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Monday, September 30, 2013

Harvest Progress

Illinois Weather and Crop Report shows 14% of corn harvested in the West Southwest.  I am not sure where that is.  In my area, it seems maybe 5% is harvested.  I am currently working on only two customers because others do not have complete fields harvested.  In the Southwest, 47% of corn is reported harvested.  I suppose that is possible but seems  high too. 

Many people are still short of moisture.  Only 305 of the state is reporting adequate topsoil moisture.  As we found out last year,short moisture can skew soil test results.  That is a reason to have soil tested frequently.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Invasive Species

Invasive species are species that somehow are out of balance with nature.  Most often they are species that have been moved from their original ecosystem to another ecosystem because it was thought to be useful in some way.  Often the species have crossed oceans to get to where they are currently a problem.  Whenever we bring in species from another continent we are setting ourselves up for potential problems.  In Southern Illinois the list is long as you can see from this publication by Heartland Conservancy in Mascoutah, IL

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Corn Crib

Last weekend I photographed a number of corn cribs on my return home from Dekalb. The one below is not far from Highway 251 in southern LaSalle County.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Soybean Harvest Going Well

   Soybean Harvest is underway and I had time to get some great photos. 

Combine in a cloud of dust

Headed to the Auger Wagon

Unloading Soybeans

Soybeans on the Auger Wagon

Back to Harvest

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Soil Judging Contest Today

I helped mark the official scorecards today for the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District's annual soil judging contest.  I attended my first contest as a Freshman in High School 44 years ago about this time of year.  I competed for University of Ilinois at the collegiate level and participated in the National Contest near Clemson, South Carolina in 1977.

Usually a local conservation contractor will dig the pits with his backhoe. The official scorecards are marked.  The students arrive to look at the practice pits and get some hints as to how the judges are marking their cards.  Several soil pits are then evaluated by the students and they are asked to make interpretations for soil conservation, dwellings, and septic tank filter fields.  They are graded as to how closely they match the official scorecard.  The students and teachers seem to enjoy the chance to get out of the classroom.  I enjoy the chance to look at soils in an open pit.  There is no better way to learn about your soil.  It has been a number of years since I helped. 
Pits are dug and judged

Students gather around the practice pit

Students evaluating the soil

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Started Soil Sampling Today

I sampled harvested ground for the first time this fall.  Moisture is OK, but not great in the topsoil.  I was able to get samples without a hammer.  I am hoping that test levels will not be off because of moisture.  I will confirm with last year's tests.  In spite of the drought, by the time we got  around to sampling last year, topsoil  moisture was good.  My client was very pleased with both corn and soybean yields.  I also did a deep boring at Vandalia yesterday.  They have had a lot of rain through the summer and soils were very  moist.  They have had rains through the summer that nobody else got. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Soybean Planting has started in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:  
Here in northern Mato Grosso this week we have already started planting soybean to harvest 2013/2014. Few farms are starting, the acreage is still low, and the rains are not good to plant fast. We have a good forecast for little rain until next Saturday (28.09.13), and then we will have a few showers from 15mm to 20mm across the Mato Grosso.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Trip Report Dekalb

I took a little trip to Dekalb over the weekend to watch NIU eat EUI in football. I did not see much in the way of harvested crops except a bit around Lincoln.  One of the things I noticed was a lot of soybean fields yellowing and dropping leaves unevenly.  It would appear that the wettest part of the field is still green.  This is not really unusual, but it indicates to me that the soybeans in the better drained areas are  not going to reach their highest yield potential.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

One Acre Grids - Real Accuracy or Perceived Accuracy

The latest issue of Prairie Farmer Contains  an Article about sampling with one acre grids. I see problems with this technique because it is still a grid sample.  Grid samples are by definition a spot sample.  The idea of a soil sample no matter technique is to represent a particular part of the landscape by sampling and testing a very small part of that landscape.  We then try to relate soil test results to the potential for the crop to respond to additions of fertility.  The hope is that we can maximize yield potential by increasing fertility to a level where the crop is not likely to be stressed by nutrient deficiency in that sample area.  By sampling on smaller grids we hope to have  more accurate picture of what is going on in a field.  In 1976 and 1977 Dr. Ted Peck was trying to teach me everything he knew about soil fertility and soil sampling.  He had a University owned field that had been sampled on a very intense grid in 1960.  256 samples had been pulled in that 40 acre field representing 0.15625 acre in each sample.  This was grid sampling at its most intense.  Results of Bray P1 testing are shown below.  You would think that by pulling samples so close together we would begin to pick up a pattern in the field, but it seemed that the closer together we got the more random the result in relation to other results.  This pattern held for the most part on pH, and Potassium tests as well.  The only place we saw a little bit of a pattern was in the calcareous soils.  Dr. Peck used these results to recommend that soil samples be pulled as close together as possible.  Thus we went from puling 11 samples in a 40 acre field to pulling 16 samples and the 2.5 acre grid was born. 

My opinion is that the results below make a good case for trying to map areas with similar soil properties and then pull samples from the whole management zone.  Our zones average about 10 acres in size, but they can be much smaller if needed to properly characterize a problem area or potential problem area.  We also use yield maps or yield potential to confirm the zones that we define by making our own maps that define soil type by landscape units and drainage class as well as topography.  We sample across the whole area that we are trying to represent instead of trying to represent a small segment of the landscape with an even smaller sample of that landscape.  We also sample frequently, most often yearly, in order to quickly correct any quirks that we find in any given year.  Quirks are most often caused by differences in soil moisture and temperature from year to year.  By sampling frequently and at the same time of year each year we can pick up patterns in fertility change pretty quickly.  We believe that zone sampling is an accurate reflection of what we are trying to accomplish in a given field and takes out the randomness of grid sampling that is caused by spread patterns and blindly sampling a given area whether it accurately reflects the land or not. Here is another blog on our sampling philosophy.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Passing of the Seasons

I got my passing of the seasons photo this time right on the break of the seasons.  Trees are still green, but crops are changing colors and some are harvested.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Soybeans Turning

Soybeans in the left quarter of the picture are starting to turn.  I am not sure if there is a difference in variety, maturity group, or planting date.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Slow Corn Dry Down

Many factors affect corn dry down, but one of the big ones is nitrogen content in the corn plant.  If your corn matures before nitrogen is used up, dry down may be slow.  If you want to know if that is a factor, a nitrogen stalk test can tell you what is going on.  We can do the test any time after black layer.  Dave Nanda writes about this and other factors affecting dry down in Prairie Farmer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

National No-till Conference

The National No-till Conference will be held in Springfield, Il this year.  It is too close to home to miss.  Whether you are a no-tiller or not, there are great speakers and the topics are adaptable to many systems.  Look at the lineup of speakers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Thought About the Farm Bill

Last time a new farm bill was written, I participated in a Faith Based Forum that was to provide input to the denomination so they could lobby for farm policy.  It seemed to me that most of the participants were interested the food stamp program.  I cannot remember the circumstances, but I commented that it appeared that no one cared what was in the farm bill as long as food is cheap and plentiful.  I believe this to be true on this farm bill too.  Our food is safe, cheap, and plentiful.  Farmers  keep close track of the farm bill.  Everyone else watches food prices.  As long as they can eat well it appears there is no need to change.  It would be interesting to see how fast we would have a farm bill if the grocery shelves were empty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Survey Today

I made a 150 mile circuit through Greene, Macoupin, and Montgomery counties today to look deliver a Variable Rate Prescription.  I also drove a bit to see where customers are on harvest.  The only corn I saw harvested was one field of silage.  I know there are a few others started, but I would have to say less than 1% harvested if I was reporting.  I saw a good bit of mature corn with ears dropped, but it looks like producers are waiting for dry down before trying to harvest. 

Montgomery County annual yield survey results were published in the Journal-News.  This survey is usually pretty accurate  on a county wide basis.  I also ran across Emerson Nafziger's summary of the corn growing season in my Prairie Farmer update.  It is worth a read too.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is Your Bin Ready for Grain?

Harvest is coming on fast or already started in our area, so I hope it is not too late ask if your bin is ready.  Last year's aflatoxin problems are not as likely to be widespread, but who knows.  It may be a good idea to double check and make all the grain handling equipment is clean and in good repair.  This article give a good picture of what to look for.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Does Size Matter?

You have read my discussions about farm size in the past.  I think I have mentioned that our biggest customer farms over 5000 acres.  Our smallest customer grows 4 acres of tomatoes.  What do they have in common?  They both want to produce their crops in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable.  For a farm to be economically sustainable, it has to make a profit.  I ran across this article today about Tony Thompson in the Washington Post.  His farm is big by most standards, but he is also making an extra effort to be environmentally sensitive.  Some people think that if a farm is not big, it is not a real farm. Some think that it is big it cannot possibly be environmentally sustainable.  Both notions are not clear  thinking. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Soybean Condition

The USDA Report is in for September.  I have no idea as to accuracy.  I was expecting lower corn yields, but at this point I am not sure.  I have heard rumors of yields in Southeastern, IL that are just about double the farm average. 

The soybeans in the top picture are almost fully yellow.  I think I got the greenest part of the field.  Most fields are not this far along.  The field below is right next to it and is still mostly green.  I am curious about the effects of weeds on soybean yields.  The lower photo is about average weed pressure in many of our fields. I could see a crop reporter saying is beans are in  the bottom picture are in good condition, but are the really.  I found this old research report on weeds and soybean yield.  THe abstract contains the results.
Yellow Soybeans

Green Soybeans

Weedy Soybeans

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Farm Safety

As we move into harvest, farm accidents will increase.  Many of them are preventable at some level. I have done some stupid stuff and gotten by with it.  I have done some stupid stuff and broke machinery or worse yet hurt myself.  Josh Flint has written and article about the relationship between sleep deprivation and accidents.

I think it is only one of the contributors.  Big on the list is just being in a hurry.  You think you can cut corners to get done faster.  Not a good idea.  Stress contributes too.  The aggravation of a breakdown or a clog can get you to do things you shouldn't.  Make sure to set a good safety example for employees too.  They will follow your lead. Without getting to heavy here, I close with the famous words of Sargent Phil Esterhaus, "Be careful out there."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Early Yield Reports

We have been hearing lots of optimistic yield reports early on.  People are reporting 200 bushels per acre and higher.  I have lots of questions about those reports, but it is not surprising that early corn is doing well.  That is, if it is on areas with good drainage.  Early corn had the advantage of good moisture during pollination.  We did have lots of drowned spots in that early corn.  Are people reporting whole field averages or just what they harvested?  I expect yields will not be so good in June planted corn and we had plenty of that.

I had this report from the river bottoms in Monroe County today.  "Started to shell today. Corn is 12% moisture(first load).  The field by the house is making 100bu/acre. I have about 18 acres done.  It is kind of what I expected as the sand spots have undeveloped kernels at the tips due to lack of August moisture and the low spots got too wet this spring and have very small ears.  The only good thing is that it is going straight to the elevator for 5.30/bushel."

I am surprised that only 6% of corn was reported mature this week.  I suspect reporters are looking for no or few green leaves.  The indicator of maturity is the black layer on the kernels.  I wrote this blog a few years ago to illustrate.  Kelly Robertson shared this link from Purdue about corn stress and black layering.  Another sure sign that the corn is mature is if the ears have dropped.  When ears drop they cut off the flow of nutrients and moisture into the kernels.  This will in turn trigger black layering if it has not already occurred. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fertilizer Pricing

Harvest is started for a few people, but maybe it would be a good idea to take some time out to look at locking in some of your prices for next year.  This Prairie Farmer article tells you why.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Broom Corn In Illinois

Arcola, Illinois is a little town about 40 miles south of Champaign, Illinois and bills itself as the Broom Corn Capital of the world.  Arcola is located in the heart of Illinois Amish Country.  It is interesting that Broom Corn is no longer grown in large quantities in the Arcola area, but broom making is still big business.  It is also interesting that Broom Corn is not really corn (Maize); it is a member of the sorghum family and an old world species. 

Yesterday we attended the Broom Corn festival in Arcola.  It is one of the biggest small town festivals I have ever attended.  There were hundreds of vendors selling trinkets, arts, crafts and food.  We did not really find anything unusual to eat, but it was good chance to visit with our son and enjoy the small town ambiance. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Big Bluestem

How tall was the tallgrass prairie?  I was standing in the Route 66 Weigh Station Prairie North of Litchfield when i snapped this picture.  I was standing straight and shot straight ahead.  You can see that the grass was approaching 8 feet tall.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Illinois Extension Service Gearing up to Celebrate 100th Anniversary

Land Grant Universities across the country are gearing up to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Service. Check Out the U of I page dedicated to the anniversary.  In the early years when communications were limited, Extension Service brought the University Research results and modern farming methods to farmers.  In recent years, Extension has spun itself into a sort of catch 22.  Farm numbers and event attendance has gone down, leaving them with reduced funding.  In addition, government research money has dried up as well.  Another issue is that farmers are no longer limited to one source of information.  This is a good thing in a way, but it does put limits on the agency.  Another problem is that as extension service has matured, they have gotten more conservative.  What once was a cutting edge agency has become somewhat stodgy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Potassium Needed for Good Alfalfa.

Now is the time to be getting hay crops in condition for winter.  One thing to look at is the potassium levels in your alfalfa fields.  Alfalfa is a heavy feeder of potassium and if you plant to grow high yielding alfalfa, you need to keep those levels up.  400 pounds per acre may not be too much 0-0-60 depending on your soil test levels.  There is a pretty Good article in August Prairie Farmer

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Corn Harvest is Started

Corn Harvest is beginning in the area.  The field in the top picture is near Valmeyer, IL and the producer is already applying hog manure.  The picture below is north of Greenville.  Silage chopping for dairy cattle usually takes place a little before corn is harvested for grain.
Applying Manure

Chopping Silage

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Okra is an Easy to Grow Summer Vegetable

Okra is one of our garden delights at this time of year.  It is easily grown and very drought tolerant.  It loves the heat.  It does not have any pests that really harm it although some insects do work on the leaves.  It takes a little bit more preparation than green beans, corn, or tomatoes, but it is a good change of pace too.  The pods should be cut off the plant when about 4 inches long.  They grow fast, so keep a close eye on them. My wife's favorite way to prepare it is to slice the pods thin and then coat them with egg.  After the egg, coat the with corn meal and fry them in a bit of oil.  You can add salt and pepper to taste.  To spice it up, slice a jalapeno or two and add it to the mix too.  We do not deep fry them like Lambert's in Sikeston, MO or Cracker Barrel.  Sometimes we prepare them to cook and then freeze them.

Another way I like them is to stew them with tomatoes and jalapenos although my wife is not crazy about that.  You can also use okra to thicken stews and soups.  It is a very versatile vegetable with a mild flavor.

Okra Pods ready to cut up

Monday, September 2, 2013

Celebrating Labor Day in Witt

Witt Labor Day Celebration is the last summer festival in Montgomery County.  Farmers and retired farmers love to show off their restored antique tractors at such events.  Four of my best pictures are shown below.  Allis-Chalmers was probably the best represented, but I am giving equal time to the represented makes.