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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Infared Pictures

Some consultants are using infrared photography to identify problem areas in crops.  Infrared is a non-visible light wave that is usually sensed on film as heat.  Digital infrared is becoming more common as well.  I took this photo with a home made filter on my regular digital camera.  It really does not show any problems.  I am interested in using infrared to detect the early stages of diseases. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

THe I-70 Run

By Randy Darr, President of Soil-Right Consulting

The crops across Hwy 70 From Vandalia IL to Dayton OH look good at 65 mph. Can't say great. Here in Ohio much of the corn is short. Much not tasseled yet. However, I don't know if that is the norm for what little I have seen. Most needs rain just like we do.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If Wetness or dryness doesn't get your crop .... Goss's Wilt?

There seems to have been a lot of reports about Goss's Wilt in Illinois.  Be sure to check it out.  Looks like there is no rescue treatment.  University of Nebraska has a thourough discussion .

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Agro-tain Sold

Last summer I had the opportunity to tour the Lange-Stegmann/Agrotain facility in St. Louis.  It was an impressive facility.   I was surprised to see that Agrotain was sold.  I hope the product and service continue to be available.  It sounds like Agrotain fits into  Koch Fertilizer 's  business.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Potential biofuels.

Last night's blog got me to thinking that (I have some more photo's of potential biofuel plants.  I prefer the Native plants like Gamma Grass, Indian Grass, and Switchgrass.  U o I says the Miscanthus will not spread. 


Indian Grass


Monday, July 25, 2011

Biofuels Demonstration.

By Randy Darr, President of SoilRight Consulting Services

With our unique position of being independent consultants, we have the freedom to be involved in some things that may be considered a little off the beaten path. Currently at our office we have two demonstration plots with one being in conjunction with the University of Illinois. One that we planted three years ago is a demonstration of Eastern Gamma Grass. The other that is with the U of I is tropical maize. Both crops are intended to be used as biomass crops, in which fuel can be produced from them.

Eastern Gamma Grass may not be an adequate source as a biofuel crop, however, it can be an excellent hay crop. The tropical maize is thought to be a duel crop in that the corn can be used for livestock feed and then the stalks can be used as a fuel crop. This tropical maize was planted May 30. The pictures show how tall the tropical maize gets and how thick the Gamma grass becomes. Other research suggests that the tropical maize will produce 150 bushels of corn per acre. If you have the reason to be in the area, please feel free to stop and take a look.

Eastern Gamma Grass

Tropical Maize

Eastern Gamma Grass and Tropical Maize

Sunday, July 24, 2011


It seems like about 75% of farms in Wisconsin had one of these little concrete poured silos next to a big barn.  I am not sure when these were popular, but they look old. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What about this heat.

Emerson Nagziger offers his opinion of the effect of heat on our crops.  One thing to keep in mind is that crops that have adequate nutrition will hold out in the heat longer than those that have a deficiency.  Nitrogen is very important to drought and heat resistance.  Compaction can contribute to drought problems.  One of the reasons that early planted corn will continue to perform is that it was planted with minimal compaction.  Stands of early planted corn may not be perfect, but other advantages are going to allow them to outperform later planted corn as usual.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Columbia Missouri.

I made the trek today from Hillsboro, IL to Columbia, MO today.  I saw some corn starting to drop lower leaves, although it was not rolled early in the morning.  I also saw some rather tall corn that was ruined by seep water in the Mississippi River Bottoms.  Corn along I-70 was about half silked, but some of the later corn is still 2 weeks away.  Stands are uneven, very much like Illinois.  Soybeans are suffering similarly to corn.  Heat will cause soybeans to abort blooms, but they will continue to bloom well into August.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I went to Shipman yesterday to pick up a new computer.  Crops along Route 16 are a mixed bag.  Corn has not yet recovered from wetness.  It looks very uneven and low spots are still very yellow.  Soybeans look OK for now.  I suspect heat will start cutting into corn yields as soil moisture gets less.  As I said earlier this week, we still have some subsoil moisture.  The problem is that the deeper the corn goes for water, the more energy it takes to get it to the leaves.  This cuts into energy going into grain.  I did not think I would be saying that a rain would be OK this soon, but that is the way it is.   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midwest Fruit IPM final report

My regular readers know that I have been attending the Midwest Fruit IPM class sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.  The class has involved 4 sessions in Wisconsin and Michigan with a brief foray into Minnesota.   We have spent over 100 hours in 14 days looking at managing pests in Grapes, Apples, and Cherries.

We began our last session at Barthel Fruit Farm near Mequon, WI looking at how Bob Barthels  and Nino Ridgeway manage the Apple portion of this farm.  They use some innovative techniques to enhance production.  Next we went to Peck and Bushel Fruit Company, a start up organic orchard near Colgate, Wisconsin.  Joe and Jennifer Fahey will have some apples for sale this fall.  They will soon be fully certified.  The orchard looks good at this point with about 4.5 acres of apples. 

Wednesday morning we looked at Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery near Kewaunee, WI.  to hear Steve and Carl discuss how they manage pests n their Vineyard.  In the afternoon we visited Choice Orchards near Sturgeon Bay, WI to look at cherry production and pests. The field portion of the class finished up with a tour of the University of Wisconsin and ARS  Peninsular Research Station near Sturgeon Bay.  I am grateful for our hosts and instructors who provided us with excellent training.

We finished the class by writing Integrated Pest Management plans for one of the above mentioned operations.  About 2 hours was allowed for preparation and presentations were another 2 hours.  Considering the time allowed, all plans were well done.  I started this class with little knowledge about the fruit and grape business and finished with a workable knowledge that I can use to advise growers.  The best thing about the class was the 6 state network that we now have to look to for help with big problems.  Networking is one of the only ways for independent consultants to get help with sticky questions.

One of the most interesting things about the class was contrasting organic growers and approaches with more conventional systems.  I say conventional but all the growers we visited were progressive in their approach to chemical use.  All are trying to avoid some of the older broad spectrum insecticides and are trying to avoid allowing fungal diseases to develop resistance to crop protectants.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Subsoil Moisture

I had a septic tank evaluation to do yesterday.  The significance is that I need to bore 3 holes 5 feet deep.  In addition to the evaluation for filter field suitability,i9t gives me a chance to evaluate subsoill moisture.  Trees are very efficient at taking water out of the soil.  All my borings were near trees.  I was still finding moisture below 6 inches.  Does this mean that cropland has decent subsoil moisture.  I would say yes.  I would also say that the heat will still stress the crop, but early corn should be in shape to make a decent crop.  The jury is still out on corn planted after May 1 in our area. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Drought or Compaction

This photo was taken from the levee near Valmeyer, IL.  The corn in the foreground is clearly showing some drought stress.  The corn in the middle of the picture looks OK.  The yellow corn is clearly still showing wetness stress.  Oddly enough the better looking corn is on fairly sandy soils.  Probably Landes Sandy Loam for those familiar with soil types.  The soils showing the drought stress is heavier Nameoki and Fults soils.  The heavier soils should have more available water, but it looks like the field was worked and planted too wet and so the soils that should look bad if moisture was short are looking pretty good because they were drier when the fields were worked.  This illustrates pretty well why compaction is a problem. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Toughbook Update

I have been experimenting this spring and summer with using a Panasonic Toughbook as my primary computer both in the field and in the office.  I started experimenting with it in March, but did not feel really comfortable with using it in the field until May 1.  My colleague, Kelly Robertson bought 2 of them on E-bay and equipped them with the field version of Farmworks.  I loaded Global Mapper Version 12 on mine.  Since May 1 I have used the Toughbook in the field every day.  I had some issues with it banging a bit, so I padded it with some hot water pipe insulation that cost me $1.35 at the lumber yard.  The padding cuts down on vibration.  I did Re-tape it with Duct Tape more than once to keep it functioning.  I have found the Toughbook has lived up to its name very well.  It has taken a lot of abuse and shows no sign of any problems.  I did also buy a screen protector for it to protect it from scratching.  Unfortunately I rubbed some of the antiglare coating off the screen when I cleaned it up to install the screen protector.  So far that has not been a real problem. 

The visibility of the screen is very good when I set the lines to be 3 pixels thick and labeled polygons with bold type.  I use a white background and black lines.  The one thing I have not done well with Global Mapper is recording tracks.  It works, but not as easily as the Archer equipped with Farmworks.  That is one reason to load Farmworks on the Toughbook instead of Global Mapper.  I prefer Global Mapper over Farmworks for other uses however so it is a tossup.  I do not sample with the aerials turned on because of visibility, but I still like having them with me in the field and I can turn them on as needed.  I use the 2005 black and white digital ortho's as my primary aerial.  When I am in the field, I am as close as the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot to being able to download anything I do not have.   I do like having a full-blown PC in the field.  I plan to continue using this as long as it lasts.  I will probably replace it with a similar set-up.
Toughbook mounted on the 4 wheeler.  Note the padding.

Toughbook with Garmin 10 bluetooth GPS receiver.  I have used a Win-Tec GPS receiver too. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cherries Jubilee

Another Silent Saturday Post.  Tart cherries are almost ripe in Door County Wisconsin.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Midwest Fruit IPM

WE have wrapped up the final 3 days of the Midwest Fruit IPM (integrated pest management) class that I have been involved in since the first part of January.  This week was in Door County Wisconsin.  It has been a whole new experience for m to learn about growing fruit.  Door County is a wonderful place that is heavy on agro-tourism.  There are a number of wineries that offer wine tasting.  The orchards all seem to have some sort of activity for the kids.  On my own time I have visited a dairy that makes their own ice cream.  The scenery is sort of classic agriculture and the crops are much more diverse than mid-Illinois.  I will offer details of the experience next week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feeding the world

When I was a college student, one of the themes was "Agronomy Feeds the World".  The "Green Revolution" was taking hold in less developed parts of the world and some of those countries were becoming self sufficient in food.  After about a 40 year lull in that theme we are hearing it more often again.  The latest issue of National Geographic has an review on How to feed a growing planet.  Some of the review may offend animal agriculture growers because it calls for using more vegetable protein.  Unfortunately soy protein just does not have the taste and texture of meat.  Another consideration in continuing to eat meat is that grazing animals eat stuff that we cannot from land where we cannot grow food crops.  This chart on food waste is interesting.  We definitely need to find ways to preserve fresh food in storage and transportation.  We grow more than enough food, but we waste way too much for various and sundry reasons.  The other point made in the review is that we need more research to increase yields and maybe even develop new crops.  I find this viewpoint to be supportable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No-Till Builds Soil?

This is a nicely done article in No-till Farmer about Iowa farmers who use no-till.  It discusses the advantages of using less fuel and other inputs, conserving Nitrogen, and reducing erosion. Some of the disadvantages I think need to be worked on include the yield lag. Some soils may not be suited to No-till rippers and vertical tillage, but some people I work with use those things to erase the yield lag. Some researchers say that No-till does not really build up the soil, it just degrades it at a lower rate.

I think No-till is here to stay and some very successful farmers are using it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Japanese Beetles.

An annual insect plague in the farm world is the Japanese Beetle invasion.  They will eat over 200 different plants including most field crops.  Some of the things I have heard they feast on in addition to corn silks and soybean leaves include waterhemp and Virginia Creeper.  Integrated Pest Management for Japanese Beetles says to scout soybeans and spray at a threshold of 30% defoliation.  Corn should be sprayed if silks are clipped to 1/2 inch or less.  Some farmers who spray fungicides mix in insecticides as well for beetle control.  This idea could create resistance problems.  Continue to scout soybeans after spraying because additional invasions are possible.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sturgeon Bay

Long road trip to finish classes in Apple, cherry and grape integrated pest management.  I travelled the heat of the corn belt and here is what the crop looks like to me.   First off there seems to be a lot of corn planted.  Second, most of the crop does not look great.  There are lots of areas drowned out or stunted by excess water.  They are not evening out much and probably won't.  There was some drought stress from Dekalb and north into Wisconsin.  Reports today are that the drought is broken, but at the expense of wind damage.  I am not a great judge of Wisconsin corn, but it looked like it was planted late.  Soybeans look a little more promising, but there is some wetness stress there too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sampling Philosophy

A recent question about spring/summer soil sampling causes me to give you a review of  previous blogs on how we sample.  Spring Sampling Season.

Here is one on Soil Grinding.  We strive to have the best possible samples to analyze. 

This blog summarizes my sampling philosophy.

This blog on sampling tools gets read somewhat regularly.

Samples need to be dried without heat for accurate results.  Here is my drying cabinet

Most of our sampling is done annually.  Here is why

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Silent Saturday

Full upper river tow of empty grain barges

 Lock and Dam 6 Trempealeau, WI

 Night shot of Lock and Dam 6 Trempealeau, WI

Friday, July 8, 2011

Litchfield Overpass

This is one of my more attractive photos from the Litchfield overpass.  I know I am a bit early but my schedule will not allow a photo next week.  This one seems to capture crop progress in the area pretty well.  The soybeans in the foreground are blooming, but not a great stand.  The corn in the middle is just about to tassel, but kind of uneven.  The corn in the background is fully silked and pollinating.  Last night's rain should help that process. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is prairie compatible with cropping?

Many people have used the Conservation reserve program to restore prairies on their farm.  One practice that has not taken hold is using prairie strips to manage runoff and capture sediment.  I have seen Narrow grass strips, 10 to 20 feet wide used in place of terraces.  The strips trap sediment and slow down runoff.  This article from No-till Farmer Leopold Center advocates using prairie strips in cropping systems.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Long Range Forecast looking backward

During sampling season, I have a difficult time keeping up on all my reading, even when my weeks are interrupted by rain.  The April 4 Farmweek News has an article in it about the long range forecast for spring.  The forecast predicted that April would have above average rainfall and below average temperatures making early planting difficult.  Good job NWS Climate prediction center.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Palmyra - Carlinville

I think I sampled my last 2 fields this morning.  I have been waiting to make sure they were not taking prevented planting.  One of the fields was planted.  The other was being planted as I sampled it.  There is one field between Hillsboro and Litchfield that was still unplanted this morning.  We missed most of the rain forecast for the weekend so we are starting to look "normal".  Soil moisture was still very moist to moist.  another week of dry weather will be OK for now.  The dryer weather is taking some of the yellow out of crops, but low spots have lost too much nitrogen to recover.  There has been some flooding in creek bottoms and some of that corn is just dead.  If water gets into the whorl of the corn plant, it likely will not make anything.  The corn can take fairly deep water if it does not get into the whorl and if the water gets off in 48 hours or less. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cattle Egrets

The birds in this photo are cattle egrets.  They hang around cattle and other animals and eat insects.  Cattle Egrets are native to Africa.  They seem to be more abundant in very wet years.   They are being true to their name in this picture, hanging out in the pasture with the cows. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Double Cropping

It seems like everyone who planted wheat wants to double crop soybeans this year.  Moisture is good to slightly excessive.  I was on afield yesterday that is too wet to plant.  I have 2 customers who have not yet planted first crop beans.  Emerson Nafziger kept some records on Southern Illinois trials showing that a rotation of corn-soybeans-wheat-double crop beans is the most profitable in this part of Illinois. 

I am planning to take Sunday off from blogging.  Enjoy Independence Day. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Two Topics you might be making a decision on

Information on two topics that are relevant and involve upcoming management decisions in Illinois.  This article about deciding whether or not to use fungicide appears to be very well thought out if not foolproof.  Carl Bradley is certainly giving us something more concrete to consider than I have seen in the past. 

Aaron Hager outlines options for Waterhemp control if your application of Glyphosate did not kill it.  It does not really matter the reason for the failure.  It could have been weather related, rate related, or resistance related.  A backup method should be used because of the effect on yield and in order to prevent resistant varieties from taking hold.