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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I worked in the Nutwood area today.  Of interest was some Glyphosate resistant waterhemp.  I discussed it with the customer a bit and He had noticed it too.  He said he has not been using Glyphosate for very many years.  

We sampled some for Nitrogen today.  We have been finding that fall applied and spring applied nitrogen have not stayed as high as the customers hoped they would.  Most of the problem is dentrification. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30 Litchfield overpass

I worked in the field today after 5 days off.  Work was in the Virden Girard area.  It was very wet getting there, but not too bad where I worked.  No field work was ongoing.  My customer was enjoying the holiday.  Not much to report on except moisture conditions and they are not good.  More rain in the forecast for tomorrow.  Almost everyone is done with corn in that area.  If you are not done with corn, you need to push your pencil on the prevented planting option to decide whether to plant late or just let it go this year.  Remember also that prevented planting cannot be used more than 3 years in a row.  Soybeans are also an option. 

The photo below is from the overpass north of Litchfield.  In view it looks like most of the corn is up.  Even the field in the foreground is up. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Erosion Problems

Some days it is hard to predict what a blog may be about.  We went for  short drive north of town to see if we could see some of the reported 2 inch hail and we did. 

We also ran across this construction site that was eroding out into the road and washing from there almost directly into the city's Glen Shoals Lake.  Farmers take a lot of heat for erosion on cropland, but sites like this contribute a large percentage of their sediment to the lake.  Everyone needs to take responsibility for their contribution to the problem and try to do something about it.  This site has no silt fence, no straw bales, and no temporary seeding.  any of those would have prevented the mess. 

Friday, May 27, 2011


Last week we took the time to take some photos of sampling activities for future reference.  On of the things we photographed include the Panasonic Toughbook that I have been using as my principal field sampling guidance for the last few weeks.  My Toughbook is loaded with Global Mapper and I have been mainly using a Wintec wireless receiver with it.  Except for an incident where I broke the screen the computer seems pretty durable.  The screen breakage was strictly carelessness.  This setup seems to be a good alternative to good way to some of the more expensive ag specific products out there.  Toughbooks are available on Ebay for around $400 the receiver can be had new for about $60 and the Global Mapper is around $300 on some websites.  A Ram-mount is also needed.  My friend Kelly has 2 of them he he has been using with FarmWorks software for the whole spring season.  We agree that they seem to be very durable.  It has added to our available number of GPS units.  If I use a white background with no aerials.  It is very visible.  This is as close to paperless sampling as we have come although, I like carrying the photo, because it is faster than turning on the photo and squinting at it on the computer.  A last thought is that with the territory we cover, it is good to have a fully functional computer in the field.  We are only as far away from the Internet as the nearest McDonald's.    We are hoping that is setup will last a year or 2 at least. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photo sums up crop condition

The photo was near West Alton, but could have been almost anywhere between Hillsboro, IL and St. Charles, Mo.  We had 1.5 to 2 inches of rain on soils that were barely dry enough to plant.  Lots of replanted wet spots will be drowned again.  This is saturated enough to denitrify for several days. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rainy Day

It is a rainy day, so I can post "early" today.  I have worked 19 days in May so far.  Many of them were rainy days somewhere.  My secret National Weather Service (NWS).  NWS website has some wonderful tools for spot information.  First off you can click on the map and get a forecast for anywhere.  Our territory squared up is about 1000 square miles.  You can imagine different forecasts in different places. 

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is check the radar.  If it has rained then I click on storm total to see how much and where.  This feature is sometime erased fairly quickly, so I try another source.  There is a precipitation analysis tab that shows you a map of rainfall totals for just about any time period you choose.  It is pretty accurate.  From time to time I have posted those maps here to keep you up to date on departures from "normal". 

If you don't trust the data because it is radar derived, you can always look at the the observations.  scroll down and find the map.  You can click on any station and get actual rainfall data.  It is sort of a pain because the hourly totals are not summarized for a day, but it gets you actual measurements.  There is lots of information and data on NWS site that is free.  This is a taxpayer expense that seems worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I spent the day in Chesterfield.  Weather was perfect for a late spring day.  I sample unplanted soybean ground, Planted corn ground and just up corn ground.  There were really no issues with any of it.  The burndown had worked well on the bean ground and early weeds are dead.  No resistance issues here.

I think this weeks crop report over estimates corn and soybeans planted a bit.  I am not sure that is an issue though. 

I did see a deer and geese along with a soaring turkey vultures.  Turkey vultures are beautiful in flight, but ugly as anything to look at.  Also, they will eat anything dead including dead skunk. 

I also saw a Blackhawk helicopter fly over.  That is an inspiring sight as well. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

So Where Have You Been

The title tonight's blog is What I get asked in the coffee shop.  That is one reason I write this blog.  In the middle of an 8 day run of field soil sampling, other topics have distracted me.  Here is a brief rundown of where I have been and what I have seen.

I have worked from Virden to Valmeyer and points between.  Also some time was spent in Illinois River bottoms near Nutwood.   I have seen lots of corn planted and emerged, but I know some still have corn to plant.  Today I sample the first field of soybeans that I have seen emerged.  Many are planting soybeans, but there is still a lot to be done. 

Insect damage I have seen includes cutworm and flea beetle damage.  Watch out for the cutworms.  One field was probably 5% damaged which is way past the threshold to spray.  So far weed control has looked good once that spring flush is killed. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nitrogen Sampling

When we pull Nitrogen samples, we end up with about 3 quarts of soil.  In order to get a representative sample out of that, we push the cores through a mesh sieve shown below.  This allows us to mix the sample thoroughly and take about a cup and a half back to the office to dry.  Drying must be done in 24 hours to arrest microbial action. The samples are spread out on racks and stacked.  When we are done preparing them, we turn on the fan and wait till morning.  They always seem to get dry overnight.  We send about a cup to the lab for testing.  I have sampled for nitrogen for the last 3 days. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cherry Cemetary

There are many small rural cemeteries within our territory.  Montgomery County alone has 69.  This one is in Macoupin County between Palmyra and Girard.  It is called Cherry Cemetery and it is one of the prettiest especially when the peonies are  in bloom. Many of these cemeteries have the graves of civil war veterans in them. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Virden Girard

I worked in the Virden Girard area today.  Pulled samples for Nitrogen testing most of the day.  Early corn is about 5 or 6 leaf stage.  Did some regular sampling on corn that was just spiking.  There was lots of field work going on.  My customer was planting soybeans and spraying weeds so he can plant soybeans. 

Heading south on Route for by the time i got to Nilwood, the ground was very wet.  No one was in the field from Nilwood to Hettick.  I made a short circuit to check on some customers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I worked in the Illinois River bottoms near Nutwood today.  It looks like maybe 50% of corn is planted and very few soybeans.  Soils were ok on the ridges and high spots, but very wet in low areas.  Some spraying was underway and maybe a bit of planting.  There was a little bit of corn 6 inches tall. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I spent the day working West of Medora today.  The weather was beautiful.  Field work was still minimal today..  I saw some spraying and nitrogen application going on. 

I observed some sulfur deficiency in some corn today that should not have been deficient.  I visited with my customer and he had put sulfur in elemental form as well as in his liquid starter.  A seed company agronomist was also present during my discussion.  I had already thought about cold wet weather being a possible cause.  The agronomist gave cold wet weather as his opinion before I voiced mine.  He thinks lack of oxygen and lack of microbial activity both played a role.

My customer has also set up a test strip for starter fertilizer.  Right now the corn with starter looks better.  We will see if that shows up in the yield. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Black Walnut MO

Black Walnut is the first parking lot on the Katy Trail.

Wetness was not a problem.  Some field work was underway but not a lot.  In the afternoon, someone was sidedressing 28% nnitrogen solution.  The wet holes are still wet.  Lock and Dam 26 is still on open river right now. 

The big news of the day was cutworms.  One field had a fairly large infestation.  The corn was obviously cut.  Some had been cut just when it emerged.  It was cut above the growing point so much like frozen corn, it continues to grow.  Watch out for those cutworms. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday close to home

It is a beautiful spring morning.  Most ofus wish it were a drier spring morning.  I took a short trip to Nokomis today and it was very wet.  We had an inch of rian over the weekend.  We will try to try to work tomorrow.  Below is a Maple Leaf Viburnum in bloom. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flooding and flood control

Whenever there is a flood, there is always a flock of people who are quick to point out that our flooding is much "worse" because we have too many levees and not enough wetlands.  The fact is true as far as it goes, but it leaves out a lot of information that ignores the value of levees.  The fact is that levees protect a great deal of property in flood events.  Flood elevations have increased as levees have been built higher, but the higher levees keep areas such as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and St. Louis relatively safe from flooding.  Also in most years, levees protect a good deal of cropland up and down the river.  Farmers in those cropland areas know the risks involved in where they farm.  Farming has been done in floodplains since people first planted crops in Mesopotamia and Egypt.  Soils are rich and productive in floodplains and flooding is one of the thing that makes them productive.  It is always easy for the news media to find someone to complain about the flooding that they are suffering.  I certainly would not wish a flood on anyone.  I experienced the flood of 1993 first hand.  It is no fun when a river reclaims it's floodplain.  The St.Louis Post Dispatch  has a good article this morning about the flooding in Louisiana. No direct link because of AP rights.   This New York Times article puts a face to those affected by orpening the gates.

Levees have been around in the United States since before the Civil War.  General Grant took advantage of levees to march his army around Vicksburg on the Arkansas side of the river.  That is how he got his troops through the swamps.  Levees started out being built to connect sand ridges to keep water out of lowlands.  The system worked pretty good in lot of years.  Farmers built levees by hand and with small scrapers and horses or mules.  Everyone had to provide a certain amount of labor and equipment based on the benefit they received.  When there was a flood, levees were often built higher to protect against the flood of record.  There were also levee wars in those days.  Whoever could build their levees higher might protect their land at the expense of someone else. 

In 1927 the lower Mississippi River experienced the worst flood ever.  Over 900,000 people were displaced and several million were affected.  John M Barry wrote a book called Rising Tide about the flood and how it changed the Mississippi River Valley and the way we fight floods.  It is worth a read.  One of the things he describes is how City of New Orleans officals blasted a levee in panic and without compensation to anyone.  This was probably the biggest levee war ever. 

After 1927, the Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission began a coordinated effort at flood control.  The system in the news now is using flooding in floodplains and wetlands to reduce flood damages in populated areas.  Are they damaging farmland?  Yes, but mostly temporarily.  People were compensated for the potential damages when the system was set up.  Are they dislocationg people?  Yes, but the people are living in an area of known risk. 

The Atchafalaya Swamp is the largest wetland in the United States.  Yes it is bigger than the Everglades.  The Morganza Spillway shown below lets water out of the Mississippi River and into the Atchafalaya River and Swamp, an old channel of the Mississippi.  Yes people live in  harms way, but far fewer than are endangered by the rising river.  The Bonnet Carre spillway is the last spillway that can be used to protect New Orleans.  It drains into Lake Ponchartrain.  It may or may not be opened this year.  I am amazed at how well the whole scheme works.  We use an old floodplain in Missouri, we use a swamp in Louisiana and we use a tidal lake in Louisiana to protect populated areas.  Isn't that what people are saying we should do when they want levees removed?  What we are doing is leaving the levees in place except in the most extreme circumstances. 

Could we have a better system?  Yes, we could but we would have to turn the clock back to 1600 and have a whole different floodplain management strategy than we do.  One of the best strategies we have, is to make it government policy to get people out of the floodplain, but the next thing you will hear is someone complaining that FEMA will not let them rebuild their home.  I think we do well in managing floods with the modern coordinated effort, considering what we have to work with.  If people want to live in harms way, they should be able to, but follow rules about elevation or take on the risk yourself.  Floods tend to be a losing situation for some to the gain of others.  Bill Graff provides a great viewpoint on the current situation and past experiences with floods.  I hope you check it out.  I hope my  blog does not offend.  I am trying to present all sides of the issue here in a fair way.  Some night I hope to share a somewhat humorous story about the Morganza spillway. 


Saturday, May 14, 2011

West Alton

Friday was in West Alton Mo.  I sampled mostly corn ground that was out of the ground.  It was planted and is looking good except for some minor cutting by cutworms.  I guess it is easy to chew through the small 2 leaf stalks.  It looks like corn planting is wrapping up in that area and soybeans are started.  Until this morning it seemed showers seem to evaporate before they get to us.  We can use the dry weather now, but I hope that i not a sign of what the summer will be like.

Early corn looks very good today.  It is 6 inches tall or more and the stalks look very sturdy.  Yes the stands are not perfect, but they are more than adequate.  The good news is that the warm weather is speeding up the germination and growth of later planted corn as well. 

Friday, May 13, 2011


Sorry this did not get posted.  Blogger was down at least to my login past 6 AM  today when I left for the field.  Here is the blog as written last night. 

I worked in the Shipman, IL area yesterday. Close to home. There was a lot of field work underway. The people we sampled today were finishing up corn. They will probably start soybeans as soon as the weather allows. We missed the popup thunderstorms today.
One thing of interest I found was Alfalfa Weevil. They damage the quality and quantity of the alfalfa. Now is the time to be scouting. They can eat a lot in a hurry. The University of Illinois has all the information you need here.Alfalfa Weevil.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Staunton Then West Alton

I started my day in the Staunton area today.  It was my first day in the field there.  Lots of people were working in the field despite less than ideal conditions.  The only corn up was on the farm I was sampling where corn was planted April 2 and 3.  That corn looked pretty good.  The stand was not perfect, but it looked OK.  I sampled it for regular test as well as Nitrogen testing. The customer was worried that wetness may have cost him a lot of Nitrogen.  We will find out.  He had some corn planted April 14 that will be replanted.  I think the frost may have damaged some, but that was not the entire problem.  I was so wet I got stuck in his yard. 

From there I headed to West Alton to sample some more early planted corn.   It looked good except for some of the sandy spots were showing sulfur deficiency.  See the photo below.  Corn planting in West Alton area is about done.  Most people were planting soybeans. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Odd weather day.

No rain in the forecast early this morning, so I went off to the field.  I got about 5 samples pulled and got sprinkled on.  It looked like the clouds would open up any moment.  The rest of the day pretty much followed that pattern, but looking at radar on my blackberry, I could see showers all around.  I was west of Virden and Girard.  The rain brought this larger operation to a halt.  It was surprising that they quit instead of moving someplace drier.  The drive was like this from Girad to Shipman and then to Hillsboro.  Lots of wet spots and dry spots.  Lots of corn was planted today.  Some soybeans going in too. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Virden Palmyra Area

I got to work fairly close to home today.  There was lots of field work going on.  On customer is done with corn and planting soybeans.  The other still has some corn to plant.  Soils were very moist, but not saturated.  Some of the corn planting made a few ruts.  Soil is certainly more firm that it was in early April.  We did not see anything really out of the ordinary.  Luckily we cover a lot of ground today.  It was kind of amazing to watch some of the 16 and 24 row planters nearby.  They cover a lot of territory fast.  Quite a contrast to my Dad's 2 row planter.  There was some field work around Shipman.  East of Gillespie there is still not much field work going.  I suspect tomorrow may be the day to get going. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meredosia - Chambersburg

Saturday's trip was to Meredosia and Chambersburg.  It seems like I have lots of blog ideas right now, but I am sticking with the crop progress reporting.  I left around 6:30 AM after looking at radar and precipitation maps to go to Meredosia.  With rain in the forecast I went where it was out of the forecast.  I was sprinkled on all the way to Springfield, but as I turned west, I could see clear sky.  Going along I-72 there was plenty o f machinery in the fields.  It looked like lots of corn was already planted.  I know that some were already starting on soybeans judging by a few drills working. 

Someone was taking a drill across the bridge at Meredosia.  It is an interesting 2 person job.  One goes across the bridge to stop oncoming traffic and the other drives the machinery across.  I saw that last year too.  The bridge is very narrow.  Just 2 12 foot lanes and that is it. 

The farm I worked on was completely finished with planting corn and soybeans.  He was using a rotary hoe to break up a crust.  Soybean planting had just been finished.  Lots in a stale seedbed.  The ground was neither wet nor dry.  Just right as Goldilocks would say.  I was surprised to see that many field tile were not running at all and some were barely dripping.  Soil was as dry as I have seen since last fall.  It was maybe as dry as it has been since 2007 in this area.  in 2009 we missed sampling this farm altogether because of wetness. 

My tweeps will already know that I tried out a Sony Toughbook as my field computer instead of my handheld Archer.  It worked well.  I had some time to mess around today waiting for my fellow consultant  to get to the field, so I mounted up the Toughbook and gave it a field trial. It worked very well once I got it set up right. Turning off the aerials and thickening the lines on the map made it very visible. Once again I ran it with the Wintec receiver and Global Mapper. It seems Global Mappper does not pick up the receiver until I move. Not really a problem, just a quirk. I used it on battery only and it goes off about every 5 minutes. That is good because it conserved the battery. When I get near the edge I turned it on and then let it go off somewhere in the next zone. Running it that way, I sampled from 9:30 to 2:30 with no problem.  35% of power was still left.  I have an inverter for it, but that is really too bulky for the 4 wheeler. I need to get a lighter cord. I was very pleased. I also need a screen protector to keep the dust from scratching the screen.

It was pretty stable on some pretty rough ground, although not sure I would use it on chiseled ground. It did tend to sag a bit after a while, but I will pad the front rack and let it rest on the pad. Should not be a problem.

Pretty impressive and a cheaper model from ebay like Kelly Robertson got would make it a bargain.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Litchfield Overpass - May

Silent Saturday from the I-55 overpass at Litchfield.  The green in the middle of the picture is corn that is up, but there is too much brown out there for May. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

West Alton

It was my first trip to West Alton, MO this spring.   Crop progress is slow there too.  I did sample some corn that was in the 4 leaf stage, but some of the wetter areas were just spiking in the same field.   Lots of planters were going today, but there was still some wetness.  The Missouri River shown below is not bank full, but it is high enough that water in low spots cannot get out. 

This field was planted into a stale seedbed.  It looked very good to me.  There is no need to till a field just because it is crusted.  Modern planters have no problem with a crust. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Planting underway again

I sampled a hodgepodge of fields today that are small and scattered.  They do not lend themselves to extra help.  I started in Enos and the field seemed a little wet.  I took Rt 108 to the south side of greenfield and headed south to Rockbridge.  There were lots of planters in the field between Fayette Road and Rockbridge.  Someone was working in the field next to me at Rockbridge and the sprayer pulled into the field I was working in as I was finishing up.  I headed south of Macoupin Creek and sampled another rolling field.  People across the road were moving their planter into a field somewhere else.  I finished up along Rt 16 between Jerseyville and Southwestern HS.  The slopes were wet.  There were people tilling and planting nearby, but not a lot.  The bad news is that we have already had a shower and more on the way.  It is light so far.  I suspect it will slow down field work and more rain is in the forecast for Saturday. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Frosted Corn

We went to Winchester area today and ended in Carrollton area.  As we went North from Jerseyville this morning several planters were in the field.  By the time we got to White Hall nothing was moving.  Machinery was parked and ready to go.  One of my tweeps did say he was planting corn just north of where I was working, but I managed to miss him. On the way home the same.  The corn below was south of Chesterfield and it had frost on it this morning.  It looked a little droopy, this afternoon, but I think it will survive and be ready to shoot up fast when we finally get some warm weather. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I worked in the Illinois River Bottoms north of Hillview in Scott County today.  The farm I was working on was 100% done with corn.  The earliest of it looked good.  Later corn did not look real good in some of the wet spots.  The ground was not overly wet except for a few ponded areas.  Most farms we saw in the area were not as far along, but there was a good bit of corn planted in the area. 

We saw several sprayers in the field and some tillage being done in well tiled fields.  I suspect corn planting will start from Carrollton and to the North tomorrow.  We will find out as we are headed that way again.  The wind and sun today was good drying weather even though a bit cold.  Even from Shipman to Hillsboro, ground had dried well.  It may be Thursday before field work starts here though. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Greenfield Athensville

It was an interesting day all around.  First, I was reluctant to go to the field because of wetness so I got a late start after having a field confirmation of the wetness or lack thereof where I was going.  I drove all the way from Hillsboro to Greenfield without seeing a field dry enough to sample.  When I went west out of Greenfield, oddly enough it was dry enough to sample.  The soil did cling to the tires, but I did not cut any ruts so OK.  Another oddity is that the radar looked like I was being rained on most of the day.  It was not hitting the ground at all.  That is good news. 

Another interesting thing is that the fields I worked in were tiled last fall.  I think it helped keep the field a bit drier than untiled fields in the same area.   

20 inch row corn emerged at Greenfield
The fields I sampled were partially planted to 20 inch row corn.  There were two planter rigs in the field.  One was a 24 row which was about as wide as a 30 inch 16 row.  The other was a 36 row planter.  It looked a bit wider than a 24 row 30 inch planter.  Two differences were readily apparent.  The 36 inch row was heavier and took more horsepower to pull.  The 36 inch row was compacting the soil much more than the 24 row. 

36 row 20 inch row planter

24 row 20 inch row planter

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What are those yellow weeds?

Weedy fields become very common in a wet spring like we are having.  One of the most striking weeds is Butterweed. Sometimes their yellow flowers appear to blanket a field.  They are a fast growing, early blooming annual that are common in Illinois,  It may also be referred to as cressleaf groundsell, To furtherconfusion it has two scientific names as well.  Formerly called Senicio Glabellus, it is now know as Packera Glabella.  Early Spring weeds in No-till Crop Production  has lots of good pictures of many spring weeds and charts for appropriate controls.  Butterweed can be controlled fairly easily either with chemicals or by tillage.