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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cover Crops Time

We are fast approaching the time when you should be planting many if not most cover crops.  If you have not tried them yet, maybe this is the year.  If you tried them, but had problems, don't give up.  It is difficult to do many things right the first time.  Also, keep in mind that this year will not be like last year.  If you are still deciding what to plant, the Michigan State University Decision Tool might help.  Aerial seeding is a must for most crops.  Ideal seeding dates are usually early in September.  Last week of August seedings or good too.  Some crops like Spring Oats or Cereal Rye can be planted after harvest.  You should consider how you are going to kill this stuff in the spring.  Also keep in mind crop insurance issues you may need to deal with.  It is not too soon to order your seed. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Flood of 1993

For people who live or have families who live and work in the floodplains of our large Rivers, the Flood of 1993 will live long in our memories.  Many acres of cropland and thousands of homes were flooded by relentless summer rains.  Valmeyer, IL is still home for many family members.  West Alton, MO is the home of many customers.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a special this week recalling the flood.  In 1993 I was working for the St. Louis District of the Corps of Engineers.  The flood occupied my every waking moment for about two months.  I worked to help preserve the Lock and Dam at Clarksville and in my time off, I worked to help family move household goods, farm equipment, and anything else that was not attached to the ground.  I worked we'll into 1994 on repair and recovery at the Corps of Engineers.  I would like to write a book.  There are so many stories and I know a few of them.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grass Hedges

I recently ran across my Soil Science Society of America CD for 2012.  Many of the articles as usual are difficult to understand and apply, but one by Seth M. Dabney, Glenn V. Wilson, Keith C. McGregor (retired) and Dalmo A. N. Vieira all of USDA's Ag Research Service (ARS) entitled Runoff Through and Upslope of Contour Switchgrass Hedges.  They found that strips of switchgrass, a native warm season grass, can reduce runoff leaving the field and also reduce sediment leaving the field when planted on the contour.  Runoff reduction is kind of technical so I won't go into that, but the hard numbers on the sediment showed a 75% reduction in the amount of sediment leaving the field.  The implication of this is that a viable alternative to improve erosion control in problem areas maybe to plant about a 5 foot wide strip of switchgrass on the contour.  The switchgrass is easily established and relatively easy to maintain and control. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Erosion was a Problem this Spring

We had several storms this spring in the 3 inch plus range.  Very few farmers came through the spring without any erosion, but some were worse than others.  I have been wanting to write this blog since I took the pictures, but wanted to have time to do it justice.  The photo below shows an ephemeral gully on a hillside planted to corn.  The gully will be erased by tillage, but a grassed waterway or Water and Sediment Control Basins would help control this type of erosion. It also might save a broken axle.

The waterway below has an Ephemeral Gully parallel with it.  this problem can be avoided by planting and tilling as close as possible to perpendicular to the Grassed Waterway. 

Erosion is being held in check below by the crop residue from last year.   

This photo below is from the same field as above There was not as much residue on the slope and more  was needed to control erosion.  No-till would be in order on these kinds of slopes.

Below is a grassed waterway under construction

Even though the field has lots of eroding area, the dry dam below is keeping most of the sediment on the farm.

In the field below a water and sediment control basin was effective in controlling ephemeral gullies and trapping sediment. 

The draw below has a Grassed Waterway in it, but not far enough up the hill.  

 The Ephemeral gully below is in the center of a newly constructed grassed waterway.  A way to fix the problem is to backfill with sod or use rock checks.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cantaloupe, Pumpkins and Squash

One of the last fields I sampled had vegetable crops going in part of it. Soils are fairly sandy. 



Friday, July 26, 2013

Teasel Cleanup Day

Today I worked in the Route 66 Weigh Station Prairie North of Litchfield to help remove Teasel.  Teasel is one of many invasive species in Illinois.  Invasive species are non-native plants that upset local ecosystems and choke out native plants.  We were clipping the teasel off close to the ground with hedge trimmers, lopping shears, and spades.  The crew leader, local naturalist Henry Eilers, has been using mechanical means to remove blooming teasel plants from the area for a number of years.  He is making good headway in at least keeping the species from over running the area.  Today a work crew of 6 was able to cut off all of the blooming Teasel plants in about an 8 acre area.  The land is owned by Illinois Department of Transportation, but managed Montgomery  County Natural Area Guardians.  IDOT did help by mowing some heavily infested areas.  They have also sprayed some area. If you have teasel blooming right now, mowing would also be in order if there is a lot of it.  Keep in mind to overlap if you are using a spin cut mower.  I think an old sickle type mower may be more effective if you still have one.  We plan to burn the area when it dries out this fall/winter.  After burning, the green rosettes will be exposed.  We  hope to spray the rosettes with 2-4D to kill them through the winter.  We think that Teasel is spread by mowing when it is mowed later in the season. 
Route 66 Weigh Station Prairie

Crew Leader Henry Eilers in the center

Teasel plant in the Center

Teasel Rosettes that will bloom next year if nothing is done. 

Uncontrolled teasel on a nearby roadside.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nitrogen Management

I attended the University of Illinois Agronomy Day program in Brownstown today.  The last topic of discussion caught my interest the most.  Dennis Bowman demonstrated the Trimble Greenseeker handheld.  Corn was growing side-by-side.  You can see the yellow sickly looking plants in the top photo.  The middle photo shows the healthier looking plants.  The Greenseeker results are shown on the bottom photo.  Bowman used the numbers on his smartphone with the  Connected Farm™ app to get results in seconds.  The app told him that the yellow corn needs 115 pounds per acre of Nitrogen in order to maximize yield.  I am not sure that takes into account the need to use specialized equipment to apply the Nitrogen at this point.  The assumption is that the greener corn has enough nitrogen.  I am not sure how you prove that without a soil test. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crop Conditions Today

I took a little trip today to West Alton and Black Walnut, MO area today.  The Crops on the Illinois side of the trip looked as good as they can look.  Corn stands are uneven, but over half is tasseled.  Soybeans are growing well.  Corn and soybeans are both uneven because of our wet and late spring.  The crops in St. Charles County are getting stressed on the sandiest soils.  They have not had much rain since July 10.  That is hardly a drought, but dry conditions are starting to show.  On the other hand, the swales still have water in them too.  Could this be an average year?  Too wet and too dry both?  Most of the corn in St. Charles County is tasseled and starting to fill.  I saw some double crop soybeans that look pretty good. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mom was right.

Mom always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day.  My mom actually made extra effort to make sure we went to school with a good breakfast.  Recent research confirms mom was right.  The researchers found that eating breakfast reduces heart attack risk by 25%.  Check out the link above for more information.  They did not look at what the breakfast eaters eat. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Precision Farming and Data Privacy

Who gets to see my precision farming data?  If you are collecting precision farming data, who gets to look at it?  If you are using a product that uses "cloud storage"  your information may be available to those who have sold you the applications you are using.  Be sure to check it out.  Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee is looking at precision farming and privacy issues.  If you are a Farm Bureau member, perhaps you should weigh in on the issue.  A recent request to EPA for data on individual livestock farmers is one of the issues that prompted a need to look at the issue.

Check out what John McGuire had to say on the subject in February in his Farm Futures Blog

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Snag Trees

Snag tree
 Snag trees like those pictured may not be productive for timber, but they are very productive to wildlife providing both food and shelter to mammals, birds, insects, and many others.  It is a good conservation practice to keep such trees if possible. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Corn Harvest in Brazil

By  Walister Jhon:

Maize production fell with the lack of rain in May. I talked with a producer from the city of High Herons says at the beginning of the harvest he was collecting 90 bags per hectare; in the end he lost a lot and is harvesting 70 bags per hectare.
The regions of High and Itiquira Herons were the regions that suffer most from the lack of rain.
Guiratinga bag per hectares - 110.
Itiquira bag per hectares - 85
Jaciara bag per hectares - 105
High-Heron bag per hectare - 100
Campo Verde bag per hectare - 98
Smile bag per hectare - 105

Friday, July 19, 2013

Weed Control

Weed control seems to have reached a crisis level in some fields.  I sampled a field in early July that had been sprayed with something, based on some crispy leaves, but nothing was dying.  I had a client who sprayed and seemed to get a good kill, but the waterhemp was sprouting at the base of some of the plants.  Lots of people are using something to make the glyphosate work better.  Lots of people are using soil applied residual herbicides especially on corn.  I saw corn fields that were clean because of the residuals.  I know some of them were not sprayed at all with glyphosate.  That is a step in the right direction.  It would appear that there was not as much residual material applied to soybean fields.  Yes, I am still seeing some clean fields, but weeds are the rule in a lot of areas.  Additives and or products like Cobra are burning the soybeans.  It looks sort of like the Basagran and Blazer days. Wetness has made timely spraying difficult.  I like seeing the 2 foot tall weeds dying when they get sprayed, but the kill would be much more effective if they were sprayed when 2 inches tall. 

No-till Farmer had a question this morning about using UAN 28% solution with glyphosate.  The advice is sound.  The nitrogen product with the glyphosate does not provide enough N to really affect a nitrogen deficient crop.  It also does not provide enough sulfur to correct a sulfur deficiency. 

Surprisingly, I have seen very little mechanical weed control.  I have one customer who used a cultivator to incorporate some supplemental urea.  I suspect the added weed control and aeration made the operation more than  pay for itself.  I have not seen anybody either walking or riding a4 wheeler in soybeans with a hoe trying to kill escapes.  I know this practice is labor intensive, but some fields  have few enough weed escapes that lots of ground could be covered quickly.  All it takes is one resistant weed to start a problem. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spring Sampling Season a Wrap

Yesterday I wrapped up the "spring" sampling season by sampling a wheat field and a small field of soybeans.  I also took the photos below to show crop condition in our area.  The top photo is to show how uneven much of our corn is due to wetness.  The photo below it shows corn planted a little later.  It is more even, but we would really rather have corn tasseling at this time of year.  Soybeans are looking better than corn in the bottom two photos, but I could still see some uneveness.  I will try to give at least one report a week from the field as the crop year continues. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Compost Bin

Yesterday's corn is now in the freezer and the waste material is in the compost bin.  I am curious to see how fast it takes to decompose. It will fertilize my garden next year. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sweetcorn Day

We picked sweetcorn on the family farm today.  We will freeze some and give some away.
 One of the last places I sampled this year was a field of sweetcorn.  The producer planted it on three different dates to try and capture  a fresh market for the whole season.  Background is silking and will be ready to eat soon.  Middle area is knee high.  Foreground is just emerging.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Passing of the Seasons

I missed the June passing of the seasons photograph.  There were lots of cars in the parking lot today, but only a few boats visible.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Grain Bin building

One of my clients is building a grain bin.  Many of my farm readers have seen the scene below, but probably many non-farm readers have not.  Grain storage bins are built from  the top down.  The top ring of steel is assembled on the ground.  Then the roof is added to the structure.  After that the structure is jacked up and the next ring is assembled underneath the top one and attached.  I happened to be on site when the bin was being jacked up so that the next ring can be attached.  Another thing you might not know is that the metal in the lower rings are thicker than metal in the upper rings. Once the outer shell is in place, drying floors, dryers, stirators, and augers will be added and the ladder will be completed. 
Grain Bin Building

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Subsoil Moisture

I did a septic tank investigation north of Witt yesterday.  It happened to be in a soybean field so it is real crop conditions.  The topsoil ( 7 inches) was fairly dry except that the surface was damp because of 3/10ths of an inch of rain.  Subsoil moisture was excellent at a depth of 18 inches or so.  There was still a water table in one of the holes at around 54 inches deep.  The borings were on good prairie soils.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rainy Day

Rainy days always present something of a dilemma in deciding if to try and get some work done and where. I left the house headed west.  I got 10 miles out of town and looked at radar on my smartphone.  I decided that I should head north instead of west in order to have a chance to miss the showers.  I was able to finish a customer with some wheat, hay , and unplanted fields.  It drizzled the whole time I worked, but I got done.  The rainbow was actually before I started.  If you look closely it is centered on the clump of trees.  The cloud with the blue-green tint was north of me.  The color often indicates hail.  The clouds in the bottom picture looked like they had texture.  The camera picked it up fairly well.  I was working in a landscape south of Springfield called the Grand Prairie, so I was able to see a long way. 

Hail Cloud?

Textured Clouds

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Comments on Ilinois Weather and Crop Report

It looks like Ag Statistic Service is reporting about 70% of Illinois Corn is good to excellent.  I think that is a fair guess at least in our area.  Stands are more uneven than we would like, but generally good except in wet spots.  The reason I would report 30% fair to poor is that is about the amount that was planted after June1.  It will need to be mature before I would be happy about it.  They show 8% silked.  That is consistent with what I have seen.  In 2 weeks that number will be around 75%. 

They show soybeans as 99% planted.  That seems a little high, but we are certainly wrapping up first crop beans.  My clients yesterday and today are still patching in wet areas.  We have soybeans anywhere from knee high to just planted in our area.

They show we area little bit below average on growing degree days, but the recent heat is catching us up fast.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Corn Setting Ears

Farmers in St. Charles County Missouri seem to be collective believers in early planting of corn.  I would estimate that 25 to 35 % of the corn in the river bottoms there is setting, ears, silking, tasseling.  The smell of corn pollen is in the air.  Moisture is good, so it seems to be a favorable time for that to happen.  There are also some soybeans that are knee high.  Luckily none of those are fields that I have left to sample. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Double Crop Soybeans

Wheat harvest and planting double crop soybeans in our area goes hand in hand.  No-till planting is the fastest and easiest.  Planters and drills are both used.  I have seen a few people doing tillage.  One of my customers thought his fields are too wet to plant.  He is hoping for a few  more dry days.  Short moisture can be a problem even in a normal moisture conditions.  Last year with the drought, many double crop soybeans did not germinate.  Crop budgets for the Southern 1/3 of Illinois suggest that the highest returns go to a rotation of Corn, soybeans, wheat, and double crop soybeans, especially on poorer soils.
No-Till Planter

No-Till Drill

Vertical Tillage

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blackberry Time

We are still sampling at this late date because of rainy weather.  I would rather be done, but one of the treats of late sampling is blackberries. The ones below are not quite ripe, but we are finding some that are.  Wild Raspberries have just about stopped bearing fruit.  The low growing dewberry variety of blackberry is ripe or getting ripe.  The taller vines like below have only a few ripe berries on them. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wheat Harvest Progressing

We finally got some dry weather for wheat harvest.  The morning started off foggy, but by noon things were dried off.  I saw a number of combines in the field, some with balers right behind them.  Yes there are also a lot of double crop soybeans going in. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Using my Ipad Soil Sampling

I used my IPAD as my primary guidance tool in the field this spring.  It has worked better than anything else I have ever used.  I am using Ipad2 WIFI.  It does not have a data card, so it requires an external Bluetooth GPS.  I am using a Garmin Glo.  The app I am using is GISRoam.  At start up I sometimes have trouble with GISRoam recognizing the GPS on start up.  In other words, the cursor is not on the screen.   I sometime have to reboot two or three times.  I think it is a start up sequence problem, but once it is going it stays going. Battery life is 6 to 7 hours.  That is about all I can work anyway.  If you want to conserve battery you can put it on standby between stops.  Screen visibility is not great with the sun at your back, but you can darken lines and usually see it OK. I can visualize farmers using this setup to keep records on maps.  I have set up two customers already.

I recommend buying a model with a data card.  I think the newer models have better visibility too. 

Durability is good with the Otterbox.  I used it for an hour today in a light rain with no problem.  It also meets the test of time as I have sampled more than ever before.  Over all I rate it a 7 out of 10.  Nothing else I have gets higher than a 5.  There are flaws in all of them.  My previous blog had a rundown

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ag Scholarship Fund Raiser

  Today I participated in a Pork Patty Fund Raiser sponsored by the ag committee of the Hillsboro and Litchfield Chambers of Commerce.  The committee raises funds through local business contributions and pork patty eaters.  Farm Credit Services of Illinois provided the cookers.  Thanks to everyone who stopped to eat.