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Monday, April 30, 2012

Soybean Row Spacing

This article discusses soybean row spacings.  It relates that about half the Illinois crop is planted in 15 inch rows.  Emerson Nafziger says that 30 inch rows can carry a yield penalty that you might not want to take considering the high price of soybeans.  I cannot cite the research, but in the 80's there was plenty of research that showed the highest yields were on no-till drilled beans.  People with large planters do not like to use a narrower drill to sow beans and as Emerson points out, split row units can get very heavy on a standard 24 row planter.

I like narrower rows.  15 inch is fine, but drilled is great too.  Some do not like the drilled soybeans because of seed distribution, but researchers have found that gaps in soybeans is  not a big deal.  The plants branch out and fill the open spaces.  Another issue is the extra time to use narrower machinery, but considering that planting date is more flexible on soybeans than corn, that should not be a big deal.  Farmers should be doing what they can to gain even a small edge in soybean yields just like they do with corn.  Taking the time to drill soybeans makes sense and hopefully dollars too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Too Much Rain

One of the wettest areas

Average looking wetness

Earlier Corn

Earliest corn. 
I took a short drive north of Hillsboro this afternoon just to see how wet the fields look.  NWS maps show as much as 4 inches of rain in this area.  Fields are very wet.  The earliest planted corn was planted the second week of March  It looks pretty good except for the wetness.  More rain is on the way.  It will be several days before we can soil sample and even longer until farmers are able to finish planting corn and move onto planting soybeans.

I have looked at lots of fields where corn has been slow to emerge.  Lots of farmers are considering replanting.  Most of the seedlings we dug up were alive and I advised people to be patient.  It looks like they have no choice on that issue now.  Wetness will not help emergence at this level of wetness. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rock Check

Rock Check
This is a rock check constructed across a grassed waterway to prevent wash outs.  Rock is poured into a trench about two feet deep and allowed to peak up above the ground,  The grass downstream should fill in.  I hada bit of sediment over it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Changing of Seasons

Butler T
This is a changing of the seasons photo.  I took this shot in particular because you can see some interesting stuff.  In the background is a tiling machine and a freshly tiled field.  In the foreground is a planted corn field.  Sort of in the center is a cloud of dust that is someone running a rotary hoe.  A rotary hoe was used in pre-herbicide days to kill weeds.  It was also used to break up a crust.  In this case, I think it is being used primarily as an aeration tool.  It is not a bad idea.  I am sure he is hoping to help his slowly emerging corn get out of the ground.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Corn Not up?

I worked in the Staunton area for the first time this spring.  Lots of corn is planted, but emergence is spotty especially on corn planted April 12 and 13.  Much like last year, corn planted right before a big rain does not look great.  I did some digging for or with 3 customers.  The corn is germinated and alive.  It looks like it will just take some patience.  A bit of corn was planted the last week of March.  It is 4 to 5 leaf and looks OK.  It was pale this morning, but warm sunshine seemed to perk it up by afternoon.  One field we found one annual white grub. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Resistant Weeds

Dying Giant Ragweed
Giant Ragweed is weed that has been found to be resistant to Glyphosate.  It looks like all of these are dying. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Comments on Today's Weather and Crop Report

It is always interesting to get the new weather and crop reports.  They say my area, West Southwest, has 80% of corn planted.  That seems like about the right number to me.  18% reported being short of moisture in the topsoil.  I have not seen that, and I would venture I have bored more holes in the topsoil than any of the reporters.  29% have reported short subsoil moisture.  I am not sure how that can be when tile are running. I was finding Japanese beetle grubs in one field today. 

55% of winter week is headed statewide.  Most in our area is headed.  9% of alfalfa is reported as cut.  I think we are higher than that.  Growth has slowed with below average temperatures, but it still needs to be cut now.  Waiting to cut alfalfa will make for lower quality hay. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Soil and Water Conservation Society Meeting

On Tuesday I attended the annual meeting of the Illinois Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.  I have been a member since 1980.  We had a diversity of speakers and all were interesting.

Jarrod Hudsonof Beck's Hybrids, an independent seed company, gave a demonstration of their Crop Health Imaging service.  They have used it to determine need for fungicide and also, the need for rescue nitrogen.  The service seemed like it could be very useful for the price of $2 per acre.   

Mary Lee Faupel and Michael Fricke are attorneys who work with farmers.  They did a good job covering land ownership and who controls the land.  It was a good review of part of a long ago Ag Law class.

Robert Wolf of Wolf Consulting and Research LLC discussed spray nozzle technology.  As a retired Professor he is available to help set up research, train, and consult.  His point was that if you have spray drift issues (and who doesn't?) you need to select nozzles and pressures to reduce the chances of drift,

I heard Tim Smith of Cropsmith discuss nitrogen management for the second time this year.  I am not sure if it was a better presentation than the first one or if I listened better, but he did a great job of telling us why we need to take a comprehensive approach to nitrogen management in order to maximize yield and minimize damage to the environment.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tile Trench

Because we are having a relatively dry spring,  this tile trench did not settle until after corn was planted.  It is not a big problem except there will be a little bounce every time it needs to be crossed. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rainy Day Work

My rainy day work today was to finish installing Farmworks on a "new" computer and to install it on an old Archer Juniper that we wanted to upgrade.  I was not sure how hard it would be to bring the old Farmworks data over, but I did a backup on the old machine and a restore on the new machine and it worked fine.  I had to make a phone call for support on the mobile, but after about 6 minutes on hold, I got the problem fixed in less than a  minute.  Not too bad for phone support.  I took the Archer outside and tested it.  It worked fine.  We chose to upgrade to a new version of Farmworks rather than convert to Ag Leader SMS partly because of the data transfer issue.  I guess as we get into using it, we will figure out how bad the learning curve is on the new version. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wheat, Wet, Planting Progress

I worked in St. Charles County Missouri today.  Wheat is heading and pollinating.  Not looking great any more, but still OK.  Wet parts of fields were not dry as a result of last weekend's rain.  We had to go around a few wet spots but still got everything sampled.  We sampled all corn ground today.  It was V2 to 4 depending on planting date.  It looked good.  Only a few plants were gnarly looking fro the freeze.  No insects.  I would judge corn planting in that area to be about 75% done.  Lots of people are finished, but some of the slow guys have a bit to go. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


One pest I can always count on encountering in the spring is cutworm.  Yes I found some today a short distance north of Carlinville.  I did not count, but at least 1% of the plants were cut.  That does not count leaf feeding.  In addition, some leaf damage from frost was present.  I heard Mike Gray of University of Illinois saying that the time to spray is when leaf feeding starts.  He said the old 3% rule does not hold up with the high price of corn.  This is consistent with one of my customers who has always said to spray if you see damage.  If the cutworms are eating, they will be at the threshold tomorrow anyway. 

I have in the past seen cutworm damage in cutworm resistant corn.  The cutworms have to eat some corn to die. If you have cutworm resistant corn, keep that in mind. 

Yesterday I attended a very interesting meeting put on by the IL Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.  I am saving those comments for a rainy day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Henry Ford would be proud that Ford Motor Company is using Kenaf in the manufacture of it's door bolsters.  He was a big supporter of using renewable materials.  Kenaf is a tropical plant similar to bamboo and related to cotton.  It can be grown in the southern states and California.  The new material will replace 300,000 pounds of petroleum based resin in the Ford Escape.  The Kenaf is eco-friendly and farmer friendly.  We can always use more diversity in production agriculture.  Check out the link for more information.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wet Spring?

Toward Greenville
I went to Greenville today to do a septic tank investigation.  I guess one wet weekend does not constitute a wet spring, we got more than enough rain for now. (3 inches) About half of the corn fields are planted.  The deep boring did not show any excessive moisture, but it was on sloping ground.  Since the soil was atypical, it may not mean a lot, but subsoil moisture was OK. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rainfall and Drought

Rainfall Last 90 Days (click pictures to enlarge)

Drought Conditions in Illinois

Two information sources concerning long term weather conditions are National Weather Service rainfall maps and the US Drought Monitor a cooperative site maintained by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  The areas of Illinois with the lowest rainfall also show as having slight  drought conditions.  We do have more rainfall on the way and the drought monitor map will be updated to reflect this week's rainfall on Wednesday. I hope we got enough rain to plant crops in those dry areas.  In Montgomery, Macoupin and surrounding counties, we will miss several days of field work this week.  I do expect that the rainfall will help the frozen corn to recover quickly.  I also expect that corn planted in the last 2 weeks will be among the best yielding this year.  The jury is still out on the corn planted in March.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Duck Blind

Duck Blind
This duck blind is complete with electrical outlets.  Duck hunting is big business in St. Charles County, MO.  Crops are planted and harvested.  After harvest, water is pumped from wells to flood the area providing perfect habitat for waterfowl hunting.  Hunting can be great supplemental income to farmers if they can find the hunters.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hillside Seep

Hillside Seep
This wet spot on the side of the hill during relatively dry weather is a good illustration of why tile can be necessary even where surface water runs off.  This hillside is tiled, but it looks like the tile was not placed to intercept this seep.  It can be a tricky thing to do.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cold morning

The weather man was off a few degrees this morning.  We had 33 at the coldest, but I saw a lot more frost this morning.  It was really hard to see any additional damage to crops.  It seemed that leaf tips were stunted from yesterday's freeze, but no real damage.  Leaves are very yellow, but that is common with low temperatures. 

I am reading about black cutworm already.  I see there are moth's in the traps, but I am not sure if anyone has found any cutting yet. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Frozen Corn

I worked in the Hettick area today. The first field we pulled into, it was obvious the corn had been frozen.  It was 2 leaf stage, so no problem.  The smaller frozen off corn sort of turns back the clock to it being just below the surface.  Tomorrow should be just as cold or colder.

We had a few people who had some soybeans up.  Those will need to be replanted.

A Hettick dairyman has cut all of his first cutting alfalfa.   It looks very good.  Hope he gets it all harvested before rain. 

This photo was posted on Twitter by @CoryRitter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

River bottoms again

Worked St. Charles County MO again today.  Lots of corn planted.  Still seeing planters in the field.  Sprayers were also running, spraying soybean ground mostly.  A lot of soybean ground is ready to plant, but people seem to be holding back.  There is no reason to get in a hurry. 

West of Gillespie, IL I saw someone baling large squares of alfalfa.  First cutting hay seldom looks this good.  It was cut on Friday, so it has had plenty of time to dry with no rain on it.  It was very green and looked wonderful.  It was cut early enough that is should be very high in nutrients as well.  If you have  a choice between cutting alfalfa and planting soybeans, I say cut alfalfa.

I suspect you all have noticed that evening posting is late.  This is our busiest time of year.  I am still shooting for a blog every day.  Thanks for coming to see what I have to say. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crop Progress Report

Illinois Weather and Crop Report says 17% of corn is planted statewide.  It is surprising that it is not more, but the numbers appear to be accurate for our area.  It says we have 40% planted.  I would say we have more than 5% emerged.

Wheat is still looking good where I have been.  Some of it could have used more nitrogen.  8% of wheat is headed state wide.  I have not seen any heads peeking out yet, but it was in the boot stage in Monroe County yesterday.  Where does that put wheat harvest?  Should be a great year for double crop soybeans if there is any moisture at all. 

St. Charles County Missouri seemed to match West Southwest, IL stats pretty well.  Soil was moist to wet in that area today. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tile Trencher

Wheel Trencher
This wheel trencher is used for installing large field tile usually used as mains.  Laterals can be installed with a tile plow much faster than with a wheel trencher.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Frost on your corn?

I am guessing some of my readers to the north had frost and or frozen corn.  Everyone knows that at three leaf stage or younger the growing point is below grown, so some black leaves are not really a problem.  Some of the really early corn was bigger than that.  Temperatures in Bloomington and Decatur got as low as 29 last night.  Probably lower in some places.  A few people have corn in the 5 and 6 leaf stage.  If it froze, I suspect it looks terrible by now.  So now what?  I say if the stems are still ok, wait a few days.  The growing point even above ground is somewhat insulated.  If it is not coming out of it in 3 or 4 days, then destroy it completely before replanting.  You don't want those stray larger stalks messing things up.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rainy Day

I went to Shipman today to load up some computer software.  The software shall remain nameless, however it took much longer than it should have. 

I passed some corn just coming out of the ground.  Last night's rain made it look very good.  We had a gentle rain that dropped from 1/4 inch to may 3/4 inch.  Perfect for the corn that is planted and not so much to slow down anyone in a hurry. 

I was noticing yesterday that the people who were done planting corn appeared to be very relaxed.  Those still working seemed to be in a hurry, but some patient farmers are still going slow.  The problem with having all your corn planted in a week to 10 days is that your whole crop is subject to the same weather stresses. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Alfalfa Weevil

As I was sampling an alfalfa field today I noticed a lot of Alfalfa Weevil damage.  It is early  by the calender, but maybe about the right time for the growth stage of the alfalfa.  The alfalfa is in [re-bloom.  The weevil can strip most of the leaf and reduce quality of the hay.  I know it is early, but the alfalfa is mature enough to harvest.  I would cut it as soon possible to arrest damage.  After the hay is put up, Watch for regrowth and damage, then spray.  It is better to not spray during bloom to minimize damage to beneficial insects.  More Information 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Soil Sampled in West Alton Today

I worked in the West Alton area today.  Wet soils are still pretty wet.  About 25% corn was planted in the area where I worked.  Even some fo the traditionally slow guys were working fields. 

One of the fun things to see in the field is the Killdeers trying to lead you away from their nests.  One of them today was making a great show of it.  She was doing the usual broken wing limp, then she started to pretend she was dying.  It was really amusing to see and quite creative on her part. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Corn Planting Progress

The big news in agriculture is the progress in corn planting.  The Illinois Weather and Crop report this week says that 5% of the corn is planted.  There were no regional statistics this week, but in my area, mostly West Southwest, it is all over the board.  The customer I sampled today has all his corn planted.  Some people are kind of in the middle of it and some have not started.  I am still seeing a lot of nitrogen being applied. In Macoupin County, North of highway 108 maybe 20% of corn is planted over all.  In Montgomery County the line of demarcation is  roughly highway 16 and the percentage is about the same.   Looking at the long range weather forecast, it would be difficult to make  a case for not planting at this point.  I would not be surprised to 50% of corn planted in Illinois next week unless there are weather related delays.  There is rain in the forecast Tuesday and Thursday.   I might be interesting seeing dry corn harvested the first week of August.  A few say they are going straight to soybeans. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sediment Control

Scenic Farm Pond.  Note Flowers and Purple Martin House

Dry Dam
Ponds and Dry Dams can both be used to clean up surface water.  The trick is to slow the water down and release it slowly.  Dry dams can be designed to remove water in 24 hours in order to minimize crop damage.