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Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Trademark

Yesterday I worked near a combine graveyard.  There were at least 4 of them in the weeds in various states of disrepair.  This combine had the J.I. Case trademark still in pretty good condition painted on the side.  J. I. Case  adopted this trademark in 1865.  The link seems to be the most complete story of the trademark.

Old Abe trademark

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Nitrogen

Prairie Farmer recently posted an article reminding us that Fall Nitrogen Management includes refraining from application before soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit at 10AM.  I will be posting soil temperature at 10 AM when I am in the field.  Post goes to Twitter and also feeds this blog.  I would suggest n addition that no nitrogen be applied before November 1.  I don't like to see N fall applied at all, but if you must, at least wait.  Soil temperatures can fluctuate a lot in October.  Cool One day and warm for a week.  Please hold off for both the environment and your pocketbook.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I worked in the Fieldon area.  Corn harvest is progressing in Jersey County, but not fast.  Different customer than yesterday, but this one had a combine being repaired too.  Apple harvest is also moving along.  I bought a peck of my favorite apples today.  They are Firm Gold.  It is an older Michigan variety that is sweet like golden delicious, but a much better keeper.  A few trees are starting to show fall colors and the Sumac is scarlet.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I made a short trip to Morrisonville today.  I was expecting to find more work, but my customer broke down yesterday and spent the whole day on locating parts and making repairs.  Breakdowns can be reduced with good maintenance, but sometimes the happen anyway.  Corn harvest continues to progress, but overnight drizzle has slowed things a bit.  I saw a few people in the field by 10 AM. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fillmore to Black Walnut

I went from eastern Montgomery Co, IL to Middle of St. Charles Co, MO.  It is the right time of year for it, but still striking how quickly the soybeans are going from turning yellow to dropping leaves.  I am seeing a few fields harvested, but most are still harvesting corn.  Early reports on soybean yields are in the 50 to 60 bushel range.   In St. Charles County, It looks like 75% of corn i s harvested.  Most of our customers are done there. On the Illinois side, maybe 25% of corn is harvested. 

I did get my crop report today.  It is always interesting, but I h ave no further comments.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Several Thoughts

Today I want to comment on a few things.  First, Kelly Robertson has written a number of very informative blogs recently.  I do have a link on here already, but wanted to encourage readers to take look.

Prairie Farmer just published an article on Emerald Ash Bore.  The ash bores are a devastating insect.  It is one of those exotic species that goes beyond being a pest.

We are getting to the time of year when people are thinking about planting wheat.  A past Blog  talks about wheat planting dates. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Green Tractor

Not What you expected?  This is a Steiger pulling a sunflower chisel plow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fourth Anniversary

Today I am celebrating the fourth anniversary of my blog.  I am grateful for readers new and old.  I blogged in virtual anonymity for the better part of 3 of those years.  Last year I started posting the link to my blog on Twitter and it took off.  I appreciate Twitter.  I also appreciate for their recognition and for posting links from time to time.  Their contribution to my success as a blogger is huge.  That means they bring in readers.  Most of all, thanks to all of you who check in every day or from time to time.  It inspires me to know that others are interested in my activities and opinions.

As for today.  I was in the Illinois River bottoms in Scott County today.  Soils are still fairly dry there.  They missed a 2 inch rain that we had.  Today was a good day for harvest.  I saw lots of combines in the field today.  Some are starting on fall tillage as well..  A few fields of early soybeans are harvested, but mostly it is corn. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

St. Charles County

Sorry I missed yesterday.  I was working on maps for a new client.  I worked in St. Charles county both days.  My customer has all his corn harvested.  Several farmers are done or close to done in that area although, there is maybe 40% remaining.  It turned into a drizzly afternoon. 

It is striking how many soybeans are yellow.  Because they are photo sensitive, it is not too surprising this is all occurring at once.  Some of the double crop soybeans look quite good although they are still green.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long drive - Short Day

I went to Greenfield today Via Carlinville and came home via Jerseyville.  It was a damp morning and I did not see any combines in the field.  Field activity was tillage and tiling.  Soil is moist to my sampling depth of 7 inches, but dry below that.  Soil probed fairly well.  Compaction at least in the surface is minimal.  The moisture we have gotten this moth should make the chisel plow pull pretty easy right now.  I think I will start my nitrogen management rant today.  Keep in mind that it is too warm to apply nitrogen right now. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crop Progress

Looking over this weeks weather and crop report, the amount harvested seems to be accurate as far as I have seen.  About 15% of the corn crop is reported harvested and 4% of soybeans.  After a hot summer, temperatures are very much below average.  We are still a little short of average for rainfall.  I am seeing a bit of Sudden Death cropping up in soybeans. Nothing too serious. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Low Potassium Tests

Several articles this fall have been written about low moisture and low potassium (K) tests.  I got some results back from the lab that bears that out.  Test levels actually dropped around 75 pounds per acre on average, but some of them dropped over 100 pounds per acre.  This illustrates once again the importance of soil testing often.  If we were relying on 4 year old tests, this might be difficult to interpret.  P test levels also dropped, but Magnesium went up.  I need to get out my soil chemistry books and try to learn more here. 

It also illustrates the importance of maintaining a high fertility level in your fields.  Despite the lowered K levels, my customer should not be hurt by the lower levels because they are still well beyond the "critical" level.  One reason that we want to maintain high fertility is that levels vary from day to day and week to week during the growing season.  We do not want to be caught short. It just happens that a low availability period has extended into the fall this year.  We have had some rain so I plan to go back and recheck a few spots now. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Barn Fell down

One of the few silos like this that still has a roof.  Why did the barn fall down?
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Early Surrender

I travelled to Champaign and back today.  This will be my last post of the year on how bad corn is.  Between Randy Darr and myself, we have travelled a good bit of the corn belt since July 1.  We have seen only a few fields of corn overall that really looked great.  We have been to Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and extensively over our home state of Illinois.  We have only missed Iowa and Nebraska of the big corn producing states.  My guess is that sooner or later, yields, demand, and supply, will converge to effect the corn market.  I am not a good forecaster of price, but I would guess that most people will not hurt themselves if they do not sell all their corn right now. 

I did not see many combines in the field.  This is in contrast to last year when late August and September were a little wet at least in our area, and people were out compacting the soil very early.  It seems there is something of a sheep mentality going on.  Last year harvest progressed fast because people were expecting wetness to continue.  It did not.  This year, we seem to be expecting dryness to continue.  It may not.  In addition, I saw some fields starting to go down badly.  It should be time to get serious about harvest. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I worked near Wrights today.  Yes it even has a post office.  At least for now.  Moisture penetrated 3 to 6 inches.  NO field work was underway until I got back to Piasa in the afternoon.  One combine was going there.  The corn fields I worked in today had good stover and cobs so I am guessing they yielded well.  They were planted before wetness set in this spring. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The question of the day is " Did this rain help me?"    If your field looks like the one above with some green and some yellow, the rain will help a little. 

If most of your field is nice and green, the rain will definitely help fill the pods.  I saw some double crop beans adding vegetation.  That could fill those pods well. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

West Alton

I sampled harvested corn in West Alton.  Soil moisture was good to excessive on some of the lower ground.  I sampled a rather large field on the Missouri River side of the county and my customer was able to harvest even less acres than last year because of the spring wetness.  Sandier ground in the area was very dry but loose.  Some of the silty clays were very dry and difficult to probe.  Harvest progress is similar to other places I have been.  Soybeans would still benefit from rain and it is in the forecast for tomorrow. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Scott County

I had the good fortune today to work in an area that got measurable rain on Friday or Saturday.  Moisture penetrated 5 to 6 inches.  In that small area, that much rain could make a big difference in soybeans that are still green.  There were a few more people in the field harvesting, but still not a lot.  About  l;half of they soybeans I saw today were turning yellow.  A few fields were shedding leaves.  Maybe 10% of corn is still not mature.   These numbers fit with today's crop report. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Variable Rate Nitrogen

The idea of variable rate nitrogen began with the notion that we could apply nitrogen according to expected yield.  Managing nitrogen by soil test and only applying what is needed is an idea that makes more sense.  The shortcoming is that the window for sidedressing nitrogen is small.  We have been reading for a couple of years about the chlorophyll sensors and applying nitrogen only where the plants are showing a deficit.  This machine seen at this year's Farm Progress Show takes it a bit further.  It comes equipped with chlorophyll sensors and it is built high enough to get through some shoulder high corn.  Going through high corn gets the nitrogen to the plant just in time.  This applicator is set up to apply UAN solution.  It looks to have very good potential.  I hope one of our local suppliers gets one so we can see the applicability.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Combine

A crowd gathered around the New John Deere Combine at the Farm Progress show last week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bioenergy Field Day

Yes I did some field work today and yes it is still very dry.  Rain penetrated an inch maximum.

I attended the University of Illinois Energy Crop Field Day today south of Brighton.  The program was co-sponsored by Omni Ventures Inc.  Presentations were short and to the point.  Crops highlighted were miscanthus, eastern gamma grass, switchgrass and Tropical Maize.  The first three are perennial grasses.  The maize is much like our corn except taller, higher in biomass, and higher in sugar.  The maize can be harvested for grain and then the stover is used as biofuel as well.  An old friend, Duane Friend, made a brief but enlightening presentation on Bio-char.  A bi-product of energy extraction from biomass fuels. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Greenfield again.

I sampled some 20 inch row corn in Greenfield today.  I like the looks of it, but not sure how it yielded.  Stalk quality was good.  Stover was plentiful.  Cobs were nice size.  I did not get  a yield report, but I am guessing it is good corn.  Soil was very dry, but relatively loose, so sit did not probe bad. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Greenfield Corn Ground

I sample today in the Greenfield and Carrollton area.  I did not get a report on yield, but judging from stover and cobs, the corn was pretty good.  This was early planted corn.  I did get an indication however that the corn did not reach it's entire yield potential.  Leaves were dried down but still green.  Kind of like hay.   It has to run out of water very fast for that to happen.  Soils were very dry, but I waws able to find places to bore without hammering.  I suppose the corn was planted before the soil got really wet and did not get compacted.  I also found moisture in low lying areas, but even there the corn dried green.  The plant could not take up water fast enough to offset low humidity and heat. 

There were a few more combines in the field today than yesterday, but still not near everyone.  With stalks weakened by disease and drought, I would think people would be ready to go.  The corn I sampled today did have sturdy stalks.  At least they were sturdy enough to blow a tire on my 4 wheeler.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scott-Greene Line

I worked both sides of the Scott-Greene line today.  It was very dry and dirty.  Most of the land I sampled was harvested seed corn.  With the exception of one big operation with 5 combines going, I saw very  little getting harvested.  At least half the corn had few or no green leaves, so I suspect is fairly dry.  The cooler temperatures made for pleasant working conditions, but the drought continues and soybeans show the stress more each day.  I did walk into the edge of some soybeans and they were surprisingly well podded.  Soybean harvest is still maybe a month away. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dry weather

I had a discussion with my brother yesterday about soil moisture.  He had recently been pulling up some fence posts that were buried about 18 to 24 inches.  He was finding water at the end of the posts.  Not just moisture, but free water.  With water so close to the surface, he was asking why his corn is "burning up." 

The corn is showing moisture stress for several reasons. 
1.  The heat.  We just came off of 4 days in a row of 100+ temperatures.
2.  Even though moisture seems to be within reach of roots, it takes a lot of energy to pump that water up to the top of a 7 or 8 foot plant.
3.  Shallow roots.  I sampled this summer until July 5.  I did not make one probe into dry soil during the spring and summer sampling season.  Soils below plow depth were saturated.  Roots do not grow in saturated soils.  When the rains quit coming they really quit.  Stressed plants were not able to put roots deeper as quickly as the surface dried out.  Average soils should have been holding 10 - 12 inches of water lets say on July 5.   That should have left plenty of water to make a good crop.  Quick drying, heat, and shallow roots appear to have done us no favors.  Here is another reason for tile drainage.  Tile removes saturation and allows deeper roots. 
4.  An additional consideration is that the crop ran out of nitrogen.  In some cases the nitrogen may be in the soil, but the roots could not get to it.  I base this on an observation today that some fields that were sidedressed about as late as possible are still green. 

I expect harvest to get underway full strength  tomorrow.  Lots of corn is dry.  Disease will affect standibility.  It is just time to go at it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Silent Sunday

This corn was planted on April 3 and I have watched it through the whole going season.  End rows were harvested off and the producer said he thought it would average 200+ bushels per acre.  It will probably be his best corn.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

4th hottest summer

An Article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch says this is the fourth hottest summer on record in St. Louis.  If you look at the years, the hot ones are also poor crop years.  I guess all things considered our crops will be the best or near best of the top ten hot years. 

The blue area below across mid-Illinois had less than an inch of rain in August. The Green area had less than 2.5 inches.  This includes all of our territory.  If you look close you can see county outlines in Illinois and Missouri. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Litchfield Overpass

It has been a while since I have been able to give you the view from the Litchfield overpass,  Soybeans in the foreground are starting to turn and corn in the background is ready to harvest.  Some of the corn is harvested within view.  Soybeans are maturing a bit early. I am not sure if the high sodium soils are showing here or if the wet parts of the field are showing sudden death. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vertical Tillage at the Farm Progress Show

The purpose of vertical tillage is to cut up residue and loosen the seedbed.  With that in mind I searched the Farm Progress Show to try to bring you a picture of a really good example.  My problem with most of what I saw was that the tools had curved disc blades set an angle.  What is the beef with that?  Curved disc blades set at angle will throw too much soil and cause too much compaction.  The other thing I saw on almost every tool was a rolling basket on the back.  In most parts of Southwest central and Southwestern Illinois where I do most of my work, the rolling baskets powder the soil which subjects it to crusting and puddling.
The tool below is called  a Smart till.  It may not technically be a vertical tillage tool, but it meets the requirement of loosening the seedbed and chopping up some residue.  It is similar to an Aerway.

The tool below has fluted discs that are mostly flat.  It is shown with discs running at an angle to rows, but it can be set to run parallel to rows.  It has sweeps between another gang of disks.  The sweeps will lift a bit without burying much. 

Below is a primary vertical tillage tool similar to DMI no-till Ripper that I have previously written about.  It cuts and lifts while burying very little residue.  The shanks are in line with one another for maximum lifting power.  This tool can be very valuable to reduce compaction in a high residue situation.  It also comes with optional strip till equipment behind the shanks.  The salesman also pointed out that he could sell me a rolling basket to pull behind it.  I explained my view on rolling baskets.