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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Trip to Dekalb

We took a little weekend trip to Dekalb this weekend.  Route North was I-55 to I-39 to IL 64.  Route home was Hwy 23 to I -55.  Headed both ways, corn harvest is 75 to 90% finished south of I-80.  North of I-80, corn and soybean harvest is about 25% of each.  We only saw one person harvesting corn today at Dekalb.  Lots of combines were in the field going after soybeans.  Some tillage was done pretty much everywhere we went.

I had a great time watching NIU football with my son.  I ran into a Northern Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District employee and got caught up on some old Northern Illinois Friends.  I moved south in 1986 and never got back up there for work purposes. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall Colors Starting

Fall colors are making their way to our area.  We still have lots of green too. The yellow in the persimmon was so bright it looked like flowers. The Sumac should be bright red by now, but it seems the drought affected it. 


Young Persimmon


Friday, September 28, 2012

Burned Corn

I am not sure how many of you know what a burned corn field looks like.  I suspect the combine set the fire in this field.  Looked like 5 acres or so was burned.  
Burned Corn

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back in the field

I sampled a bunch of small fields today.  I unloaded and loaded the 4 wheeler 6 times.   The customer I worked on farms some of the roughest land in Jersey County.  He is a dedicated no-tiller.  The field below is a beautiful place to work.  It is a mile long and 200 to 500 feet wide.  I always see interesting wildlife, trees, and deer stands when I work here.  Weeds are coming up fast.  I picked up some apples nearby at Joe Ringhausen Orchard.  One of his varieties is Firm Gold.  My favorite.  I also found some more persimmons.  The ripe ones on  the ground were mostly protected by a blackberry thicket. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tillage - Roughness and Residue

Both the pictures below are taken on fairly flat land, but they illustrate a point very well.  Soils this fall are for the most part very mellow.  Dry weather prevented a lot of the puddling we have grown accustomed to in the recent past wet years. Crop residue is not heavy because of drought and poor yields.  Crop residue helps prevent both wind and water erosion.  The top picture was actually from a field that had decent yields all things considered.  The producer used a vertical tillage tool to chop up his residue and then he went in a chisel plowed it.  The chisel plow buried most of the residue; in addition, the mellow soil broke apart easily and left very little surface roughness.  The lack of roughness and residue leaves the soil vulnerable to both wind and water erosion.  The bottom picture does not have much more residue that the top one, but at least there is some roughness to break up the fall  of the raindrop and slow down soil movement on windy days.   The point of this discussion is that our soils are in good shape to do minimal tillage this fall.  In addition, if your conservation plan on highly erodible land calls for 30% residue, care is needed to make sure you don't bury it all. 

Vertical tilled and chiseled

Chiseled and rough

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Soybean Planting in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim
 Here in Brazil, exactly in the state of Mato Grosso this week farmers will start planting in fact, some have started last week but they were few. Rain has fallen on many who were not expecting it and this is contributing to that start earlier than was expected!

The picture tells the story of the rain in Brazil

Monday, September 24, 2012

Greene County Today

I worked in eastern Greene County today.  Corn harvest is progressing well.  I worked some on three customers today and they were all done with corn.  One of them was starting on soybeans.  There is still corn to harvest, but there are lots of open fields now.  Topsoil moisture was good, but in so me places, soil was hard below the top seven inches.  Lots of tillage is done.  Chisel plowed ground is very loose.  I worry about erosion. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012


My son and daughter-in-law came for a visit this weekend.  The purpose was to get together with family and enjoy each others' company, but it turned into something of a tourist type weekend.  My daughter-in-law grew up in Evergreen Park so she has not had many rural experiences.    Saturday we went to our family farm near Valmeyer.  My Grandfather planted and grafted a number of pecan trees on the farm.  Because the seasons have been somewhat fast forwarded this year, the pecans are starting to drop already.   My daughter-in-law had never had the experience of picking up pecans, so we took some time and gathered maybe two pounds of them for her to take back.   She also spotted some black walnuts on the ground.  I cracked one and she decided she would try a few of them too.  This morning she got the experience of removing the green hulls from the black walnuts.  The worms in the hulls bothered her a little bit. 

This afternoon we went to Broom's Orchard near Carlinville for their fall apple festival.  The Broom's are masters of Agro-Tourism.  For their big weekend festivities, they had a craft show, games for the kids, hayrides to pick your own, a band, a petting zoo, food, and lots of agricultural products on sale along with their staple products, apples and pumpkins.  I was amazed at the turnout.  I mentioned that to a friend in a craft booth and she said the crowds are always good.  I am accustomed to stopping by on weekdays when there is no crowd.  While I am sure the agro-tourism enhances the revenues on the farm, it is also a great way to provide an educational opportunity for people who are not so close to the land. 

I have to add, that it appears that soybean harvest will get a good start this week.  Most leaves are dropped on a lot of fields.  We saw one combine harvesting soybeans near Litchfield. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

12 Inch Row Corn?

This is my 1000th blog post.  I was thinking about a blog highlights post, but this narrow row corn information caught my eye.  

I have blogged on narrow row corn in the past.  While I have seen nothing to consistently indicate a yield advantage, there is certainly no disadvantage.  We have a few customers who have gone as narrow as 15 inch rows.  If you are thinking of a change in your corn harvesting setup, there is no huge reason to go narrow, but no reason not to either.  One reason you might go narrow is to be there when it really takes off. 

There is a certain logic that makes it seem that narrow rows and more spacing between plants within the row should be advantageous.  Last summer, Marion Calmer had a display at the Farm Progress show where he indicated that 12 inch rows might be the way to go.  This summer, he announced in No-Till Farmer that he has built the first 12 inch row head.  He was also the first to build a 15 inch row head.  You gotta respect a forward thinking guy like Calmer.  I am sure that Greg Sauder is already working to make the spacing in those 12 inch rows so that the corn plants are spaced perfectly even.  It is not even a stretch with RTK guidance.   An additional advantage would be that you could use the same planter for both corn and soybeans. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Green Stink Bug

My Dad spotted this Green Stinkbug Nymph on my 4 wheeler today.  They feed on soybean pods.  Chances of economic damage right now are slim.
Green Stink Bug Nymph

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I found several persimmon trees today in a area where I have worked for 5 or 6 years and never noticed them.  Persimmon fruit is a tasty fall treat, but only when they are very ripe, otherwise they are very bitter.  As in pucker your mouth bitter.  The fruits in the photo are not ripe, but I found a few on the ground that were good.  It is early in the year to eat persimmons.  They seem to get even sweeter after a frost.  For more information on persimmons click the link.

Some people think they can predict the winter weather with persimmons. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Need for varible rate lime

One of the things that often stands out to me when we get a new client or new land is the need for variable rate lime.  In our area, on upland timber soils we have silt loam surfaces with low exchange capacities and silty clay loam surfaces (Sometimes called clay hillsides) with medium and exchange capacities.  If lime is applied based on the field average, not enough will be applied to the hillsides.  This also illustrates the reason that we use zone sampling.  It is too easy to miss some of the critical hillsides with grid sampling.  Properly liming is necessary because it affects the availability of all of our other nutrients both macro and micro. 

My friend Euardo Paim sens the following information from Brazil.

Good morning!

Itiquira some areas have 50mm of rain on Saturday (09.15.12)
Rondonópolis some areas with 30mm Monday (17.09.12)
Primavera do Leste Saturday (15.09.12) and other areas with few received 50mm to 80mm (information already started planting)
Jaciara on Saturday (15.09.12) with some areas 40mm (up to hail)
Smile even without rain
Canarana still no rain
Sierra Petrovina Sunday (09.16.12) and second 30mm (09/17/12) 10mm
Simioni / Sinop still no rain
Guarantã Saturday (09.15.12) 20mm
Peixoto Saturday (09.15.12) 20mm
Guiratinga still no rain

Let's hope it continues raining, el some regions is forecast to fall only on water 15/10/12.

By chance I spoke with a producer who is in Rio Grande do Sul, he needs more rains (it is in Ipiranga).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Progress St. Charles MO

I made a run to St. Charles County, Missouri today to try to sample some new ground.  It started to drizzle before I go there and never really quit.  I did not see any corn that was not harvested.  Soybean harvest is 10 days to 2 weeks away.  Almost all the farmland I drove past is Mississippi - Missouri River bottomland.  Most of it was chisel plowed as well.

Illinois weather and crop report says 69% of corn is harvested in the West Southwest region.  That is the part of Illinois where I am located and travel through.  That number seemed correct based on my path today. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Corn as a cover crop?

We have lots of volunteer corn coming up from the chaffy ear tip kernals that are blown out the back of the combine.  I am curious if anyone has studied the cover crop effect of corn?  It should have some similar characteristics to annual ryegrass.  I am sure it is taking up nitrogen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Flowers

Two beautiful fall flowers in bloom now are Jerusalem Artichoke and Goldenrod.  Jerusalem Artichoke is popular among those who like eating native foods because of the edible tubers they produce.  Goldenrod comes in over 100 species.  I have no idea which one is pictured below.  Goldenrod has a reputation for causing allergies, but Goldenrod allergies are very rare. 

Jerusalem Artichoke


Friday, September 14, 2012

Black Baldy Lunch

This Black Angus Cow and her Black Baldy baby had no problem letting me get close to get this shot of the baby having lunch. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Restored John Deere 4010

I spotted this beautifully restored John Deere 4010 in Roodhouse, IL.  The 4010 not only rescued Deere and Company from sluggish sales of their 2 cylinder tractors, it brought many innovations to the farm tractor world.  How far ahead of the competition was the 4010?  I remember as a fairly young kid going to a tractor pull at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, IL and the only tractors in the heaviest weight class were John Deere 4010's.  Nothing else could compete.  Green Magazine has this to say about the 4010 and successor 4020. 
John Deere 4010 - Roodhouse, IL

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Agriculture Update from Brazil

By:  EDUARDO PAIM who works in Brazil with brokering / trading of soybeans, corn, cotton, sorghum, etc.  

Eduardo emailed me a few days ago and offered to help teach and update my readers concerning agriculture in Brazil.  Below is his first update.  I hope my readers appreciate and learn from Eduardo. 
It's great to know that we will be able to exchange conversations, certainly I'll send you the information here in Brazil and other information here that I know of crops in South America
I'll tell you how it is here near the beginning of the planting season in our summer 2012/2013 for soybeans.
Since the beginning of September the producers are already expecting rains to start planting soybeans, but we have some problems we do not know how it will look, for example:
Ports in Brazil were on strike, and returned to work there for about two weeks, this will delay the delivery of a part of some fertilizer for farmers planting soybeans and this will disrupt planting; Another problem is that the Brazilian government approved a law, truck drivers must drive / work 4 hours and rest / sleep 30 minutes and so until the end of the trip, this will delay shipping that is already in trouble. Here in Brazil the distances are long and complicated.  Drivers will stop where they have rests, as he goes to sleep at dawn on the road? is very risky / dangerous. Transport for corn going for export is also delayed because the ports were on strike, and now companies are vying trucks to transport the fertilizer and maize. One solution I think is to hire two drivers, while one follows the other rests driving the truck and this will make transportation much more expensive than it already is, after the law's passage freight rose about 30%.
Another problem is that the map will only have some rain water falling in late September, and will be little rain, on Oct. 15 has forecast that rains will be good to start planting soybeans.
Here in Brazil soybean producers have sold in advance 43% of soybeans to be harvested in 2013, the same period of the previous crop they sold 22%.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shipman Area Today

I sampled some new ground today south of Shipman.  One field had been no-tilled for a number of years and the soils on the eroded hillsides were in better physical condition than I have ever seen such soils.  The other field was one of those where the crop had been destroyed because of low yields.  I know it was very spotty, but in some places there seemed to be a good bit of corn n the ground.  It would be interesting to see what affect the drought had on fertility, but since it is  new ground that is no way to know.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Crop Progress and Soil Condition

I am seeing lots of soybeans that look like the ones below.   It looks like maybe 10 days till harvest.  Corn harvest has been slow because of rain.  It looks like we may be 50% done.  Some farmers will get done with corn this week and get a break before soybeans.  I expect to see lots of combines in the field tomorrow.  A few were going this afternoon.

Soybeans maturing
There are still a lot of crop reporters still saying topsoil moisture is short.  Our topsoil moisture is good to excess.  You can see the standing water in this low spot and ruts were cut by the combine. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Much Nitrogen Credit Should be Taken.

You are planning on Corn on corn for next year and you are trying to figure out how much N credit to take from this year's crop.  Today I read one recommendation to subtract 1 pound for each bushel of corn from what you applied this year.  Cut the remainder in half and that should get you close.  This sounds like a SWAG to me.  What about cover crops?  The main thing that cover crops will do is stabilize the nitrogen in a complex form so they can start to decompose in spring and release nitrogen.  No-Till Farmer quotes  Dr. Fernandez of University of Illinois and he has some other mathematical gyrations to go through.  The big surprise is that he says that this would be a good year to do some spring nitrate testing.  He says to run tests to a depth of 2 feet.  The thought is that some of the nitrogen is in the subsoil.  Another thing to look at might be to do green strips in the spring and come back with a green-seeker to apply variable rate N.  My preference would be a spring test.  we usually start testing when corn is 4 to 5 leaf, but the test can be run when the ground is over 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spring testing takes the guess work out of it.  It also will take into account how weather affects the nitrogen in the soil between now and when it is needed. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fairy Ring

I spotted this Fairy Ring (Circle of Mushrooms) in a pasture just west of Shipman.  I am not sure what variety of mushroom it is. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nitrogen Management 2012

My reading of Farm Week News reminded me that early harvest may tempt some people to start Nitrogen application some time soon.  Some things to keep in mind.

  • University of Illinois says no nitrogen should be applied be soil temperatures reach 50 degrees.
  • No nitrogen should be fall applied south of Illinois Route 16.  I would move that up to I-72.
  • There is some evidence that applying 1/4 of your nitrogen in the fall can help overcome corn on corn yield lag. 
  • Reputable dealers will be monitoring soil temperature before delivering nitrogen.
  • Follow me on twitter (@daver819)  as soil temperatures drop. 
  • Keep in mind that environmental groups are also monitoring nitrogen applications in hopes of catching the bad players.  They want to take a fall N applications completely.
  • Fall apply anhydrous ammonia only
  • Use nitrification inhibitors
  • Illinois Council on Best Management Practices is providing nutrient stewardship advice to producers

    Soil testing for better nitrogen management is progressing.  You may want to do some N testing in the spring

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wind Damage added to drought damage

Wind damage has made a further mess of this drought damaged corn.  The price of rain.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shallow Vertical Tillage

One of my clients recently purchased a new vertical tillage tool show below.  The idea of vertical tillage is to leave a lot of residue on the surface while creating a seedbed.  The tool below is capable of that goal.  I like the straight disks and it is running at a 5 degree angle off perpendicular to the rows.  It is doing a good job cutting up residue and leveling off the field.  The straight disks minimize compaction.  The producer is planning to plant soybeans in the stale seedbed.  This is a big change for him because he has used a DMI Tiger in the past to really churn things up. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weather and Crop Report Sept 4

I know they seem like an easy target, but I cannot help throwing in my opinion on the weather and crop report.  How can you say topsoil moisture is less than adequate with 3 plus inches of rain?  I worked in the field and everything probed easily.  The topsoil has plenty of moisture for  now.  We need more moisture to recharge the subsoil.  West Southwest Illinois says 34% of corn harvested.  That may be a fair number.  We seem to be a little behind that in the places I have been, but I have not been everywhere.  Yes there is still a little corn that has not reached maturity (black layer) maybe 12% is a good number.  41% of soybeans turning yellow in my area?  Could be an OK number. Between Shelbyville and Arcola that number was higher this weekend. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Are Fall Tillage Plans Changed?

What were your fall tillage plans before we got rain?  Have they changed?  Have you taken a look at your soil with a probe?  I have not been over a lot of ground yet this fall, but soils have been consistently mellow, maybe even loose.  We had not had enough rain to settle things down.  The only surface compaction I have found so far is in places where grain carts or trucks have run over the area repeatedly.  Before the rain I would have been saying that if you are planning fall tillage, just cutting up the residue and getting it to decompose would be going a long way toward getting the ground ready for spring planting.  If you are thinking no-till for next spring, right now conditions are ideal for that.  The question is, did we get so much moisture that we will create compaction with harvest.  I expect that some soils might be wet enough for some compaction.  Be careful about getting back to harvest too fast. 

If you planted cover crops or if you are still planning to plant them, conditions should be ideal at this point.  Crops like annual rye and tillage radishes, could help you get ready for no-till or stip-till in the spring. 

If you plan to get out there with the chisel plow or ripper, hold off until soils have had a few days to soak the moisture deeper. 

Emerson Nafziger covers some dry weather tillage issues in this article.  One issue I have seen raised is that soil might be too dry to till.  Dryness will leave it lumpy and require extra horsepower.  Lumps in the fall do not bother me much.  They will mellow out.  Extra horsepower cost money.  That could be another reason to minimize tillage.  On the other hand, this is probably not an issue in areas that have had rain. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How much rain did you get?

We took a little trip yesterday to Arcola. Amish country is always interesting.  I was curious to see how the countryside looked after a good soaking.  The screenshot below from NWS shows the extent of the Isaac rain in our territory.   The yellow is 3 to 4 inches.  Some areas we travelled through got 6 to eight inches.  At the time we left, we had 4 inches.  While fields looked wet, there was very little standing water.  When we got to the area that had 6 to 8 inches of rain in orange, creeks were bank full and there was standing water n the low lying areas.  Even the areas in green got 1 to 2.6 inches of rain.  I suspect some positive aspects to agriculture.  First, the really heavy areas got some pond filling going on.  Second, most areas got enough rain to have a positive impact on soybeans that are still green.  That is about 75% in my area.  Over toward Arcola, about 50% of beans are still green.  The bad news is that some corn fields are going down badly.  Most of the corn is mature, but some still has some drying sown to do.  Rain is still falling in the blue areas of eastern Indiana as I writer this.