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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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Busy Harvest Day

It was busy harvest day today.  Most people were harvesting soybeans.  Even double crop soybeans are turning yellow.  Yields seem to be tailing off just a bit as we are getting into later planted crops, but they are still good.  It looked like every combine in the area was running.   Whether you are a farmer or just someone who has to drive in rural areas be careful out there.  There is  lots of machinery and grain on the road. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dusty Harvest

Soybean Harvest is very dusty this year.  Some rain would settle some of the dust, but who knows when that will happen. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Conservation Repairs

Dry weather is making this a good time to do repairs on conservation practices that were overtaxed in the wet spring.  You can see in the top photo where the ridge overtopped this spring and washed a gully.  Timely repairs keep the situation from getting worse.  The customer is using a farm tractor and scraper.  You can see how good it looks in the bottom photo.  Top it off with a cover crop to hold the soil till spring. 
Water and Sediment Control basin overtopped this spring

A big tractor with a scraper makes the repair short work. 

Cleaning out the basin adds capacity for next year. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Soybean Planting is Slow in Mato Grosso

By Euardo Paim:
Here in Mato Grosso planting started and stopped for lack of good rains, but we have no risk of delays. Rain is expected to normalize from October 15. Overall we have not planted 1% of soybeans. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Worked in West Alton Area Today

I worked on smoe new land in the West Alton - Portage Des Sioux area today.  Most of the corn is harvested in that area except for a few who do not want drying costs.  Soybean harvest is maybe 25% done.  There are still a lot of soybeans holding on to leaves and some are green.  Harvest is much further along than it was between Hillsboro and Alton. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall Applied Nitrogen

As harvest progresses, many producers in Illinois will be thinking about what is next.  One popular practice continues to be fall applied nitrogen.  This is just a reminder that fall application of nitrogen should not be started until soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit with a fair chance that they will stay low through the winter.  Fall applied nitrogen should also be done with nitrification inhibitors.  At less than 50 degrees, you might think that the nitrogen will not break down, however keep in mind that a warm wet spring can really mess with that idea.  It should be good insurance.  Also keep in mind that the ammonia form of nitrogen is the only suitable form for fall application.  That means that Ammonium Sulfate or Anhydrous ammonia are really the only forms to consider.  Yes you can also put on DAP or MAP, and you should take credit for the nitrogen, but the amount you end up with is really not high.  Illinois Route 16 is suggested as the southern boundary for fall applied nitrogen.  I have done enough nitrogen test to tell you that I think the line should be US 36.  As soil temperatures go lower, I will be posting the 10AM temperature on Twitter.  Follow me, @daver819 or just keep an eye on the twitter feed on my blog.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Small Town Sports

This blog was meant for last night since I went to the local High School Football Game, but I found that I did not have any photos.  In small towns, in Illinois at least, high school sports are probably the biggest entertainment event in the community.  Football and basketball are most popular, but our school has over a dozen sports so anyone who wants to can find something to participate in.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall weed control

This blog is called "Observations in Agriculture" for a reason.  I try to keep my eyes open to what is going on.  In the past, I have not been overly enthusiastic about fall weed control.  This year, I noticed that controlling fall weeds seemed to have a positive result in the spring.  Because we have so many problem weeds, it looks like we need to do all we can for weed control.  Dr. Hagar wrote a bulletin today about controlling Marestail in the fall.  His advice seems like another tool we should use.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Interesting Red Tractor

It fits in the category of something you don't see every day.  I saw the Cockshutt tractor lined up from a distance at the Broomcorn Festival Parade in Arcola and I thought someone had painted their Oliver red for some reason.  When it came around I found it was not an Oliver.  Then I read this article and found out it was essentially an Oliver painted red.  Cockshutt, a Canadian company had a long relationship with the Oliver Tractor company going back to the Hart-Parr days.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Charting Soil Fertility

From time to time we look at fertility over time. Because we collect samples annually, we can keep a close eye on the effects of fertilizer.  It also gives us an idea as to if our sampling procedures are working.  Is the weather skewing test results?  We can check that.