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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Report from the field

I worked in the Athensville area today.  Soil was firm but wet.  Some of the really low spots still have water on the surface.  The surface is mostly grayed off this afternoon.  I saw two farmers doing field work.  Both were spraying.  I expect to see some doing field work tomorrow. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Too Much Fertilizer?

The latest issue of National Geographic contains an article called The Curse of Fertilizer.  It is a fairly well done article, but contains some simplifications that seem to me to be misleading.  Using and managing nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most complex things that farmers try to do.  I cannot say with certainty, but it appears that the writers believe that all the nitrogen fertilizer that is applied to the crop and not removed and eaten, is wasted.  The fate of that "excess nitrogen" is much more complicated than the article makes it appear.  Some of it is stored in plant remains both above and below the ground.  Some is returned to the atmosphere.  Some does enter both ground and surface water.

The article does feature some information about organic farming and a farmer who is trying to use a closed system where he uses livestock and legumes to add nitrogen to the system.  They add balance to the article by pointing out that yields are reduced and what he produces sells at a premium.  Another technology they mention is the use of cover crops.  I agree that long term use of cover crops has the potential to help us manage nitrogen more efficiently.  The problem is that the complexities of the nitrogen cycle makes nitrogen management into guess work even in a well managed system. 

If we can better predict weather on a long term basis we could utilize nitrogen fertilizer better.  Am I saying there is no hope to do a better job?  NO!  There are a number of tests that can be used to come up with a base level of nitrogen needed.  We use the Pre-Sidedress Nitrate test to help figure out how much nitrogen is remaining in the field at a certain time.  We can then make decision about adding more nitrogen.  There are mathematical models like this one developed by Daryl Starr that appear to have some utility.  Many are talking about split applications.  Green Seeker types of technology are another method to help mange nitrogen more efficiently. 

It is clear that better nitrogen management will help us grow more food at less cost.  The bonus is cleaner water and less energy consumption. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Adventurous Eating

Earlier this week my friend and co-worker told me she was digging up Jerusalem Artichoke and asked if I wanted any to eat.  Feeling adventurous I decided to give them a try. I washed them and tried them several ways.  My favorite cooking method was cooking them like hash browns although they did not stick together.  I also baked some and ate them in the skin.  Again they were tasty.  They are a tuber like a potato, but smaller and more flavorful. You can find lots of recipes online including this one by Emeril Lagasse.  I mashed the rest of them and they turned out good although not smooth.  They have more fiber than potatoes, the flavor is excellent, and yes I would eat them again.  Would I go to the work of digging them?  Maybe.  
Jerusalem Artichoke in bloom

Jerusalem Artichoke washed and ready to cook

Jerusalem Artichoke pealed

Cooking Jerusalem Artichoke like Hash Browns

Friday, April 26, 2013

Field Conditions at Medora

We sampled a good bit of land near Medora today.  Field conditions ranged from pretty wet to really wet.  Some of the land we sampled was planted over 2 weeks ago, but no corn has emerged.  Bottomlands that had flooded were still saturated.  There were places where we did not stop for fear of getting stuck.  Sloping land and tiled land was solid but wet.  It was maybe 2 days away from planting.  It was a drizzly day today with little drying taking place.  Rain is in the forecast tomorrow, so I don't think there will be much field work done even on Monday. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Plant to Plant Uniformity a Factor in Corn Yield?

Two articles published recently  have conflicting views on the necessity of plant uniformity to maximize yield.  No-Till Farmer had an article that Plant-to-Plant Uniformity is Essential to Maximize No-Till Continuous Corn Yields .  The article is very detailed and cites long term research.  Prairie Farmer's Headline Non-Uniform Emergence Concerns May Be Over Exaggerated seems to conflict with the No-Till Farmer article, but it is really just a different way of looking at the issue.  In the Prairie Farmer article Emerson Nafziger suggest that if corn emerges within 20 or 25 growing degree days it should still be OK.  I suggest reading both articles to understand what each is telling us.  The Precision Planting folks have accumulated a lot of data to support the need for plant uniformity.  I think we need to strive in that direction.  When waiting up to 3 weeks for emergence we need to have some basis to decide whether or not to replant.  When thinking about replanting, always discuss the idea with your crop insurance people too. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Corn Progress in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:
These are photos of corn City Guiratinga-Mato Grosso. This corn is planted away from my city 165 km, 50% of corn is already in good quality, we need rain until the first week in May to save another 50% share. This great condition 50% applies to the whole state of Mato Grosso. Makes 8 days the rain was gone, now we hope she comes back to save the other 50% of the corn.
We have no rain forecast until 30/04/2013 for now is worrying for the last 50% of the corn that still need rain!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Research is Looking at Nutrient Uptake

Researchers at the University of Illinois are Looking at Nutrient Uptake in modern hybrids according to an article in Prairie Farmer, Nutrient Recommendations Are Outdated For Today's Hybrids. It always concerns me to see nutrient research that raises fertility issues, but does not state existing nutrient levels.  One reason we soil test is to see if nutrient levels are adequate to produce a good crop.  In fact our philosophy is to make sure that nutrient levels higher than adequate.  As you can see from the article, that nutrient uptake varies through the growing season. What they don't tell you is that soil nutrient levels vary during the growing season as well because of such factors as soil moisture and microbial activity.  We want to make sure that available nutrient levels can be sustained even when conditions are not ideal.  One of the things we saw on a common basis last year was that plants were showing potassium deficiency because of drought.  If we want to avoid that we need to make sure we maintain fairly high levels of potassium. 

A couple of other things that the researchers and the article seems to support are the need for frequent soil tests and the value of testing for micro-nutrients.  It also supports the need to apply adequate fertilizer for all crops regardless if it is applied yearly or every other year.  Frequent soil testing is needed in order to take the guesswork out of fertilizer application.  We want to sample every year and every other year is the minimum.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Early Planted Corn

Below is a sprout of corn that was planted on April 9.  As I was sampling the field, I finally gave in to the urge to dig.  The corn got washed in a little bit an seemed a bit deeper than need be.  I dug up 5 kernels and they all looked healthy, but they are growing very slowly.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Update on Corn in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

I don't have much news here. Yesterday visited some farms here in my area.  This will be my second sending of some pictures of the development of corn here in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Here the cold weather came early this year, we are having temperatures between 20 ° C and 23 ° C at night, and the day 33 ° C which is good for us. When we heat of 40 ° C to 45 ° C during the day.

Soybean prices here are getting good because we have only 22% of soybeans in Brazil to sell.But the price of corn does not have good prices, just $ 6.50 for a 60kg bag.
The rains are good for corn here!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rainfall and Consequences

The map below shows rainfall in the last 14 days.  This is a good representation of why very little corn is planted.  I am located in the lower reddish streak.  Rain in the Illinois River Valley is causing record and near record flooding to be forecast.  St. Louis Corps of Engineers has been updating their Rivers and Reservoirs report at least twice a day.  Forecasts for the Mississippi River have been revised downward in the past 2 days, but the forecast for the Illinois River is still for record levels.Click below to enlarge. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Conservation in Action

Huge amounts of rain over Illinois will postpone planting maybe for weeks.  More rain in the forecast on Monday certainly does not get anyone's  hopes up.

I was able to get some shot yesterday of conservation practices doing what they are supposed to do.  The grassed waterway is conveying water safely off the field.  You can see that the outlet is an old concrete block toewall structure that is still working,  The tile outlet terraces below that are holding back water for slow release.  That water will be drained off in 24 hours or less.  If you look closely you can see the wire cage riser.  The terraces also act to remove sediment from the water. 

The bottom photograph is just to show general wetness in the fields.  I did not travel anywhere without seeing water ponding in fields.  All the new tile installed in the last few years is being put to the test.
Grassed Waterway with toewall structure

Tile Outlet Terrace

Ponding North of Hillsboro

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Delicacy

Asparagus is starting to push its tasty spears out of the ground in my garden.  We are collecting a few at a time till we accumulate enough to eat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Behind on Planting Corn?

We are getting to the time of year when most of us would really like to have some corn planted.  I am not sure how the Illinois Ag Statistics Service data below would correlate with final yields, but you can see that we are ahead of 3 recent years.  I left out the extremes and averaged the rest and find that on average we should be about 11% planted.  Many producers are set up to plant 10% of their corn in a day, so we could still make up for lost time, but the weather forecast is not good for now. We have had a total of 2 inches of rain since yesterday morning.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Grass Tetany

Yes I would rather be writing reports on planting progress and field conditions, but yesterday's report may be the only one from the field this week.  We had about 2/10ths of and inch of rain today which would not be bad if the forecast was for dry weather the rest of the week, but we have rain in the forecast the rest of the week.

That brings us to grass tetany.  Grass tetany is a soil related disease found mostly in lactating dairy cows.  Low calcium and magnesium is the culprit.  Those who say that there is no need to soil test for anything  but phosphate, potash and pH are missing out on other soil related issues that can come to light with a complete soil test.  Grass tetany is untreatable at this point except by feeding supplemental minerals or in the case where a cow has symptoms, veterinarian intervention. 

Soil testing and application of needed minerals will help prevent the disease.  Dolomitic (high magnesium) limestone is good prevention on low magnesium soils.  Low magnesium soils are common in Southern Illinois because we tend to have high calcium lime.  Trucking lime from central Illinois seems foolish until one of your cows goes down.

Purdue University put out a good article on grass tetany and  bloat.  Bloat is unrelated to grass tetany, but another common problem in the early spring. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Is there anything going on in the field?

I have spent the last two days sampling in St. Charles County, MO.  We heard rumors of lots of corn planted.  While there is some corn planted, I would hesitate to call it lots.  Soils are still wet for the most part, although you can see below that it was dry enough for sand to be blowing.  You can also see the water still standing in the swale. The sandier areas will be dry enough to work on tomorrow, but with rain in the forecast, we are starting to worry that we will not get any more corn planted that could be refered to as early.  The two farmers I talked to were hesitant to plant on Monday because of the rain in the forecast.  Soil temperature was 60 degrees this morning at 10 AM so soil temperature should not be a factor.
Wind Erosion

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Passing of the Seasons

My monthly passing of the seasons is a little early, but I wanted to capture the true change here.  If you click on the picture below you can see the faint hint of green in the trees on the right.  Yes, spring seems to be here at last, although temperatures are still cool.  I also got some of the early bloomers around town below. 
Glenn Shoals Lake


Bradford Pear


Friday, April 12, 2013

Small Town Hardware Store

I was working near Morrisonville today and needed some small items.  Lowe Hardware and Casey's were about the only choices.  I went into the hardware store and was greeted promptly by a friendly man who I suspect was the owner.  While he did not have what I was looking for, he made some suggestions.  This was an old fashioned small town hardware store that seemed to be well stocked.  They had an old brass scale to sell nails by weight and many other antique looking fixtures.  The store seemed to be well stocked with hardware and plumbing supplies and even had a good supply of small kitchen appliances.  The small town retailers need our support to keep the doors open.  I like the big stores that carry everything too, but it is hard to beat the convenience of shopping just down the street.  I am sure the service is great in this store as well.  Today I salute the small town retailers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Managing rootworm resistance

Maybe this is not the most timely blog I have ever written but I read this article on managing for rootworm resistance today.  It is probably too late to consider the first two BMP's this year.  I suspect everyone has their seed and knows what they intend to plant.   To summarize their advice:
  1. Rotate to soybeans
  2. Use traits other than the  Cry3Bb1
  3. Use insecticide
This is assuming you are already using refuges in some way. 

One thing that comes to my mind when I read this kind of stuff is that the cornbelt needs some other highly productive crop to mix in with the corn and soybeans to break the disease and insect problems we have.  The genetics especially in corn is amazing, but mixing in addition species would be useful.  We have heard about such crops as canola and edible beans, but there is really nothing with the income potential of corn and soybeans on our highly productive soils in the Midwest. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Update on Brazil Crops

By Eduardo Paim:
Corn production in the 2012/2013 harvest that will be harvested in July in Mato Grosso can reach approximately 17.3 million tonnes. A new survey was done by the National Supply Company (Conab). Corn Harvested will be Approximately 11% more compared to what was harvested in the previous season (15.6 million). The area for planting corn harvest is about 3.3 million hectares (an increase of 23.4% over last year's area).
If the rains continue to fall until the end of April we will have a lot of corn here. Most producers here did not hedge the price of corn because they wanted more than $ 12.00 per bag, best price in Mato Grosso was U $ 10.50 per bag (December 2012). Today we have only $ 7.00 per bag. It would be good to have at least $ 9.00. The government in Brazil continues to buy corn at auction to replenish inventories.

Some small farms in northern Mato Grosso are still finishing the soybean harvest, and are having great difficulty because it's raining a lot. It is but few hectares. Overall suppy in Brazil will not be as large, the states that are producing well will balance the states that produce poorly. Overall we have about 22% to a maximum of 25% of soybeans available. It is a little work for all businesses by the end of 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First Planter I Have seen Planting

Below is the first planter I have seen planting in 2013.  It is a client and they have 300 acres planted. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Soil Temperature

My Monroe County contact reported this morning that soil temperature is 60 degrees.  I checked my garden and also found 60 degrees.  It does not take long to warm up with air temperatures in the 70's and sun shining.  Ideally corn should be planted in 50 degrees Fahrenheit soils or warmer.  Today's readings certainly signal that corn planting is in order.  The question is, do you really want to plant with heavy rains in the forecast.  Researchers have found that corn planted on the day of a heavy rain or the day before a heavy rain does not germinate as well as we might like.  I think the poorer germination may be related to oxygen and the seedcoat breaking down.  On days like today, the best strategy might be to till the soil and prepare your seedbed.  Then it is ready to plant in the stale seedbed after the rain.  Seed placement should be slightly better in the stale seedbed too because the settled soil will not have voids like the loose soil will have.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Early Planted Corn

Last week we heard plenty of reports of early planted corn.  It was a case of rounding up the usual suspects.  Lots of times when someone starts, everyone is quick to get nervous and follow suit.  That did not really happen last week.  Cold soil temperatures caused cooler heads to prevail.  With soil temperatures nearing the 50 degree mark in the southern 2/3's of Illinois, we might see more movement in planting this week, if the rain holds off.  I expect last week's planted corn will be OK.  It might not be the top yielding, but the drier soil will help.  If you are thinking of planting tomorrow, keep in mind that the day of or the day before a big rain is not usually a good time to plant, especially when soil is moist and cool.   

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Old Farm Bridge

This old bridge was once used to move farm animals an machinery across the creek. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Burnt Prairie

This Burnt Prairie near Spalding caught my eye. The question is, "Is it too late to burn?"  NRCS and DNR say not to burn after April 1, but if you have your burn permit and the conditions are right, you might want to check and see if it is still OK to burn.  If you are not restricted by government contract, I think it still might be a good idea to burn.  There is not much growing or nesting becaues of the cool weather.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Corn Crop In Brazil

By Eduardo Paim
Here we are having good rains for corn, if it continues raining good until the end of April we will have a lot of corn in Mato Grosso.
For Soybeans we still have some states of Brazil finishing the harvest, after everyone finished the harvest in Brazil, they must inform the government how Brazil harvested. I believe that among the states that have had problems and states that are reaping a good harvest in the fall soybean production will not be too big! Here in Mato Grosso, the average was 52 bags per hectare (10% lower than the producers hoped spoon), but others are having good productivity.  Have a good start planting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What is going on in the field today?

My client was field cultivating to smooth out tile trenches.  Moisture seemed OK to do this, but I was using a wet tip on my soil probe because the dry tip was compacting the soil in the tube.

I had a report that anhydrous ammonia application is hot and heavy in Monroe County.  Suppliers   could not get it delivered fast enough. 

I expect field activity to pick up daily until we get some rain, but nobody seems to be in a hurry to plant.  I did see one planter out of the shed.  It is hard to warm soil when it is frozen every morning.  Any corn planted in our area would have to sit in very cold soil for a while. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sampled North of Springfield Today

Field work begins in earnest this week.  Blogs will be posted later in the day except for an occasional rainy day.  I sampled one of my early customers today.  Soil Temperature at 4 inches was 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Soil was frozen on the surface in the morning.

Field activity was limited, but I did see four anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks in transport.  I also saw someone field cultivating in the afternoon.  It looked a little wet, but I suspect lots of people will be moving in that area.  There are some wet spots.  A corn field next to Williamsville was covered with water.    

I got my Weather and Crop Report yesterday.  IASS is reporting that plating is behind last year.  Really there was nothing but weather information and wheat condition.  They reported Oats as 2% planted. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

What Is Going on with the Markets?

I should open this with a disclaimer.  I have no idea.  What is going on with last week's USDA report?  That might be a better question.  I will let Bryce Knorr give you his explanation of what is going on with the market.

Arlan Suderman says "Exporters have already shipped 90% of USDA's target for the marketing year that ends August 31; typical by date is 78.6% ".  USDA says that feed usage is down.  How could that be with a drought induced hay shortage?  I have recently read that western feedlots are paying $1 above market price for corn.  These kinds of discrepancies make it easy to question USDA.

  • Could USDA be affected by politics?  They are not supposed to be.  
  • Could their models be off for current conditions?
  • Could crop reporters be fudging?
  • What happens if USDA is wrong and we run out of corn early?  
I certainly have more questions than answers.  I think we are in for a wild ride until the bins are empty.  Next year's crop is all speculation at this point.  Remember the record crop forecast last year at this time?