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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Old Farm Machinery

Old Machinery in Jersey Co.
I spotted this lineup of old machinery earlier this week.  I recognized a John Deere Plow, a John Deere corn planter and two Farmall tractors.    Also a sickle mower and another plow.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Butler T

Passing of the seasons
The angle is a little different than past photos to show farming activity.  The foreground is tilled and ready to plant.  The white spots in the center are anhydrous ammonia tanks. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Worked north of Carlinville

Formless Concrete Chute

Tile Flow Today
The top photo is an old formless concrete chute.  It is a structure that conveys water from the field into the ditch preventing erosion.  They were constructed by shaping the soil into the desired form and then pouring the concrete directly onto the ground with minimal forming.  Not many of these have been constructed in Illinois in the last 40 years, but this one is still doing the job.

I know that many people doubt that we have adequate subsoil moisture for now, but the small flow coming out this tile north of Carlinville would indicate that subsoil moisture is adequate.  Does this mean we can make it through the summer with no rain?  Last summer proved that even with excessive subsoil moisture timely rainfall is still needed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Corn Planting Progress

Corn is emerging
I had to work on office work today, but I did take time to go out and see what is going on around Montgomery County.  I was expecting to find corn emerging, but I did not find it where I expected to.  The above field is about halfway between Raymond and Nokomis.  Yes I also saw planters in the field and planted fields.  I could see a lot of dust flying in the distance just as in this photo.  I also saw fields where planting is complete.  Judging from what I saw yesterday and today, I expect the Illinois Crop report on Monday to show at least 10-15% of corn planted.  If the weather holds through the first week of April, Illinois will have at least half it's corn crop planted.  Emerson Nafziger says there is no advantage to planting between planting the last week of March or the last week of April.  Chances of frost are still not past, but I suppose the chances of damage get less and less every day. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Farm Bill

A quote in this week's Farm Week news caught my eye.  I am not sure who it is attributed to, but the individual said he wants to reform, " the open ended nature of the government's support for crop insurance, so that agricultural producers assume the same kind of responsibility for managing risk that other businesses assume."

It would appear to me that this congressman is not at all familiar with the business aspects of agriculture and why farmers need taxpayer support to continue to provide us with the least expensive and safest food in the world.  I would like to ask him the following questions:
  • Did you know that farmers are the only business that pays retail prices for inputs?
  • Did you know that farmers sell their products at wholesale prices?
  • Did you know that 2% are feeding 98% us and a large number of people around the world?
  • Can you name another business that is so dependent on the weather?
  • Is there any other industry that provides 23% of the jobs in the United States?
  • Did you think the auto industry was too big to fail?
  • Did you think the banking industry was too big to fail?
  • If you take away the safety net will farms get bigger or smaller?
  • Did you know that farmers already assume responsibility by paying crop insurance premiums?
If my readers have other questions, please feel free to add them to the comments section.  The above quote demonstrates why people in agriculture need to continue to remind politicians and the public why they need to support agriculture.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Report From the Field

I worked in the Chesterfield area today.  A few people were working in the field, but the soil was damp from weekend rainfall.  The eastern half of Macoupin County is very wet.  The Illinois weather and crop report says 1% of the corn crop is planted.  Rain has slowed the anticipated onslaught, and people have cooled their heels a bit.  Temperatures are over 17 degrees above average in the north grading to only 13 degrees above average in the south.  I hope that does not extend into summer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Farm Ponds

Construction of farm ponds or small impoundments has been a popular practice in rural and urban fringe areas.  Farm Ponds have been built for various regions and with varying effects.  Ponds have been built to provide livestock water, fish habitat, erosion control, sediment control, wildlife water, fire protection, and for many other reasons.  Sometimes ponds have been used in flood control systems.  Research published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation provides an insight into the effects of 250,000 ponds in Alabama.  They found that ponds are not very effective in reducing surface runoff, but the ecological benefits are many.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Service to Mankind

L to R Ken Schaal, Gail Schaal, Henry Eilers, Ursula Eilers, And Tom Clay
My friends and cohorts Ken Schaal and Henry Eilers we honored Thursday night with the Hillsboro Sertoma's annual Service to Mankind award.  They were awarded for their efforts in preserving natural areas in Montgomery County and educating the public about native ecosystems.  I love hanging out with these guys.  You can't avoid learning something when you spend time with them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Illinois Agriculture Related Regulations

University of Illinois Extension Service has a web site to help farmers stay in compliance with State and Federal Regulations.
The following regulations are included in EZregs:
  • CERCLA/EPCRA reporting for livestock farms
  • Dead Animal Disposal
  • Design Criteria for (Municipal) Sludge Application on Land
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Federal Certification of Pesticide Applicators (40CFR171)
  • Federal Recordkeeping requirements (7CFR110)
  • Federal Worker Protection Standard (40CFR170)
  • Fence Act
  • Historic Resources Preservation Act
  • IEPA Livestock Regulations Parts 501, 506, 560, 570, & 580
  • IL Construction Site Stormwater Permit
  • IL Noxious Weeds Rules
  • Illinois Noxious Weed Act
  • Illinois NPDES General Permit
  • Illinois Pesticide Act (Rules Part 250)
  • Illinois Pesticide Act (Statutes 415 ILCS 60)
  • Livestock Facility Management Regulations -- Section 900
  • LMFA (Statutes) 510 ILCS 77/1 et seq.
  • Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Program 40 CFR 112

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Potassium and Alfalfa

Potassium is essential to maintain a good stand of alfalfa.  Alfalfa removes 50 pounds of potassium per ton.  Dr Miller used to say to shoot for 9 tons per acre, so you are going to need 450 pounds of potassium per year or 750 pounds of potassium fertilizer.  Sounds like a lot.  The soil does release some potassium each year, but I would not count on that with soil tests.  If you decide to skimp on potassium grass will take over your stand and protein content of your hay will drop. 

The good news is that cattle manure is high in potassium, so you can put it back on the field.   If you do not like manure on your hay, use it to maintain the crop fields and use what you save to fertilize the alfalfa. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Planting Today

Planting Underway Today
Where have you been and what have you seen is always what my friends want to know.  I have had reports of corn planting underway, but this was the first planter I have seen in the field this spring.  The weather and soil are both good right now, but as I said last week it is still a big risk to plant right now.  The risk could pay off, but it could backfire.  I should have my meteorologist son give me the chances.  This was just northwest of Shipman in Macoupin County.

Other field work going on inf Macoupin, Madison Counties in Illinois and St. Charles County MO is tillage, spraying, and fertilizer application.  Soils were especially wet between Litchfield and Royal Lakes.  Other ground is dry enough to work.  I was seeing lots of planters out of the shed.  People are tuning them up before heading out.  

Had a good time yesterday with @JPlovescotton one of my twitter friends, ,but I will let her blog about that.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Using My Droid for Sampling

Droid 2 with Ram Mount
I tested my Droid 2 as a GPS for sampling.  I found a free app called Locus Free that I tested today to see how it would work as guidance for soil sampling.  Originally I was led to believe it could display and track a shp file.  I tested that previously and found that if it can display a shp file I could not figure it out.  It does display both kml files and gpx files.  It also will display an aerial photo background, but that is too dark to use in the sun.  The kml format displays very dark and it would be difficult to use in the sun.  Inside the truck, the aerial is fine.

It is not real obvious how to get the files to display.  I place them on the mini SD card in the phone by drop and drag.  I decided that I must need to import them and went that route, but that looked to take me to a way to import online maps.  I finally noticed a load button in the import part and pushed it.  That took me to the SD card.  I had over 2000 acres of soil sample zones in one file, just to see how that worked.  It was kind of slow to load, but it worked in the end.  Once you get the gpx file loaded, you have back out of the import area and go to the tracks feature.  You have to select the tracks you want, and since they are randomly numbered, you want to select them all.  That can be a bit slow and tedious on the size file I had.  I finally found a button on the lower left of the screen to select all with one click.  That helped.   Once your maps are loaded, you need to turn on the GPS.  The button looks like a radar antenna.  You back up to the map screen and you should see your maps.  There may be a delay.  Zoom in close enough to see what you want and you are on your way.  I do carry a paper map too because the gpx map does not have attributes on it.

The Ram Mount worked better than expected.  It is a universal mount so I was not sure.  The phone stayed firm in the mount.  The screen does turn off after about 2 minutes.  Sometimes when I turned it back on, the gps was still on.  Sometimes not.  It is not hard to get it back on, but I would like to figure out how to keep it on.  The app was a big drag on the battery, but it should work with your power cord.  I had trouble getting the power cord to work for me today.  I hope to figure that out. 

So the question is, is this thing useful?  I found that it was useful.  It seemed to be accurate enough, especially if you do not get too close to the borders.  I plan to use it as a back-up system in case something else crashes.  There would be merit in having separate fields as separate gpx files to speed up loading.  I think this might be an inexpensive way to get a start at looking at the possibilities for precision farming.  The app does have mapping capabilities, but I did not test them.  A farmer would need to find someone to convert his field boundary shp files to gpx format.

There is a Pro version for $14.  I have not tested it because the free version does what I want to do.  I do not know if there is a similar app for I-phones. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Locally Grown Food

One of the niche markets that Danny Klinefelter alluded too when I heard him was the locally gown market.  In some circles, locally grown can imply organic, but it is really about giving consumers the opportunity to just know who they are buying from.  A local livestock producer we know has been very successful in selling his frozen meat at local farmer's markets.  It requires some effort on his part, but he says it is much more profitable than what he sends to market.  Locally grown means cutting out the middle men and transportation costs. 

Fruit and vegetable growers in our area do quite well with there stands and sometime bigger enterprises that seem to grow into agro-tourism businesses.  One of the bigger ones is Eckerts, headquartered in Belleville.  Orchard U Picks is a web site that includes a listing of many growers in our area including at least one of our customers.  Another example of locally grown products is the in the wine industry.  The Illinois Wine Growers has a listing of many local wineries.  Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky have an organization call Green B.E.A.N. that is dedicated to connecting producers with consumers.  Another local producer in the St. Louis area is Stuckmeyer Farms.  We also have a local dairy nearby, Marcoot Jersey Farm that is selling delicious home produced cheese.   

Probably a minor beef is that I have talked to local people who are driving up to 100 miles to buy produce and sell it at the local Farmer's Market.

Summer in Illinois always brings out the farmers who are selling their sweetcorn at local markets, along the road, or just in a vacant parking lot.  There is nothing like fresh Illinois sweetcorn.  You will not want to buy it in the store ever again.  I suppose that is the best thing about locally grown products.  They are field ripened and very fresh.  The freshness certainly enhances flavor. 

I think it would be difficult in our modern world to eat nothing but locally grown food.  Where would we get oranges and pineapple in the Midwest.  I do encourage the quest, and it is wholesome family fun to visit the farmer or the farmer's market.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Starter Fertilizer

I suppose everyone has already made decisions about starter fertilizer, but this a good time of year to weigh in on the subject anyway.  I have seen mixed results on yield response in the research I have read.  Ohio State University has completed some research that shows yield response with early planted corn and corn planted in soils with low nutrient levels.  Prairie Farmer had a well written article in February.  It looks like it will take around 3.5 bushel of yield advantage to break even. 

Some people are looking to in the row fertilizer to carry their crops without bringing soil test levels up to ideal levels.  That is a dangerous game to play.  In stressful years, higher levels of fertility will pay off.   Some are looking to overcome nutrient stratification issues with in row fertilizer.  My final advise is to test it on your farm in several places.  Leave at least one cornhead width so you can check the yield with your well calibrated yield monitor. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Septic Tank Investigation

Describing Soil Cores for a Septic Tank Filter Field Investigation

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Future of Farming

I was privileged to get to listen to Danny Klinefelter for about an hour on March 8.  He shared a number of opinions and insights into the business of farming.  He sees farming dividing in a number of directions in the future.  Maybe we are already headed that way.  He sees:
  • Large commodity producers
  • Qualified Suppliers
  • Niche Market Producers
He says many producers do not support themselves solely be farming.

Klinefelter also weighed in budget issues.  His opinion is that is is very difficult to cut the federal budget without raising taxes because so much of the budget goes to defense, social security, medicare and medicaid, other mandatory spending, and interest on the national debt.  Check out this chart

Things he is expecting will affect agriculture in the near future are:
  • Alternative Energy
  • Biotechnology and Biofuels
  • Information and Communication
  • Engineering and Technology including guidance, GIS, and GPS
He also weighed in on farmland prices.  Right now it seems that optimistic crop prices have driven land prices.  He pointed out that net farm income has dropped in 3 of the past 10 years, in 2002, 2006, and 2009 net income dropped from the previous year.  He says we can expect drops in the future.  He says that even current prices cannot sustain the growth rate of land prices that we have experienced in the last 3 years.   He expects to see farm land prices level off.  He says if land prices drop, recent high bidders are the least likely to get into trouble.  Stress will be on highly leveraged producers as interest rates move toward 8-10% levels.

He says that regulation will continue to affect farms and farming.  He quotes Mike Boehlje who says that legislation that affects farmers negatively will come out of non-ag related committees in Congress.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Current Moisture Conditions

Today I started working near Middletown.  I moved straight east to the east side of the coal mine at Elkhardt.  You may remember recently that I mentioned that based on borings to 5 feet deep I thought soil moisture was in good shape for now.  Today I saw further confirmation of that fact.  A tile was running north of Cornland.   I am going to use terms I previously explained so if you don't understand, check this link. 

Tile running means that the subsoil is saturated or as full of available water as it can get.  Our soils hold roughly 2 inches of available water per foot.  The topsoil is a bit dry, but only the top inch or so.  Some of the wetter soils I sampled were still a little wet right below the surface.  Does all this mean we should not be concerned about drought or low moisture?  Not at all.  It just means that moisture is adequate for not and will remain that way untll we get some crops or weeds growing.  Disturbing the soil will dry it out to the depth of tillage, so if you think we will have dry weather this spring, it would be good to keep tillage shallow.   It also means that we will still need 15 or so inches of well timed rainfall to rais the forecast record crop. Are all soils saturated?  Probably not, but they are at or near field capacity. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Too Eary to Plant Corn

We have reports of corn planted at least as far north as Springfield this week.  I have no reason to doubt the reports but I have not seen any planted fields.  I was working just north of Springfield.  The reports sparked an interesting discussion by email and on Twitter last night.  My regular readers know that I am an advocate of early planted corn, but March 13 might be pushing your luck.

Last night Randy Darr summed it up. "I think what is happening is that guys have been so frustrated over the last four years that they just can’t help themselves.  Good weather windows have been so narrow that they don’t want to chance it.  Also, they are very concerned that the drought that began in July of last year will linger on into the summer.  If (and this is a big if) the corn can get up and going, it will be on the downhill slope by the time our usual heat arrives in July.  If this warm pattern continues, they will all look like geniuses.  I don’t really agree with it but I understand it."  I can't say it any better.

I think if you are planting though you need to understand the risks and know your risk management strategy.  You are outside the point of crop insurance being a useful part of that strategy.  In Montgomery County, 1 year in 10 we can have a killing freeze of 28 degrees as late as April 17.  One year in 10 we can have 32 as late as April 25.  As an amateur weather observer, it looks like spring might be 2 weeks early, so maybe you can push those dates back 2 weeks.  That still puts a chance of that killing freeze at April 3, which is not a problem if you plant the last week of March. If your corn freezes off but the growing point is below the ground it will be OK.  It could be an  issue if your corn is 6 inches tall and the growing point freezes off.   

@featherchick, a Twitter friend points out  "finding seed for replanting this year could be a little bit of a challenge. Esp if you're trying to find it in mid-late April."  Joe Nester of Nester Ag Services in Ohio says,  "I’ve seen it happen a few times in the last 37 years, and they have gotten smoked every time.  With the amount of time in the future to do it right and not risk that cold snap, I think they are fooling themselves." 

All that said,  what if you have corn planted already o r just can't wait.  I say treat it like a risky investment.  Don't plant over 10% this week.  Maybe the same thing next week.  If the long range outlook is still good in the last week of march you might make a little bigger commitment, but I would still make no effort to be done before April 10.  Bottom line is that it might be better to hold off 10 days to 2 weeks, unless you can get some coated seed that will not germinate for 3 to 4 weeks. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First day of spring soil sampling

Photos sum up what I saw in the field today.  Field Cultivating in the cloud of dust.

I saw lots of field activity today .  One of our customers has corn planted.  It is early for that.  Corn planted now could get frozen off, but if it works, they might look smart.  

Fertilizer Tender Truck Waiting to fill a fertilizer buggy

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marketing is simple, it is just not easy

I have no training to speak of or education in commodity marketing.  Maybe that is why people like Arlan Suderman and Mark Welch seem profound.  I heard Dr Welch share his insights on marketing last Thursday.  He discussed the forecast corn crop and its effect on prices in the fall.  Going in to harvest, corn stocks are expected to be at a 53 day supply.  That is way off the average ending stock of 86 days supply.  Considering intended acres, a very average crop will hold next year's ending stock even.  A decent crop of 154 bushels per acre will grow the average ending stocks and maybe drive down prices a bit.  160 bushels er acre could have a big effect on prices.  I have a hard time saying that we could even make a good educated guess right now as to which direction this will go.

Forecasters are saying that our current La Nina cycle is playing out and we can expect more "normal" weather.  This could mean a dryer spring, early planting, and a good start to the crop.  Could a dryer spring mean a dryer summer and a more profound drought than last year?  Could the promise of record corn acreages change some minds and lead to lower acreages and more beans?  There are no real answers.

Ethanol consumption is leveling off worldwide, but higher petroleum prices could stimulate the growth of E15, and move demand higher.  One thing Dr. Welch pointed out is that China grows nearly as much corn as the US.  They currently import a good bit of corn to feed their growing livestock numbers.  The Chinese do not like to import food.  They currently have a ban on GMO corn.  If they open up to GMO corn they could increase there own production and reduce needs for imports.  That create a bearish outlook on corn.

Welch also discussed how to use crop insurance as part of your marketing plan.  Crop insurance can make it easier to sell corn in a favorable market cycle even when it is hard to predict how much corn you will actually have.  His marketing recommendations were
  • Be a low cost producer
  • Lock in profitable prices
  • Watch the market and be flexible
  • Don't pick one point to sell everything
  • You can't control price, but you can decide when today's price is good enough
  • Sell based on seasonal price tendencies

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Favorite Soils

My fascination with soils began in fifth grade when my teacher had us fold filter papers for the soil testing lab he ran on weekends and in the summer.  He was not my favorite teacher and yet he started a fascination that has continued for 47 more years to the present.  I learned more about soils when I participated in FFA soil judging contests in High School.

In college, days were spent studying my favorite subject as much as possible.  42 credit hours out of about 124 were in soils and geology.  I also participated in collegiate soil judging and along with learning more about Illinois soils, I got to study soils in Ohio, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.  Burt Ray, John Alexander, and Ivan Jansen, all fueled my passion further.
Jesse Drake @soilduck on Twitter asked if anyone had a story to tell about their favorite soil and why it is their favorite.  I can’t narrow it down to one really, but there several soils in Illinois that fascinate me for various reasons.

I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley in Monroe County.  Two fascinating soils on the home farm are Fults and Landes.  Fults is a dark silty clay underlain by sandy and loamy sediments.  Landes is a sandy loam.   Neither is particularly productive in terms of Illinois soils, but that is home.
Tamalco is a moderately well drained soil on low lying ridges in south central and southern Illinois.  It is distinctive because of the 7.5YR and 5YR hues in the upper subsoil.  It is not a major soil, just interesting to see and distinctive.  Another thing that makes it fascinating is the high sodium in the subsoil below the red layer.

Worthen is a well drained soil with a dark, very thick surface layer. The colors in this soil are classic earth tones.   Much of the horseradish in Illinois was grown on Worthen and its catena mate Littleton, soils in Madison and St. Clair County at one time.  

Cisne represents the southern Illinois claypan region and is worthy of recognition because of its large extent.

Drummer is the State Soil in Illinois.  It is very extensive in the area covered by the Wisconsinan Glaciation.  It is also a worthy representative of the wet, dark colored prairie soils that make Illinois such a productive agricultural state.  Other similar soils that are also very extensive in Illinois include Sable and Virden soils.

Wyanet soils were mapped as Parr when I was a field soil scientist working on soil surveys.  I always liked the look of this soil especially where it was formed in the Tiskilwa Till.  In those areas, 7.5 YR hues are common.  Redder than 10YR is not usual in Illinois at least in matrix colors.
Muscatune (formerly mapped Muscatine in Illinois) is one of the most productive soils in the world.  We would like all of our soils to look like Muscatune.  Some similar soils in Illinois that are probably equally productive with modern management are Bethalto, Ipava, Herrick, and Flanagan. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Soil-Right Consulting Services Anniversary

Luke Baker of Brookside Laboratories, Janette Pruitt, Ryan Huelsmann, Dave Rahe and Randy Darr of Soil-Right

Friday, March 9, 2012

Field View

Yesterday I attended the LincoPrecision spring information meeting.  Precision Seeding Technologies of Nokomis has recently merged with Linco of El Paso Illinois.  The meeting had been an annual event for Precision Seeding Technologies for a number of years.  Featured speakers were Danny Klinefelter and Mark Welch of Texas A & M University.  They will be featured in future blogs.  Justin Fleck of LincoPrecision made a good presentation on new steering options available. 

The Precision Planting people made a presentation on their new Ipad based monitor that they plan to use in the field.  the product is called field view.  It is hooked into one of their 20/20 planter monitors and used to give a row by row graphic look at what is going on with your planter in real time.  The monitor can be difficult to watch at times without the graphics so this looks like huge improvement. You can also use it to make notes, take pictures, and monitor exactly where you are in the fied with a Google Earth background.  I like the idea of using off the shelf products in the Ag world.  My opinion is that precision equipment is unduly expensive because they use custom made hardware.    I am looking for more farm functional IPad capabilities in the near future.

Precision Planting field tested the IPad for durability and found that it is very durable unless you step on the screen or throw a wrench on it or something silly.  The good news is that data is stored on the cloud and the Ipad is replaceable at a fraction of the cost of most ruggedized monitors if you do break it.  Data from multiple sources can be combined very easily.  Yield monitor functionality is expected in 2013.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Should I Cultivate?

I grew up on a farm in the late 50's and 60's.  One of the certainties of summer was cultivating corn and soybeans.  By throwing a little soil into the row, small weeds could be controlled even in the rows to a certain extent especially in corn.  We often supplemented the cultivation in corn with 2,4-D.  The down side of cultivating was staying awake and staying out of the crop.  It is tedious work.  Researchers at the time found some small yield advantage to cultivating, possibly because of an aeration effect.  Atrazine came along and with other soil applied herbicides, we were able to avoid cultivating out corn here and there by spraying instead.

Mechanical weed control in soybeans never seemed to work as well as corn even if we did more cultivations.  In some fields, infestations were so bad that cultivation was needed once a week.  In soybeans, mechanical weed control always seemed to include a hoe, a weed hook,  or a machete. I have never seen figures, but I suspect that herbicide use in soybeans increased yields dramatically.  Researchers also found a bit of a yield advantage to soybeans in rows less than 15 inches apart.  With narrow row soybeans and bigger farms, cultivating went the way of mule power on many farms.

With herbicide resistant weeds in the picture, some are advocating cultivation as an alternative or maybe as another mode of action for weed control.  Is this a bad idea?  I don't think so.  Maybe it is time for a ridgetill comeback.  Cultivators with disks and sweeps, may be more effective than sweeps alone.  Some wet fields may benefit from the aeration of cultivation as well.  This might be a good reason to get RTK added to your autosteer for more accuracy and to keep from cultivating out rows.  With bigger farms, can we cultivate everything?  Probably not, but it might be something to try in problem areas.  Much like herbicides, cultivation is more effective on small weeds.  Some sort of a band attachment on the cultivator might allow spraying the rows in the same trip as mechanical cultivation.

It will be interesting to see what happens.  I will post a picture when I see cultivation in progress.

Tillage Underway between Hillsboro and Springfield

I went to Springfield today for some informal training with a co-worker.  Going and coming there were people doing secondary tillage, mostly field cultivating and soil conditioning.  The ground looks ready to plant after the tillage is complete, but planting time is still a month away.  I hope the people tilling now are planning to plant into a stale seedbed.  There is no point in tilling now and then going back and burning up more fuel in April when planting is done.  One pass should do it in most cases. 

I have also seen anhydrous wagons on the road.  With the warm weather we are having, I would be using inhibitors with nitrogen application when applying this early.  I have not checked soil temperature, but It could easily be warm very early this year. 

Wheat is breaking dormancy.  Now is the ideal time to apply nitrogen to wheat.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Soyben Cyst Nematode

What is a nematode?  It is a small wormlike creature that attaches itself to soybean roots and interferes with water and nutrient uptake.  The effects are especially problematic in dry years.  How can you tell if you have soybean cyst nematode (SCN)?  Soil samples should be taken and analyzed by a lab.  Nematodes are barely visible with the naked eye, and there are thousands of species, so the best bet is to have an expert see what you have.  Unfortunately the test is not necessarily definitive, so you might want to assume that you have them. 

What can you do about SCN?  One good reason to grow corn two years in a row is to reduce SCN populations.  Another good strategy is to get wheat into the rotation.  I our area, wheat is often followed by double crop beans, so that might not be as effective as we would like.  Check the resistance on your seed.  Some varieties are better than others.  If you have had a problem in a field in the past, you might want to shoot for one of the more resistant varieties. 

For further reading check out this article out of Iowa.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sprayer Training

I ran across this article on applicator training offered by BASF.  After last summer's day with Andrew Landers, I can understand how sprayer problems could lead to some of the resistance issues we have today.  It is essential that we get good coverage when we use crop protectants.  Too much or too little can both lead to problems.  Guidance systems and sprayer boom shutoffs seem to be more essential than ever.  Nozzle selection and maintenance is also a key. 

Also check out this article by Willie Vogt.  He advertised it on twitter this morning.  I had my first draft done last night.  Keep in mind that even "organic" growers use sprayers. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Indiana Livestock regulations tightened

Agweb reports that Indiana is tightening regulations on medium sized confined feeding operations.  Soil phosphorous, amount of manure storage, and spreading on snow are issues.  Right now Illinois allows spreading on snow under certain conditions. The march of regulation seems to never take a break.

One of the things the article points out is that even small farmers can be regulated if they have a fish kill or a spill.  In Illinois pretty much all farmers are regulated.  In other words, everyone has to follow the rules.  The question is documentation.  A written manure management plan is supposed to be in place for everyone with over 1000 animal units.  Those with smaller operations need to have a plan and follow the rules, but it does not need to be in writing.  If there is an alleged problem on the farm, regulators can invite themselves onto a producer's property.  Once they are on the property, they can look at anything.

A livestock producer commenting on the above article complained about the cost of implementation.  One of the things I have seen is that farmers do not consider the value of the fertility in their manure.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Illinois Specialty Growers Grants

According to Prairie Farmer, Illinois had $630,000 in grants available for specialty growers.  This is a good opportunity for those not growing the major crops in Illinois.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ready to plant?

Yesterday I saw 2 or 3 planters out of the shed.  Are these guys ready to plant?  I hope not, although a few years ago a coating technology was available that would allow corn to be planted very early and germinate 3 to 4 weeks later.  I suppose they were out just to make sure they are ready to plant.  Precision Planting has a checklist of things to do before planting.  I cannot write a checklist this well, so click on the link.  Be sure and check out the video too.  If the weather holds, April 1 will come around fast.  I suspect some will push that date a little bit too if soils are warm.