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Monday, March 31, 2014

Weed Control Issues

I hope by now that everyone realizes that the days of using only one chemical to control weeds are gone.  We need to go back to the "old" days of soil applied residual herbicides for most of our control.  Roundup should be used only to clean up weeds.  Liberty resistance has not emerged, but keep in mind that Liberty is not highly rated for some of our troublesome weeds.  Also be ever vigilant for Palmer Amaranth.  Aaron Hagar offers lots of advice in this bulletin about Palmer. It is not too late to beef up your weed control.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Time to burn down those cover crops

Early burndown seems to work best on most of the covercrops.  The only precaution I  have is to make sure everything is nice and green before you try to kill it.  No-Till Farmer has information on controlling cover crops.  be sure to click on the links to see the tables. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Corn Binder

This corn binder  is parked along Route 16 in Schram City.  It has been there for a long time, but today was the first time I stopped to take a  picture.  You can't just pull over because it is on a curve with a narrow shoulder.  Corn binders were used to cut corn and roll it into a bundle.  The bundles were stacked into shocks for winter cattle feeding. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

When to plant corn

We are all getting a little antsy to be in the field.  We would like to know we could start on corn soon.  The question this year is about the cold soils.  We know people have had success in the past planting to cold soils, but how cold?  We had frozen soil 2 days ago.  Not just freezing temperatures.  It is still early.  In our area, soil moisture is about right for planting. Usually that is a good reason to start.  Cool weather is probably pushing the ideal date a little later already.  If you put corn into the ground before soil temperature is 50 Degrees F, it will not germinate.  The question is, will the seed rot?  Probably not, but why take a chance?  Seed treatments help and soils will warm up sometime.  Warm wet soils seem to damage seed more than coll soils.  In our area, there comes a time, sometime around April 10, that you know soils will warm up and if moisture conditions are good, there will be little yield cost for planting. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Time for Moisture Conservation

We have gotten very little rain in the past several weeks.  Soils are thawed and ready for rain now.  It might be time to think about moisture conservation.  We have enough moisture in the soil right now to germinate our crops and get them out of the ground, but excessive tillage could change that.  Consider one pass if possible or no-till.  Keep as much residue on the surface as possible to help with infiltration and moisture conservation. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wheat Condition

THe few warm days we have had have allowed wheat to break dormancy.  In Monroe County, wheat fields are mostly green.  In Montgomery and Macoupin Counties, the wheat is turning green, but not quite entirely.  Overall or wheat looks good.  It would appear that cold weather did not damage it, although continued cool weather is certainly slowing growth. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Field Work Started

Field work seems to be getting more widespread every day.  I am seeing dry fertilizer and nitrogen being applied.  Now is the time to put nitrogen on wheat.  I hope those applying nitrogen are using inhibitors at this point.  It is a long way till mid June when the corn will need the nitrogen.  we have heard that some peole to the south are trying to put on nitrogen in wet conditions.  THink of the soil compaction you are causing.  Also, If it is too wet to close the trench and you are seeing puffs of vapor long after you make your pass, it is too wet.  You are losing too much nitrogen. 

The news media seems to concerned about the long winter and possible planting delays.  I don't see that as an issue at this point.  If we continue on the dry side, I expect to see planting started in our area the week of April 7, no matter what the soil temperature.  I have said it here before.  Modern seed treatments and good seedcorn can sit in cold ground for a while.  Warm and wet creates problems.  So does rain immediately after planting.  Ideally we should not plant corn the day before a big rain.  With uncertainties about the planting window, that may be difficult. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Global Land Use

This Prairie Farmer article says that 12.6% of the land surface of the earth is cropland.  When we look at the prairies of Illinois we should realize that we are truly blessed when it comes to our ability to produce food.  I often hear people complain about driving across countless miles of cropland.  To me it is one of the great wonders of the world, ranking right up there with the Grand Canyon.  An additional 13% of the area is grassland. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Illinois Moisture Conditions

I checked out the drought monitor maps for Illinois today.  While it is not my intention to induce panic, we do have a pretty good size area that is fairly dry.  I have done a limited amount of field work this spring and have not seen any reason to panic as yet.  Topsoil moisture appears to be pretty good.  Subsoil is moist, but I have not seen many areas that are saturated.  As is often the case, timely rains in the growing season can offset less than perfect conditions in the spring.  Also keep in mind that it is still early in the year.  A week or two of wet weather could make a big difference. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Race Horse Flats

I had a meeting today in Champaign and decided to take a different route than usual.  I turned off Route 48 and headed toward Macon.  I continued east toward Dalton City.  The area around Dalton City is know as racehorse flats because the farmers in the area are very aggressive about planting corn early.  The soils are also some of the best in the world.  Mostly Drummer and Flanagan.  I thought it was interesting that the corn crib below is much larger than the barn.  People in this area are serious about growing corn. 

The Farm Progress show was held in this area a number of years ago and I fondly remember a very enjoyable day with my Dad.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Strip Till

I spotted these strips ready to plant on the east side of Macoupin County Fairgrounds. This counts as No-Till in your conservation plan. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Milkweed Survey

Xerxes Society is conducting a survey of Milkweed locations in the Western United States.  The Decline of Monarch butterflies had been blamed on GMO seeds and insecticide use.  Milkweed is important habitat to monarch butterflies.  Another issue is mowing.  I hesitate to say that farmers should participate in study like this, because it might be used against them in the future.  On the other hand, It might be a good idea to let environmentalists know how much habitat is being preserved by farmers and ranchers.  By registering your location, you might be disproving theories that blame farmers. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Sampling Started

I started spring sampling today.  Soil moisture was good.  Weather was not great.  I started on people who are still wanting data for spring fertilizer application.  I am also mapping zones for new clients.  A few people were applying anhydrous today, but is seemed too wet for that to me. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Maintaining Your Prairie Planting

The long winter has left people who need to do burn management on their prairie or timber with little time to burn in the usual window.  Warm and sunny weather will dry things down and make condition good for burning.  Keep in mind that wind is a factor.  Today turned out to be too windy.  I wrote a blog last year with a lot of additional information. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Soil Test Before Seeding Alfalfa

Some people will soon be starting to seed alfalfa.  This No-Till Farmer Article suggests getting one sample of 7 inches in depth and one sample of 2 inches in depth to see the pH is stratified.  This might be a good idea especially in soils that have been no-tilled or vertical tilled in the past.  My goal would be to keep the pH as close to neutral as possible when growing leguminous forages.  Keep in mind also that alfalfa is a calcium feeder, so high calcium lime is good in most places unless magnesium levels are low.  Alfalfa also takes up lots of potassium.  To maximize yields, it may be necessary to use as much as 400 pounds of potassium per acre to maximize yield and keep soil tests at ideal levels. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wind Power

This farm size windmill was generating power in Northern Montgomery County.  Windmills were used in the past to power pumps to water livestock.  There are not many of them around and I don't know of any that are working.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Passing of the Seasons

Last month, the view had snow.  In 2012, everything was green.  There is not much growing this year.  We have more snow on the way, but today was a perfect day for a photograph. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Animal Rights?

You read Denise Maxwell's comment on  this article  here earlier, but I thought it was worthy of more comments.  I know most farmers are aware of the situation whereby animal rights activists want to eliminate human use of animals entirely.  I am not sure where the notion of animals having rights comes from.  I know some think it emanates from Disney movies.  I guess if  you do not grow up with animals, you lose sight of the fact that animals do not talk.

Since the beginning of human history, humans have used animals to feed and clothe themselves.  Animals have been used as beasts of burden, work animals, and hunting helpers.  The human use of animals is supported in the archeological record whereever humans have lived.  The notion that animals have rights cannot come from history.

What do animal rights activists think will happen to farm animals when we can no longer use them for anything except as pets?  How many pigs will there be.  How many horses will people keep if they cannot ride them?  How many cattle will there be if we are no longer allowed to eat a steak?  How will we keep deer from overrunning our crops if we can no longer harvest the deer by hunting?  What will we eat when crops are destroyed by animals with no natural predators in the area?

The above article does a good job explaining  the difference between animal rights and animal welfare.  When will the campaign start to give animals a trial by a jury of 12? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Road Trip to Decatur

I visited Decatur today to do a soil investigation for a septic tank.  Subsoil moisture was good to 3 or 4 feet deep depending on the hole.  The area was fairly sloping so it may not be indicative of subsoil moisture in crop fields.  Field between Hillsboro and Decatur were wet. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do Animals have rights?

By Denise Maxwell - Technician for Soilright Consulting Services. 

My great grandfather was a teamster. He kept 4 horses to support the family by delivering milk, hauling timber, hitching with neighbors to harvest crops and transport the products of industry. I own, love and work horses. I am embarrassed to admit that I thought the education I received in upstate New York was excellent. Given this controversy over carriages I am sad and beginning to wonder how it is that city people, who rarely get to know another species, can claim an opinion and believe these activists.

Everyone who truly loves another species should rejoice in their existence and keep them in the community doing what they do be nature. It will be very hard to be human, much less humane, when the animals are gone. 

Shame New York City, your dogs and cats will be next and you will all become Vegan! 

 I posted this article on facebook yesterday.  It has more with more comment on the plan to ban carriages in Central Park. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rain Continues in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Here we have lots of rain forecast for the month of March. They have predicted more rain than we had in February. If all this rain falls we have very ruined soybean crops and plantations flooded. Corn will be harmed as well. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Subsoil Moisture and Frost

I ventured into the field for the first time today to do a septic tank investigation near Brownstown.  I make three soil borings to a depth of 5 feet.  The surface was fairly firm although I did pick up some mud on my boots.  The top five or six inches was thawed.  I then hit 4 to six inches of frozen ground.  I was able to hammer through it fairly easily.  Subsoil in that area was moist, but I did not hit a water table.  Normal spring rains will continue to add moisture.  At least in that area, subsoil moisture should be good going into the growing season.  Keep in mind that this was in an area that had more or less average amounts of rain last summer and fall.  I will be doing more borings later in the week. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Flood Insurance Changes

The House of Representatives has recently passed an act to reform FEMA's implementation of increased flood insurance rates to those who have been in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program in the past.  Why  is this important to agriculture?  Many insured structures in the program are agricultural buildings.  Any building is insurable in counties that participate in the flood insurance program.  It is not limited to residential property. 

Some years ago FEMA embarked on map modernization program to make all maps electronic and to improve the science that went into making the maps.  It turned into a good idea gone awry.  As areas were remapped, home-owners who in the  past were in compliance, suddenly were out of compliance and placed into a high risk, high rate group.  The new bill places limits on flood insurance rate increases.  It also increases public review requirements for remapping projects.

When I was a FEMA floodplain management specialist, I would sometime hear people say that they were told that they were not eligible for flood insurance because they were not in a floodplain.  One of the reasons that  re-mapping was done to start with was that 25% of flood damages were not in floodplains.  Keep in mind that everyone in a community that has floodplain ordinance is eligible for flood insurance whether they live in a floodplain or not.  Here is more information on the reform recently passed.  Also keep in mind that flooding of cropland is only covered by crop insurance, not by flood insurance. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Silent Saturday

 This old barn is located on IL Route 16 between Litchfield and Hillsboro.  It is a relic of the past. 


Friday, March 7, 2014

Dr. Norman Bourlaug

It was announced today that a statue will be unveiled on March 25 in Washington DC in honor of Dr. Norman Bourlaug.  Dr. Bourlaug is know as the father of the "Green Revolution."  Forbes Magazine published this tribute to Dr. Bourlaug.  Dr. Bourlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his scientific and humanitarian efforts.  A rather lengthy obituary appeared in the New York Times.

Dr. Bourlaug is not without his critics.  While he is credited with saving at least a billion lives, he is criticized for bringing modern farming methods to less developed countries.  If you consider that maybe a billion people would not have lived to adulthood in many parts of the world without the efforts of Dr. Bourlaug perhaps that is proof enough that his life's work was worthwhile.  Those of us involved in production agriculture need to to look to the great leaders of the past like Bourlaug, not to run down his work, but to see how we can continue the legacy and continue to feed a hungry world.  It will take many ideas and diverse techniques for us to be able to continue to say "Agronomy Feeds The World."  That idea was an inspiration to this agronomy student in the 70's and should be a goal we strive to still. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Site Specific Management

This article from Corn Soybean Digest emphasizes nitrogen in the  headline, but reading it says that Environmental Response Units could be used for all kinds of site specific management.  I see nothing about methodology, so it is difficult to evaluate how the ERU's are defined.  Another concern is, the cost of soil testing as units get smaller.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back to School

I accompanied Randy Darr to Western Illinois University where he was a guest lecturer for Dr. Joel Gruver's Nutrient Management Class.  Randy is an Alumus of WIU.
Randy Darr and Joel Gruver

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Soil health testing

Researchers and conservationists have been searching for years, for a way to quantify the benefits of  conservation farming methods in an objective way.  Richard Haney of Agricultural Research Service developed a test to look at biological activity in soils by testing the respiration activities in the soil.  The complete test also looks at fertility and carbon to calculate a soil health index. You may have heard the test referred to as the Solvita Test.  

Soil-Right Consulting Services is associated with Brookside Laboratories in New Bremen, Ohio.  Brookside is one of three laboratories in the United States qualified to perform the test. I found this blog that provides a good summary of the test.  We are looking forward to helping our clients to use this new test to see in the long term, what improvements they are making to their soil by keeping high amounts of crop residue on the soil surface and keeping live roots in the soil with cover crops. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Healthy Cookies?

I braved the winter storm yesterday to pick up something at the grocery store.  I happened to pass down the aisle with cookies.  The "Who Knew - Smart Cookies" caught my eye. They tout: no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup, and a whopping 4 grams of whole grain.  I thought I would compare them to the "probably unhealthy" store brand.  Also on the shelf were Keebler Cookies.  I guess the "big" snow storm caused them to be out of Chips Ahoy.  The store brand was lower in calories at 140 and was lower in sugar and fat. It had 5 grams of fat.  The Smart Cookies had 150 calories per serving and 6 grams of fat.  The Keebler Cookies had 170 calories and 9 grams of fat.  None of them had any trans fat. 

So which one is really healthier?  When you read the labels they are all pretty similar.  I would buy my cookies based on taste or rice, not potential health benefits. Clickon the photos to look at the labels closer. 
Smart Cookies

Store Brand


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Guard Dog

Last week when I went to visit a customer I spotted the antique planter below.  When I turned around to take a picture, I notice that it was well guarded.