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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.