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Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year

Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year.
Look for a new blog on January 2
Farmstead in Northern Macoupin County

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year in Review - Top Blogs

These are my top blogs for the year based on readership.

Using my Ipad for soil sampling  must have been interesting for obvious reasons.  Ipad's are ubiquitous and the uses for them seems infinite.

Why Use Vertical Tillage?  Vertical tillage tools are being sold as conservation tools, but not everyone is using them that way. 

Glyphosate Resistant Weeds?  An attention grabbing headline for a photo.  I am not sure the weeds are resistant, but they are a problem either way.

Finishing Soybean Harvest in Brazil  I have to include a blog by Eduardo Paim of Mato Grosso in Brazil on the list.  His updates continue to be popular.  I  hope he continues them.  Eduardo also posts information I send him on his blog. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best Photographs of the Year

My photography is mostly for documentation.  Once in a while I get lucky and do something that I think has artistic merit.  In my opinion the photographs below are some of the best for the year.
United Methodist Church - Piasa

A cold morning near Sorento

Direct TV Blimp near Jerseyville

Cockshutt tractor at Arcola Broom Corn Festival

Harvest near Witt

John Deere Chevy at Hillsboro Old Settler's Car Show

My Parrot Drone in Flight

Corn Planting in Monroe County

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good Blogs you may have missed

Each year I review my work to see if there is something I thought was particularly well done, but not as widely read as I would have liked.

Illinois Research on Potassium was written in response to Mulvany and Khan and their controversial release that says we do not need potassium fertilizer in Illinois.  Soil Testing, Potassium, and Plant Nutrition provides links to other responses to the issue as well.

One Acre Grids - Real Accuracy or Perceived Accuracy was written in response to an article about intensive grid sampling. 

Is Plant to Plant Uniformity a Factor in Corn Yield? I believe that uniform spacing is an important factor in maximizing corn production.  People  may say that they grow good corn without great spacing and that is true, but they would do better if they had more uniform stands and spacing.

Maximizing Biotech Traits is my look at how to grow the best crops possible.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

The view out my front door earlier last week adds Christmas Cheer.  Merry Christmas to all.  The blog year in Review is coming after Christmas. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Old War Bird

Because our work territory is fairly wide spread, I sometimes see interesting things that are not necessarily closely related to agriculture.  One day this fall I was passing Smartt Field in St. Charles County, MO.  I spotted the C-47 below parked outdoors. The Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is located at Smartt Field. Their web site contains information about visiting.  The Commemorative Air Force is a nationwide group that is dedicated to preservation of old military aircraft.  They fly their aircraft all over for airshows.  We attended a show in Dixon many years ago and it was great to hear the old birds rumble in the air.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

More on Narrow Row Corn

Recently I shared information that R. L. Nielsen of Purdue presented on narrow row and high population corn.  What I gleaned from Dr. Neilsen's information is that it may not be critical to profits to make a move to narrow rows or very high populations.  Long time readers know that in winter time to catch up on my reading.  Today I was reading the October issue of Prairie Farmer.  If you do not subscribe, I would suggest going to their web site and checking out the whole magazine for October.

Two articles on higher corn populations caught my eye.  This article on 4 products that point to the future includes a brief look at Marion Calmer's 12 inch row corn head.  Calmer's quote caught my eye because at the Farm Progress show this year, I heard Greg Sauder say almost exactly the same thing.

Another article out of Indiana asks Just How High Corn Populations Will Go?  A young Pioneer Seeds agronomist is look at pushing populations to push yields.  She admits that the genetics has not caught up with the idea, but she also demonstrated a 40 bushel yield increase in going from populations of 35,000 to populations of 55,000. 

We also know people who have gone to narrower rows, 15 to 20 inches.  Some of them have been using narrow rows successfully for a long time.  I have not seen any research that says the narrow rows will cost yields.  One advantage of going narrower is in soybean production.  Research is clear on soybeans.  Narrower is better.  One of the complaints I hear concerning narrow row soybeans is that needing an extra planter is holding people back from narrow row soybeans.  A way to overcome that objections would be to go to narrower row corn too.  It is difficult to dispute Nielsen's findings on corn, but producers who are looking to upgrade machinery may want to consider narrower rows to take advantge of the clear yield boost in soybeans. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Brazil Update

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Brazil we are having rain every day. It is hindering the application of insecticide to Patar grubs, bugs and other insects. Producers are having to do more to control applications on the caterpillar Helicoverpa.  We still can not say it damaged the crops. Our many rains are beginning to affect the application of insecticide, we need some sunny days here in Brazil. Dry weather is forecast for Argentina for the next days, which always affects much the crops there.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Have you bought your seedcorn?

What are you planting next year?  Most Illinois farmers will be including corn in the mix.  In the northern half of the state at least, corn rootworm pressures seem to continue to grow.  The number of farmers battling the western corn rootworm variant is bound to increase.  Josh Flint offers this article on the Illinois growers struggle to control corn rootworm.  The article gives advice o traits to look for in your seedcorn to get the most out of what you plant. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is this Urban Agriculture?

Here is an interesting article I ran across on Twitter about suburban development and agriculture going hand in hand.  The article says this is something of a trend.  Combining a small subdivision and a farm is an interesting concept.  It might be the ultimate in the trend toward locally grown food.  This might be a really good way for organic producers to go.  You would have a ready labor force for the hand weeding.  A farmer could have a built in seasonal labor force and save on that problem by trading labor for produce.

This does not sound like a 60's commune type of lifestyle.  It sounds more like condo living with farming and garden for recreation.  It might be worth a try near the city. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

85 year Old Farmer

I went to visit my Dad today for his 85th birthday.  Dad started farming in 1954 and his first year he harvested 200 bushels of corn total because of drought.  He did not get off to a great start, but he hung on to put 3 boys through college and keep the family farm going through good times and bad until he handed the reins over to my brother around 1980.  Dad continued to help on the farm.  He started to work part time as a tankerman on the river about then too.  Dad remains interested in farming, politics, and current events.  He reads a lot and watches a lot of PBS.  He is also proud to have 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ideal plant populations for corn

This is my last post from the CCA convention last week.  Dr. R. L. Nielsen spoke to the group about ideal corn populations.  Nielsen pointed out that plant population is only one factor in the biological factory in a corn field.  Climate and weather, soils, pests and genetics are also factors.

He pointed out that some of the top contest yields that he has seen are not necessarily those with the highest population, although some high population fields do produce top yields.  He also stressed the importance of looking at populations at the V6 stage and at harvest because they are more important numbers than seeds planted.

Nielsen said that his numbers show the ideal final plant population to be around 31,000 plants per acre.  That would require a seeding rate of about 33,000 plants per acre if mortality rate is average.  He found no difference in row spacing.  Nielsen also said that using higher nitrogen rates with higher population does not pay off in high enough yields to justify the extra N.

Another finding was that in fields with fairly uniform soils, variable rate seeding does not seem to give any advantage.  In fields with highly contrasting soils, they may be merit in cutting back seeding rates to around 25,000 on soils that have lower water holding capacities.

Nielsen had lots of data to back up what he told us. Here is a 2011 presentation on the subject. 

On the other hand, I would not dismiss people like Marion Calmer and Greg Sauder who continue to push the envelop on yields with higher plant populations.  Maybe we are not there yet, but these guys are convinced it is the way to go.  My advice would be to plant what the seed company says or if you think they are just wanting to sell extra seed then cut back conservatively.  If you want to have variable rate seeding pay off do it where soils are very contrasting.  In addition, make sure your planter is planting stands as evenly as possible.  I have done yield checks  in Sauder's fields and it would be hard to say that uniform planting does not pay.     

Monday, December 16, 2013

Soybean Plant Growth Promoters

Dr.Shawn Conley presented information on soybean plant growth promoters last week in Springfield.  He says that plant growth promoters include micro-organisms and bio-chemical products that promote plant growth.

The most common and maybe least expensive of these products are inoculants.  I wrote a previous blog on soybean inoculation research I had read about.  His research also confirmed that inoculating soybeans does not impact yields in most cases.   

Conley presented research on soybean seed treatments.  He found that fungicide treatments were likely to improve yields, but treatments with fungicides and insecticides were even more effective in increasing yield.

He also discussed seeding rates.  His research indicated that about 120,000 plants per acre appears to be the optimum economic rate although yields may be slightly higher at 140,000 plants per acre. 

His research showed that eliminating foliar fungicides cost about 0.6 bushels per acre yield loss.

Conley says that the biggest single impact on yield improvement was narrow rows.  His research considered narrow rows to be 20 inches or less. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Variable Rate Nitrogen Using Sensors

The top presentation last week in Springfield was by Peter Scharf of the University of Missouri in Columbia.  He points out that the need for an approach to variable rate nitrogen fertilizer is need for obvious reasons as simple as looking for yellow areas in the corn field.  He has looked at a number of ways to adjust nitrogen rates in the field and has found most of them lacking in some respect.

Rates based on historical yield data seem to leave lower yield areas short of nitrogen, which is not really a surprise because I am betting many of those areas are wet areas that could benefit from added N during the growing season. 

He finds that rates based on soil nitrate tests are not great because nitrates go up and down based on moisture and aeration.  We use the soil nitrate test for assessment and recommendations.  In general, I think we make good recommendations on a field basis, but we have not tried to do variable rates.  A short come that I can see is that in order to make variable rate maps, the soil testing would prove costly.  I have seen some expatriation with 1 acre grids.  That is expensive and time consuming to do it right. I will say that if yo want to find out what is going on with nitrogen in general then soil testing is the way to go. 

Beck's Seeds has been using a system of Aerial photography and reference strips to develop nitrogen rate zones.

Scharf has been working on his system for a number of years.  He has had the most success with  using reference strips for calibration and using a tractor mounted Greenseeker.  the short coming of the Greenseeker  is that in needs to be calibrated about every 2 hours.  He preferred it over the OptRX.  In addition to the reference strip, one of Scharf's recommendations was to put on about half of your nitrogen rate early.  He also cautions against use of starter nitrogen.  He shared a very complete paper called Managing Nitrogen with Crop Sensors.  I could not really repeat all his information in this space.

It looks like very promising technology that is ready to try.  Before you jump into it you need to get the details from Scharf.  Another well written paper out of Iowa State University references Scharf's work as well. I should close by saying that i am not overly fond of using refence strip because it adds work, but it may be the price yo pay for acculturate variable rate N. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Front Yard View

Around 5 1/2 inches.

Friday, December 13, 2013

2-4D Resistant Water Hemp

Among the best presentations at the CCA Convention in Springfield on Thursday was the one by Mark Bernards of Western Illinois University on 2-4D resistant waterhemp.  2-4D resistance was first noticed in 2009.  In his presentation, he showed pictures of plants that were sprayed with extremely high rates with no effect on the waterhemp.  His makes the eighth Mode of Action that waterhemp has adapted to.  Dr. Bernards presented a 12 step program for weed control.
  1. Understand the biology of the weeds present
  2. Use a diversified approach focused on preventing weed seed production and reducing the number of seeds int he field.
  3. Plant into eed free fields and keep them weed free
  4. Plant weed free crop seed.
  5. Scout Fields routinely
  6. Use multiple modes of action.
  7. Apply the labeled rate at the correct weed sizes.
  8. Use cultural proactices that supress weeds with crop competetiveness
  9. Use mechanical and biological management practices where appropriate
  10. Prevent field to field and within field movements of seeds.  
  11. Manage weed seeds at harvest and after to prent a seed bank buildup.
  12. Prevent influx into a field
Relying on one product must become a thing of the past. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Soil Health

On Tuesday I attended a program in Bloomington on soil health.  The program was well done as to the basics on soil health and how to achieve it.  There was a great discussion on how Illinois soils came to look the way they look.  The program then took off in the direction of using No-Till and Cover Crops to achieve healthy soil.  In past blogs, I know I have mentioned that I think farming with no tillage or a minimum of tillage makes a good deal of sense.  Adding cover crops makes good sense, but there are pitfalls to using cover crops as well.  I have been in many fields this year where aerial seeded cover crops just did not germinate in time to achieve the growth that we would like.  As I have listened to presentations on cover crops in the past year, I have come to believe that a lot of attention to detail is required to be successful with cover crops.  I am not meaning to imply it will not pay off.  I am just saying that preliminary research is necessary to get where you want to go.  The idea of keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible makes a good deal of sense.  We used to just look at residue cover to assess potential for soil erosion.  One of the parameters we now look at is disturbance.  If the soil is disturbed and loosened, it will erode more easily than undisturbed soils.  We have the good fortune in Illinois that most of our cropland is less than 5% slope, so erosion control may not be the biggest reason for no-till and cover crops.

Just to state explicitly, I am in favor of using no-till and cover crops and consider it a sound soil management alternative.  One of the things that has been left out, is the importance of making sure that the soil will support the favorable microbes we hope to stimulate.  Soil fertility and especially proper amounts of calcium are very important for all of this stuff to work.  I don't know if the presenters think that all farmers have their fertiltity house in order, but I can tell you that many do not.  I can also tell you that even among long time customers, the process can take longer than you think.  In order to achieve soil health, we need to manage the physical, biological and chemical health of the soil.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Speculations on 2013 Soybean Crop

It would appear that the 2013 soybean crop has exceeded the expectations of many experts.  I too was expecting a yield hit this year because of the low rainfall amounts in July, August, and September.  Emerson Nafziger offers some speculations, advice, and research results in this U of I bulletin .  Results showed that 15 inch rows had a 4 bushel yield advantage.  I have advocated narrow row soybeans here in the past and the results support my advice.  People tell me they get good results with 30 inch rows and they do, but none of them are doing comparison studies either.  I will continue to advocate for narrow row soybeans.  It is no surprise that fungicide treatments did not offer an advantage.  Disease pressure is usually low in dry years.  Check out the article for more information. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Soybean Seed Treatments

Seed companies have started pushing treatment for soybean seeds.  When this idea came into vogue, I questioned the value of treatment. I have heard and seen good things where soybean seed has been treated.  This No-Till Farmer article discusses soybean seed treatments and considerations. Check it out!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Soybean Planting Going well in Brazil.

By: Eduardo Paim:
Sorry take so long to send news of how crops are here. I have had much work in recent days.
The climate here is standard, we are not having much rain, however, the rains are being sufficient for soybean develop. About the caterpillar Helicoverpa argimera,  producers are able to control it, but are having to do more applications of insecticide because it is difficult to poison and very sturdy, but it is controlled.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Research on Corn Planting Depth

Researchers at DuPont Pioneer recently publicized a two year study on corn planting depth.  Prairie Farmer  publicized the study in their recent issue.  The researchers found that corn planted at a depth of 2 to 3.5 inches out yielded corn planted at shallower depths.  The big reasons are, better plant populations and more even emergence.  These in general are goals in using modern planting equipment.  Properly maintained and adjusted planters make a huge difference.  In addition, a sophisticated monitor will help make sure we are getting the desired results.

I suspect that good hybrids and seed treatments play a roll as well. I would still lean toward planting a bit shallower than the 3.5 inch maximum that the researchers studied.  Warmer soil will play a role in that advice.  On the other hand, it looks like it may be a good idea to make sure that your planter is really planting at least as deep as your chosen depth. According to the researchers it will not hurt to err slightly to the greater a depth.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Passing fo the Seasons

This is the final passing of the seasons photo for the year.  It is a cold day with just a dusting of snow on the ground.  We opened this year's series with the lake frozen over. I am keeping an eye out for a new place to look at, but I am leaning toward using the Litchfield overpass again. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy World Soil Day

I am a day late on this one, but I think it is worthy of recognition.  I am convinced that soil is our most important natural resource and the foundation of civilization.  I think it is wonderful that a day is set aside around the world to recognize the importance of soil.  I seldom hear soil mentioned in our prayers, but if we praise god for blessings or ask him blessings, soil is one that we cannot live without.  Check out the NRCS post on World Soil Day. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hormones in Beef Production

This is some interesting information about hormones used in beef production out of the University of Nebraska.  I hope this is shared with non-farm people. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ipad Update

I bought my IPAD2 just over a year ago on Thanksgiving with the intention of using it to display my maps in the field for sampling purposes.  You can see below that it made it through the spring and fall season no worse for the wear.  The Otterbox seems tough as nails.  The Ram Mount works great.  You can see my zones on the display.  On the lower left, the little black thing is a Garmin Glo receiver.  The receiver is necessary because I did not purchase an Ipad with a data card.  The Garmin Glo is hooked up by Bluetooth and works with any Ipad, even the original.  It will also work on a laptop.  If you have a WIFI only Ipad, you need an IOS compatible GPS receiver.  Not all work on IOS.

Battery Life is about 6 1/2 hours and I only ran out of battery once on the last sample of the day one day.  If I am loading on the truck and moving, I put the Ipad on standby which seems to get me just about as much battery life as I need.  

If I had it to do over, I would by a newer model Ipad with a data card.  Advantages of the newer models are:
  • Retina Display
  • Better Camera
  • No External Receiver needed. 
  • Also, If you purchase a data plan, you get aerial photos any time you are within range of an internet signal. 
Another way to deal with the internet signal would be to get a WIFI hotspot or use your phone as a hotspot.  I am not sure how long the phone battery would last.  
Ipad2 WIFI

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter Meetings

As we wind up our fall sampling season, we are looking forward to winter educational opportunities.  The first seminar I am planning to attend is a soil health seminar sponsored by local soil and water conservation districts.  Soil health seminars are also planned for later in the winter.  I am registered for the annual CCA convention in Springfield on December 12. In addition, because I have heard good things about the National No-till Conference, I decided that it won't get any closer than Springfield, so I  had better register. 

Another conference that I have attended in the past and found to be useful is the Farm Futures Summit, which is held in St. Louis and loaded with high powered farm business management speakers.  The Illinois Corn-Soybean Classics put on by Extension Service to keep you up on the main crops in Illinois.  I am sure there are many more educational opportunities as well.  I hope to see some of you this winter. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Is This a Barn?

I don't usually take pictures of barns unless there is light showing through them.  The photo below takes that idea to extreme with only a few boards of a doorway left standing. This is off the beaten path between Sorento and Staunton. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vinegar Tanker

I spotted this tanker truck carrying vinegar last week in Alton Illinois.  I have never seen a vinegar tanker before.  I was doubly surprised to find that National Vinegar Co. is a local company.  I am curious if they buy local apples to make their apple cider vinegar.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Axle Broke

Gotta hate it when this happens.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Harvest drags on

As weather gets colder, harvest is dragging on.  We had  a few people finish up this week.  We still have more fields that are not harvested.  Last week's bug wind slowed down the already slow producers.

I am getting signed up for winter meetings and training.  I hope to see and or meet some of you, but that is another blog.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Soil Testing, Potassium, and Plant Nutrition

A recent article out of the University of Illinois called into question the whole idea of soil testing for Potassium, and the need for Potassium fertilizers.

Response from other knowledgeable sources has called their premise into question and debunked some of what they were saying.  This article is out of the International Plant Nutrition Institute.  Click on their link if you want the details.  Emerson Nafziger debunks his own department in this article. You may recall that I weighed in on the issue as well.  We are going to continue to recommend potassium fertilizer on soils that have low soil test levels.  We are going to continue to test frequently and make adjustments as needed.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Still Soil Sampling

I worked today soil sampling in the Freeburg area.  In some places the bare ground was frozen solid enough that I could not push the probe in by hand.  The good news is that my customer had not tilled anything.  I could kick away some residue and push in easily.  The question many  might have, is, "Is it too cold to sample."  We know that temperature, moisture, and other environmental factors can affect soil test values, but the experts also say that if you sample a certain field at the same time of year you will be able to be fairly certain that your test levels are valid.  I always sample this particular client when the weather is very cold.  The only thing different about today was a bit of snow flying at times.  It amazes me how often I sample a field on or near the same date every year. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bee Keeping in Illinois

When I was very young, Illinois was the leading producer of clover seed.  My grandfather was a bee keeper so that he would have well pollinated cover.  About 2/3 of our crops require some sort of bee pollination including many vegetables and fruit trees.  This Prairie Farmer Article details the growth of the bee industry in Illinois.  It makes me curious as to how the industry can be growing when many allege that we are killing bees with chemicals.   

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Deer Blinds

In honor of deer season, I am posting some of the creative deer blinds I have seen.
Corn Stalk Bales

Camo Wagon

Traditional Tree Stand

Store Bought Blind

Gravity Wagon and Camper Top Blind

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sudden Death Syndrome Tied to Soybean Cyst Nematode?

Researchers out of Tennessee are suggesting that Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) may contribute to the severity of Sudden Death Syndrome.  They also say that the populations of SCN are highest in the fall of the year, so now is a good time to test for them.  I don't often get questions on the subject, but I would encourage everyone to manage for SCN at this time.  It seems that farms get larger every year.  With larger farms covering more land, it becomes more likely that at least one field will have SCN.  The nematodes are transferred as soil is moved on  equipment from one field to another.  You manage for nematodes through resistance or crop rotation or both. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Still Drying Corn

I was surprised on Wednesday morning to find that the elevator is still getting wet corn.  That is a pretty big cloud of steam rolling out of the batch dryer.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Deer Stand

From a distance it was hard to tell what was laying in the field.  I guess the deer stand was not anchored well enough for the wind on Sunday.  I bet this hunter will be disappointed about 4 AM on Friday.
Deer Stand

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wind Damaged Corn

While no body lost their home in our immediate area on Sunday, we did have some wind damaged corn.  The field below is near Mt. Olive. IL weather and Crop Report says that 94% of our corn is harvested.  Most of the 6% remaining had some sort of wind damage.  This may be an opportunity to assess standibility.  It also demonstrates that timely planting and timely harvesting can make a big difference in corn yield.  This field will need to be harvested, but there is lots of corn on the ground.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Soybeans Are Being Re-Planted in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

A producer friend told us that here near my city (Rondonópolis) in Mato Grosso soybean crops have already been replanted because there was little rain. This year we are seeing very irregular rains here with short spaces between rains places. One part of town has rain and the other part has no rain. Constant rains with large flows have not happened.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How about some Jersey Cows?

The recent announcement  that the FDA plans to ban trans fats got me to thinking.  Is this a good time to follow in my Grandpa' s footsteps and get into the Jersey Cow business?  Jersey's are known for the high butter fat content of their milk.  With Trans fats to be phased out, butter is a logical substitute.  One of the things I have done to soften my butter and reduce the saturated fat is to mix it with canola oil.  Just soften a stick of butter in a bowl and add a half cup of oil.  I suppose any mild edible oil would do.  Whip it with an electric mixer for about a minute and pour into a plastic container.  It makes a very tasty spread.  You can also buy this margarine substitute in the store if you don't want to make it yourself .  Ironic talking about butter as a margarine substitute isn't it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tracks in the frost

Last week on one of those frosty mornings I took this  shot of the tracks left in the frost by the 4 wheeler.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nitrogen Credits for Cover Crops

In planning ahead for next year, one of the things producers might want to consider is, how much nitrogen will you get from your cover crop.  We know that some cover crops like annual ryegrass, oilseed radish and cereal rye will scavenge left over nitrogen from the soil.  This is an environmentally sound benefit of the cover crop, but how much of it is available for next year.  I suspect less than half of what is scavenged.  I am basing that assumption on typical release rates of the organic portion of the nitrogen in manure.  Legume cover crops will add nitrogen and those amounts are pretty well documented depending on the crop.  This University of Wisconsin document can help get you in the ballpark.  As nearly as I can tell the nitrogen benefit in non-legumonous crops comes from building up organic matter in the soil.  Cover crops and No-Till combined are really the only way to build organic matter in our soils.  This recent article out of the University of Minnesota also has some good discussion on the topic nitrogen credits for cover crops.  This University of Nebraska article shows how to credit soil organic matter for nitrogen release.  As your oganic matter builds because of your use of cover crops, the nitrogen mineralized from the soil will increase.  So for short term extra nitrogen plant legumes.  For long tern nitrogen release, build your agranic matter and feed your microbes. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cover Crops Tour

After a good deal of arm twisting I decided to attend the Montgomery Count Soil and Water Conservation District Cover Crops meeting and tour.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Dan Towery on the program.  Dan is an old friend and true expert in cover cropping systems and no-till.  The producer chose a very diverse mix of cover crops and most of them are shown on the table in the photo.  Pits were dug to look at the effects on the soil.  There was a big difference in root distribution and size between the field with cover crops and an adjacent one with double crop soybean stubble on it.  He planted buckwheat, crimson clover, oil seed radish, sunflowers, and a few other species that escaped my memory.  It would seem that for a first year endevour it turned out well.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Frosty Mornings

Cold mornings have left us with some interesting looking frost. The sun is rising behind me.  Yes I get out early.  click on the picture to enlarge it. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Map adopts emergency measures to control Helicoverpa

By Eduardo Paim:  
Due to the severe damage caused to crops by the caterpillar Helicoverpa armigera , the Minister of Agriculture , Livestock and Supply , Antonio Andrade , signed text that establishes guidelines for the integrated management for the control of pests . Ordinance No. 1109 , linked to the 8133 decree was published on Thursday , ( 7:11 ) , in the Official Gazette

As of now , the states that have officially declared a state of emergency in relation to plant caterpillar Helicoverpa have a plan prepared by the suppression Organ State or District Agriculture Defense state . The plan should be based on the concepts and practices of Integrated Pest Management , developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation ( Embrapa ) with the participation of representatives from academia , government and manufacturing .

In the opinion of researchers from Embrapa , the growth of Helicoverpa is due to inadequate farming practices , which must follow certain guidelines as fallowing the adoption of shelter areas , destruction of crop residues combined with the controlled use of chemicals , including other practices .
The text signed by Antonio Andrade authorize , on an emergency and temporary import of pesticide products that have the ingredient active substance emamectin benzoate . Properties that use the substance will be accompanied by supervision . " The plan , in addition to establishing the guidelines of a suppression program , authorizing the import of benzoate to be used as an adjuvant in a program of Integrated Management of Prague which aims to control it ." Explained the director of the Department of Plant Pathology , Cósam Coutinho .


On 28 October this year , the President of the Republic , Dilma Rousseff signed Decree 8.133 , which authorizes the Minister of Agriculture to establish the control actions needed to face agricultural diseases or pests , when officially declared state of emergency sanitary or phytosanitary , which includes the temporary importation of pesticides not allowed , provided it meets certain technical criteria , including the proven efficiency and not being involved in risks to the environment and public health .

On the last day November 4 , west of Bahia was officially declared a state of emergency in relation to plant pest Helicoverpa armigera . With the announcement , the state government can now define the area of action and adopt management measures through suppression plan

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tillage Radishes

Cover crops have gained a great deal in popularity in the past few years, and tillage radishes are among the most popular.  These were planted near mid summer to provide cover after some land clearing so they are extra big.  They are also very tasty.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wheat Condition

Wheat is looking good in our area.  Most of it was planted in a timely manner and got a bit of rain to germinate it.  Good looking wheat in November does not always translate to good looking wheat in June. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Scenic Shots

Sunrise on the Piasa United Methodist Church

Sun has the Milkweed Fuzz Glowing

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cypress in The American Bottoms

This Grove of Cypress trees was planted before I was born by one of my Dad's neighbors.  We used to play in it as kids.  Apparently the Native American mound builders who lived in the area depleted the cypress to extinction.  We find the wood in the archeological record, but no mention of the trees in the historic accounts.   They are now several cypress groves and trees in the area that were all planted in modern times.  We had one in our timber that was planted by the flood of 1993.  My son spearheaded planting aver 100 in addition as part of his FFA project.  They do reproduce on their own in the area, but not extensively.  I like the rusty red color in the fall. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Illinois Research about Potassium Soil Test

University of Illinois Researchers have raised some concerns about Potassium Soil Testing.  The Prairie Farmer covered the story and the end has a link to the paper as written. 

I know that potassium soil testing is imperfect, but it is all we have for a scientific basis for determining fertility needs.  We do have clients that have soils that have not needed potassium fertilizer in twenty years or more.  We have not had any apparent yield loss and the test levels remain high.  We also have clients who have low potassium test levels who have benefited from potassium fertilizer.  I have one fairly new client who raised a field of wheat that yielded 80 bushels per acre for the first time ever this year.  His potassium levels were low, but his phosphorous levels were fine.  We upped his potassium fertilizer and improved his yields a good bit. 

Another indicator of the need for potassium fertilizer is symptoms of deficiency.  This Iowa State University Bulletin has a good discussion of potassium deficiencies.  They go into some explanation of causes of potassium deficiencies other than low soil test.  We have seen some drought induced deficiencies, but not in all fields.  Fields with good potassium levels seem to resist that deficiency better. 

I am not ready to give up on potassium testing even knowing the weaknesses of the test. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Colors

I might be prejudiced because I grew up there, but the bluff in Monroe County is one of the most beautiful places to see fall colors.  Sometime you are too close driving down the bluff road to really see it, but pull out into the bottoms a quarter of a mile and take it in. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nice Looking Tractor

I spotted this nicely restored IH 1056 this weekend.  Seems like overkill on an auger, but it is good to see it all shined up and still doing farm work. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Soybean Planting going well in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:
Here in Mato Grosso since last Thursday (31/10) we are having rain every day (good rainfall) that is helping farmers to grow well and the areas planted in dry weather rebounded with the rains. Overall in Mato Grosso we have 70% planted. In Brazil we do not have news of problems with planting in any state, everything is going well!
We are not having problems with pest control yet.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Invasive Honeysuckle

The beautiful fall photo below shows green honesuckle still growing along the edge of the timber.  Honeysuckle is usually the last plant to drop leaves in the winter.  It is an invasive species and spread by birds.  Since almost everything else is dead and the honeysuckle is still alive, now is a good time to treat it with glyphosate.  It will die slowly, but the treatment is effective.  You will likely need to treat for a number of years because there is a lot of seed out there.  This Ohio State University Bulletin offers good guidance.  As with all herbicide use, please read and follow label directions. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blimp Sighting

Ok so maybe this is a bit off topic, but I was soil sampling when I spotted a blimp to the south of where i was working today.  I decided to try to get close enough to get a decent picture and finally caught up to it near Delhi, south of Jerseyville.  It was the Direct TV Blimp moving very slowly.  This photo with my phone camera turned out best.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Good Rain

We had 2 inches of rain since Tuesday around noon.  That does not recharge the subsoil, but topsoil moisture went from marginal to adequate.  The soil probe works much better now.  I am sure I will stop carrying my hammer.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vertical Tillage and Soil Conservation

Vertical tillage can be a useful tool in soil management and conservation.  When I started working for Soil Conservation Service in the late 70's we were starting to talk about keeping the soil surface covered to reduce soil erosion.  The Universal Soil loss equation said that reside cover was the primary means to control erosion on cropland.  In those days, conservation tillage methods usually left us with 50% residue or less on the surface.  No-till was the way to go on steeper soils because it was the only way to get 80% residue on the surface after planting.

I remember doing a conservation compliance check on someone who had a plan that called for 60% residue on the surface.  To achieve that level in those days, no-till was the only way to go.  It was obvious that the land had been tilled, but he had the residue cover so he passed.  This ground had been worked with an early vertical tillage tool.

Soil Conservation Service and its successor agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service continued to research soil erosion and found that soil erodability factors were too high, and that crop residue protected even better than original estimates.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that any soil disturbance increased soil loss even with high amounts of residue.  So, if the machinery salesman is telling you that vertical tillage is just as good for your conservation plan as no-till or strip till, take a conservative approach.  Ask NRCS to review your conservation plan and see if you will still be legal.

No-till Farmer publicized this webinar on conservation tillage.  While soils and rainfall may affect your soil loss numbers differently than they do in Kansas, a lot of what is said has applicability everywhere.  It takes about an hour to watch.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Planning for 2014

We have been working since about April 1 to help our customers plan for 2014.  Most of our clients who get sampled in the spring have their soil recommendations in hand.  Many dealers are already asking customers to lock in farm input cost for next year on seed and crop protection products. One of the big questions is, what am I going to get for the 2014 crop.  This recent Prairie Farmer article has some things to think about.  The people interviewed are expecting lower prices in the coming year, and perhaps some lower input costs as well.  Whether in our household or in our business, we need to plan ahead and see what adjustments need to be made to make a go of it. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nitrogen Application

Usually at this time of year, we are worried about soil temperature as relates to nitrogen application.  This year, soil temperatures have dropped below the 50 degrees Fahrenheit mark fairly early.  Click on the hourly reading for the 10AM temperature.  One thing we don't usually consider is soil moisture.  I saw some fields where nitrogen was applied after chisel plowing.  The soil that was chisel plowed was very dry.  Moisture is needed to bind the nitrogen to the soil particles.  I think we have enough moisture if the soil is undistured.  The rain this week might moisten things up enough to make this a non-issue.  Also keep in  mind that the only material to fall apply is the ammonium form of nitrogen.  Also, be sure to use nitrification inhibitors fora ll fall applied nitrogen.  Temperatures may be coll enough now, but they will likely warm up in spring.  Some loss prevention is in order. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Soil Compaction

Last year, we went into the fall expecting to need to hammer the probe into the ground because of the drought.  It turned out that we got some rain early in harvest and the ground was fairly loose to start with because it had not been compacted at all.  This year the soil is just downright hard.  I can get the probe into the ground, but I must choose to bore mostly in places with no tire tracks.  A wet spring and  dry summer seems to have lead to the hardness.  I don't have many customers who are no-tillers in the fall, so I am not sure how the no-till has held up.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Double Crop Beans

I sampled my first field of double crop soybeans today.  I did not get a yield report, but I am guessing around 20 bushels per acre.  It looks like all our crops are ready to harvest at this point. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Passing of the Seasons

Fall colors area bit odd this year.  Many trees stayed green until freezing Thursday night.  You can see some yellows and reds. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hedge Apples

I picked up hedge apples today to used as insect repellants in my crawl space.  They are called Osage Orange  (Maclura pomifera) and are native to Oklahoma.  Jonathan Baldwin Turner introduced them to Illinois as a living fence.  The wood makes excellent firewood and fence posts. The posts are very resistant to rot.  I also knew of someone who had his Osage Orange milled into hardwood flooring and shipped to Japan.  The heartwood is greenish yellow. I found a website that says it is edible.  I have seen squirrels tear them apart to eat the seeds. 

Hedge Apple

In a tree

Osage Orange Tree

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Work Continues

Corn and soybeans both remain to be harvested.  We are starting to see people finishing up.  Tillage has started, although it must be pulling hard because soils are still very dry.   I saw some fertilizer being spread today and also some fall weed control.  Corn is getting fairly dry.  We had a freeze, so any corn or soybeans that were still green are now drying down.  A hard freeze tonight will kill most growing things. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dry Weather Delays Soybean Planting in Brazil

 By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Mato Grosso are having trouble planting! The rains are few and some farms will have to replant it does not rain in 7 days. Here we hopeto see a change of weather, the rains are arriving later and leaving later as well, the rains began in September / October and stopped in April / May every year. They are now starting in October / November and stopping in June / July. Producers are concerned about the lack of rain!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Too Much Autosteer?

It looked like the riser below went through the combine.  They were scattered for about 30 feet.  I put them together so you could see how torn up they were.  I suspect the driver was distracted by something and maybe running auto-steer.  I bet he woke up from the noise of the riser going through the combine.  I guess this is another conservation repair to make. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

West Alton Harvest

Harvest is nearly completed in the West Alton area.  There are some double crop soybeans left to harvest and probably a laggard or two with some to harvest.  This seemed like the first real day of autumn.  I had to wear my hoody and my vest. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Deer and Turkey

On my way home from the field tonight, I spotted some turkeys in a field eating soybeans.  I stopped to see if I could get a picture.  After fumbling with the camera, the shot below was the best I could get.  As I was driving away, I noticed deer were also in the field.  I was not sure until I got home whether or not I got any deer in the photo.  You might expect a green deer from my spelling in the photo.  There were seven Turkeys and two deer.  They did not seem to bother each other at all. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Palmer Amaranth

The Palmer Amaranth below is in a Bond County Soybean field.  I am not sure what this guy is going to do.  Some spread to a neighbor who hand picked and burned his infestation.  There is some water hemp mixed in there too. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Damp weather

Damp weather is giving farmers a rest from time to time right now.  We have yet to have a serious rain, so fields are not muddy, but grain and fodder both pick up moisture. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Personal Effects of Governement Shutdown

So how have you been getting along without government services?  I suppose that for both sides, that is the point.  Tea Partiers say we can live without this stuff.  Liberals say, the world cannot function very long without the government.  Personally, the shutdown has hit close to home twice.  First, we are not able to download the latest aerial photographs for our maps. That causes more work for us.

Second, I was called on to be the official scorer today at an FFA sectional Soil Judging contest.  You may recall that I helped out on our local contest a few weeks ago.  That is not unusual.  UDSA-NRCS soil scientists usually cover the sectional contests.  It makes me feel like an enabler to help out and do work that government employees would normally do, but I could not see depriving our students from the learning experience just because the congress is behaving like children. 
One of over 2000 closed local USDA Service Centers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Solar Panels

I recently spotted this machine shed with solar panels. I am curious about the energy savings.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rutted field

The sprayer ruts in the harvested soybean field below rattled my teeth and reminded me that we had a wet spring and early summer.  It seems odd that we are now in a moderate drought.These ruts will need tillage so that the field is smooth enough to be planted. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013


 Last year's persimmon trees were loaded.  The top photo shows only one persimmon in the lower right.  The bottom picture from last year shows a loaded tree.

Persimmon 2013
Persimmons 2012