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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Navigable Waters

I caught this shot of Ingram's OMAR pushing a full tow of 15 grain barges down the Illinois River near Kampsville in November. I thought this may be one of my best photos that did not make the blog.  It also serves as a reminder of the importance of our navigable waters are to the agriculture industry. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Photos I Like

I always keep a camera in the truck because you never know when you will see something interesting.

Dad with his John Deere R
Brown Snake
Green Bean Harvest

Barn In Northern Macoupin County
Cows on a cold day

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Entries That Deserve More Views

There are always some entries that don't get the pageviews I think they deserve.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What caught your eye this year?

I have given up predicting which blogs will generate lots of page views, but at this time of year, I let you see the ones that were popular among the readers.  Maybe you missed that day, or maybe just like me you are curious about what others were interested in.  I will say that the entries that get the most page views are usually written on current hot topics in agriculture. 

Coming up next will be others that I thought were well written, but did not get so many page views. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Looking Ahead

As the year draws to the close, it is time to reflect on the past and look to the future.  This will be the last newly written blog of the year.  After Christmas, I will review the past year in my blog.

Right now I  have a few things on  my mind for next year.  Regulation is one of them.  In looking at what is going on in Lake Erie Area and Chesapeake Bay we need to figure out if agriculture can be proactive and avoid kneejerk regulation like Ohio has enacted. 

Probably in the nearer future, producers are going to need to figure out how they are going to make it through lower prices for grain.  I will probably take a look at some of those things. 

The wild card in agriculture is always the weather.  If we get timely rains, we can get by with lower than average rainfall.  It is always interesting to look at long range forecasts, but it is hard to put much stock in them.  Rather than trying to guess at the weather, we need to plan on how we can maximize production and minimize inputs.  Basic economics of farming. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Meetings

It seems that winter meetings started earlier than ever this year.  Attending winter meetings is how we get our continuing education to maintain certifications.  It is also how we keep up on new developments that might affect our clients.  I plan to attend Farm Futures Summit in St. Louis in January.  The summit is good for me because most presentations are on the business perspective of farming and I tend to be more focused on the technical aspects.  I am also registered for the Extension Service Corn-Soybean Classic in Springfield.  I look forward to seeing some of you this winter as we prepare for 2015. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gypsum as a Sulfur Source?

I read about using gypsum as a sulfur source in No-Till Farmer.  This may or may not be a good idea.  If you need calcium to offset the effects of excessive magnesium, it is a great idea.  If you already have excessive calcium, you could contribute to low magnesium issues. Know what is going on with your soil before applying any amendment.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad

I went to visit my Dad today for his 86th birthday.  We celebrated with ham sandwiches, coffee, cookies and a shot of rum.  My brother stopped by to extend birthday wishes as well along with a couple of his friends.  He has a John Deere A in his shop that he is working to restore.  He hopes to get it running this winter and get it ready to paint in the spring.  Seems like a big undertaking, but it seemed to put a bit of a spark in his eye.  I am thankful he is still around and healthy. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Often to Soil Test

No-Till Farmer released the results of a poll on frequency of soil testing among no-tillers.  Of those responding to the poll, 21% said yearly, and 25% said every other year.  I am surprised that 46% test that frequently.  We still get odd looks when we say we want to test every year.  It is true that you can do some mathematical calculations and come up with fertilizer needs, but soil tests are affected by moisture and temperature.  By testing every year, you learn if your soils are up to snuff under all environmental conditions.  Your soils don't read crop removal charts.  those charts are based on averages.  things could be very different on your farm. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fall Sampling Over?

I am not sure, but it looks like fall sampling season may be over.  For the last 6 weeks, it has been more like winter sampling season.  Below is my stack of winter reading.  That stack has been bigger in past years.  I hope to glean a few good blog ideas from that stack.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Use for Corn.

With a record crop, it seems another use for corn is a good thing.  According to the State Journal-Register, a plant is under construction in Galva that will extract a protein called zein from corn. The protein will be used in food, pharmaceuticals and variety of other things. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wet Harvest

This year's harvest would be memorable even if we had not harvested the largest crop ever. Wet weather and later than usual planting dates drove the harvest into late November and for some into December. I saw a rather large field of beans being harvested today.

The photos below are very representative of how many of our late harvested fields look.  Wet weather plays a role, but maybe too much deep tillage as well.   Deep tilling every year every year creates a nive rooting medium, but is can also create a loose base.

If you have deep ruts as below, how do you fix them.  I have seen some have success by tilling parallel to the ruts to close them up a bit and then going at an angle to level them off.  Certainly you should wait for drier or frozen conditions before trying anything, but water in the ruts will be slow to go away.

In the end, I don't think you can till deep enough to remove this kind of compaction.  Deep rooted cover crops may be needed to correct the compaction in the long term.   

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Brown Snake

It was very cold in November.  December weather has moderated somewhat, but I was still suprised to see the little brown snake below slithering along trying to stay out of my way.  He curled up to attack when I got close to try and photograph him.
Brown Snake

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two Old Tractors

The two tractors below were being used to run augers on the same farm north of Carlinville. 

Farmall C

Farmall 300

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Newborn Calf

I ran across this newborn calf with mom today. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rock Island Tractor

The Rock Island Tractor below is parked in front of Buchheit in Jacksonville.  It seems to be in good shape for an unrestored tractor. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Food and Commodity Prices

There have been many complaints about high commodity prices driving up food prices in the past few years.  People don't seem to understand that agriculture needs diverse markets in order to have a healthy farm economy.  Using corn for food, feed, and fuel, drives the demand for corn and leads farmers to produce in record amounts.  Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert was featured in the State Journal-Register this weekend as a guest columnist.  The headline features transportation, but Guebert covers the effects of the large corn crop very well. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Illinois Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Illinois EPA is proposing a new nutrient reduction strategy to address concerns about water quality.  Prairie Farmer provides a good summary of the proposed strategy. The comment period is open.  Check the link in the Prairie Farmer article.  Here is the executive summary.  Check out the full strategy too.  Who is on the policy Working group is very eye opening.  One of the strategies that worries me is that they are advocating the Maximum return to nitrogen strategy. I understand the strategy and think it can be a good one under certain circumstances, but it may be yield limiting when environmental circumstances might indicate a need for a rescue treatment.

To their credit they are targeting urban runoff s well as agricultural.

If this does not seem real and urgent consider that the state of Ohio has recently adopted lawsconerning nutrient applications on runoff entering Lake Erie and other targeted watersheds.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

90 Day Rainfall Departure from Normal

I was going to write about a wet fall, but decided to check the rainfall map first.  The map below from  NOAA shows the wettest areas in blue.  The green is also above normal.  The gray is normal, and the yellow is a little below normal.  I am in the area of blue and green which could explain why I think we have had a wet fall.  In any case, just normal amounts of precipitation through the winter will take us into the spring with good soil moisture. Click to enlarge the picture.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

World Soil Day

December 5, 2014 is the first ever World Soil Day.  We recognize the importance of soils in our daily lives and look to maintain our soil for sustainable productivity.  Our very existence depends on soils.  Kansas State University put up summary of the importance of soil. Soil Science Society of America Encourages Readers to Know Soil, Know Life.  Dr. Walter Lowdermilk published the Conquest of the Land Through 7000 Years in 1940.  He tells us what happens when we don't take care of our soil.  Chuck Rice of KSU explains the importance of soil in this video. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Macoupin County Today

I took the backroads to my Macoupin County Client today. There was more corn to harvest than expected.  I saw five combines in the field.  On a more exciting note I spotted and eagle's nest along Macoupin Creek with a Bald Eagle nearby.  I tried for a picture, but my phone camera failed me. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Corn Cribs

The two corn cribs below were on my route in northern Montgomery County yesterday. 

Corn Crib Montgomery County

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Your Farm Eroding Excessively?

Kansas State University is developing protocols for Identifying Erosion Vulnerability Using Aerial Imagery and Terrain Maps.  I agree that their methodology is one way to look at erosion.  My 37 years of experience as a soil conservation professional tells me that if you can see where soil has moved, then you have a problem.  You can look for sheet movement, small rills, gullies, and areas of deposition.  Yes the soil in those depositional areas had to come from somewhere.  A soil conservation professional can use the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) to evaluate the extent of the erosion.  The computer model for calculating soil loss is called RUSLE2. Certainly aereal photography and topographic maps can help in determining the acreage that is subject to excessive erosion.  That is just the beginning of developing solutions.  Revising tillage operations, using cover crops, and including hay and grass in your rotation may be appropriate to your operation.  A conservation professional can help you with your decisions.  Your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office is the place to start looking for help.  You can also seek out a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Harvest Dragging On

I worked southeast of Morrisonville today. I am still seeing scattered fields of both corn and soybeans.  The field below is in northern Montgomery County.  I sampled about 70 acres today and the ground was very wet.  The land I was sampling was not tilled yet, so I was able to get across it even with some water on the surface.  It was definitely a good thing that the combine below was parked. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Among our many blessings this year is the most bountiful harvest ever.  Enjoy your turkey. See you Saturday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cover Crops Pay

A recent survey shows that cover crops paid off in yield increases.  I would note that the yield increases might not be break even, but when you consider the long term benefits, it is probably worth the trouble.  Prairie Farmer has more information on the survey.

We offer our soil health tool to measure the positive biological effects of cover crops.  It measures plant available nutrients as well as biological activity.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Home Made Air Seeder

By Glenn Savage - Conservationist and Firearm Safety Instructor

Attached is a photo of my friend cradling a leaf blower fitted with a piece of plumbing I call a "T" fitting.  The fittings are directional.  

One dribbles in seed through the top hole and a powerful stream of air distributes the seed.  My friend helped me plant two acres in less than two hours using the "Seedinator". 

 I confirmed with Justin and Simon of M&M service that they offer "airflow" distribution of seed.  They mix the seed with potash {pelletized} and sling or use booms to distribute it on the surface. 

If you know anyone who needs to seed now or is waiting for spring to plant, encourage them to "do it now!"

The advantages:
  •  ground is frozen so you won't have to wait in the spring for the ground to get firm
  • planting now saves our no-till drills in the spring
  • Air flowing is much faster
  • The seed is layered (conditioned to germinate) naturally

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Deer Blind

This deer blind was visible from IL Route 127 South of Hillsboro.  You can see the blaze orange in the window. Click to enlarge.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Value of Soil Testing

No-Till Farmer recently shared a study out of Kansas State on the  Economic Reurn of  Soil Testing. With low prices, you may be looking for ways to cut back.  Soil testing and consulting may be one of those things you are considering.  The Kansas State Data suggest you actually get  better return on soil testing when crop prices are low.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I worked in Freeburg area today. I did not see any crops not harvested in that area.  We sampled some wheat that was no-tilled. It is not very far along, but looked like it could survive the winter. Some tillage work is still underway, but there is not a lot of fall tillage done. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Little Rain in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:
Here in Mato Grosso we continued with little rain last week; it did not rain this week we have forecasts for no rains the rest of this week and next week! Producers are concerned, soybeans are sprouted suffering from the heat and lack of rain, I imagine that this year will be a good year in productivity for the second crop soybeans and corn. I do not recall myself a year with little rainfall as being this year. On my farm I am struggling to renew pasture for cattle due to lack of rains. Where the animals eat is taking 30 days to begin to recover. The soil is still very dry, we have no reserve of moisture in the soil around the state of Mato Grosso.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trip to Pittsfield

I traveled to Pittsfield yesterday for a septic tank investigation.  In the lawn the soil was not frozen.  I saw one unharvested corn field near Nebo. There were a few fields of beans to harvest, but I would put the progress on both at 99%.   I have been hearing a lot about on the ground corn storage, but I had not seen any until the two piles below, both at Carrollton.

Monday, November 17, 2014


It is very cold out this morning.  I can not remeber any time that we have had to quit working outdoors before Thanksgiving. Many years we have been working in December.  I am hoping the snow wil help protect the soil from freezing and maybe we can get a warm up. We took a little weekend getaway to Branson, MO.  What little cropland we could see was harvested. MOst of the stalks were being grazed by cattle.  Yes the cattle were eating even in the snow. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Shadows

I liked the way the shadows looked on this Oliver Super 77 yesterday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Will the Cold Affect Soil Sampling Results?

The short answer is maybe.  So why was I out there getting frost bitten fingers today?Yes it was that cold. 

We sample our repeat customers at the same time of year every year.  That way if we are looking for trends,we are likely to have similar conditions every year.  There are certain customers that we almost always sample when the weather is very cold.

Eventhoughwearelikely to get consistent results, it was still no fun out there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dry Weather in Brazil is Slowing Soybean Planting

By Eduardo Paim:
Here in the state of Mato Grosso we continue with little rain; almost no water falling from the sky. We have many cases of producers who are replanting soybeans, and some cases of three replants of soybean caused by drought. Most of Brazil is with little rain; then I believe that the record production that the government is going to be talking about in future that is not the 2015/2016 harvest. A delay in soybean planting will hurt much planting of winter maize (second crop corn) too.

Rains appear in weather forecasts, but the day comes with rain falling from the sky, the water disappears and no rain falls, or it is raining very little at a time; the water flows onto the soil and does not infiltrate the ground. it remains at low moisture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Farmers Serving Their Country

Since War began, I am sure that farmers have served in the military. One of the interesting observations  by Shelby Foote in Ken Burn's Civil War was the at the end of the war, the soldiers from both sides went home to the farm and returned to their lives by shucking corn and plowing fields, and threshing grain. General Sherman pointed out that the returning veterans had face hardship and death itself and that they approached life fearlessly.

I also think that war may have played a big role in shaping modern farming. Many World War II and Korean War veterans returned from war and used their GI benefits for college education of some sort.  Many farm boys got agriculture degrees and returned to the farm becoming a generation of highly educated farmers and agricultural professionals.  These men became leaders in the farming community and shared their knowledge with friends and neighbors.

We should all thank and remember these veterans for their service to their country and their service to agriculture.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Still Harvesting

The Photograph below take in Northern Montgomery County shows both and corn and soybeans remaining to be harvested.  Soils are very wet in that part of the county. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tilling Wet Soils

I was working an area that is very wet today.  Fields are rutted by harvest equipment.  A few areas were starting to gray off, but low areas are still extremely wet.  One of the big acreage farmers in the area had three 4 Wheel Drive tractors pulling disks through the mud trying to fill in the ruts.  The disks were throwing out balls of mud, and I am sure they were making the compaction worse.

Another thingy tcncerned me was that a few people were applying anhydrous.  I am sure that there were areas in the field where the slit closing.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cover Crops Seminar in Elsberry, MO

By Janette Swartz - Consultant with Soil Right Consulting Services:

Yesterday I attended a Soil Health/ Cover Crop Workshop in Elsberry, MO. If you haven’t been to the Elsberry Plant Materials Center it is very interesting. They have many plots of different cover crops seeded at different planting dates. They also had a rainfall simulator demonstrated by Doug Peterson. If you haven’t seen a rainfall simulator demonstrated YouTube has some pretty interesting videos done by the NRCS that would be good to watch.

 The first thing Doug did was perform a slake test. He placed a soil aggregate from a no-till field into a jar of water and also placed a soil aggregate from a conventionally tilled field in another jar of water. Immediately the conventionally tilled soil aggregate started falling apart compared to the no-till field where very little soil fell apart. This shows that tillage is destroying the soil glomalin which holds the soil together.

He then started the rain fall simulator. The first soil tray was a conventionally tilled soil. The second tray was a conventional till soil with cover crops. The third tray was a no till soil which has no cover crops (only because the grower didn’t have time to get them on this year). The fourth tray was a pasture soil with short grass on it. The fifth tray was a pasture soil with well managed grazing and a better grass cover. For each tray there are two jars underneath the front one was to catch the run off, and the back jar was to catch water that had infiltrated through the soil. As you can see from the pictures the first tray had a lot of muddy runoff and almost no infiltrated water. The second tray had a little more runoff (it received a little more “rain”) and quite a bit more water that infiltrated the soil. The third tray had no significant runoff and a lot of infiltration. The fourth tray had quite a bit of runoff and some infiltrated. The fifth tray had no runoff and all of the water infiltrated. I think this demonstration speaks a lot for no-till.

What was really interesting to me was how important managing your pasture ground is. I was surprised at how much runoff there was in the short pasture ground. I would have thought the grass roots would have held the soil and allowed for more water to infiltrate. The well managed pasture had almost no runoff. This shows how keeping the soil covered can be a benefit. In another picture you can see that Doug dumped the first tray out upside down. The top of the tilled soil was completely saturated and the soil that was on the bottom of the tray was completely dry. That shows that the tilled soil didn’t have any pore space and the water wasn’t able to penetrate anything but the surface. That is how the soil forms that top hard concrete crust when you get a rain.  

Slake Test

Rainfall Simulator