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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Road Trip to the South

I went to Nashville, IL today via Mulberry Grove.  I saw lots of planted fields, but they are very wet.  There is  lots of water standing in the fields.  I rode over one field just to look at it.  Ridgetops were firm, Clay hillsides are sloppy.  I am heade north tomorrow; hoping for dryer conditions.  I did not see any corn emerged. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rainfall is slowing us down

The southern part of the state has had 4 plus inches of in the past week.  This week's crop report does not show regions, but I am guessing that the wettest part of the state was also furthest along on corn planting. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Continuous Corn Yield Drag

University of Illinois researchers recently documented a yield drag on continuous corn of 25 bushels per acre.  You can find my comments on previous blogs.  Here is the Prairie Farmer  article on the U of I research.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pest Management and Insect Forecasting

I was recently asked by a Monsanto representative to review their new site on Insect forecasting.  The site covers the entire United States.  It looks like a site that could be useful in tracking infestations and outbreaks so you know what you are looking when you scout your own fields. You click on the insect tab on the right to see what is going on.  I find it interesting that it currently shows a soybean aphid outbreak in an area where soybeans are not currently growing. 

Illinois readers might also want to check out the University of Illinois IPM Bulletin.  They update it regularly.  I am sure that other states also have similar sites.  We need all the help we can get to manage our pests.  Whether you are organic or conventional, you need to know all you can about what is out there. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Time in Illinois

Fisherman on Illinois River

Redbuds in Pittsfield

Friday, April 25, 2014

Corn Planting Progress

I know many people who do not have a lot of corn planted and others who are done planting.  Today all the fields I sampled were planted. One field that is going to soybeans is not planted.  Fields I know were planted over a week ago are still not out of the ground.  One field was spiking just a few plants. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stale Seedbed

I am seeing lots of stale seedbed planting in St. Charles County Missouri.  I think this is a good strategy in areas with variable soils.  Leaving the high clay soils undisturbed keeps them from getting cloddy and conserves moisture, 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Update From The Field

I have worked from St. Charles to West Alton the past few days.  Corn planting progress is spectacular.  One customer said he would be done Wednesday if nothing breaks.  I would estimate over all at least 50% is planted,  Most people started last Friday, so that is a 10% per day pace.  Soils are in good shape.  Lots of people are planting in the stale seedbed type of situation.  Cool weather seems to be supressing weeds, but they are starting to sprout. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Surface Pro 2 Review

I recently purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 to replace my Panasonic Toughbook.  The Toughbook gave excellent service, but with Microsoft no longer supporting Windows XP, it had become a virus magnet.

The Surface Pro 2 is loaded with Microsoft's Office 365 which seems like a bargain compared to Microsoft Office of the past.  I also have loaded Global Mapper on it.  Global Mapper works fine.  I had trouble understanding how the pairing with my Garmin Glo Receiver worked, so pulled my hair  out over it.  Once our computer guy solved that, I am able to use it in the field, but not on the 4 wheeler yet.

It comes with a stylus instead of a mouse.  You can also use fingers. I do find being able to touch the screen with my finger can be useful.  I have the bluetooth mouse that I used on the toughbook and despite the good performance of the stylus, I still find cursor control when drawing maps is better with the mouse.  I also bought the solid keyboard to go with it.  The keyboard is a  necessity in my mind although the on screen keyboard is available and I use it some.  Since the solid keyboard has no moving parts, dirt should not be a problem.  It has one USB port, so be prepared for lots of wireless operation.  I have 2 wireless printers, so that is not a problem.  The screen is small, so a good pair of reading glasses is a good thing for an old man like me. 

Windows 8.1 has a much different feel than any other version of windows, but once you get used to it, it is not so bad.

I am disappointed that there is not a ruggedized box for it.  It would be great if Otterbox came out with something.  There is a Rammount.  I want to run it on the four wheeler for sampling, without the keyboard of course.  It looks like I might need to make my own box. 

Setting it up has been a chore to me, but luckily we have a new guy on board who is very helpful with technology.  Over all, I am very happy with the purchase.  I would give it four stars out of five.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Corn Planting

Serious corn planting is finally underway in our area today.  There were lots of people in the fields and moisture conditions are perfect.  Soils are still a little bit cool, but by this time of year we certainly expect warmer weather.  I did a septic tank investigation near Waggoner today about 5 miles from this photo near Atwater.  Soil moisture was excellent in a somewhat poorly drained Herrick soil with a water table around 50 inches.  This is just about where we want to be going into the growing season

Friday, April 18, 2014

Urban Erosion Control

Erosion and sediment control on construction sites is a big deal in urban areas.  In a nearby small town, this newly constructed store obviously has an erosion control plan,but I would say it is not very effective with the silt fence down at the low point.  Not all sediment is from farmers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Field Work Done today

We worked in the field today in the Medora area.  We sampled over 200 acres already planted.  The customer has more corn planted, but we were not able to get there today.  Some of the ground was worked and ready to plant.  This represents maybe 1% planted in our area.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Does Conservation Farming Pay?

In the world of soil conservation, there is sometimes a perception that No-Till and other soil saving practices sound good on paper, but can the producer afford the yield hit.  Researchers in Michigan have found that farming for ecological benefits does pay.  It pays for all of us in environmental benefits.  Not just the farmer.  That explains why we should use taxpayer dollars to support soil conservation. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Proposed Rules Changes to the Clean Water Act

USEPA is proposing rules changes to the Clean Water Act.  They say that the changes are necessary because of court rulings in 2001 and 2006 on the definition of Waters of the United States.  This Los Angeles Times Article says environmental interests like the new rules because they expand jurisdictional waters.  EPA says it is mainly for clarification.  Farm Bureau thinks it expands the reach of the federal government unnecessarily.  Agweb has some nice links in their article.  Illinois Farm Bureau explains their reservation in a recent article. Keep an  eye out for an opportunity to comment. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

How low can you go with soybean populations?

Soybean seeding rates have gotten a lot higher over the years.  I remember 80,000 plants being considered a high population in 30 inch rows.  Many people are now planting double that rate.  I ran across this article from 2012 documenting research on soybean populations.  The researchers concluded that rates of 120,000 are adequate.  Their research seems to support what Marion Calmer shared this winter at the National No-Till Conference.  Calmer said that all his studies showed that he was not justified economically to plant more than 75,000 even though yields were a bit higher at higher rates.  He also says the narrower the rows, the better.  Cutting rates in half may seem radical, but cutting them by 25% seems reasonable.  120,000 to 130,000 should be more than adequate. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Soil Compaction

Yesterday we did a septic tank investigation.  One of the borings was difficult as we got deeper because of moisture issues.  We were on a ridgetop near a steeper slope, so excessive rainfall runs off fairly easily.  What does this have to do with farming?  They hose was already built.  Construction equipment had compacted the soil under the dry hole.  The other two holes were moist if not wet.
This little observation showed how compaction can affect soil moisture.  Water is the top need to produce high yielding crops.  When you affect infiltration and subsoil moisture, you are setting yourself up for poor yields.  Here is some additional information on compaction:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Camera

I am getting set up to use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 as the computer I keep in my truck.  I prefer using my phone or a camera for photography, but because of the need to mess around with file transfer, I decided to try the built in camera.  Below is an example of the photographs it is capable of.  I find it very  adequate.  Also, It is nice to  see the glint of green in the trees.  Weather was wonderful today.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tile Outlet

Sometimes it can be difficult to install tile drainage because outlets are too shallow.  This farmer solved the problem by installing a pump to pump the tile water into the ditch.  I am sure that road commissioner permission is needed for a setup like this.  I have also seen tile pumped into a drainage ditch.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Field Activity - Grassed Waterway Construction

One of my conservation mentors old me that the best way to build a grassed waterway was with a bulldozer working perpendicular to the waterway.  Today I found a contractor working close to the road and doing just that.  He was a friendly guy who eventually stopped to visit.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is it time to plant?

Soil temperature was 50 degrees today north of Springfield.  Soil Moisture conditions in that area are good for planting.  Cool is better than wet.  It seems it would be a good idea to try some corn.  If the forecast is still calling for moderate to heavy rain on Monday, I would not plant any corn on Sunday.  Soils are still very wet south of Springfield.   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ugly Corn in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim: 

Last week I was running Mato Grosso to see how corn is developing; the rains have killed many corn plants, mainly in the north of Mato Grosso and southern Mato Grosso in Primavera do Leste. In northern MT I saw little crop soybean plantings (after the normal summer crop) an area of ​​approximately 180,000 acres of soybeans. Look at the aerial photos of the corn. The corn is not any good. I believe we can not make crates production of corn here in MT, the area was reduced due to the rains and many plants died due to too much rain.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Is the Planter Ready?

We are getting to that time of year when getting a window of dry weather brings out all the planters.  If your planter has not been out of the shed, Why not?  The value of well calibrated seed meters is well demonstrated.  I am not sure that there is time to get it done this spring, but there is still time to make lots of adjustments and to replace worn parts.  Getting  a good stand requires a well adjusted planter. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Farming in the Sunday Paper

I like to recognize when the popular press does piece on agriculture. When it is badly done, I say so.  The  St.Louis Post-Dispatch did a rather long article today on precision agriculture in the business section. I thought it was well done.  This is how the public learns about farming.  We need to know what is being said about us.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Soil Moisture

This will be my last post on subsoil moisture for sometime.  Today I did a septic tank investigation.  We hit a water table at 2 feet.  At this point I would say that subsoil moisture is somewhere between adequate and excessive.  I will not post on the subject  again unless there is some change.  If crop reports in  our area continue to show short moisture, my guess would be that the  reporters really have no idea.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Farm Cleanup Day

We had our annual farm cleanup today.  I fired up the 1937 John Deere A to help us do some heavy lifting.  Someone gave the tractor to my Dad in the late 60's.  We helped overhall the engine a few years later and painted it.  Dad figured out how to add power steering.  The pedestal in front was broken so he welded it and braced it.  The loader was made in the 40's by a local blacksmith.  The tractor starts by turning the flywheel. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014


As our rainfall totals build, our creeks are filling.  Most of them are running bank full.  It looks like everything that is falling is running off.  I did some hydrological calculations for my county to see what is actually happening.  We have had around 3 inches of rain so far.  The calculations show that a 3.11 inch rain in 24 hours will produce 1.03 inches of runoff from an acre of land with 2% slopes.  The storm listing is idealized, but it gives some idea of what is going on.  We should have added 2 inches of water to our subsoil at this point.  More is on the way, and even though we will likely have flooding, we will still be adding to soil moisture as well.    

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We finally got some rain

We finally got some much needed rain.  Road ditches, have water in them.  sloping fields have runoff.  Well drained flat fields are not extremely wet.  We fields are looking wet.  I would have said we were 2 to 4 inches short of soil moisture.  I had 1.6 inches in my gauge.  The photos are consistent with that amount.  We could still use a bit more rain, but it would be nice if we could let is soak in for a few days.  Unfortunately, more rain is imminent.  Maybe a lot.