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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nitrate Testing

We always do some PreSidedress Nitrate Testing (PSNT) to determine nitrogen losses and need for sidressing.  This article in No-till Farmer is an interesting one to read.  Note that different states have different ways of doing the test and different ways of interpreting it.  The real trick is to get a representative sample.  Because the nitrogen is in bands after application, some method is needed to get a sample where some of the sample has nitrogen in it and some does not.  Depth is also important.  Nebraska likes 2 or 3 foot deep samples, because their soils at least in part of the state are pretty sandy.  We sample one foot deep.  Some are recommending trying to sidedress strips to see what happens.  That Guess method does not take into account that plants may have not reached existing N when you apply the extra N.  The Guess method also does not take into account that the corn may respond just as much to the aeration as to the N.  The problem I see is that it is a tricky test to sample for and there are not enough professionals out there to do it for everyone. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Variation in Final Tillage Practice

I sampled today a bit Northwest of Carlinville.  One of my interesting observations was in tillage practice to plant soybeans.  One customer had done tillage after the last big rain and planted soybeans.  The other planted in stale seedbed.  Both were in 15 inch rows.  I saw no difference in emergence.  Weeds may be a day or 2 ahead on the stale seedbed.  Soybean emergence was ok but not great with either practice.  Again I am not sure if it is the treated seed. 

Soil moisture was still adequate and in some cases excessive on poorly drained soils.  The surface in the stale seedbed had a thick hard crust, but plenty of moisture below that,  The tilled soils were dry a little deeper.  Yes we would still welcome a bit of rain because corn is rolling leaves.  Evapo-transpiration in the big corn is taking a good bit of moisture right now.  Some moisture would help the corn develop a better root system. 

I visited the earliest planted field that I know of and it will be tasseling in 10 days to 2 weeks. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Japanese Beetle

I found my first adult Japanese Beetle today.  I think it was still underground because it was in my sample bucket, but I can't be sure. 

This week's weather and crop report says that 95% of soybeans are planted in West Southwest Illinois.   That is consistant with what I have seen, although most of the soybeans will be planted by tomorrow.  I did see a planter running in a large field today.  Almost all the corn is emerged.  Average height in WSW is reported at 19 inches.  I am not sure how you would even report that since some is 3 feet and some is 3 inches.  48% statewide are reporting short topsoil moisture.  That is not a good sign at this time of year. 

We had some overnight rainfall, but it was streaky.  It would follow the frontal line, but there were lots of gaps.  We had no problem finding places to work today, but some land left to sample was very wet.  I worked in the Illinois River bottoms near Hardin and then back to Kemper.  No rain to report in those areas, but topsoil moisture was adequate. 

Wheat is ripening quickly.  I have not bite tested any yet, but I expect harvest to start next week. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Soybean Condition

We are wrapping up the sampling season on corn ground.  I have a few replant and late planted fields left, but I am going to be seeing mostly soybeans until we wrap this up.  I have sampled some April planted soybeans that look really good even as dry as it is.  Soybeans planted in the last 2 weeks are still emerging.  One of my clients observed that his treated soybeans were slow to germinate.  I think we may be killing some of the microbes that break down the seed coat.  This is a good thing in wet weather, but we will see the final result in dry weather.  Has anybody else noticed this?

Younger soybean stands are spotty.  They should have been planted in decent moisture, but may have been planted too shallow.  I am seeing 2 leaf beans and ungerminated beans in the same field.  Insect pressure seems to be OK for now. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Passing of the Seasons Butler T

Butler T today
Corn does not look bad.  Soybeans are mostly planted except for one guy who is notoriously slow.  Someone was sidedressing corn early today.  Have a great Holiday.  See You Monday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Corn Condition

I worked in the Staunton area today.  Early planted corn is knee high to mid thigh.  Leaves were rolling this morning showing drought stress.  My soil probe was finding moisture pretty easily.  The problem is that the past few days, humidity has been very low.  Wind speeds were 20-30 mph yesterday.  Low humidity and high wind = high evapo-transpiration for these corn plants that are trying to grow rapidly.  Drought stress should be relieved at night.  The big question is, will this affect yield?  I am not sure.

It is interesting that this area had 8 inches of rain in 3 weeks in late April and early May.  As recently as 8 days ago, one of my clients in the area was deciding whether or not it was dry enough to spray his corn.  Today, it was mildly drought stressed.  How quickly conditions change.  Is it any wonder that farmers seem to never be happy with the weather.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Black Cutworm

I sampled some small corn that was infested with black cutworms rather badly in places.  He told me that the corn was supposed to kill cutworms.  In his case it did not work.  I have seen other fields in the last 2 years that are supposed to do the same, but they had cutworms too.  I would like some seed agronomist to explain this to me. 

I hope everyone is still scoting for cutworm because they are still out there.  I even found a live worm today. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Precision Planting

It was a day of shocking news for me.  The announcement of  Monsanto's buyout of Precision Planting took me by surprise.   I hope that being bought out by a giant does not affect their innovation.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Damaged Corn

Click to enlarge
 This corn was damaged by deer.  It was a small area, but looks destroyed.
This is hail damaged corn.  It is badly stripped, but i am not sure if insurance will allow a replant. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Rains

Rain in the forecast was welcome in some parts even close to me.  It was very streaky.  You will need to get out your map to follow this little commentary.  Leaving Hillsboro I headed for Shipman this morning, there was little evidence of rain.  There were finally a few puddles at Shipman.  I had in mind to work a bit North of Kemper.  When I got there, it was way too wet.  The field I was planning to work on also had pretty bad hail damage.  I went back South to Medora and a little East to a place called Challacombe.  There was very little evidence of rain.  The topsoil moisture was good to maybe a bit excessive despite no rain for 2 weeks.  I went to Rockbridge and then Reeder to see what it was like where I need to work tomorrow.   It was dry enough at Reeder.  Rockbridge was pretty wet, but should firm up.  I finished 2 miles south of Fidelity.  Topsoil moisture was adequate for now.

Weather and Crop Report says 99% of corn is planted in our area (WSW).  I know of some yet to be planted, but that must be the 1%. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Private Property

Some people are very protective of their private property.  (Click to enlarge)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wheat Maturing

Wheat is maturing about 3 weeks early.  With a little moisture, it could be very good for double crop soybeans.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Soil Moisture

So I have spent half the spring telling everyone how good our moisture is in my area.  Today I worked in the Nutwood are west of Jerseyville.  Some of the corn was showing moisture stress.  Tillage, compaction, and planting date all seemed to play a role.  Soil moisture is definitely on the dry side of adequate West of Jerseyville.  I am sure everyone in this area is hoping that the forecast for rain on Sunday is correct.  This is a contrast to the rest of the area.  As recently as Tuesday, I saw someone pull into a field and then leave because it was too wet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Early Soybeans

These soybeans were planted on April 10.  The fields I sampled today were mostly early planted soybeans.  Research says there is really no need to plant that early, but this producer decided to give it a try.  I think they must have been in the ground when we had the killing frost.  Except for some hail damage that will have no effect on yield, they look fine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nitrogen Testing

We do pre-sidedress nitrate testing on a number of customers.  People seem especially concerned when there are conditions that might cause nitrogen loss.  Today we were sampling for nitrogen in the Illinois River bottoms.  Protocols are different, so sampling is entirely separate from the regular soil sampling we do.  Some people have the test done in anticipation of adding some nitrogen to what has already been applied.  Others just want to see what is going on with the nitrogen in any given year.  I think there is some comparison to spring and fall applied.  I appreciate the customers who have us do nitrogen testing because I always learn something from the experience. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cultivate Corn?

Earlier in the year there was a lot of talk about cultivating corn for weed control.  I saw cultivator in the field on my home.  It is in a place I regularly pass so I am looking forward to seeing how it looks in a few days.  I am not sure why the producer was cultivating.  Was it tough weeds, or was it to provide some surface aeration.  The short answer the headline question is: "if you have time." 

In the early 70's some research was done on cultivating corn.  At that time, the researchers found a 10% yield advantage.  After a wet spell like we have had recently, cultivation could be a good idea.  I know that some still have corn to plant or replant and most people still have lots of soybeans to plant.  Even if you do not have time to cultivate it all, this might be a good thing to look at with some strip trials.  Keep in mind that soils need to be similar if you are doing trials.  Weed control and aeration are both benefits of cultivation.  As with all tillage decisions check your conservation plan to see cultivation is allowed. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weather Crop Report This Week

Getting the weather and crop report is a highlight of Monday although I am prone to dispute certain numbers.  This week is no different.  West Southwest (My Area) shows 95% of corn planted.  That may be a little high, but that is a moot point because corn planting should be done in our area by Wednesday except for some individual cases of machinery issues.  It says 44% of soybeans are planted.  Again that seems high.  We are ahead of the 5 year average on corn, but finishing corn by say May 16 puts most people in the ideal planting date range, so we may be ahead of where we have been, but we are right where we want to be.  Temperature and precipitation are close to average for the month so far.

We worked in the Staunton area today.  Some corn was still being planted; some soybeans were being planted.  It was a good day for spraying too.  Soil is still a little more wet than ideal, but fields planted the last 2 days did not look too bad. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Field Activity

It seemed like everything possible was going on in the field today as I drove from Hillsboro to Columbia.  Tillage, Soybean planting, Corn planting, and spraying.  We should wrap up corn planting this week assuming no rain.  I include replanting in that statement.  A big dent should also be made in soybean planting.  Moisture is just about perfect, although in some places it is already looking dry on top.  A soil probe will find plenty of moisture in an inch or 2.  I think mother's day may have slowed filed work a bit today, but tomorrow it should be going full out.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I worked north of  Petersburg today.  Soil was in fine shape and people were out planting.  I did see one field of soybeans that was out of the ground.  Weeds are going to get out of hand fast if they are not sprayed soon.  I saw some Giant Ragweed about 6 inches tall.

The most exciting thing of the day was that I found 2 badger sens.  I have never seen evidence of a badger in Illinois.  I know they were badgers because my co-worker saw an actual badger in the same field last year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nitrogen Sampling

I did some sampling for Nitrogen tests today.  We use the Pre-Sidedress Nitrate test to determine if additional nitrogen is needed and how much.  The sampling is rather tedious, but the results are always interesting.  This is a good test to determine nitrogen losses from fall or early spring applications.  It is also a good test to determine additional nitrogen needed after manure application. Samples were pulled early and spread out on my picnic table to dry today.  It was perfect weather for drying. 

I worked in Witt area and Staunton area today.  Fields are still wet.  Not much happening in the world of field work.  One customer was spraying non-GMO corn for insects.  I found a number of pests in the field.  Cutworms and corn rootworm beetles among them. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sprayer Skips

Sprayer Skips
You can plainly see the dark strip of weeds.  The producer was trying to stretch his soil applied herbicide a bit last fall.  The effect is still with him even though this field was also treated with glyphosate this spring.  This shows how a soil applied herbicide can improve weed control. (Click on picture to enlarge)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Field Report Jersey County

We were able to work in Jersey County today.  Soils were dry enough, but still some water standing in low areas and areas where water flows.  The farm we worked on today had some corn as far along as 5 leaf.  Some was yet to be planted.  No soybeans were planted in the area.  We did not see any insect or disease issues. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crop Progress Report

Corn planting has progressed around Illinois despite wetness.  The far south is very dry.  My area is very wet.  Wheat condition is good to excellent for 80% of the crop.  Some of the corn in my area will be replanted because of wetness, but most of it looks surprisingly good.  Corn planted in mid-March i9s excellent.  For now it loos like the gamble paid off.  Not many beans planted n our area.  We are hoping for at least a week of dry weather.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Broadcast or Band

A common question is whether to broadcast or band fertilizer.  The March-April issue of Crops and Soils magazine has a great article on the subject, unfortunately I cannot find a copy of the article on-line that is not passworded.  The title of the article is Band Vs. Broadcast: Understanding the Issue" by Dan Clarke and Byron Vaughan.  To summarize, Vaughan and Clarke say that banding makes sense in low fertility situations.  It can be useful to band starter fertilizers depending on the weather situations and crop.  I have sampled some fields that depended only on low rates of banded fertility for all the plant nutrient needs.  Soil test levels were very low in those fields.  I think Vaughan and Clarke sum it up best in this quote "band application is a short term solution for a financially distressed situation.  Long-term, the pounds of crop nutrients removed eventually have to be applied to prevent depleting the soil and lowering soil test levels." 

Another thing to keep in mind that banding can add time and labor at a time when those things are at a premium.  I have seen researchers showing a response to banded starter fertilizer in some cases and in some cases, no response.  Corn planted in cold wet soils seems to respond.  I have also seen heavy fertilizer loads on planters causing compaction.   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Warm Weather Today

We had summer temperatures today,  The warm weather will make corn and weeds both grow fast.  I know it is also wet, but we need to stay on top of weed control as best as we are able.  Small weeds are easier to kill in general.  If you have tough weeds like Palmer Amaranth or Water Hemp, it is doubly important.  Aaron Hager fills you  in well in this article.  He also discusses herbicide/insecticide interactions.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Waiting out the Wetness

Waiting for dryer weather

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crop Wild Relatives

I read this article today  in my new Crops and Soils Magazine.  It offers great insight into the need to preserve species because of their potential usefulness.  Crop Wild Relatives could hold the key to drought tolerance, disease resistance, and other useful traits.  A professor who I was privileged to have met was Jack Harlan.  Jack was a pioneer in the field of preserving crop wild relatives.  I did not take his class, but it was a joy listening to him over a cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Still finding cutworm damage

We worked west of Jerseyville today.  It was the only place we have left to work that it was dry enough to do so.  I sampled some corn in 4 to 5 leaf stage.  It looked pretty good.  Some of the smaller corn had cutworm. Also sampled some fields going to soybeans that have not been planted.  Route 16 from  Hillsboro to Jerseyville, land was very wet.  West of Jerseyville, not too bad.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Weather and crop observations

National Weather Service Last 5 days Precipitation
I drove to Columbia Illinois today for family reasons.  I found fields that were not saturated south of Columbia.  Pretty much it fits the map.  Some corn that was planted early is looking very good.  Wheat was looking good too.  Not many soybeans planted. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Soybean Seeding Rates

It seems that some people have felt compelled that as we push corn populations higher, we should do the same with soybeans.  We need to remember that soybeans are much different than corn plants.  University of Nebraska recently did some research on ideal soybean populations.  Their research confirms what others in the Midwest have found as well.  In keeping with yesterday's theme, we need to watch what we do in soybeans just as closely as if we are planting corn, but the practices are not the same.  Plant populations of 180,000 are probably a waste of seed.  Little things can mean extra profits in soybeans too.