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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stone Foundation for a barn

I ran across this barn foundation in Brown County today.

Barn Foundation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anhydrous Ammonia Being Applied.

The nurse tanks below were filled and ready for Monday morning when I drove through Atwater on Saturday.  They really got rolling today.  While I understand workload concerns for suppliers as well as farmers, it may be a little early for this.  Soil temperature is below 50 right now, but will it stay there?  Keep in mind that harvest finished extra early.  How warm and early  will our spring be?  How wet?  There are more questions than answers right now.  People ask if they should use nitrification inhibitors.  I give an unequivocal yes.  The days of just adding a little extra are past.  Fertilizer is too expensive and the environmental hazard is significant. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Soybeans in Brazil

 By Eduardo Paim

Here in Brazil, mainly in the Midwest farmers are having to replant soybean areas due to lack of rain. We are having low rainfall and are taking between 10 and 15 days between rains falling.  This has producers that are having a replanting about 10% of the total area.
It is very hot and soybeans planted are dying first.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Arches Rail Trail

I am on the board of directors of the Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians.  We are a committee of the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District.  For a number of years, we have been pursuing opening a trail between Montgomery County Fairgrounds and Audubon Society's Bremer Sanctuary near Hillsboro.  The trail was recently opened to the public as a hiking trail.  Many people deserve recognition for making this happen but no one took the bull by the horns like Ray Luebert shown below.  Our project today was to install mile markers to give hikers some idea of where they are.  The top photo shows hikers enjoying the fall day.  It is gratifying to see people using the trail. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baled Stalks

This customer shredded his stalks before windrowing them and baling.  It looks like the shredding may have created a more palatable product. 

Baled Corn Stalks

Corn stalk windrows

Friday, October 26, 2012

Grazing Wheat

This cattle producer is using an old practice not often seen any more.  He sowed wheat as soon as his corn got harvested and is now grazing his feeder cattle on wheat about a foot tall.  He already has one area he grazed down to 3 inches.  It can be grazed lightly again when it breaks dormancy.  A crop of wheat will be harvested and maybe double crop soybeans will be planted. 
Feeders grazing wheat

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Corn folllowing corn yield hit?

Once again there have been reports that corn following corn has underperformed this year.  One of the shortcomings of growing more corn than soybeans is disease pressure.  Another is insect pressure.  It seemed that dry weather kept diseases to a minimum, but not rotating certainly adds to the risk.     Another issue could be nutrient cycling.  Decomposing crop residue could be an issue.  The carbon in the residue ties up the nitrogen in the soil.   Keep in mind that the residue on the top is probably not a big issue, but roots and buried stalks do need nitrogen to start that decomposition process.  Drainage is generally an issue in corn after corn.  That issues is unlikely this year, but we did have good moisture in March and April at least in my area. 

Long term research on continuous corn and corn on corn rotations usually indicate something like  a 10% yield hit.  I have heard lots of people say they do not have that problem, but 6 years in a row with even performance and then a year with a 60 or 70 bushel hit would certainly set your average back at any yield  level.  Does this mean you should not grow long term corn.  Certainly you should consider the consequences.  We have one customer who has grown corn continuously since 1954.  Am I going to tell him to switch off?  I don't think so.  I look at what he is doing. He maintains high soil test levels.  He has well tiled fields.  I bet he watches which hybrids work best in continuous corn.  You also need to take preventative measures for disease and insect repression.  If you decide to go for it, do so with realistic expectations.  If you can't stand the risk, then switch to a corn soybean rotation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cover Crops in Illinois

Soil and Water Conservation Society is sponsoring a two day program on Cover Crops in Illinois.  It is a relatively inexpensive program and I have had a number of questions on the subject.  I am planning to attend.  Hope to see some readers there. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Red Tractor

I spotted this International Harvester 1456 one day last week.  It appeared to be unrestored but in top condition.  This was a hot tractor back in the day.  Still looks like overkill for an auger tractor. 
International Harvester 1456

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weather and Crop Report

Looking over my Illinois weather and crop report it is difficult to dispute anything.  The possible exception is wheat planted.  At least in our area, I think 90% of the wheat is planted.  Yes there are always some dragging behind.  I find it hard to believe that our corn and soybean harvest is lagging behind 2010 a bit.  That number is not really significant. 

We had 2.5 inches of rain today and things in my immediate area look very wet.  I was at West Alton today and my customer said it only rain a tenth of an inch.  The lightening sent me home.  It seemed like every cloud no matter how small had a  little shower in it.  Topsoil moisture in the report is still 23% Short and very short. That is hard to believe, but the number is getting smaller. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Variable Rate Fertilizer

Variable Fertilizer is on my mind tonight because that is what I am working on.  We still have many customers who do not use variable rate prescriptions as such, but we  have been making site specific recommendations for many years.  Since our sample zones are often visible on the landscape, some of our customers have been using our "poor man's" variable rate system for years.  As a result, many of the fields we sample are fairly even in fertility.  On uniform soils, this might be expected.

On variable soils, I am expecting that in the  long term some of the fields we sample will develop variability in fertility because of variability in yields.  This will be a long term issue, but in the short term we may still be doing blanket applications.  I have mentioned that we find variability in pH because the soils with higher clay content need more lime in order to move the pH and calcium balance in the right direction.   pH controls availability of all nutrients, so it is important to keep the whole field in the ideal range.  Too high is just as bad as too low. 

The other advantage to variable rate applications is the saving in material.  If you don't need it, don't spend the money on fertilizer.  The nominal fee for variable rate spreading is well worth the cost if you have a few zero areas in the field.   I also think there is money to be made if some areas of the field are extremely low. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wild Turkeys

Top Photo shows shadowy turkeys in the woods.  There were about 20 in the field when I came up on them, but I could not get the camera out fast enough.  Even if you can't see the turkeys it is pretty fall colors.  Click to enlarge.  The photo below is a soaring Turkey Vulture taken on the same day and same general area. 

Wild Turkeys

Turkey Vulture

Friday, October 19, 2012

Old Conservation Practices

The aluminum surface inlet below caught my eye earlier this week.  Surface inlets are used to channel surface water into underground tile in shallow ponded areas, water and sediment control basins and tile outlet terraces.   They are also called risers.  The aluminum inlet was one that was used in the 70's when these things were first introduced.  The advantage is they never rust out.  The disadvantage is that if you  hit one with your machinery, you are likely to break off the inlet and break the tile it is attached to.  The orange inlet below is a trademark of a plastic inlet manufacture by Hickenbottom.  The plastic inlets are very tough.  They are in two pieces and the top piece can break away from the bottom without doing much damage.  If the farmer is not too tough on them, all he needs to do is get off the tractor and put it back in place.  The aluminum inlet that is still working is kind of a tribute to the care that has been taken by machinery operators in farming around it all these years. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are My Pine Trees Dying?

People sometimes think that their pine trees are dying when they look like this.  It is just Fall needle drop.  Pines hold 2 years of needles during the growing season. In the fall they drop the oldest needles. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NAGs Field Workshop is October 19

The Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians (NAGs) will be holding their annual field workshop on Friday, October 19, at 2 pm.  This year’s workshop will visit Bremer Sanctuary located just north of Hillsboro.  Over the years the Illinois Audubon Society, owner of the Bremer Sanctuary, has performed several conservation practices on its 203 acre property aimed at conserving soil, water and wildlife.   View and discuss these conservation practices with staff members from the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, Bremer Sanctuary and the Natural Area Guardians.  Participants will be given guided tours to view several dry pond structures, mature CRP fields, a bottomland hardwood tree plantation that is ten years old, and other projects.

Meet at the barn parking lot at the Bremer Sanctuary on Friday, October 19, at 2 pm.  To get to the Bremer Sanctuary go ½ mile north of Hillsboro on the North Road, make a left at the first road (Bremer Lane), go past the house and follow the road until it reaches the barn.

Conservation Credits for Certified Crop Advisers have been applied for again this year.

The goal of NAGs is to locate and preserve natural areas and open spaces in Montgomery County.  NAGs is affiliated with the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District.  For more information contact the soil and water conservation office at 532-3610, extension 3.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crop Progess

Harvest continues at a fast pace.  Rains this weekend did dampen that a little, but combines were in the fields in some areas again today.  I worked between Greenfield and Roodhouse and it was very wet in that area.  There is water standing the field.  Many customers are done or nearly done with harvest. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Soybean Planting Still delayed by dry weather in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim

Here near the city of Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso the few producers who plant large areas started planting around the 15th of September, as were having a lot of rain. The problem is that in recent weeks the rains have become few.  I know of 800 acres will be replanted because soybeans was sprouted but had no more rain and it hurt them.

The problem is still small, but everyone is waiting for the rains to plant. We are already losing areas that are planted.

We're still here with little rain.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Killing Volunteer Corn

I thought the title of this article in Prairie Farmer was kind of funny because it came out a day or 3 after volunteer corn froze out. Most of the corn in our area has been taken care of by nature.  Still some light tillage would not hurt if you are planting wheat.  Some of the corn was knee high already.  Most of the wheat in our area is already planted.  I would guess we might have higher than average acreage.  A lot of it was planted in corn stalks because they were harvested first.   

Frozen Volunteer Corn

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Soybean Harvest

Soybean harvest is about over for us except some double crop beans.  Below is in first crop beans.  Field should be done by evening.

Unloading on the go

Friday, October 12, 2012

Soybean Yields

We have heard from a number of people about some very promising soybean yields.  50 to 60 bushel soybeans seem to be pretty common.  Yes I know that the people making 40 bushel soybeans are not bragging about it.  I also know that some in  Logan County are make 30 bushel soybeans with poor fields even lower.  It will be interesting to see what the next supply report shows. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Planting Progress in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim

Here in Brazil the planting of soybeans is very slow. Summer rains that seemed to have arrived earlier are gone. Makes about 12 days since we had a good rain. It detracted from the beginning of the planting of soybeans and corn.

We'll see if the weather improves here for us. If we get another 10 days without rain we will begin to worry!

Who started planting were the major producers, but if we run out of good rains they may run the risk of replant somewhere.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Soybean Head

I noticed this combine harvesting soybeans in the field next to me today.  What is unusual about it?  The head is designed specifically for soybeans.  These were popular 20 years ago.  As narrow row soybeans have become more popular, most people now use a standard small grain head.  Improvements in sickle bars and header controls have helped with the grain heads too.  A standard Grain head is also more versatile because you can harvest more than one crop with it.   

Soybean Head

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Soybean Pods

If you look closely at the photograph below (click to enlarge), you can see that there are no pods on the soybeans below about 6  inches from the ground.   This is how the soybeans were able to make it though the dry weather and hold on until they got some rain.  Soybean plants abort blooms and pods when they are under stress.  This years soybeans just refused to support pod formation until it was time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Late Hay

I saw several fields of hay cut today.  We like to have hay ground in good shape at this time of year.  Strong crowns help get the plants through the winter.  If you have alfalfa you would like to cut, makes sure it has had plenty of time to develop strong roots.  We had a freeze last night, so chances are, not much more growing will be done any more this fall.  Make sure that fertility is in good order now too.  You want the hay to get off to a good start in spring.  If you have hay ground that is going into row crops next spring, by all means get all you can baled.  There should be a good market if you don't need it yourself.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cellulosic Ethanol

I am reading an article today about cellulosic ethanol production in Prairie Farmer.  They point that we have been hearing for years that cellulosic ethanol production is right around the corner.  It looks like the time is finally here a with 4 plants coming on line in 2013.  This would have been a good year to have such a plant in drought stricken areas.  While most of the new plants are going to start by using corn, the potential for alternative crops is huge.  The crops that are emerging include miscanthus, Prairie Cordgrass, Switchgrass, Tropical Maize and many others are being explored.  I am concerned about an exotic plant like miscanthus, but the experts assure me that it is sterile and cannot spread. 

Many also have concerns about erosion control if we remove extra crop residues.  I have seen some combines set up to separate corn cobs from stover to harvest energy but leave the ground covered.  I think the real potential in this technology is in the use of perennials such as trees and grasses to harvest energy from land that is not suited to cropland.  We have eastern gamma grass growing right in front of our office in Shipman. Last year also included a crop of tropical maize too.  A past blog include photos of some of the other potential bio-fuel crops.   This is an exciting time to be involved in agriculture. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Passing of the Seasons

I almost overlooked the October passing of the seasons photo.  Corn in the foreground has been harvested for almost a month.  There is a yellow streak in the middle that is soybeans that are still holding their leaves.  To the far left on the horizon is corn to be harvested. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Illinois Alumni Tour

Last night The Maschhoff's hosted a University of Illinois Alumni program at their facilities shown below.  I rode a bus with Ken Maschhoff as the tour guide.  He provided us with a candid commentary on their business and its history.  The high spots of the tour included a stop at their feed mill, a stop at the home farm, and a stop at their research facility.  We were able to go inside the research facility and listen to the University of Illinois Faculty, Staff, and Graduate students that work there.  The Maschhoff's have facilities all over the Midwest and they are the largest privately held pork farm in the United States and maybe in the world.  There are bigger pork production operations, but they are run by publicly held corporations.  I am persuaded that the Maschhoff's probably know more of the finer points of animal feeding, pork genetics and animal welfare than anyone else in the business.  They believe that they are the best at what they do. 

They appear to have a unique partnership with the University of Illinois in terms of the number of people involved in the relationship.  They give the University the chance to do cutting edge research in feed and genetics.  Obviously the Maschhoff's benefit from the relationship, but so does the rest of the agricultural world.  Thanks to out host. 

Their soon to be expanded headquarters is shown below.  We met and had our meal in the conference area of the building. 

The Maschhoff's

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall Nitrogen Management

I saw a disturbing sight today.  Nitrogen was being delivered to the field.  Illinois Agronomy Handbook says that fall applied nitrogen should not be applied until soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  I would add that there should be some decent chance that it will not go above 50.  Why is that?  The bacteria that break down nitrogen become somewhat dormant at 50 degrees. Illinois State Geological Survey shows 10 AM soil temperatures in the high 50's.  Illinois State Geological survey shows high soil temperatures are still well above 60.

4R Nutrient Management is all about choosing "the Right Nutrient Source to apply at the Right Rate in the Right Place at the Right Time."  I could not see anything right about applying Anhydrous Ammonia at this time of year.  It is too early for corn for next year.  It is not the right material for wheat for this time of year.  Wheat gets all the Nitrogen it needs to get out of the ground from DAP and residual N in the soil.  Wheat responds best to March applied Nitrogen.

If we are to avoid more regulations, our fertilizer dealers need to do better.  It looks like this dealer was just begging for regulation.  Some have called me for jumping to conclusions.  No I did not see the wagon in the field.  It is unusual to see nurse tanks moving at this time of year except to transport material to the field.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wheat Planting

I spotted some early planted wheat today between Panama and Donellson.  It is very early to have wheat emerged.  Insect and disease problems can abound in early wheat.  This seems like a blog I do every year.  Here is the one from 2010
Early Wheat