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Friday, January 31, 2014

What do those soil names mean?

Soils are named according to the geographic area where they were first observed.  For example, the State Soil of Illinois, Drummer Silty Clay Loam was named for Drummer Creek.  The Official Series Description web page can be used to find out detailed information about named soils. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can Agriculture Feed 9 Billion People?

A report out of the University of Nebraska questions assumptions when we project future crop yields.  When I look at the National Corn Growers Yield Contest winners, I am optimistic.  these guys are pushing the envelope and showing us how to produce more per acre.  The Illinois Soybean growers are also encouraging growers to take the yield challenge.  2012 results (the latest available)  were excellent considering dry weather. In addition to making growing more in our own country, some effort needs to be focused on helping small farmers around the world produce more with what they have.  Call it local production goes global.  Just because agriculture is low input and low tech does not mean that there is not room for improvement in soil erosion control and water management for example. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Tired of Winter? Is your Planter Ready?

Planting season could start in 60 days or so.  Are you ready?  We have the ability to place crop protectants and seed with great accuracy, but are we doing that?  Planting is especially critical when it comes to corn.  The more evenly space we are within rows, the better off we are.  We want even spacing no matter what the row width.  We also want uniform planting depth so that the crop will all emerge at the same time.  I have seen some research that says if all plants emerge within 72 hours, it is close enough.  I would say the closer we get to all corn out of the ground within 24 hours, the better off we are.  Precision Planting offers their top ten tips for making sure your planter is ready. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Crop Root Growth

When we talk about soil health, we are really talking about having a healthy soil soil that maximizes root growth and nutrient release.  At the National No-Till Conference, Dr. Joel Gruver of Western Illinois University made what I thought was the best presentation of the conference.  Maybe I should have written this as my first post conference blog.  Many thanks to Dr. Gruver for sharing his presentation with me so that I don't miss any of the highlights.  His talk was entitled 'Maximizing Crop Root Growth in No-till Systems."  It should have been subtitled "Crop Root Physiology 101."

Dr. Gruver's lead question was, "crop yields have improve three times over a lifetime, but have soils improved?"  Another question to ask is "why are yields so variable on a field basis?"  Gruver says "Root Performance = Genetics X Environment"  Evidence of the importance of roots is in GMO corn.  The two most important traits marketed are weed control and root enhancement.  The root enhancement comes because the Bt corn resists corn rootworms and make for a stronger root system.

One of the books on Gruver's reading list was "Plant Root - the Hidden Half"  Gruver talked about  root cortical aerenchyma, a plant's response to stress, and how it can be used to get the plant to respond positively to stress.  Gruver predicts that we will be hearing more about biological amendments in the future.  He says the "big guys" like BASF, Syngenta, and Monsanto have gotten into the world of biological enhancements.  In the past, the value of biologicals has often been in question because of sketchy research.  These bigger companies will have the money to do serious research.  Gruver predicts that these products are most likely to show a return on investment under adverse conditions.  A current and commonly used product is Votivo, used in combination with Poncho as a seed treatment.  Legume inoculants are probably the most familiar biological enhancements.  Gruver says that sales reps should be able to clearly explain how their products work.  In the past, this type of explanation has been vague to non-existent. 

Gruver says we should dig into the soil and look at our crop roots to see that they are healthy.  Healthy roots are white, proliferate in all directions, extend into the subsoil, and have minimal deformities.  Use and air hose and a shop vac to clean the soil away from the roots.

Gruver says that Chronic Root Malfunction is all too common in modern agriculture.  Chemical imbalances can be part of the problem, for example, low pH can cause aluminum toxicity.  He pointed out that one of the reasons that Gypsum is becoming popular is that it can help overcome soil structure problems and high sodium problems in some soils.

In row fertilizers are marketed as crop-safe, but under dry conditions especially, they can become toxic.  Gruver shared a South Dakota State University calculator that can be used to  determine the maximum rate for in row fertilizer.

Gruver discussed how soil nutrients, soil water, soil temperature, and compaction all affect root growth.

Gruver says mycorrhizae are the internet of the soil.  Roots only take up 1% of the soil, but mycorrhizae add to the effectiveness of roots because they take up 10% of the soil.  His 4 main strategies for enhancing root biology are:
  1. Conservation
  2. Augmentation (inoculant)
  3. Activation
  4. Suppression
  Gruver discussed how cover crops can suppress diseases and help with weed control.  He also presented information cover crops increasing root density.

Gruver said that a system to look at is the one that Dean Glenney  is using to grow high yielding corn and soybeans in Canada.  Glenney's Fencerow system changes the biology in the soil and in the plants.

Thanks again to Dr. Gruver for sharing his information with me so that I can share it with my readers.  This is a summary of what he told us. This is likely my last blog from the National No-Till Conference.  Next year it will be in Cincinnati.  Registration for next year's conference is currently deeply discounted.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Look for weaknesses in your system.

If you are looking to push your corn yields, you need to look for weaknesses in your system.

  • How is the drainage on your farm.  This can be expensive to fix, big payoffs can be big too.
  • How is you fertility ?  David Wolfskill discusses planter setup in this Corn-Soybean Digest article.
  • Do you know fertility levels?  Get a soil test or better yet, hire a consultant.
  • How is your weed control.  Figure you have some resistant weeds and use residual herbicides and vary modes of action.
  • Control insect pressures.  Scout and rotate.  
  • Are you cheating yourself on population?
  • What do you need to do for disease control? Are you using resistant hybrids?  Will you need fungicide?
  • What are you doing for nitrogen management?  Soil testing, sensors, aerial sensing, and side dressing should be considered.
Maybe the list is overwhelming.  Pick one or two that you can improve.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

6 Strategies To No-Till For 300 Bushels And Beyond

The title above was used for Marion Calmer's presentation at the National No-till Conference.

  • Calmer's number one point was to maintain a positive attitude.
  • He said that plant population and genetics go hand in hand.  Almost all modern seed has the genetics to produce 300 bushel corn.
  • He said to treat corn like a grass.  He thinks that 12 inch corn rows may be just a step toward solid seeded corn.  
  • Calmer says that compaction control may be a key.
  • He says that current ideal levels of soil fertility may be too low.  He also stressed the need for regular soil testing.
  • Calmer also said that residue management will be a key.  
Calmer also discussed his on farm research.  He likes field length strips because they simulate field conditions.  While that may be true, you also need to consider soils.  Strip trials are a good way to get a good look at nitrogen management and pesticides.  What ever you look at, make sure there is only one variable in your trials.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How do cattle stay warm?

I was out doing a septic tank investigation today and drove past these cattle.  If you look closely you will see that they have their heavy winter coats.  Cattle need a place to escape wind chills likea barn, but with their heavy winter coats they can handle the cold fairly well.  they do eat more in cold weather because they need extra calories to keep body heat up. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Soybean Harvest Progressing in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Soybean production reports near the cities of Sapezal, New Mutum and Sinop say producers are reaping an average of 53 s / c per hectare. In Guiratinga media is 55 s / c per hectare. In the region of the Itiquira some producers are average of 52 s / c hectare. Harvested area is still small due to the rain delay at the start of the planting; for example, in the Br 163 (Ipiranga's Note and Smile) region they still have media bags per hectare as yet started Crops. Crop in other previous years colheira was already advanced. 
The constants rains in recent days has hampered the progress of the harvest, even without a yield and quality of soybeans reduction. Is too early to say that the harvest will be great, we are just beginning, we have a lot of rain forecast for the months of February and March, double the January rains (200mm). Let's keep watching!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nitrogen Sensors Revisited

Bob Bottens made a presentation last week on being more effective with fertility in No-Till Corn.  His presentation was the most disappointing one I attended.  The quality of the presentation was fine, the disappointment was in his findings.  You may recall that I reported on research out of the University of Missouri by Peter Scharf.  Dr. Scharf had very positive results with GreenSeeker technology.  Bottens also researched the GreenSeeker and found some disappointing quirks.  He found that the amount of nitrogen metered out depended on which direction he was traveling in the field. He shared his monitor data to show what was happening.  Because the GreenSeeker measures the light reflected off the leaf, the amount of green reflected depends on which direction the light is coming from.  Good photographers know this.  He found the same at night depending on what lighting he was using.  He did not talk about how often or when he calibrated.  Scharf did tell us that frequent calibration is needed.

Scharf's results were very positive.  It could be that the good results outweigh the shortcomings.  I expect that Trimble is working on the GreenSeeker to correct this issues, and I expect that they can be overcome.  It is just something to keep in mind if you are using the technology.  Botten's information also emphasized the need for frequent calibration. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can You Make Money with Cover Crops?

Dave Robinson made one of the early presentations at the no-till conference last week.  He had some comparison studies he did last year and he presented data on what he  looked at.  He said he made money on cover crops no matter what he planted.  He is a long time no-tiller and has used cover crops for a number of years.  Robinson said that he made anywhere from $38 per acre to over $200 per acre on cover crops.  This is based on actual increases in corn yield.  He did not try to place a value on intangibles, soil erosion savings, or organic matter increases.

Robinson went over this material on why to plant cover crops.  Robinson's Blog contains lots of good information about cover crops.  It is not too early to do some research and figure out what you want to do next year. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cover Crops - Air and Water Movement.

Frank Gibbs, a consulting soil scientist retired from NRCS talked about the positive effects of cover crops and no-till on soil quality at the National No-till conference.  In the first video, Frank discusses the positive effects on rooting and shows you his smoke machine.   He also shared this video to demonstrate, with is smoke machine, how water and air move through the soil.  The smoke rolling out of the worm holes and root channels is very compelling. Some of us would have like to see the smoke demonstration on conventionally till soils as well. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Narrow Rows

One of the discussion groups that I joined last week was on narrow rows.  The discussion included both corn and soybeans.  Marion Calmer was in the room and shared a lot of information and experience.  Many in the room were looking to hear about the experience of others.  Just about every spacing was represented.  Some had twins, some  had 20 inch rows, and some had 30 inch rows.  Heat and air circulation were discussed.  In 2012 there were some who said that narrow row corn had lower yields than 30 inch rows because of heat and circulation.  I also knew some who had no ill effects by the heat.  Several of those in the room had looked at temperature in narrow rows vs 30 inch rows.  Those who had actual readings said the narrow rows were 1 degree cooler.  Experienced people seemed to think that the narrow rows did better in dry years because of better root distribution.  During the conference, some of the experts were leary of twin rows.  In the discussion, those in twins seemed to be happy with them.  Dr. Fred Below said in one of  his sessions that he thinks the future of corn lies in narrower rows.  Mr. Calmer would agree.  Everyone seemed to understand that narrow row corn currently shows no advantage among researchers.

Discussion shifted to narrow row soybeans.  Mr. Calmer shared his research data.  He said that narrower is always better in soybeans.  Calmer is using 15 inch rows for his production acreage.  He is also planting extremely low populations of soybeans.  He says that yield get progressively better from 30 to 20 to 15 to drilled soybeans with populations staying the same.  Calmer has lots of research to determine his highest profit systems and he says that the cost of seed is a determining factor in soybeans populations.

The more I hear on the subject the more I am leaning toward 15 or 20 inch rows for both corn and soybeans.  I would qualify that by saying that if you are already planting narrow row soybeans, then there may be no advantage to making the switch unless you need a new corn head.  The reason I would go narrow is for ease of changing over the planter from corn to soybeans and to take advantage of the yield advantage in the narrow row soybeans.  I am not aware of any research that does not show an advantage to narrow row soybeans, so if you are still doing 30 inch row soybeans, make the switch.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

National No-till Conference

You may have gathered that I spent the end of last week attending the National No-till Conference in Springfield.  We don't have a lot of customers who are no-tillers, but I have heard good things about the conference from various sources, so I thought maybe it was about time I attend. It has never before been as close as Springfield although I missed it when it was in St. Louis.  I may have mentioned in the past, that I value different viewpoints and I value the opportunity to hear nationally known speakers share their knowledge.  The conference had both.

This is a conference that farmers should attend once in a while even if they are not no-tillers.  Much of the information passed along related to growing things in general and not just to no-till.  Who knows, you may even be convinced to try something different.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the convention was the opportunity to participate in small discussion groups.  The small groups had moderators, but there was no script.  It was like continuing the discussion in the hallways.  There were numerous concurrent sessions and I found myself wanting to attend more than one almost every time.  I think that is a sign of a well run conference.  Another sign of a well run conference was that all sessions ran on time.  Moderators timed presentations well and presenters respected the moderators when they were told that they were done.

Unless something big comes up, I will be passing along some of the specific information received along with my comments on the information.  I hope my notes and memory are both good.  When you go to something like this, you always ask yourself if you got your money's worth.  I would give an emphatic yes.   Some farmers said that they got enough information about planter and sprayer adjustments alone to make the conference worth the time and money. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Passing of the seasons 2014

It is winter from the overpass north of Litchfield exit.  You can still see some snow and we are likely to get more. I will start writng about the National No-Till Conference tomorrow.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mineral Nutrition for High Yield No-Till Corn

Fred Below talked about high yield corn and how to get it.  He had several pertinent comments about micronutrients. He pointed that most micronutrients are mobile in the plant and go where they are needed.  He says boron is needed for silk growth and pollination. Below says that corn needs zinc to fill grain. Sulfur is needed for grain too. He likes micro essentials  sz placed 4 to 6 inches deep.  It contains nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur and zinc.  His research is showing a response even when soil has up to 45 ppm of P. He says that no plants are left behind with his treatment.  He admits that he is nature what element causes the response.  It could be only one thing in the mix.  It was interesting that Below also said that cover crops play a big role in keeping nutrients available.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thinking Spring?

In 2012 we were two months from serious field work at this time.  We never know when that window will open so now is the time to think about getting ready for spring.  One of the first tools you will likely use is a sprayer.  No matter what kind  of sprayer you have, one of the  most important parts is one of the least expensive.  Know what nozzles you need for the material you are spraying.  Keep drift in mind when making your choice.  Check and replace nozzles frequently.  Cleaning them out with a paper clip is a thing of the past.  Nozzle manufacturers provide a lot of information about their product.  Take advantage of that fact.  July 2013 Prairie Farmer offers additional advice. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Glow in the Dark Plants

Monday morning I was listening to the morning farm show on my local radio station WSMI.  The farm reporter was interviewing the founder of a St. Louis company called Bioglow that produces genetically engineered plant that glows in the dark.  For most of the interview they focused on the novelty of the ornamental uses.  I thought right away about how a glowing gene might make it easier to spot plants with problems such as disease or insect infestations.  It is likely that glowing field crops would not be as bright if they were not healthy.  Will this ever be a practical technology?  Who knows?  In fact in the later part of the interview they did discuss implications of plant health.  Starlight Avatar Plants are currently available on the company website in a limited quantity at a price that would limit me.  Here is the podcast of  Angela Boesche's Morning Farm Show From WSMI from January 13. You can skip about the first half if tou don't want to hear markets etc. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Harvest has started in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in the northern state of Mato Grosso we are beginning to harvest, we have no way to speak of average production because the harvested area is small . The weather has been very helpful for harvest and producers are happy.  Usually every day we are having rain in the late afternoon and harvest during the morning and most of the afternoon with a good sun helping dry the pods . The rains from late afternoon will help soybeans planted later to develop and fill the grain . In southern Mato Grosso this year we are finding that producers are drying soybeans early in order to plant more maize, and thus have more rainfall and better maize production . In southern Mato Grosso they are always beginning the scoop on January 15 , normally after February 5 but the producers are wanting more and better planted corn production , if prices are not good the corn is fed to livestock , I have observed that each year more producers are raising cattle and giving them corn to fatten them , or if the price is right they sell .

Monday, January 13, 2014

What is Biochar?

Today I am reading the September 2013 issue of Crops, Soils, Agronomy News. The cover article is about biochar.  From time to time I have read a bit about the miraculous properties of biochar, but I never even quite understood what it is.  The article says that biochar is made by slowly burning organic materials.  It could be made from anything living.  The material is usually heated to between 400 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit.  The product of that combustion is a charcoal type substance that sometime has been used as a soil amendment.  It can increase water holding capacity, and cation exchange capacity of soils.  It can grab on to minerals for slow release.  I am not sure what conditions might be needed to make biochar economical to produce for its own sake, but sometimes biochar is a product left over from extracting energy from biomass products.  In that context, it would make sense to land apply it for soil improvement. It looks like biochar is more resistant to decomposition than compost so it likely will retain positive properties for a longer time.

Mother Earth News talks about making biochar from hard to compost materials such as wood chips.  This Mother Earth News article includes  a lot of practical information on biochar.  They agree with CSA news that there is likely not much available mineral in biochar, but it appears to improve soil tilth.  I would say that if someone offers you a biochar product at low or no cost, take it.  Cover crops, no-till, and manure utilization may be a more rapid way for midwesterners to make some of the same improvements attributed to biochar. 

Click here to read the CSA News  cover article is about biochar.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grazing Fescue

Tall Fescue (Festuca Arundinacea) is a cool season grass that was first "discovered" in Kentucky.  The Kentucky 31 cultivar is a variety of that species.  Fescue is like many species, it has its positive and negative aspects.  On the positive side:
  • Toughness.  Fescue can handle many less than ideal conditions.  Drought, traffic, and low fertility.
  • High production.  Feed tonnage is competitive with many if not all cool season grasses.
  • Easy to establish.  Fescue is easy to plant and grow.
  • Good for erosion control. Fescue is resistant to flowing water

On the negative side:
  • Toughness.  Can reduce palitability.
  • Endophytes.  Endophytes are fungi that grow in the fescue and reduce its feed value.
  • Ease of establishment can turn the fescue into something of an invasive species.
  • Fescue is probably the worst habit of all the cool season grasses for wildlife.
  • Low magnesium levels in fescue pastures and induce a fatal disease called grass grass tetany
Because of both the positive and negative aspects of tall fescue, it is a common pasture grass in the south and midwest.  Because it is difficult to control, one of the management strategies is to utilize to the best advantage you can.  This August 2013 Prairie Farmer Article gives a number of good tips. 

One of the positive aspects of tall fescue I have not mentioned is winter grazing.  Fescue can be allowed to grow to its full height in the fall by deferring grazing.  The Fescue becomes a standing hay crop that the cattle harvest themselves.  The toughness helps it to hold up under traffic.  And some really good news about winter grazing of fescue is that the cold weather improve feed value. 

Jesse Bussard, wrote her Master's thesis on tall fescue include a summary on her blog.  This part 1Part 2.  Part 3. And Part 4.  If you are using fescue, you should read what Jesse has learned. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Scenic Barn

I got this shot after the ice storm before Christmas. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

What should I do about the weeds in my pond?

Information in today's blog comes from from the September October issue of Land and Water.  The article was written by Bob Lusk.  Lust writes that there are over 700 species of Aquatic Plants in the United States.  He says it may or may not be a problem to have some of them growing in your pond.  The first step in managing aquatic plants is to know what they are.  Identify the species if possible.
After you know your plants, then know your pond management goals.  If you have non-native or invasive species you probably want to get rid of them and start over.  If you have native species, do the plants help you meet your pond management goals.  Some plants provide protection to the shoreline.  Some provide good habitat for aquatic animals like fish and frogs.  Plants like cattails may provide good habitat for certain birds, but too many cattails my be a nuisance. Certain species of duckweed my cause problems.  Keep in mind also that too many dying plants can deplete the oxygen in your pond.   Lusk points out that you need to manage the habitat, not just the plants.  If you have undesired plants, keep in mind that you are providing the environment necessary for their survival. 
Read the whole article here.

This Purdue University booklet contains lots of good information on managing aquatic plants. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Controlled Drainage

Controlled drainage has been used on wet soils reduce nitrogen losses and provide subsurface irrigation for a number of years.  Researchers have studied the discharges of tile drained field and found the water discharged does not meet drinking water standards for nitrates.  Structures like this can be installed relatively inexpensively to control water table levels in the soil, letting water tables be high in the winter and then lowering them in the spring.  After the crop is growing, water drainage can again be reduced to conserve moisture.  This practice is sometime called subsurface irrigation. 

In the November-December issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, researchers from North Carolina reported a 10% increase in corn and soybean yields on fields with controlled drainage.  They also reported no change in wheat yields.  Controlled drainage works best on extremely flat fields.  In situations where fields are more sloping, you might need to do d a cost analysis to see if it is worth the effort. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold Weather Farming

This post is mainly for my non-farm readers.  Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.  On the farm, you mostly live with what you get.

Winter weather is a mixed blessing.  Farmers who plant winter wheat like to have some snow.  The moisture is welcome and the snow insulates the crop from the cold.

Cold is not a bad thing either.  We think it can reduce disease pressures, and some freeze thaw action can help with compaction.

Having livestock outdoors in winter weather is a challenge.  This article talks about how pigs can endure the cold.  European breeds of cattle are also capable of withstanding cold weather.  The challenge is getting them food and water.   The October blizzard in the Great Plains caused a good deal of loss.  It looks like some of it was because the animals were buried in snow.  .  I would guess that many of them die from lack of water more than from the cold.  Young animals can be vulnerable to cold more than mature animals.  I can remember calves that had misshapen ears because of frostbite.  Wind protection is a must for livestock.  Additional feed will help the aniimals maintain body tempertures at safe levels.  The wind chills affect them the same way as it affects us.  Additional information on winter cattle management is in this North Dakota State University publication. 

Water is the big challenge in the winter.  It is very important to keep water above freezing so animals can stay hydrated.  We had heaters in water tanks and buckets that work.  Keeping pipes thawed is just as important.  Freezing breaks pipes and creates a muddy and or frozen mess. 

Judy Graff documents adventures from the recent blizzard.  This blog talks about taking care of animals in the winter.  Here is an interesting article about what farmers do in winter

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Selecting Corn Hybrids

Many of you have already ordered corn for 2014, but I read this article in No-Till Farmer and Thought it would be good to pass it along.  Many people rely on their seed dealer to help  select varieties that will work on their farm.  The article does  not say so, but consulting with the dealer's agronomist is also a good idea.  They caution against selection based on traits alone.  In the past, trying a few bags was a way to get data from your own farm, but often varieties change quickly, so it might be hard to keep up.  I know some farmers who say that yield trials are not always a true test.  Most people will not give a clunker a second chance.  Green snap, poor standibility, and susceptibility to diseases can ruin your harvest. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Soybean Harvest Close in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:
Here in Brazil we are having good weather for soybean development, I believe we will get a large soybean crop this year. Here in northern Mato Grosso has some producers are beginning to harvest, but it is still few!
We do not know if the Helicoverpa caterpillar damaged the soybean plants, but if the caterpillar problems did not happen the rest is okay here .. really well!

I'm so optimistic about the perfect weather we are having so far!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Farm Economy Plateau

I was reading several articles today about where the farm economy is headed.  Experts agree that land prices are due to level off, but at the same time land continues as a good investment.  Kind of a conflict there.

Corn production prices are expected to push $4 per bushel next year.  With prices just above that level, how do you make a go of it?  What about expansion?  Is this a good time to lay back a bit and see where this economy is headed before renting any more high priced land?  Rents may not drop as fast as land prices.  With counter cyclical payments looking like they are out the window, can farmers remember how to make a go of it operating at near break even levels? 

What inputs can you cut back on?  Many have taken advantage of good prices and good insurance coverage to update machinery.  That may pay off now.  With resistant weeds looming, can you cut back on weed control?

Where are your fertility levels?  Fertilizer prices are down, but the best investment is probably in a good soil management and testing program.  If your fertility levels are in good shape or maybe even a little bit high, it may make sense to cut back.  The only way to know is to have the fertility data.  Data more than two years old is suspect in my mind.  If you are thinking of cutting back on nitrogen, you might one to use the N-Rate Calculator to see what might be reasonable to spend.  I would not rely on the calculator alone.  Soil nitrate testing and chlorophyll sensors can also help in decision making.  In addition, consider environmental factors.  A wet spring can play havoc on fall applied nitrogen.  The most economical application method is sidedressing.

As we head into a new year, the challenges of farming are present as always. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Geese

I can't imagine geese sticking around much longer with bitter cold and snow covered ground. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Drones, UAV's, UAS's

My reading today was in the December 2013 CSA news.  Most of the issue is devoted to drones and their applicability in agriculture.  You may remember that I have a Parrott Drone that I wrote about in August.  As you can see the view and what it looks like.  In general I found that it would have limited applicability because of range, low altitude, and camera quality.  I did learn that it is much easier to fly than expected.  I also learned that I can gain a bit of altitude by flying it over the top of my truck.  Also, I found that I could ride along the edge of the field and my controller would stay in contact. 

My reading today excites me in many ways about the possibilities of drones also call Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).  We know consultants who have used their systems to spot problems in fields and evaluate them for treatment.  The down side of this is that there is a chance that we are flying these things illegally.  I do not worry about my Parrott, because it is low altitude, but even it may be illegal to use commercially.  The FAA has recently announce test sites around the country to see how they want to regulate these things. Here is an article about people who have had legal problems with drones.  Even low altitude flying could invite a fine according to this article. Here is a current summary of regulations

That said, I think a farmer could and should do something similar to what I have done and try to test these things.  I know that consultants should be doing so as well, but read up on rules before jumping in and charging for services.  This blogger gives you some idea about possibilities.  My limited experience tells me that being able to program a route will free your drone from your controller and improve the range.  One that I have heard mentioned often is the Phantom 2

A drone with a thermal camera looks like it might be an addition that could make it more versatile in crop scouting.  My Parrott Drone sells for around $300.  The Phantom at base price is is under $1000.  Depending on the sophistication of the machine and the remote sensing you demand, price could easily get up to $100,000.  This kind of reminds me of the early days of computers.  There is a lot to consider.  There are many levels of affordability.  There are many levels of sophistication. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Monitor Your Bins.

The weather outside is frightful.  One day temperatures are in the 50's, the next day on single digits.  Producers need to keep an eye on their stored grain until it is sold.  This Prairie Farmer article tells you how.