made corn prices go through the roof.  Will favorable field conditions put a damper on that? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Litchfield Overpass

Grass is finally greening up a little.  Lots will be planted in the next post from this spot. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Organic vs mineral

The information below was posted on a blog yesterday.  Mostly it is misinformation.  The exerpts from the post in question are in italics. 

Organic fertilizer is just that. It’s organic, meaning the elements of the fertilizer have no foreign chemical components &; are not bound to foreign elements. true organics do one of two things. they are either absorbed by root systems immediately as they are applied, or they are absorbed by the soil and then releases slowly to the plant. Organic fertilizer is only effective in organic soil.

It is almost impossible for organic fertilizer to be absorbed imediately by roots.  Organic fertilizers are complex and need to be broken down by microbes into simpler forms in order to be absorbed.  Organic soils are mucks, mucky peats, peaty mucks, and peats.  These soils have very little mineral nutrition in them and absorb minerals applied easily.  They do break down, but they are usually not the most productive soils on the farm.   There would be no point in adding organic fertilizer to them. 

Synthetic Organic fertilizer works best in not so organic soil. Synthetic organic fertilizer is basically made up of a readily available nitrogen, phosphate and potassium along with other necessary micro nutrients. it is usually encapsulated in a hard shell of sulfur, polymer or salt.

Synthetic organic is a contradiction of terms.  enough said.

Salt based fertilizer compacts the soil, making the soil less able to absorb nutrients and water. When fertilizing potted plants, the salts flush out between applications so it works great for pots. Salt based fertilizers usually come in a fine powder form and are mixed in to a liquid for feeding.

Salt based fertilizers have almost nothing to do with compaction as such.  Compaction is a mechanical process brought about by heavy machinery and travelling on or working the soil too wet. Most organic fertilizer consist of manure or some other animal or plant waste.  Sometimes it is composted, sometimes not.  These fertilizers have the advantage that they also contain microbes that may be benficial to growing plants.  One disadvange of composting as opposed to using it straight from the animal so to speak is that composting causes about half the nitrogen to be released into the air.  Organic material can improve the structure and tilth of soil in the long term.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Controlled Burn

On my way to Champaign on Saturday I saw some one burning filter strips planted to native grasses.  It was kind of windy, but with a ditch on one side and a chisel plowed field on the other, this fire was in no danger of getting away.  Burning is need when using native grasses in order to control woody vegetation.  It also seems to maintain plant health and control annual weeds.  Spring burning favors grasses.  This fire may be controlling some cool season grasses too. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I went to Champaign Saturday for my annual Illinois Soil Classifiers Association annual meeting. It was the 36th. I joined in 1978 and I cannot say how many meetings I have attended, but 25 might be a fair guess. The meeting always includes a speaker and a business meeting.   Our speaker was Michelle Wander.   Her areas of interest include soil ecology and organic matter.  Her discussion centered on our ability of lack of ability to build organic matter in our soils depending on weather and tillage method. 

I always enjoy travelling across the heart of Illinois Corn country.  The trip from Monticello to Willard Field on the blacktop is always interesting. 

I digressed from the direct route a bit to see if I could find anything interesting to photograph.  The below machinery was parked in a field not far from Stonington.  The Anhydrous Ammonia had been applied and the field did not look too messed up.  The field had a little roll to it and probably the wet areas are tile drained.  It is good to see that not everyone put on all their nitrogen in the fall.  I have another interesting photo for tomorrow. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Variable Weather

Daffodils in the snow sort of sums up the variability of March weather

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ideal time to plant corn.

I grew up on a farm where early corn planting was the normal way to go. This was before the days when early planting was as popular as it its now. Dad always said the time to plant corn was when it is dry enough. Pretty much any time after the last week of march. Sometimes corn was even planted in those last few days of March. Note here that I said dry enough. It has been a few years since we have had dry enough conditions for all of our crop. Patience can be virtue though when it comes to compaction. Compaction can cause problems whether the weather is wet or dry in extreme.

University of Illinois Agronomy Handbook says that in southern Illinois, the best yields in the long term were on corn planted around April 6. In central and northern Illinois, best yields are on corn planted around April 16. Does soil temperature matter? Corn will not grow much if at all below 50O Fahrenheit. Does that mean you should not plant until the soil is that warm. Not necessarily. Corn can sit in cold and wait to grow. If it is too wet to grow, that is a problem. My observations tell me that corn needs some moisture and some oxygen both to germinate. In warmer weather if there is a shortage of oxygen, seed can rot. Yields tend to taper off after the first week in May.  In recent years, wet summers have made decent yields even on late planted corn. 

Forty years later, Dad looks pretty smart on this one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wheat being sprayed

I went to Edwardsville today and saw 2 people spraying wheat.  This made me look up the latest Illinois advice on Nitrogen Application and use of Fungicides in wheat.  I know that the best wheat yields often come on fields where fungicides are applied, but I would still say use with caution.  Fungi easily adapt to fungicides, so if you can avoid them.  On the other hand, waiting too long can reduce the efficacy of fungicides as well.  You need to scout fields often.   I suppose they could h ave been spraying for garlic too.  Harmony is an effective treatment and  often needed to prevent dockage. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another sign of spring.

Another sign of spring I saw yesterday was a sodfarmer mowing his grass.  Now is a good time to put down sod.  You might think sod is only for high end homeowners, but it can also be an excellent way to establish vegetation to prevent erosion on steep slopes.  It needs to be tacked down to keep it in place.  This is another unique producer using his land to produce a needed product.  Notice the wide tires on the tractor that prevent damage to the turf. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Valmeyer Today

I had some farm business in the Valmeyer area today.  It is amazing what a difference 80 miles south can make at this time of year.  Willows and Maples are turning green along with honey suckle and other underbrush.  Dad had apricot trees in bloom, and I even saw a redbud in bloom.  I looked for service berry blooming on top of the bluff, but did not see any.

Farming activity was nitrogen being applied to wheat.  One person was using a floater and one was pulling a buggy.  The ground seemed solid if not especially dry.  The wheat below has broken dormancy and is looking good for now. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Contrasting Soils

Moisture conditions were perfect this morning to show contrasting soil types.  Right down the middle is an eroded soil with a silty clay loam surface.  On the left is a bottomland soil with a silt loam surface.  On the right is an upland soil with a silt loam surface.  The eroded soil looks dryer on the surface, but that is superficial right now.  We sample according to management zones.  The soils shown here represent 3 different management zones. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To-Till Farmer

No-Till Farmer, like many publications delivers a daily or almost daily update.  Many of their articles are well done.  I have been saving those e-mails to share here sometime.  This article on Boron is very well done. 

This article on soybean yields contains some very good information.  Long term research like this is especially useful because it comes closer to imitating field conditions on the farm than short term plot research does.  This research indicates that soybeans following corn is good for soybean yields not matter what tillage practices are used.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Silent Saturday

Sun Drying Samples.  Artificial heat can skew results.

I did not think the farm looked that bad.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 3 in the Field

I spent 2 hours in the field this morning.  I still have some to sample, but it was still too wet and I did not want to tear up wheat.  I am still hoping for dry, but it was damp and rainy today.  I don't think it amounted to much.  I went to Carlinville and saw a floater fertilizer truck.  I thought maybe it was OK to spread fertilizer that way.  I also spotted someone delivering Anhydrous ammonia.  I am sure it was too wet to apply anhydrous for several reasons.  You are probably not getting the furrow closed properly.  You are no doubt causing undue compaction.  Patience is in order. 

The farm I worked on at Reno today had quail and pheasant in the CRP grassland.  This is usually too far south for pheasants, but I have seen them in another place in Bond County as well. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sorento Day 2

I got a good bit more sampling done today.  Rode over about 160 acres of wheat ground.  It was looking good.  Ground was firmed up some, but still very wet.  I would not be sampling if the customer did not want results ASAP.  I saw hundreds of turkeys in one field on the way.  I also kicked up a red tail hawk that was on the ground. Temperatures in the 70's and we got sun and wind after about 10 AM, so good drying weather and we need it.  Sampled in the morning and spent the afternoon defining zones for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Day in the Field This Year

I worked in the Sorento area today.  I have a new customer who still wants recommendations before planting, so I am trying to get him sampled.  Today was mostly mapping, but I sampled about 75 acres.  Got maps drawn this afternoon so It should go faster tomorrow. 

Field conditions were very wet.  There is a lot of water on top.  I think compaction is still a factor.  Probing was much easier than last fall just because of the moisture in the soil.  I am hoping for good weather and get him done Saturday, but who knows. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ag Day Legislative issues.

Will Rogers said that the country is not safe when Congress is in session.  Ag producers seem to know that they need to keep a sharp eye in legislative and regulatory bodies to protect their interests.  This week's Farmweek News contains a number of issues to watch and I encourage you to check it out on line or read your copy. 

I will summarize some of the issues raised here.  First, Illinois House had proposed a repeal of the ag sales tax exemption.  That is stuck in committee and not likely to move, but watch out for it.  A bill has passed to the Illinois Senate containing revision about how CFAR is funded.  There is a bill pending that would allow drain tile to be blocked or destroyed if they do not affect others.  Seems redundant to me.  There is a movement to establish a trust fund to remove abandoned wind farms. 

US Dept of Transportation is now viewing farmers hauling the landlord's share of the crop as "for hire"  Not sure how they handle it when each load is split between the landlord and the tenant.  Under this rule all farmers with share leases would need a CDL and be subject to drug testing. 

EPA is planning to regulate greenhouse gases without benefit of legislation.  Meanwhile, Representative Aaron Shock is questioning EPA research methods.  I bet Chuck Grassley joins him in this. 

Some are questioning new Corps of Engineers regulations concerning dredging restrictions on the lower Mississippi River. 

Guest worker reform may include E-verifications processes to insure workers are in the US legally.  I know this is a sensitive issue for many outside of ag.  Within ag, people need to realize that these jobs are going to foreign workers because US workers will not do them, even in the face of unemployment. 

Vital funding of rural broadband  continues to move, but slowly.

EPA is in the process of implementing NPDES permits for crop protection products.

Sounds like Will Rogers was right.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No-till Effects on Soil Properties

Kansas State Researchers Blanquo-Canqui, Claasson, and Stone, recently published research showing that wheel traffic has a negative effect on soil properties while intensive cropping does not impact soil negatively.  They recommend controlled traffic to reduce the impacts of wheel track compaction.

Yes I know this is short and the article in the Soil Science Society of America Journal was much longer, but it boils down to this. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Getting the Planter Ready

I was trying to take pictures of corn cribs and grain elevators near Chestnut, IL along highway 54 today when I saw this planter out of the shed.  As I have mentioned before, it is that time of year.  A great crop starts with a great planter and you don't want to be tuning it up when it is dry enough to plant in April.  THis is a very big grain elevator in a very small town. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Corn Crib

I photographed this weather worn corncrib yesterday as I was checking out the countryside.  It was a great day for picture taking. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Farming Activity

Weather is beautiful today, so I could not resist taking a short drive around the countryside to see what is going on in the farming world.  I saw several trucks and a gravity wagon that looked like they were hauling grain, but there was no waiting at the Witt elevator. 
Near the end of my trip I found someone loading grain onto a truck.  The Truck is partially hidden behind the trees, but you can see the corn coming out of the auger if you look closely. 
The ground is very wet with lots of water standing.  Several of us were speculating last night on when we might be able to start soil sampling and when farmers might be able to start field work.  I am optimistic because of no rain in the forecast. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Farmland Prices

My friend Kelly sent this Link to an article in the New York Times on farmland prices.  It is an interesting read.  If you are looking to expand by land purchase, land prices seem to be through the roof.  One of the things this article does mentions is that same people think the sluggish stock market has had an impact on land prices.  Recently some have predicted a more stable bull market on the stock exchanges.  Will this stabilize land prices?  Will commodity prices ease back and lower land values?  Lots of questions out there.

If you have not linked   on Kelly's link yet, do it now.  He has an excellent blog on fungicides in wheat. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Marketing Comments

I found out today that my brother reads my blog.  He sent me the following comments about marketing and I defer to  his judgement as I think that marketing has been a strong point of his operation over the past 30 plus years.

Read your blog. Let me point out that the market doesn't care what your cost of production is.

So what do you do if the market is below cost of production and less than what you need to replace machinery and recover costs what do you do??

I contend that watching market trends, Knowing that the market is at a high or low point, And which months that you should sell to get the best price are the most important. What is the long range weather forecast. Do you need to sell because of storage ? Etc. Your cost of production has very little to do with marketing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wheel Trencher

I made a short trip to Shipman today and true to my blog name I saw some interesting ag related stuff.  First, it looked like grain was moving.  I saw several trucks being loaded on my way.  On the way home, I saw the wheel trencher below along with the track hoe and the bulldozer looking like someone is ready to lay tile.  Tile trenches are dug 2 ways in the modern world, although the original way was to dig them by hand.  Nowadays, either  wheel trencher or a tile plow is used.  The wheel trencher is used to lay large tile often called mains.  The tile stored here looked to be 12 inch.  smaller tile are connected to the 12 inch.  A wheel trencher is needed in this case.  Smaller tile laid on nice grades can be laid faster and easier with a tile plow.  If grades are very flat, then a trencher can be more accurate.  Both systems use either laser guidance or Satelite guidance to keep the tile on grade. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Potassium for hay

Potassium is one of the macronutrients needed to produce good crops.  It is needed for photosynthesis, carbohydrate transport in the plant and protein synthesis.  Potassium is the macronutrient most likely to be lacking when we soil test.

A good hay crop requires lots of potassium.  Alfalfa will remove up to 50 pounds of potassium per acre.  It s the nutrient most likely to limit alfalfa yield.  with timely cutting and high fertility, alfalfa can produce up to 10 tons of hay per acre.  If you are growing alfalfa, high exchange capacity soils should be at 400 pounds per acre and the amount of potassium removed should be added each year to maintain those levels.  The good news is that the dairy and beef animals output manure that is high in potassium too, so recycling it on fields where you are likely to grow hay is a great idea. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring is Here

Today when i went out, I noticed the crocus blooms peeking out of the grass.  I got my camera and tried a picture but it did not work out.  The daffodils were also showing through, but probably 2 weeks from bloom.  Why is this important to agriculture?  It is all part of the natural cycle of life that those of us involved in agriculture are a part of.  Even though the calender tells us that spring is around the corner, something in our primitive psyche is uplifted when we see it really is here.  Can corn planting be far off?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Photos

How does this barn can stay standing. 

This used to be the headquarters for the largest farmer in Madison County in the late 70's  Now it is a grain elevator.  Not sure why he went out of business. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Washington County, Illinois

I have always used my own photography, but my friend, Sam Indorante sent me the following and I asked his permission to use it.  I suppose it is based on cropland acreages and livestock numbers in the county.  There are 14,254 people in the county in the 2010 census, you can see most of the food grown there leaves the county.  Kind of interesting.  Thanks for the photo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Marketing Basics

Dr Mark Welch of Texas A&M University made and excellent presentation on Tuesday on Marking.  Some of his observation are below. 

The individual producer is a price taker with no power to influence price on any given day. 

The producer can control when to establish the price he gets. 

Price changes due to changes in demand are usually sustain for longer periods.

Price changes due to changes in supply are short lived. 

Overcome the "what ifs" and get into the market. 

Use crop insurance

Only use the risk management tools you understand.

Prices will fall back to the cost of production sooner or later.

Watch the Market but don't obsess

Keep your strategy flexible.

Don't sell everything at once.

Know your cost of production.  (I think this is most important)

Marketing is  a component of your business plan.

View volatility as an opportunity for selling products and buying inputs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to farm like a "big" farmer

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the customer appreciation day for Precision seeding technologies listed to the right.  The keynote speaker was Texas A&M professor Danny Klinefelter.  He has an interest in large farms and how they do it.  One of the things he sees in large farms is some sort of diversity.  He says that smaller farmers can bring diversity into their operations by collaboration.  Many of these relationships are formal, like hiring consultants, accountants etc. Another route is cooperatives.  One of his biggest issues was, "If you enter into such a relationship, how do you get out of it?" 

The second part of his presentation was about performance based borrowing.  Credit is a necessary part of businesses in general and agriculture is no exception.  Klinefelter discussed using business planning to document your track record.  He says you cannot go to a lender unless you know how much you need, how will the loan be re-paid, are your projections realistic based on past performance, and what happens if something goes wrong.  I cannot begin to capture his entire presentation, but suffice to say, that if you get a chance to listen to a guy like Danny Klinfelter, Mike Boehlje, Darrell Dunteman, Barry Flinchbaugh, David Kohl, Bryce Knorr, or Arlan Suderman, don't pass it up.  They are great thinkers and I was privileged to hear all of them this winter.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weather and Crop Report.

Yesterday's weather and crop report was kind of interesting from the moisture standpoint.  A few people were reporting moisture as short, but not in the southeast where I thought they might still be a bit short.  I am curious as to if some of the reporters are being sarcastic.  58% of the state reports adequate and 40% reports surplus.  At this time of year if tile is running, you have surplus moisture.  Rainfall has been above average and snowfall is also above average.  Temperature is a bit below average, but pretty insignificant from and agricultural standpoint. No crop conditions were reported.