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Friday, August 29, 2014

Illinois River Holiday

Illinois River Cabin

Illinois River Cabin

Floating Cabin
Kampsville Ferry
Kampsville Campground from the Ferry
Enjoy the Holiday.  No new blog until Monday evening.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Career Opportunities in Precision Agriculture

One of the complaints about precision agriculture is that customer support can be a bit difficult to get.  It seems that many equipment dealers do not know how their products work with other products. Bright people looking for opportunity could find it  in precision agriculture.  Using precision products to minimize inputs becomes even more important as crop prices drop.  Ag Leader and other manufacturers are making attempts to provide better education in precision agriculture.  Check out Pages 8-11 in Ag Leader Insights

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Will Disease Affect Soybean Yield?

We are hearing reports of soybean disease in some areas.  Today's U of I Pest Bulletin calls attention to sudden death syndrome (SDS) and white mold.  We also have seen SDS in Fayette County.  In addition we have heard reports of SDS all over the state.  Oddly enough this week's weather and crop report still shows 78% of the soybean crop in the good to excellent range.  Is somebody missing something  here?  The heat this week is catching us up on growing degree days, but if the crop is disesed, that might not help. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Passing of the seasons

Today's view from the first overpass north of Litchfield.  Soybeans are getting weedy and corn is still green.  The hot weather the past few days should help us to catch up on growing degree days and speed up maturity of corn.  I don't look for too much early harvested corn because of low prices.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wearable Technology for the Farm.

Reading my July issue of No-Till Farmer, an article on Google Glass caught my eye.  The product fits on eyeglass frames and connects to your smart phone.  It sells for about $1500.  It allows the use of voice commands to perform it's functions.  Google Glass is being looked at by various agricultural leaders for its potential in field use.  The hands free feature makes it an attractive alternative to smart phones or tablets alone. Picture and video recording would allow the user to transmit crop problems to experts, or possibly even expert web sites to diagnose problems.  The ability to look at training videos and mechanical instructions hands free in the field seem like they could be valuable features.

I would like to be able to wear my GPS maps in the field instead of having them mounted on my four wheeler.  Google Glass is a product that certainly strikes the imagination.

A down side might be price.  Another downside might be battery life.  Google says the battery will last a day under "normal" use.  Other reviewers put that battery life at an hour.  An hour will not let me pull many soil samples.

I am curious how this technology might be combined with unmanned aerial systems.  It would seem that the miniature circuitry could possibly be utilized to analyze and view aerial photography in real time. 

Google glass technology may also be a way to consolidate and miniaturize all those monitors hanging around in your machinery. 

Most of this is just a look into the future, but we all know how fast technology can be implemented when there is a demand. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Do You Think You Ran Out of Nitrogen

Nitrogen is the most difficult nutrient to mange because of it's volatility.  Weather ill throw you off  We can tell you how much nitrogen you have during the growing season.  We can  tell you how much nitrogen your soil has the potential to supply. We can't tell you how much rain you will get. So in theend, how do you know how you did with nitrogen management.

You can use the late season stalk nitrate test.  15 to 20 stalks are collected and tested make your first cut at 6 inches. then cut off the bottom eight inches of what is left to test. Purdue University has the details. a pre-side-dress nitrate test can be used in conjunction to see if the soil ran out of nitrogen or if there was some other issue.  The idea is that if we know we made a bad decision, we hope to do better next time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Corn Harvest 2014 Started

I visited Monroe County today and found that corn harvest is just getting started.  Rumor is that sandy soils are yielding 170 bushels per acre and are at 27% moisture.  A yield check below looked like 175 bushels per acre.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What about the Bees?

May-June issue of Crops and Soils Magazine has a rather long article on Protecting Bee Health. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)is leading environmentalists and others to look at how we can protect our honey bees and other pollinators.   Why should  we be concerned if we grow corn and soybeans.  First we should be supportive of all agriculture.  University of Illinois lists crops commonly grown in the Midwest that need bees to pollinate.  Personally, I have had Zucchini that gets flowers but does not set any squash.  Two years ago I drilled holes in posts to provide some habitat for solitary bees.  This year I had bees and squash, but the bacterial wilt killed my squash, but I did solve the pollination problem.

The article says that the Almond industry needs almost all of the honey bees in in our country to produce a crop.  Apples Peaches, Watermelon, Cantaloupe and many other tasty summer treats need bees to produce a crop.  The Crops and Soils Article cites some research suggesting the soybeans can yield 10 to 30% better if they are visited by bees.  That should get your attention.  Maybe it makes you want to be a beekeeper. 

So what can the average farmer do?  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a place to start.  Only use pesticides when they are needed.  This cuts costs, slows the development of resistant species, and perhaps improves bee habitat.  IPM is good practice not matter what. 

Consider establishing some pollinator habitat.  Diversity of flowering species keeps bees healthier.  USDA programs can help.  Pollinator species can be added to existing CRP land or established in new areas. Participating in voluntary programs beats regulation. 

People are also encouraged to reduce mowing of roadsides and odd areas to maintain nesting cover for mammals and birds.  Reducing mowing can also provide much needed diversity of pollen to beneficial  insects such as pollinators. 

Honey is just a tasty side benefit to protecting honeybees. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Comments on Weather and Crop Report

The Illinois Weather and crop report is still showing 81% of corn in the good to excellent range.  It seems the crop reporters are very optimistic.  I am surprised soybeans lag at 77%.  Soybeans look more likely to reach yield potential than corn.  With moisture conditions improved in recent weeks, soybeans should be great.  Some of the corn was stressed negatively by the dry weather in the western half of the state. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

No-Till Farming Statistics

No-Till Farmer did a fine job compiling data related to tillage and conservation in their August Conservation Tillage Guide. They report that nearly 35% of cropland acreage is no-till.  It is gratifying to see the progress in changing tillage practice.  When I was a young soil scientist in Madison County, we were still trying to find encouraging news about chisel plowing.  In Illinois only 25% of acreage is no-tilled.  We used to rank higher.  The soil savings with no-till is just the start of the benefits. Preserving organic matter, conserving fertility, and controlling traffic paterns are other important benefits. 

Tools to make no-till easier to implement continue to improve.  No-till rippers, vertical tillage tools and cover crops all help to improve soil tilth. Around 1996 I worked as an acting District Conservationist for NRCS after several years away from working directly with farmers.  Round-up Ready soybeans seemed like a miracle for weed control especially in no-till. Unfortunately, that miracle turned problematic all too soon.

As we toured the Texas Panhandle a few weeks ago, my son and I were asking why we are not seeing more no-tilled cotton. Texas has only 8.8% of its acres  in no-till. Only 20% of cotton acres are no-tilled. The stats prove out our observation.  There is still room for growth in no-till acres. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are Corn Populations High Enough?

I have seen some large ears in places that have had enough rain or where hybrids have some drought tolerance.  The large ears leads me to question whether higher populations would be in order.  The big question is, "Can you afford to make inputs to the highest potential yield.  Emerson Nafziger explains why the extra seed might not be necessary in this article.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fine Tuning Cover Crops

Yesterday I attended a program on cover crops in Litchfield.  Andy Shireman, a Scott County Farmer discussed his experience.  He said that his favorite cover crops are Annual Ryegrass in ground going to corn, and cereal rye in ground going to soybeans.  He uses turnips and radishes in grazing.  He also likes radishes on his high clay bottomland soils.  He says his cover crops help with weed control and soil tilth.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Southern Illinois Peach Crop

On my road trip this week I could not resist buying some Southern Illinois peaches.  The crop is small, the prices seemed high, but the flavor is unbeatable. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Southern Illinois Crop Condition

I took a road trip to Carbondale yesterday.  There are still many fields that look very good, but some not looking so good.  The photos blow, sum it up.  I saw worse looking fields, but not where I could stop.  Some of the corn I saw will exceed 250 bushels per acre.  Some will not make 100.  I saw some corn in bad spots that has reached maturity.  Ears were dropped.  For most of the corn, more rain will not add bushels.  

First crop soybeans looked excellent.  Double crop soybeans were  not as consistent.  Some looked very good and some just OK.  Soybeans will likely benefit from more rain, especially the double crops. I am hoping the relatively cool summer will not bring an early frost.  

over all, I would rate both corn and soybeans as good to excellent, but on poorer soils, yields will be disappointing.

Maturing too early near Nashville, IL

Nice looking across the road corn near Nashville, IL

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Corn Prices in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

1.1. Auction equalizer premium paid to farmers and / or their cooperative, headquartered in the state of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Goiás, for the sale and disposal of 1.050.000kg in Grain Corn, crop 2013/2014 and 2014, according with Annex I of this Notice. 
2 THE DATE AND TIME OF ELECTRONIC AUCTION: 20/08/2014, after Notice 114/14. 
5.4. The price of corn in grain, for purposes of completing the DCO will be R $ 0.226 / kg for the State of Mato Grosso, R $ 0.2945 / kg for the State of Mato Grosso do Sul and the State of Goiás. 

1 Mato Grosso (REGION I - NORTH) 150 000 000 
2 Mato Grosso (REGION II - CENTRO NORTE) 300,000,000 
3 Mato Grosso (REGION III - SOUTH CENTRAL) 300 000 000 
4 Mato Grosso (REGION IV - NORTHEAST) 50,000,000 
5 Mato Grosso (REGION V - SOUTHEAST) 50,000,000 
6 GOIÃ 75,000 
7 thicket 75,000 TOTAL 1,050,000 

(The value of the prize is not available yet)



HARVEST CORN IN CITIES safrinha Mato Grosso: 
JACIARA 120 S / C 
Guiratinga: 102 S / C 

The producers hoped to reap more than 120 bags per ha, the rain of June seems to have helped reduce not only the production. 

We had a general rain in Mato Grosso in late July, we believe that we have in Mato Grosso good rains to start planting. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Right to Farm

Missouri Voters recently passed an amendment to their Constitution giving farmers the "right to farm".  Here is the text to the amendment.  It seems vague to me.  I am not sure what it means.  North Dakota has similar amendment on the books.  Was it worth $2 million?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hunger in America

I was looking for something in the popular press to write about. National Geographic came to he rescue with their article on Hunger in America. While the article makes some good points, they miss the target in many areas. Blaming farmers and subsidies for not growing enough cheap fruit and vegetables is silly. The two of us get fresh fruit and vegetables  for $48 a month from a food coop.  With a small garden, 25' x 20' we have more fresh stuff than we can eat.  We spend an additional $311 a month on groceries, which includes diet soda and some other non-necessities. In addition we spend $33 s month on take out.  We do eat out once or twice a week and that is not included in my figures.

The end of the article does talk about the fact that people do not know how to make the most of their SNAP benefits. I think that is a bigger problem than not enough food or not cheap enough food.  One issue raised is the fact that there are not enough grocery stores in poverty stricken parts of urban areas. I can find those area in St. Louis.  It is a shame that SNAP benefits have to be used in convenience stores with high prices. Food prices, poor wages and availability of good food is just the start of what National Geographic calls the face of hunger in America. Education is a big need. Home Economics classes should be supported in high schools and Jr. Highs. That does not address the issue of low wages, high rentals, and the fact that cars, televisions, and telephones are treated as necessities.  We have a lot of work to do to fight hunger in America.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rainfall Departure from Normal

After our fine rain,it seemed appropriate to check on how far from normal we are.  For the past 30 days, much of the corn belt is normal to below normal, but looking at year to date, we are normal to above normal. Click on the pictures from NOAA to enlarge. 
Last 30 Days Departure from Normal

Departure from Normal for the Year

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is a timely rain.

We have had more of a general rain today than we have had in about a month.  Corn that is not black layered will benefit.  As I have mentioned, some corn is too far gone to add bushels.  This rain is perfect for soybeans.  Yes, some areas might get too much at this point, but overall, this is a timely rain.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pollination of Echinacea purpurea

I spotted a bumble bee on my purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpure).

Bumble Bee

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

You can spot High sodium areas in your field right now.

In Major Land Resource Areas 113 and 114B (the Southern Illinois Claypan Region)  soils often have areas where the subsoil has high sodium.  The pattern is very intricate so soils are mapped in complexes such as Cowden-Piasa complex and Oconee-Darmstadt complex.  The pattern is often over looked, but is apparent when soils get dry.  Water is less available in high sodium areas, so when weather turns dry, drought symptoms appear first in the high sodium areas.  In the photo below you can see the corn in the foreground is fired up to the ears and yield potential is greatly reduced.  Corn in the background on non-sodium soils is still nice and green.  Soil test levels for major nutrients tend to be high in the high sodium areas because lower yields remove fewer nutrients. 
High Sodium vs. Non-Sodium Soils

Southern Illinois Claypan Regions

Monday, August 4, 2014

30 Day Rainfal

The green areas have had less than 2.5 inches of rain in the last 30 days.  I am pretty sure the gray is missing data.  Lack of rain is definitely taking the top off corn yields in some places.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Texas Bison Herd

On our trip we had the chance to visit Caprock Canyon State Park.  It is part of Palo Duro Canyon.  The escarpment on the west side of the canyon marks the separation of the rolling plains to the east and the very flat high plains to the west.  One of the highlights was that we got to see the Texas Bison Herd. I have visited the park before, but not seen the  herd.  Many say that the Texas Bison herd was preserved by Charles Goodnight, a very famous Texas rancher who founded one of the largest ranches in Texas.  The local tie in is that Goodnight was born on a farm near Gillespie, IL about 20 miles from me.  It is said that his wife Mary encouraged him to preserve bison.  There are about 80 bison in the herd, and some have been sent to Yellowstone, The Badlands, and other bison herds to diversify genetics.  Bison are perfectly adapted to the plains.  I could envision the number of bison increasing to the point where they might again provide us with a significant food source.  To those who worry about cattle contributing to Global Warming, I would point out that the Great Bison Herds have roamed North America for 250,000 years or more.  I am sure their emissions are very similar to our cattle.
Texas Bison

Friday, August 1, 2014

St. Elmo area crops.

I did a septic tank investigation near St. Elmo today.  Crops between Hillsboro and Vandalia did not look bad although there was some drought stress on the high sodium soils.  East of Vandalia, some fields looked to be beyond the help of rain.  Some fields still looked good.  I was seeing potassium deficiency in the stressed fields.  You have heard me say in the past that potassium is good for drought resistance.  It showed today.  I had 1.5 inches of rain in my gauge, but that amount was not widespread.