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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring blooms

Silent Saturday
Gray Dogwood in bloom

Hawthorn in bloom

Friday, April 29, 2011

One Day in Ten

I travelled to the Atlas Rockport area to sample.  Mainly it was the only place I knew would be dry enough.  From Hillsboro to Reeder fields looked very wet.  From Reeder to Kampsville they were not so bad.  From Mozier to Rockport, it looks like they might be able to work tomorrow.  Corn planted has not changed since I went that way Wednesday.  The soil was very damp but not saturated.  On the way home I saw someone running a rotary hoe north of Hillview to break a crust so corn can emerge.  It also aerates a bit.  I also saw someone spraying near White Hall.  Other than that, No field work going on because of wetness.

The last field I sampled is pictured below.  Corn is just emerging.  I get excited about seeing this.  The stand was fine, but a little yellow because of the cold and wet.  Still, I think I would like my corn in this condition rather than unplanted at this time of year. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some interesting stuff to keep your mind off wetness

No-till Farmer  has a link in this article to a University of Missouri Weed ID site.  With all the weeds growing well, you might want to know what you are trying to kill. 

Prairie Farmer  has a story on Brown Marmorated Stickbugs.  Not good news in Illinois.  You may recall that I  Blogged on the topic in January.  They pretty much eat everything in sight. 

Here is an article on controlling winter annuals especially in no-Till.  This could be an issue with all the rain. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I met with a new customer today in Pleasant Hill. Trip was from Hillsboro to Carlinville to Pleasant Hill Via Kampsville Ferry.  I only saw 2 fields of corn planted until I got to the Illinois River bottoms at Eldred.  The Illinois River is out of bank, but lots of levee is still showing.  The Mississippi River is about 2 feet from being on the road at Mozier.  There is a good bit of corn planted from Pleasant Hill to Rockport, but it looks like there is still some to plant.  I did not see much planted through Pittsfield and Florence.  Back in the Illnois River bottoms some had a lot of corn planted and some was emerged.  As I travelled south, fields were extremely wet and not much planted via White Hall, Carrollton, Hettick and back to Carlinville. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Black Cutworm

I heard a reminder on the radio today that local people are catching lots of black cutworm moths in traps.  This could mean a large outbreak.  Be sure to know if your hybrid is resistant to black cutworms.  Some are, some are not.  If not, scout for them.  If you find more than 3 spray them.  They will eat off a lot of corn if left unsprayed. 

University of Illinois has a website that provides Insecticide evaluation for all the common insecticides.  Check it out if you are not sure what to use.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wetness and Nitrogen Loss

At this point, Midwest soils are beyond saturated.  When soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit, dentrification can begin.  Bacteria begin to use the oxygen in the nitrate (NO3- ) molecule as an oxygen source when soils are saturated.  Nitrite, nitrous oxide and nitrogen are all bi-products of the reaction and none of those forms are plant available.  When ground dries out it would be a good idea to do some nitrogen testing to see if you still have enough nitrogen to raise a decent corn crop.  We know that dentrification was an issue in reduced yields last year.  Avoid that issue this year if possible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday Rain and Wetness

You can see from the pictures that we might not get any more corn planted in April.
Newly tiled field

Waterway controlling erosion

Road ditch overfilled North of Hillsboro

Friday, April 22, 2011

Four years in a row?

Who would have thought we would have four wet years in a row.  Each year has been a bit different, but all have been wet.  We have had over 3 inches of rain since Tuesday.  I made a short trip out of town and fields are very wet.  Waterways were running full or nearly full. 

Yesterday I went to Valmeyer to check on a customer.  Between IL rt 156 and Prairie du Rocher, corn was being planted.  I suspect this is the last corn that will be planted in Illinois in April.  Forecast is not good.  Not much else to report because of wetness.   

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wisconsin Dells area

Randy Darr, President of Soil-Right Consulting Services, Inc.  made a rare trip to Wisconsin yesterday.  The following is his report on crop progress along his route. 

Very little field work completed along the I55 and I39 all the way to
Wisconsin. Some fields appeared to be planted from Springfield to
Lasalle-Peru, but, it was hard to tell. However, it was inconsequential.
The Wisconsin Dells area had 5 inches of snow on the ground and absolutely
no field work completed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stale seedbed

This was supposed to be my blog yesterday because it has been on my mind for a few days.  I talked to someone recently who had done some tillage on a field to smooth it out and kill weeds, but he had rain on it before he got it planted.  He was saying he wanted to till it again to break up the crust.  I said he should plant without tillage.  The seedbed is already there.  The weed control is already there.  The planter will do an adequate job breaking the crust and the soil being slightly firmer should allow for more even seed depth. 

Even planting in fall tilled soil is a viable option if it is not too rough.  This article in Prairie Farmer seems to validate my thinking as well.  with all the rain we have had, Planting at this point is considered to be late in some respects.  Speeding up the process by planting a stale seedbed is certainly a viable option.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nitrogen by CEC

We have been hearing from some good farmers that they like to apply only 10 times the CEC in nitrogen units.  The logic being that the soil can only hold so many nutrients on the exchange complex.  We definitely like to see a certain level of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium on the exchange complex.  We also need to determine liming requirements according to the CEC.  The  reason we look at CEC is that it determines the soil's ability to absorb positive ions.  I have recently sampled some fields where the higher CEC areas needed lime but other areas did not.  The reason being that the field was being limed according tot he lower CEC areas needs.  So you can see that CEC does affect application of nutrients.  However, Dr. Fabian Fernandez   says that there is nothing to the notion of applying nitrogen according to CEC    Well professors have been wrong before, but this leads me to believe that it may not be a critical practice.  Split applications have also become popular, and this practice fits those ideas. There might be merit in split applications because at least on of those tends to be sidedress which puts down N when the crop needs it. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Shipman and Kemper

I sampled in the Shipman and Kemper areas today.  the ground was still wet in the swales and draws.  Very little field work was being done.  I saw one sprayer in the field.  The Illinois weather and crop report says 24% of the corn is planted in West Southwest which is part of out area.  The north part must have lots of corn planted.  I don't think we are over 10%.  The state is at 9%.  Weather out look is not good for getting anything planted this week. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Silent Sunday

My garden is wet, my lawn is wet, and fields are wet, but the dogwood below in my front yard still looks good for Palm Sunday. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

White Hall

I had to make a delivery yesterday in Whitehall and went via Shipman.  I came home through Carlinville.  I saw no field activity anywhere.  Very little corn is planted.  We had 2/10ths of an inch of rain and I would say the area had less then a half inch.   I had a report today that some corn is planted in the bottoms in Monroe County. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Sampling Season

It seems like fall has been the traditional time to pull soil samples.  Some people follow the logic that we want to know what is left for the next crop.  We want to know what the soil is like fertility wise, but a healthy soil should have enough nutrients to avoid a deficiency no matter what.  Since soil test levels vary through the year, we don't want to come up short at a critical time. 

We do about 2/3 of our sampling in the spring season, ideally from April 1 to June 15.  We sample after the wheat crop comes off in July.  Most of our spring customers put on lime and dry fertilizer in the fall so that they are ready for spring planting season.  If we spring sample, recommendations are delivered before harvest and fertilizer can be spread right behind to combine.  There is no waiting for results and recommendations.  Another advantage is that moisture conditions are good for sampling and fields are smooth for quick travel.  We try to sample fields at the same time each year where possible and it is kind of amazing how close we come to that.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Virden and Summerville

Covered a little territory today.  Some of the ground I sampled at Virden today had corn spiking.  I would have a picture but it looked like it would not show up on camera.  It was planted April 3.  Land at Summerville was not planted.  It was a wonderful day to be outdoors again.  I am finding some grubs.  We need to figure out thresholds. 

Field work was in swing everywhere, but it was kind of scatted.  everything from corn planting to tillage to fertilizer spreading and Anhydrous application. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Medora Chesterfield

Soils were still pretty wet in the Medora Chesterfield area. I caught up to the planter because my client has n of planted since Friday.  Some kernals had just a tip opening the seedcoat.  My client said he found roots on some earlier planted.  The only field activity I saw was someone spreading fertilizer.  I also saw several Anhydrous nurse wagons on the road so people must be putting on Anhydrous.  The photo below shows spring in all it's glory with wild cherry blossoms. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I sampled on planted ground all day today.  Nothing was out of the ground yet.  Soil temperature was 44 at 10:30, so it is till cold fro corn to grow well.  I heard reports that it is over 50, but I have not observed that.  Wheat I saw was looking nice and green.  There was no field work going  on.  Ground was wetter than I expected.  It might be dry enough to go by noon tomorrow.  I can't see anyone holding back if there soil is dry enough. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Early planted corn

This article about early planted corn pretty much echos what I have been trying to communicate.  Emerson Nafziger's comments about the time to emerge need to be considered.  In general I would say patience will pay off.  Don't replant that early corn till you are done with all the rest of your corn. Wait to see what the stand looks like.  Research has shown that early planting trumps population concerns. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I sampled my first planted fields of the year.  It is always nice to sample smooth fields.  Nothing really unusual.  Corn is sprouted nicely but not up.  They had a half inch of rain.  We had 7/10ths in Hillsboro.  There was not much field work going on.  Soil was in nice condition for the most part although I had the occasional boring into a goopy saturated layer at around 6 inches.  I think it is still a compaction issue.  My client has over 1000 acres of corn planted so I will concentrate efforts on him this week if weather allows. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lots of Miles

Went to Pittsfield Friday to help a new consultant with her zone maps.  Pike County Terrain is very rugged for Illinois.  It was a misty morning, but on my way home there were a lot of planters in the field.  Statistically, Illinois Farmers can put in about 5% of their corn in a day.  With long days, it is possible to plant even more.  I think there may have been enough planters in the field to plant 5% in our area. 
In the evening we went to Dekalb to help my son move.  Activity was limited by the time we got to Lincoln because of wetness.  I did not see any corn planted.  There were a few people working on drainage projects.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Buffalo Hart and Spalding

I was sampling near Buffalo Hart and Spalding today.  While I was sampling there was not much field work going on within my view.  That was surprising because when I got on the interstate at Raymond, I could see 6 different tractors doing something.  Mostly tillage.  As I came home I saw a planter in the field but not moving just north of Buffalo Hart.  I saw my client in the field at Spalding apparently finish tilling the field.  I stopped for lunch and when I got there he was gone.  When I got going, he arrived to repair some tile.  As I returned home I saw three planters going between Springfield and Litchfield. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I sampled in the Williamsville area yesterday.  Came home with  fever - hence no post.  Looked like they had about a half inch of rain and ground was graying off by 10 AM.  I did not check soil temperature, but there is no reason to think it has warmed up much.  The soil was relatively dry and in good shape.  Some of the fields were ready to plant.  Others still needed to be smoothed out.  I did not see anyone working in the field.  High speed rail construction has the crossing at Elkhart closed. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nitrogen management.

This article was posted by No-Till Farmer concerning nitrogen management.  The advice is similar to my own.  There is some advice about rescue treatments that is interesting.  I say you can't rely on rescue.  Try to get it right the first time.  Fall applications are most likely to nitrify early.  One of the most important N management tools is drainage.  Nitrogen dentrifies rather quickly under wet conditions, so doing your best to manage soil moisture will help you manage nitrogen as well.  Spring applications and sidedressing are most economical and also most like to maintain adequate nitrogen for the crop.  You do need to be prepared to apply when the conditions are right if you sidedress.  It is not all bad to start sidedressing as soon as corn emerges.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday field report

I sampled all day Saturday.  There was lots of field work going on, but it was apparent that some are holding off and some had other things to do.  One of the other things to do I noticed was burning.  Prairie restorations need burning to maintain them. I was working on some high h ills and could see lots of smoke plumes.  I am sure people were burning filter strips and CRP prairies.  weather was dry enough and wind was about right.  It is getting late into the burn season.  BBQ snake is possible if you are burning right now. 

Soil temperature was 44 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday.  It needs to be warmer than 50 degrees for corn to germinate.  I found one customer planting corn yesterday.  So what can he expect.  First, I hope he has good seed treatment.  The seed will be slow to germinate.  The good thing is that it is in the ground and when temperatures warm, it should grow.  He needs to be patient. We have seen cold weather corn take up to 3 weeks to emerge.  His soil conditions were perfect from a moisture standpoint.  The photo below shows field cultivating in progress.  It was good to see the dust flying.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Anhydrous Ammonia Safety

It is great to catch someone doing something right.  This guy was hooking up a new nurse tank and had his rubber gloves and goggles on.  And right next to the road too!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rolling baskets.

Regular readers, I appreciate your support and strive to give you something new every day.  Beware that the timing on my posting is now on a field work schedule.  I post after supper when I get home.  Sometimes that can be 8PM or later. 

I guess today is a good day for my annual rant about rolling baskets.  Soil finishers with rolling baskets are all the rage these days.  You can take some pretty rough ground and make it look like a lettuce bed.  Why do I have  a problem with that?  It makes your soil very vulnerable to crusting and puddling especially when you have low residue soybean stubble to start with.  As you know, crusting can seal off sprouting seeds from the oxygen they need to make it to the surface.  To avoid crusting, lots of residue and some moderate clods are in order. 

Soils with 15% clay or less are very common in our area.  When the rolling basket hits those soils, they look like floor.  And you know what happens to flour when water hits it.  Yes, paste.  You get my point. 

On a different note, some nice prairie soils north of Carlinville sold today for $10,075.  It is good soil, but I think it might benefit from some addition tile.