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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Should You Always Use Fungicides?

This presentation was made by Amy Peltier.  One of her first posters pretty much explained what to do and how.  The most important thing to know is the relative susceptibility of your variety.  Susceptible varieties need to be treated.
 This poster shows that treating areas with no disease present seldom pays.  The bar on the right says that treating with disease present works every time. 
 Advice on what to think about in your decision making about fungicides.  Also keep in mind the reason we are concerned is that fungicide resistance is inevitable.  Lets put it off as long as possible. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30 Weather and Crop Report

Crop condition continues to erode.  Only 2% of Illinois is showing adequate moisture.  I took a little ride around Montgomery County today.  The report shows 8% of corn is mature in West-Southwest area where we are located.  My guess would be closer to 25% where I tavelled.  I am judging that by ears dropped.  Once they drop the corn has no choice but to black layer.  I will say that it is possible that some of the mature corn may be uneven in certain fields with some of it still needing to mature.  Some fields around the St. Louis Area had a Sunday Rain that might help soybeans set pods.  More rain will be needed to fill pods.   

The field below is south of Nokomis.  It is a large field and it was completely harvested.  The green corn on the right is not in the same field.  I did not see any green in the area harvested.  I suspect this field was planted before April 1 and judging from the stalks probably had a decent yield.  Nitrates in stalks may prevent dry down, but this field looks like it was fairly dry.  Some of this corn may not stand well.  I expect to see some more harvested soon because of standibility issues, although most will wait for it to dry down to 20% moisture before getting too serious about harvest. 

Like everyone else, I am looking forward to the yield estimates to be released Wednesday.  I am pretty sure it will drop some.  I also suspect yields estimates will change as corn is harvested.  It is really difficult to estimate this year because yields will be a field by field thing.  We have 0 to near 200 in our county.
South Nokomis Cornfield Harvested

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trip across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin

My weekend blogs did not post as planned.  Sorry.  I was posting fromy Droid.  I hope you enjoy today's post.

By Randy Darr, President Soil Right Consulting Services, Inc.

In the business of agricultural consulting once in awhile we get the opportunity to work some unique projects. We have worked for insurance companies, the coal mine industry, and a manure refining comany to name a few. This year we are working on a project for the University of Illinois Chicago. This past week was a trip across northern Illinois into south west Iowa then to south west Minnesota to access the crop health of previously chosen fields. What I saw was a corn crop that ranged from very good to very bad. Earth shattering information I am sure. Not really. The northern Illinois crop is still very young. With another rain or two it could be a very repectable.

As I moved across, I saw fields that will yield near zero and fields that will be good if not excellant depending on the remainder of the growing season. Pinpointing how much of each there will be will depend on how wide localized rains have been throughout the season. As the old saying goes, "Rain makes grain." Due to our research I'm sorry that I can't be more specific than that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cutting Silage

A local dairy farmer north of Greenville cut silage from his drought stricken corn.  The corn had ears, so he left strips to prove his yield for crop insurance.  Also not that he left about a foot of stalks to avoid nitrate issues.  The nitrates tend to concentrate in the lower portion of the plant, but testing is still needed to determine levels. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tree damage to crops

This shows soybeans that have had moisture sapped by a nearby tree.  One way to minimize this damage is to use a root plow at the edge of the filed to prune roots.  Trees on the windward side of a field save crop damage caused by wind and cold, so don't think you need to clear out the hedgerows to have good crops.  It just depends on the conditions.

Value of Frequent Soil Testing

I attended the Brownstown Agronomy Field Day put on by the University of Illinois today.  Presentations were interesting, but as always, I find myself looking at the same research results as the researchers and arriving at differing conclusions.  Fabian Fernandez made a presentation on potential changes to crop removal tables in the near future.  He has lots of compelling evidence and I have no problem with changing the tables as I have little use in their value anyway.  Nothing beats well done and frequent soil testing to determine soil fertility requirements.  The chart he presented below seems to be compelling evidence for frequent soil testing.  The research was done on a field where no fertilizer was added over a good number of years.  The dark dots show the predicted soil test levels based on crop removal.  The light colored dots show the actual soil test levels each year.  Fernandez believes that because the trend line follows in the same direction as the predicted line that we can get by with soil tests every 4 years.  My point would be that basing fertility recommendations on a soil test that fluctuates so much from removal and using the same test for four years could easily lead you in the wrong direction and have you  over applying or under applying for a long time.  Yearly testing is relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of over or under applying for 4 years.

As always click on the photo to enlarge it.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How hot is it?

I did 2 Septic Tank investigations today.  I left the house at 7AM.  I bored 3 holes to 5 feet deep and and drank a quart of water and a quart of Gatorade.  Got coffee and went to the next one.  I drank another quart of water and another quart of Gatorade.  I was wiped out.  Got home drank more water and soaked up air conditioning.

Yes I saw some crappy looking corn.  One field near my work at Litchfield had one viable ear in 20.  Not sure if that was the whole field.  Lots of it is getting prematurely mature.  I am looking for harvest to start in 2 weeks.

Just got a report that corn at Waterloo Iowa looks bad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Preliminary Yield Estimates

It seems more and more people are checking out the corn field and making yield estimates.  We had one today in Lee County Illinois at 188 Bu/Ac.  Soils are very good and they have had a few timely rains.  I am following Jeff Caldwell of on his tour.  Lots of variability.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weather and Crop Report

Weather and Crop report day is always interesting.  This week a few reporters got rain and are reporting adequate moisture, but it is still only 1% statewide.  Corn is 7% good and Soybeans are 12% good.  That must represent the rain too.  I saw some corn today that is mature.  Ears are dropped, so there will be no more yield added.  Yes this is drought induced, but the ears have grain and the whole field is mature although some parts are more green than others.  I am expecting to hear that some are having problems getting carn to dry down although the heat may overcome that issue.

Randy is taking a trip to Northern Illinois, Iowa, and Southern Minnesota, so I am planning to pass along his updates.  Agriculture.Com is covering a Crop tour from Ohio to Nebraska this week.  They  have filed the first report.    There will be many others doing yield estimates in the next few weeks as well, so we will have some idea of the expected yield soon.  I expect everyone is looking forward to the USDA August 1 report as well although they have a poor record in the past few years. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Antique Machinery Show

Last of the 2 Cylinders - Left to Right 430, 530, 630, 730, 830, 730

Grain Drill with Grass Seeder

Threshing Demonstration
I always enjoy an antique machinery show, but it makes me feel old to see tractors that we used when I was a kid. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CRP Haying and Grazing

CRP haying and grazing may be an important part of you grazing plan this year.  The first step is to contact your FSA office and see if your county is approved.  Follow their instructions.

Below information is straight from FSA.  More information on the requirements.

Emergency Haying and Grazing

____________   has been approved for emergency haying and/or grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.  Listed below are the facts:
1.        Haying and grazing Authorization is effective August 2, 2012.
2.       Haying is authorized from August 2 thru August 31, 2012.
3.       Grazing is authorized from August 2 thru September 30, 2012.
4.       Participants must request approval before haying or grazing eligible acres.
5.       Producers must obtain a modified conservation plan for NRCS.
6.       Haying can be done on 50% of the acreage and grazing can be done on 75%
7.       Participants are limited to one cutting of hay and are NOT permitted to sell any of the hay.
8.       There is 10% CRP payment reduction per acre used.
9.       Producers who do not have livestock, may rent or lease the haying and grazing privileges.  

Friday, July 20, 2012


A mural Conmemorates a game between Decatur Staleys (forerunners of the Chicago Bears) and a Team from Arcola called the Independents that was never played. 

The one and only Hippie Memorial in Arcola, IL 
Today's scenes from Arcola Illinois show that Rural American Towns can be very interesting places.  Pull off the interstate and take a look sometime.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Herbicide Caryover?

There are lots of questions right now about possible herbicide carryover.  It is something to consider, but, it is really too early to tell if it will be a problem.  Hopefully, some late summer/fall rain will alleviate the problem.  No-Till farmer has this article on Crop-Injury-From-Atrazine-Carryover-Still-An-Issue.  Farm Futures has this article Herbicides Sprayed Late Affect Next Year's Crop.  Check it out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Improved Water Infiltration?

I have written on this topic before.  There are always products out there that claim to improve water infiltration.  These products almost always contain some sort of surfactant or soap product.  There is not much research on these products because the people who produce them depend on testimonials.  These products seem to have merit, but they break down quickly or they become neutralized by the soil itself.  Journal of Soil and Conservation recently published an article on the Effects of Four Soil Surfactants.  The products are not shown in a favorable light.  Some products contain microbes too.  The microbes are not likely to work either.  Remember that if it sounds to good to be true, try it on a small scale side by side.  There really is no substitute for as healthy soil that has the right pH, blanced soil fertility, and good tillage practices.  And there is no substitute for earthworms and other soil macro-invertibrates to help keep water moving through the soil.  Tile drainage is on that list for most midwestern soils too. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drought on the River

Drought always raises the question of navigation on oour inland waterways.  I caught this empty tow going up river today.  River navigation is extremely important to our agricultural export business.  The Corps of Engineers is charged with maintaining a 9 foot navigation channel at least 300 feet wide.  After I got this shot I also saw this story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch .  Misssissippi and Ohio River navigation is still chugging along.  others are not so lucky. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

What can we learn from Drought 2012

Yes I am tired of writing about the drought, but that is what is going on with agriculture in the Midwest right now.  We all know there are fields that are not going to produce any corn this year.  I can't speculate much about over all yields because it is just so variable.

My question is can we learn something from this drought.  I think so.  We should be using the stressed condition of the crop to pinpoint nutrient problems.  You should at least be driving past fields and trying to explain the variability that is showing up.  The biggest contributor to variability I see this year is high sodium.  High sodium is sort of unique to the Southern Illinois claypan region.  I also see eroded slopes being more stressed than ridgetops.  We expect this in a drought.  Be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies both macronutrients and micronutrients.

Another question that has come to mind is, Should we consider crops other than corn and soybeans.  Wheat did very well in Illinois this year.  The down side of wheat is that it has lower yields.  There is data to indicate that it can improve the farm's bottom line by growing wheat and double crop soybeans in Southern Illinois.  The problem I see with that thought is that double crop soybeans are unlikely to be viable in dry weather.  Should we think about growing grain sorghum (milo)?  Milo can be drought tolerant and will produce something in most years, but we sacrifice yield to corn.  Is there something else out there.

This will also be a good year to determine drought tolerance of corn hybrids.  Some plots may be yielding zero, but if you drive past you might still be able to pick up differences.  I am kind of surprised that some seed corn dealers are not taking down signs considering how bad the fields look.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Irrigated Soybeans

You can see the line where the center pivot does not reach.  You can also see the brown corn in the background contrasted with the green corn.  Irrigation is making a difference.  The soybeans are double crop planted in mid June.  The past 4 or five years have been wet and have caused lots of tile to be installed.  Will they dry years prompt more irrigation? 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Corn Cribs

Corn Cribs are as interesting and diverse as barns.  Here a some recent photos.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Drought 2012 Thoughts

This photo raises the question of seedcorn supplies for next year.  Seed rows have been topped but there are no tassels in the pollen rows.
 This photo is just a reminder of how close we are to wet weather.  Soybeans were patched in this spring because corn drowned. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CRP Haying and Grazing

I attended a meeting today where one item of interest to all of us is that CRP ground is currently being released in certain counties in Illinois for haying and grazing.  If your county is a D2 or  higher on the drought monitor  it is eligible to be released.  Not all counties are released at this time, but if you have concerns about being able to feed your cattle, contact the local FSA office,  It will cost 10% of you CRP payment.  Haying will not be allowed till after August 1 and some revision of CRP plans may be needed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ear Quality

This corn near Fillmore had about 1 in 4 ears pollinated.  It looks like about half an ear at that.  If you figure 150 bushel corn will be reduced by 75% for lack of ears and then cut that in half for poor pollination, we are looking at maybe 19 bushel per acre. 
 In addition ears are starting to droop signalling that they are done growing. 
 On the other hand the field below near Morrisonville was looking very good.  Pollination may not be perfect, but it is good.  The difference is planting date, soils, and one lucky rain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Crop Condition, Bond, Madison, South Macoupin

Farming can be discouraging in years like this when your corn looks like the picture below.
 Working in the yard does not make you feel better because you are getting fall colors in July.
 You wish you had an oil well in your field to supplement the ethanol you are trying to grow.
 Or maybe try to grow something a little easier to produce
Yes things did not look so good in the Sorento and Staunton areas today.  Corn will need to be harvested, but may not be 50% of average. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Corn Condition Today

I took a little tour of northern Macoupin and Montgomery just to see if anything odd was showing up in customer's fields.  As everywhere some corn looks good and som not so good.  One customer who finished planting corn on April 1 had the best looking corn by far.

The corn below is a field planted on March 13 that I have been checking on all year.  I was messing around with home made near infrared filter. The variation in the corn below is mainly due to the fact that high sodium soils respond poorly to drought.  High sodium soils in our area occur in an intricate pattern with better soils and are usually mapped in a complex because it is not possible to separate better soils from poor soils on the map.  Common high sodium soils in our area area Fosterburg, Piasa, Darmstadt, Tamalco, and Huey.   The corn below is starting to dent.  It had some good ears and some nubbins, but overall should be OK if not great.  I expect it to be harvested in Mid-August.
Infrared Sodium

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Early harvest or salvaging corn

I expect some of our early planted corn will be mature in 2 weeks.  I expect few problems with that corn.

Some people are looking into silage, baling, or green chop corn.  Before doing anything like that, be sure to check with your crop insurance people and see what they need to do.

No-Till Farmer released this information about using corn for forage.  I can't think of anything to add to it except the crop insurance issue.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Travel to Pike County

We made a trip to Pike County yesterday to socialize with a colleague.  Heading out of town to the north toward Springfield corn was looking spotty at best Some fields still had some green color  but others looked to be beyond hope.  One small field is not yet tasseling and it looked like it still has a chance.  After a stop in Springfield we headed west on I-72.  Some fields looked OK, some not so good.  As we went west, corn seemed to look kind of OK.  We got off the interstate at Griggsville and on the north side of I-72 we spoted some very good looking corn.  Big ears were set and the crop looked very green.  This was not irrigated.  I know this is and isolated area, but still nice to see someone will have a crop to harvest.  Yes it does need a good rain.  Heading south toward Detroit, IL corn was not looking as good.  Two pictures below sort of catch the gamut.  Soybeans continue to survive.  They will need lots of rain to get a good pod set and fill. 
South of I-72 this corn is beyond help

Less the 2 miles from above.  Stressed but rain could still rescue this

Friday, July 6, 2012

Number One Food Plot Failure

By Randy Darr - President of Soil-Right Consulting Services, Inc.

    Trying to think about anything but the horrendous heat and drought that we are currently experiencing, I thought I would write a blog for Dave.  He always tells me that he doesn't mind having a break.  Anyway, I needed a haircut today so I went to my barber.  Just an old fashioned $6.00 haircut.  My wife can verify that I don't need much styling.  While waiting I picked up the July 2012 issue Buckmasters Magazine.  Typical reading material while waiting for a haircut.  An article caught my eye that discussed the common failures of food plot construction.
     Food plots are constructed to provide habitat and food for wildlife.  Food plots give wildlife the needed habitat to flourish and grow.  One of the eventual consequences is that food plots can give the owner an abundant supply of wildlife to look at and to harvest this fall when the appropriate season arrives.  I enjoyed this article because the number one failure to be determined in food plot construction was the lack of a good soil test.  The writer of the article was preaching to the choir as I read.  As we always preach and the article stated is that a soil test not only provides information on what the soil needs to make it healthy, but, more importantly what it doesn't need.  I found it refreshing to see that there are others who think the way we do.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Could your cows eat weeds?

It is getting difficult to write a daily blog with this depressing weather.  I will make a trip in the near future in the local area just to see what is going on out there.  I am losing my optimism about the crop year quickly.  Yes we could still have a soybean crop if the rain materializes this weekend.

Now about the cows eating weeds.  I got this information from Katy Voth today.  With pastures n terrible condition, you might be looking for something other than chopped corn fodder.  A word of caution about weeds.    Check for poisonous plants too.  The last thing animals will usually eat is poisonous plants, but this could easily happen this year under our conditions.  If you need help getting your cows to eat this stuff, you need to contact Kathy, 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How does the drought affect my soils?

With at least a moderate drought seeming to be locked in for now, we might want to consider soil management for next year's crop.

  • If your crop is a failure should you save money on fertilizer next year? 
That is a big maybe.  If you have a reliable soil test, check it to see where you might be.  Some sampling done early last fall may not be reliable because of how dry it was then.  Soil test at several days to a week after a real soaking rain if you are not sure.  Yes that will happen sometime.

  • Your no-tilled soils are really hard, should you till them?  
I would give this a big no.  Those cracks out there are really helping do what tillage would do.  They are opening up the soil to air intake and moisture intake.  Hang in there on this and don't ruin how your soil has gotten into condition over the years.

  • Is this a good time to rip your ground?  
If you are in a system where you till, this might be a good time to get more aggressive with it.  If we are still really dry after harvest and you have some compaction issues, rip it as deep as possible.  Keep in mind that rippers will pull hard and bring up bring chunks, but that is not a bad thing.  Just know that you will need a smoothing pass in the spring.  If you have destroyed corn or if you did not double crop the wheat, tillage could begin now if your conservation plan allows it.

  • Are those big cracks a problem?  
Only if you drop something into them.  The big cracks are one of nature's ways of doing tillage.  They will help get rid of some of your compaction issues.  5 years of wet springs left us with lots of them.  As dry as it is, places that were worked or harvested wet still look worse than everywhere else. 
  • Will your soil test be accurate?
Pretty much everything can be a bit off when soil is sampled very dry.  That includes pH, potassium, phosphorous, and micro-nutrients.  We were sampling in moist soil all spring, so we should be good.  It depends on what your conditions were.  I do like spring soil tests in general.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Manure Management Issues

There was a time in the not to distant past when farms were relatively small and every farm had some sort of livestock to utilize the crops grown on the farm.  As farms have gotten bigger, producers have specialized and agricultural production on any given farm has gotten to be much less diverse.  This has become an issue especially in areas with large livestock farms and small cropland acreage.  On large livestock farms, nutrients are transported into the system from long distances away in the form of feed.  Some of these nutrients are converted into meat, poultry, milk, and eggs, but the leftovers from the animal's digestive system in the form of manure become and issue in the form of manure.

Traditionally manure has been land applied as close to the source as possible.  Over time, nutrients, especially phosphorous can become concentrated on a small area.  Good livestock farmers everywhere are looking for ways to deal with the issue of nutrient re-distribution.  We support livestock producers in their efforts.  Sometimes it seems that Comprehensive Nutrient Management plans are way to difficult.  A soil test is a good place to start when deciding what to do with manure.

This article in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation gives a government agency viewpoint of manure management in the Chesapeake Bay Area.  One of the issues that they raise is the fact that nutrients from small farms may contribute disproportionately to nutrient loading in the bay.   This information sort of indicates that we are moving closer and closer to almost repressive regulation.  I hope everyone is doing all they can to avoid this.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Parallels and Differences Between the 1988 Drought and the 2012 Drought (Thus Far…)

By Zach Rahe unemployed NIU meteorology and economics grad.

Over the past few weeks of hot and dry conditions, I have wondered whether or not this year had any connections, meteorologically and climatologically speaking, with 1988. The drought of 1988 is seen by much of the scientific and agricultural communities as the worst drought of the 20th century.
The main reason for any summer drought in the Central United States is a weather pattern called Omega Block. The Omega Block is characterized by a large ridge of high pressure flanked by two troughs of low-pressure on either side giving a shape of the Greek letter Omega (Ω) on a weather map of the country. The ridge of high pressure leaves the central U.S. hot and dry. The weather map in 1988 showed this typical Omega block. The drought was enhanced by a winter and spring with unusually low precipitation and thus soil was already dry throughout the central U.S. These factors caused over 40 billion dollars in damages (using 2012 dollars) across the Mid-West and Great Plains.
So far this summer, the omega pattern has once again blocked itself into the central U.S. and the Mid-West is hot and dry. The omega block pattern seemed to set in the middle of May and has continued now through the end of June and has no signs of breaking any time soon. 
There are, however, differences in the two years weather patterns. Winter and early spring had above normal liquid equivalent (when snow is melted down to liquid form) so we did not start out as dry as we did in 1988 when there was such a low precipitation total that barges could not travel down the Mississippi past Cairo, IL. There is also a difference in the omega pattern itself. Looking back at previous maps, the peak of the ridge of high pressure was all the way up into Canada. The peak of the current ridge is in the upper Mid-West and a so-called “ring-of fire” scenario has set up where thunderstorm complexes travel along the ridge dumping rain into Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois and hopefully that continues for at least a couple of days. 
The best way to break-up the current dry spell in the Mid-West (other than busting through this omega block) may be getting the remnants of a tropical storm to hit (not that I want that to happen to the Gulf states). The tropics brought no relief to the Mid-West and Great Plains in 1988 as there was only one tropical depression in the Atlantic from May to July and only 19 total storms for the whole year. The tropics have been relatively active this year with four named storms in the Atlantic.
A special thank you to Pops for letting me post on his blog and a thank you to the American Meteorological Society for posting past journal articles that were used in the blog and can be seen at the links below.

Bloomburg carried  a recent article on the potential agricultural costs of the 2012 drought.
Zach Rahe