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Friday, November 30, 2012

Drainage Water Control.

Drainage water control is a hot topic right now.  Field tiling to remove subsurface water has been a common practice for hundreds of years.  The practice was brought to the United States in the 1850's.  After John Deere perfected the steel plow and a made it practical to farm the prairie, it soon became clear that yields could be improved with drain tile.  Tile plows and smaller narrow spaced tile have made tile drainage possible even on Southern Illinois Claypan soils. 

Environmental concerns have lead to the practice of drainage water control to reduce the pollutants entering surface waters.  This article in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation fills in details.  Expect more incentives to install such practices.  The two most common ways to clean up drainage water is to control the water table depth when no crop is growing and use of biofilters.  Wetlands have also been used, but they tend to be less popular because they tend to remove cropland from production.   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pond Construction

I took the photo below to show a good example of pond construction.  I first designed a pond in class in college.  I probably did not learn how to design ponds really well until I was A District Conservationist for NRCS.  The pond below is actually a rebuild of an old pond.  The old pond had silted in because of upstream soil erosion.  You can see the dredged material on the left.  In the center I circled the principal spillway which is an eight inch dual wall conduit.  It looks similar to plastic field tile but it is much thicker.  The end is cut at and angle and has an endcap on it so that it will fully charge.  It is important to charge a pipe because it can vibrate so badly it will wash out if it does not flow full.  The other good thing about the pipe is that it is 3 to 4 feet below the top of the dam.  That will also help it to flow properly.  The emergency spillway is on the right.  IT is kind of rough looking, but it will do the job.  The bottom of the emergency spillway is lower than the top of the dam.  It is built mainly by excavation so that there is no fill material that will settle and cause it to fail.  This pond is not perfect, but it has all the elements that will make it work right.  Sediment entering the pond will be greatly reduced because the producer is now using conservation tillage and he has some nice grassed waterways that carry the water into the pond.  There is a small sediment basin at the upper end.  The one improvement I would recommend is that a dry dam should constructed on the upper end to catch sediment.  Click on the phonograph to enlarge.

Rehabbed Pond

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cold weather soil sampling

Today I soil sampled what I think is my last regular customer of the year.  We have heard a lot this fall in the ag media about how the dry weather might affect potassium soil test levels.  At this time of year, we start to think about how cold temperature might affect potassium soil test levels.  Soil Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can cause reduced levels in the potassium soil test.  The reason we are worried about this is that results can be erratic because of environmental factors.  This is the reason experts say to test the same time of year each time you test.  This customer is usually one of the last of the year.  I have sampled him when it was so cold that I wore my Carhartt insulated coveralls.  I sampled him 11/27/2010, 11/16/2011 and today.  By sampling very close to the same time each year, we should be getting consistent results because we should be dealing with similar soil temperatures.  From looking at the results it looks as if there was some pretty serious potassium applied after the 2010 tests. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rental Agreements

Most farmers at least in the Midwest farm more land that they rent than land that they own.  Share rents were the norm in the past, but cash rents are becoming more common all the time.  Gary Schnitkey talks about cash rents in this recent Prairie Farmer article.  Concerns that Schnitkey discusses specifially include yield and fertilizer application.  We know we have customers who like our annual soil testing program specifically because it keeps their landlords in touch with what is going on with their land. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl of the 1930's is probably the biggest natural disaster in the history of the United States in terms of land area and length of time.  It brought huge changes to the business of farming.  Dee Ann Littefield of NRCS wrote an article that appears in No-Till Farmer.  It is a first hand account of what it was  like living in the southern great plains in the 1930's.  As the generation who lived in that time passes on, it is important that we keep the memory of the Dust Bowl alive.  Many younger farmers look at their erosive land with no memory of what it looked like when erosion was not under control.  With bigger machinery there is a temptation to take out conservation practices without replacing them.  We need to keep in mind what could happen to the land if we return to past abuses. 

Ken Burns gave the Dust Bowl serious treatment in his latest film on PBS.   I missed all but one hour of it which was very well done as we have come to expect from Burns.  I am going to need to watch it online or download to Itunes sometime.

Hugh Hammond Bennett, a soil scientist and the founder of Soil Conservation Service is called the Father of Soil Conservation.  Dr. Bennett's life story is very interesting.  His biography is also given in the form of a PBS Special. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hybrid Selection Number 1 Yield Factor?

Researchers at Minnesota have been looking at factors that determine corn yield.  In this article they suggest that hybrid selection is the biggest determining factor in determining corn yield.  I agree that it is very high ranking.  Many customers this year said that hybrid made a huge difference in some cases.
Dr. Fred Below of the University of Illinois has been widely quoted on the production of  300 bushel corn.  His opinion is that water and Nitrogen are number one and 2.  I tend to agree with Dr. Below.  He ranks hybrid third.  I have seen yields fall short in the recent past because of denitrification caused by too much rain, and this year because of too little rain causing drought stress.
That said, I encourage a look at both links because the both contain good advice on producing top corn yields.  It is interesting that both assume fertility is high.  I agree that high fertility is needed to produce high yields.  I don't find high fertility to be a given among new customers.  Producers cannot make the assumption that because they use fertilizer that they have the proper nutrient levels for all nutrients.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rainfall Past 90 Days

The map below shows rainfall departure from average for the past 90 days.  Most of Illinois has had above average rainfall since the end of August.  Northern Illinois has been average or a bit drier than average.  This is according to the Illinois State Climatologist. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

New Equipment

Last night I purchased an IPAD2 that was a door buster at Walmart.  I am trying to get it set up for mapping and sampling in the field.  I will keep you up to date as I go. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Preparing for Turkey Day

Work on Wednesday included smoking Thanksgiving turkeys at the office.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Crop Progress in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

The dry days and no rain here have ended (for the moment).  W are getting a lot of rain and the plants are soybean and corn are doing well. Here we have little corn planted for the summer harvest and after harvesting soybeans we plant the second crop of corn. I'm sending you some photos soy Saturday (17.11.12).  For the moment everything is fine here with lavoras soy, concern about the lack of rain is over, hopefully not again.

We have planted a total 95% of the soybeans grown in Brazil. By the end of this week it will be 100%.

Good holiday of Thanksgiving there for you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pecans from Illinois

 Today I am picking the nutmeats out of cracked pecans so I thought that would be a good blog topic. 
Carya Illinoiensis or Pecan is native to the Mississippi River Valley and other habitats habitats in the south and midwest. Click on the link for more information.   My home farm in the Mississippi River Valley in Monroe County Illinois has over 50 pecan trees.  Some of them are native and some are cultivated varieties.  My grandfather enjoyed working with pecan trees and grafted around 40 of them with various cultivars.  Our favorite is Posey.  We have one high yielding tree, probably one of the first ones Grandpa grafted that yields a huge number of pecans. We do have several other Posey's on the farm as well as other varieties.   Posey has a relatively thin shell and a large nutmeat.  Texas is one of the leading producers of pecans and they have this list of varieties.  This Link contains advice from Missouri on suitable varieties.  Kanza and Pawnee are two varieties  that I know are grown in our area.  On our farm, because the operation is small it has been mostly a hand operation.  Pecans usually start dropping in early October and continue to drop until well after Thanksgiving.  We have to share with the squirrels and crows, and it seems we have higher yields every other year.  One year my Dad picked up over 900 pounds.  This year he has picked up well over 200 pounds and others have gotten a share as well.  Our take so far was 51 pounds.  It is a lot of work to hand crack them,  but some commercial growers provide custom cracking for 30 to 40 cents per pound.  My wife took our pecans to  Voss Pecans near Carlyle for cracking.  Grandpa hand cracked the pecans when he was living, using a cracker similar to the one below.  We had mostly smaller native varieties in our collection this year.  The natives do not yield quite as much nutmeat, but hey are very tasty. 

Some of the pecans we picked up

A hand nutcracker.

Cracked pecans that I am picking out.
I like to use the stainless steel bowl because when the pecan its it, some of the pithy stuff in the creases of the nut pops loose. For more expert information, check out this blog. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

What is Going on with the Market?

As I have said previously, I do not give marketing advice.  In the past few years however I have become a follower of commodity markets.  I also find the explanations of the market interesting.  Darrel Goode of the University of Illinois wrote a good article on in No-Till Farmer explaining why prices are soft right now. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Soil Moisture

I took the time this weekend to probe a little deeper than my usual 7 inches.  I found soil moist to about 24 inches, then very dry.  We still need more rain to recover from the drought. WE still have potential to get that rain.  It could even come early in the growing season. This year a lot of us made it through the drought with reserves.  We need a good bit of rain to have those reserves built up again.  I am not in panic mode at this time, we usually do not have two such extreme years in a row, but then again we were certainly above average in rainfall from 2008 to about May of 2011.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crops still Growing

I sampled on of our vegetable growers today.  Late Fall vegetables still in the field were broccoli, cabbage, horseradish, kohlrabi, spinach and turnips.  Most will freeze out when we have really cold weather, but the horseradish might not be harvested untill spring depending on weather and processor needs.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Fungicide Resistance

During the past 3 growing seasons frogeye leaf spot in soybeans has been found to be resistant to Strobilurin.  Fungicide resistance is fairly common in fruit and vegetable crops.  This is why I worry aout blanket applications of fungicide when it is not needed.  We need to know if we have varieties that are fungi resistant.  Alternating modes of action and formulations can help over come reistand fungi as well.  This article from the University of Illinois has lots of good infor mation. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tillage Radishes

The area I was working in today had several fields of tillage radishes.  The one below seemed to have  lot of root sticking up above the ground, but there was still root below the ground too. 

Tillage Radish

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Are your soil test levels off because of the drought?

I have seen several articles concerning the possibility of soil test levels being off because of the drought.  How can you know?  We have had a lot of results back and do not seem to have an issue with potassium (K) levels seeming to drop drastically.  How do I know?  We encourage annual soil testing.  The old idea of testing every 4 years leaves too much to chance for too long.  If you can compare last year's test with this year's  then you have  better chance to make good decisions.  I agree that I have seen instances where soil moisture appears to have affected potassium levels.  Last year our fall sampling season started off very dry.  We had some very low levels of K in the early fall.  It took relatively little rain to bring those test levels back up.  This also illustrates why we want high potassium levels in the soil to start with.  If the available levels drop in dry conditions we want the nutrients to be high enough to overcome that availability issue in dry weather during the growing season.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Air Pollution and Crop Production

In the agricultural world one of the things that we think makes it wholesome is clean country air.  We all want less regulation and sometimes are the concerns about clean air can seem silly.  What if air pollution is causing my crops to have lower yields?  Prairie Farmer has posted this link about the effects of ozone on soybean yields.  The approach suggesting the article is to use genetics to overcome the pollution.  While agriculture may contribute a small share of the excess ozone, it comes from many sources and atmospheric conditions.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Side Hill Seep

I found this newly installed tile on a side hill seep in Madison County.  Tiling seeps can make farming easier, but it can be tricky getting the tile into the correct layer.  I am not sure if this one will work right or not.  This tile looks like it could not possibly be in a wet spot, but I am sure that it is.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Silent Saturday

The blackbirds in this tree make it look like it has leaves. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freeburg Town Square

I left home early as usual this morning.  I had some soil samples with me to mail.  When I got to my destination town of Freeburg, I started looking for the post office.  I did not find in the main drag (IL Rt 15) through town.  I did not find it on Main St.  I looked it up on my Droid and could easily see how to navigate to it.  I was surprised to find that it was located on the east side of the town square.  I never knew Freeburg had a town square.  I have been through town dozens of times and did not know there was a square.  It is a pretty little park with a flag and a World War I doughboy statue in the middle.  There were a few businesses and two churches on the square along with the post office and some residences.  Not exactly the center of commerce, but there was no trouble finding parking at the post office. Be sure and click to enlarge so you can see the statue. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Report from the field

I worked today in the American Bottoms south of Columbia, Illinois.  Harvest progress there is much  like everywhere else.  Their is still some corn and soybeans to harvest.  People who had crops to harvest were working on it today.  Lots of fall tillage is done and being done.  I was too far south for fall nitrogen application.  Wheat is looking good.  The area I worked had plenty of moisture, but some of the excess they had 2 weeks ago seems to have soaked in. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Soybean Cyst Nematode Resistance

Soybean Cyst nematodes are silent robbers of yield in soybeans.  Soybean farmers who want or need to grow soybeans for more than one year in a row need to have resistant varieties in order to minimize damage.  Researchers in Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska have mapped the soybean genome and found the genes that are tied to resistance.  Check out the story. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Brazilian Soybean planting resumes.

By Eduardo Paim
Here in Brazil, Mato Grosso (Midwest) this week started with good rains and the producers returned to plant, we have 60% of soybeans planted. Last year was 70% planted. We have 10% less soybeans planted this year due to lack of rains.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Weather and Crop Report

Weather and Crop Report is showing just what I have seen with harvest.  It is just not finishing up even though almost done.  I was interested to see that 78% of wheat is good or excellent.  I have not seen any bad wheat thus far. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Passing of the seasons - November

Time for the monthly passing of the seasons photo.  All the corn in view is harvested.  There are still some soybeans to harvest.  Most freeze sensitive stuff is dead.  Tall Fescue and maybe some other cool season grasses are still green. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Room Brick School

This one room brick schoolhouse is located in Brown County on Highway 107 about a mile north of the Pike County line.  A lot of farm kids including my Dad and Grandpa were educated in one room schools.  Most of them I have seen pictures of were white clapboard frame buildings. 
One Room Brick Schoolhouse

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wheat Condition

We raise a good bit of soft red winter wheat in our area.  It is not nearly the acreage of corn and soybeans, but it is solidly in third place.  One reason it is regaining some popularity is the ability to plant soybeans after harvest adds to the production of that land.  More wheat is grown to the south of Illinois Route 16 than to the north.  The crop is looking very good this year.  It was planted in a timely manner and in good topsoil moisture.  We are seeing more wheat planted in corn stalks this year because of the early corn harvest.  There is very little difference in yield either after corn or soybeans. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Corn to Harvest

You can drive many miles and not see anything left to harvest, but there are still crops standing in the field in places.  I found several hundred acres in the Shoal Creek bottoms between Panama and Sorento. 

Corn To Harvest

Corn Tunnel