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Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Tiling

Today I spotted this field west of Gillespie where drainage tile is being installed.  If you want to calculate the economic feasibility of drainage tile, Springfield Plastics has a spread sheet on their agriculture page that can be downloaded.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

No-Till Research Discrepencies

No-Till Farmer Looks at issues with University Research and yield results with No-till.  When you look at yield results, sometime it can be easy to determine why the results are not valid and sometimes not.  The above article has 29 reasons listed.  I hope you click and check them out.  One thing they did not mention is timing.  Sometimes farmers can delay an operation in No-Till to a more favorable time either moisture or soil temperature wise.  NO-Till research plots need to be planted on the the same day to eliminate that variable. The 29 things that go wrong with No-till research, can also go wrong with most research.  This article demonstrates why you might want to do your own research. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Subsoil Moisture

Yesterday I heard on the news that this has been the driest winter since 1953-54.  That winter was followed by a devastating drought.  I am not a long range weather forecaster, so I don't know what this peice of information means. 

The good news is that we did septic tank investigations in Taylorville and Columbia that past two days.  None of the six holes we bored had a water table, however moisture was good to a depth of 5 feet.  If we have a dry summer, at least we are going in with adequate moisture. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Old Wagon

I spotted the wooden wheeled wagon near Bulpit.  We were in Taylorville doing a septic tank investigation.  The view facing the road looks like it has a wagon box on it, but the view below reveals it is a grain box from an old gran drill. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Soybean Harvest in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:
Here in Mato Grosso we are getting back to having good rains in the fields, and we started the soybean harvest. Soybean production is undefined, where there were good rains in the last 30 days we are reaping average of 55 bags per hectare where rains failed we are harvesting 30 bags per hectare. The states of Bahia, Mato Grosso and Goias are at the beginning of harvest no average set productions.
In the state of ParanĂ¡ we are also seeing bad harvests as in Mato Grosso. Now we expect to too much rain for February, which may impair the production if they can not harvest soybeans.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Have a Balanced Nutrient Management Program

Everyone has seen von Liebig's law of minimums illustrated with the barrel.  Researchers have confirmed that nitrogen is less efficient when other nutrients are  lacking. No-till Farmer published the results.  It is always good to see what we preach confirmed by research.  We have seen nutrient deficiency manifest themselves in a deficiency in one nutrient when another nutrient is actually the culprit based on soil test results.  One of the ways that we are going to make nitrogen more efficient is by making sure that no nutrients are deficient. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gluten Free

I have questioned the use of the Gluten Free Label on meat and other products that obviously do not contain gluten.  I took this picture at Schnuck's in Bethalto because they were using the label properly on products that traditionally do contain gluten such as bread, cereal, crackers, cookies, and flour.  It was nice to catch them doing it right.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winter Meetings

Today we attended the Saale Farm and Grain customer appreciation dinner.  It was a chance to visit with clients ans potential clients and meet some of Saale's suppliers.  The winter meeting circuit is well under way.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Criticized

Prairie Farmer published criticism of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.  I am sharing this because it just demonstrates how important it is for farmers to attempt to follow the strategy.  There is still time to somnolent on the strategy as well. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Site Specific Management

I debated on writing anything on this topic today, but decided that a summary of my day was in order.  Today I attended the 360 Yield Center Yield Summit in Washington, IL.  Greg Sauder made some compelling presentations on variable rate seeding and Nitrogen management.  He used the day to highlight what his new company is doing and how to fine tune the technical aspects of your farming operation.  Many of his suggestions revolve around his Yield Commander program.  He also discussed residue management and his new snapping rollers for your corn head.  He also discussed two sprayer products, Y-drop for nitrogen application and undercover for fungicide/insecticide application.  His products are thoroughly tested and all of them have merits.  You have to figure out if and how the products fit into your operation.  The pitfall I see in the site specific management is that you need good data to input in order to get good data out of the system.   I could go into much more detail, but I would probably prefer to answer questions about specific products by email. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hauling Grain

Today I went to the farm to repair the tailgate on my truck.  The hinge was broken and it was either weld it or get a new tailgate. 
 My brother was loading grain.  It takes about an hour to load the truck.
 He hauls most of his grain to Kemper's Landing.  It is a barge loading facility owned by Gateway FS.  The facility is located on the river side of the levee, so most of it is flood proofed or mobile except fot he bins and scale.  You can see that the scale house is a trailer. 
 Sign in the unloading building.
 There was a fully loaded barge waiting to move downstream where it will be put into a tow. 
 The grain comes off the truck much faster than it goes on. 
In addition to the ride along, I got to see over 50 eagles.  My brother was complaining about people just stopping in the middle of the road to view the eagles.  There was car that did just that.  I'm not sure why they don't pull over. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Prairie Burn

Today was a burn day at Bremer Sanctuary in Hillsboro.  A group of volunteers burned the bigger prairies at Bremer today.  Fire is used a management tool to maintain restored and native prairies. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Meat Production

National Geographic has been running a lot of articles on food and food production.  This one on beef production is well done. Proponents of Paleo, Vegan and Vegetarian diets seem to think we are doing huge damage to the environment by eating meat.  They are missing something.  First, cattle, sheep, goats, and other ruminants spend much of their life converting grasses and forages that grow on less productive land into food that we can eat.  If we all stopped eating meat, why would people keep cattle on that land.  What would fill that ecological void.  Another thing to consider is crop production.  While some would dispute the fact, we seem to grow all the fruit and vegetables that the market demands.  Cutting back on grain demand by not eating meat would have a huge negative impact on the global economy.  What would become of those acres that are currently used to grow feed?  Who would decide which farmers go bankrupt? 

In less developed countries, poultry and swine also take advantage of foods that we humans are not really hungry for.  Chickens in Africa pick at seeds and insects and convert those to good quality protein for human consumption.  Hogs often are the local garbage disposal and eat food waste that we do not want.  Even in the cattle business, cattle are fed distillers grains and citrus pulp that would otherwise go to waste.

Yes we need to work on better distributing the animal waste produced in large operations.  We need to be cautious about feed additives.  But in the end, animal agriculture is good for our health and good for our economy, and it is possible to produce meat even in large operations, in ways that are environmentally sensitive. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Happens to Cropland in a Flood?

Dr. Ken Olson has studied flood damages to cropland extensively since the flood of 2011.  Dr. Olson's work is summarized in a news release from the University of Illinois College of ACES.  Be sure to click on the links for all the information.  The best part about his work is that the Mississippi River Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers are expected to sign an agreement to redo soil surveys as part of flood recovery.  It will be interesting to see how the updates are distributed. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fertilizer and Water Quality

Recently the City of Des Moines, IA decided to sue upstream counties because of the high nitrogen content in their source water.  You may recall my recent post about the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, so this news illustrates why we need to do our best to implement the strategy.  The Des Moines Lawsuit details are in this Prairie Farmer article. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Robert Easter

Dr. Robert Easter is set to retire as President of the University of Illinois this summer.  Dr. Easter is worthy of mention here because of his distinguished career at the University of Illinois College of Agriculture.  I met Dr Easter a couple of times and he seemed very  laid back for a man in his position. His dedication to the University however, along with his impeccable integrity lead him to the top post at the University and he took over as President in scandalous times.  I am not sure who the last President was who had an agriculture background, but it really is fitting that he run our land grant university.  The Alumni News chronicles his entire distinguished career from Texas farm boy to University president.  I hope you will check it out. 

Control Those Weeds

I attended the U of I Corn-Soybean Classic.  The classic is a road show that has been around for many years and gives a good overview of what is going on in Illinois with our major crops.

Aaron Hager's presentation may have the most widespread applicability of any of them.  Weed resistance to herbicides and how to manage it was a big part of the discussion.  His observations and recommendations are:
  • Selection for resistance occurs with every application of every herbicide.
  • Use a pre-plant burndown and pre-plant residual
  • Scout 14 days after planting to make sure you catch weeds small.
  • Scout 7 to 10 days after the application of post plant materials to make sure your herbicide worked.
  • Tank mixes used, not herbicide rotation is a key to clean crops.
  • Those using three herbicide modes of action stand a better chance of clean fields
  • Plan on three herbicide applications
Hager also pointed out that a Weed Control Guide for Illinois is available for the first time in many years.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Farm Futures Summit

So what has taken me so long to write about the Farm Futures Summit?  It was a great conference as usual.  Mike Boelhje was probably my favorite speaker, but we have already covered his territory.  In fact belt tightening was a big topic of conversation among several presentations.  I covered most of that before the conference.  I agree producers should be cautious and try to be low cost producers as Mike Boehlje said.

In the past few years, Boelhje, David Kohl and others have talked about setting yourself up in a strong cash position.  Staying cash strong is not real appealing because it involves paying income taxes.  However the producers who took the advice, are in a better position to financially weather leaner times than those who used the good times to spend more on unneeded machinery or by increasing family living expenses.

Landlord relations and succession planning were also hot topics, but I have no comment except that if you need to reduce cash rent, you better have a good relationship with the landlord.  If you don't have  a succession plan there is not time like the present to work on it.

The economic forecasts were cautiously optimistic.  Assuming that the economy stays strong and projecting 2015 yields at trend, prices can be expected to rebound a bit.  Energy costs are a plus.  The strong Dollar could curtail exports a bit. The wild card is world politics. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy

Illinois is in the process of  implementing a nutrient  reduction strategy.  The strategy is voluntary at least for now.  Illinois Council on Best Management Practices  has links and information.  IEPA has the information too and they are accepting comments.  The document is loaded with information about nutrient loads in Illinois waters. 

They are suggesting that nitrogen loss can be reduced by having farmers use the Nrate calculator to determine N rates.  They would also like to see more use of nitrification and urease inhibitors.  Cover crops are also part of the strategy.  In addition, sidedress applications are to be encouraged. 

Bioreactors, wetlands, drainage management,  and buffers on field edges are also part of the strategy.

Soil Test Phosphorous levels have been found to be higher than necessary for maximum yield in 595 of Illinois fields.  One goal is to reduce that level by adding less phosphorous.  Reducing soil erosion is also a big part of the strategy. Poultry and hog farmers will need to distribute their nutrients further from the source in order to reduce Phosphorous loss. 

The strategy lists the traditional programs available for implementation of practices need to reduce nutrient losses in Illinois.  My opinion is that farmers will need to rely on their consultants and suppliers to make a serious dent in nutrient reduction. I do not see enough money in the programs listed to have a serious impact. We all need to work together on the goals.  We need those agencies who developed the strategies to publicize the need for implementation. 

I hope you will take time to comment to IEPA. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Grazing Corn Stalks

I caught these turkeys grazing corn stalks a few days ago. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Harvest Progress in Brazil

by Eduardo Paim:

The first soybean crops of 2014/15 crop being harvested in Mato Grosso and ParanĂ¡ with very irregular yields. In Mato Grosso early super soybeans being harvested, to plant cotton, yields in the early harvested crops, which do not exceed 3 percent of the planted area, are ranging between 35 and 64 bags per hectare.
Good yields are occurring in areas that received isolated rains, only irrigated areas managed to ensure good yields in general to the first plants crops.

In ParanĂ¡, there were also delay planting due to lack of rains in the early crops have yields between 33 and 66 bags per hectare. By the end of January should reach 3% of crop in the state, 2% less compared to the average of previous years.

We are still facing irregurares rain is pouring down rain in some places and not in others, is very hard to say what will the average production at the end of harvest!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Agricultural Productivity

You may have gathered that I was attending the Farm Futures Business Summit in St. Louis the past few days.  The Farm Futures people always put on an excellent program. I have a bit of material for additional blogs, but the chart below represents the most interesting bit of information presented.  David Oppendahl of the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago presented it during his talk on "Ag's future from the Fed point of view."
The information below shows that agricultural outputs have grown 2.5 times since 1948, while inputs have stayed almost the same the whole time.  Figures are adjusted for inflation in terms of 1948 values.   

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

International Year of Soils

I am happy to be alive in the International Year of Soils.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO is sharing lots of information on soils.  USDA is kicked off the celebration yesterday.  Soil Science Society of America has lots of resources to help you learn more. 

I am pleased to see the importance of soils recognized.  I began my USDA career with Soil Conservation Service.  The agency emphasis on soils made them very unique. We worked with private land owners on soil conservation issues, but the effect on the environment was across the board.  If you conserve soil, you also improve wildlife habitat, you clean up surface water, you improve crop productivity, and touch the environment in many other ways.  I liked the emphasis.  In 1994, Soil Conservation Service became Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Agency leaders wanted to emphasize that they worked with all resources.  That is fine, but it took the spotlight off of the fact that soil is the key to life. 

I will try and do a monthly feature to join in the celebration.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Saving Trips Across the Field

In keeping with a theme, besides fertility and crop protection products, where can you cut back?

When I was a young soil scientist in Madison County, the debate was still open as to whether or not conservation tillage works.  I think that is long settled, but we still sometimes see recreational tillage.  You should definitely be looking at the number of trips you are making.
  • Do you really need to "size" that residue with a disking or vertical tillage before chisel plowing? I would say not.  
  • Does the soybean stubble really need primary tillage to plant corn or can you get by with just some vertical tillage or field cultivating?
  • Do you need to make that second pass of secondary tillage before planting?  The planter will push the clods out of the way.
  • If your field was ready to plant and you get a rain on it, why do you want to till it again?  The stale seedbed will be firm and give you a more even stand.
  • In the past, researchers have found that soybeans yield best when drilled with no other tillage.
Consider combining crop protectants where possible.  Apply fungicide and insecticides together is one of those combinations.

Can you cut back on seed costs?  I defer to the seed corn people on their population recommendations.  They know what it takes to get the most out of a particular hybrid.  Soybeans however can be very forgiving on populations.  Research I have seen says that 120,000 to 130,000 soybeans per acre is enough in most instances.  Of you are still planting 160,000 try cutting back to 140,000. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Can You Save Money on Crop Protection Products?

Much like yesterday's soil fertility question, the answer is maybe.  The first thing to look at is disease resistance.  If you seed is already bought, and it should be, in order to take advantage of discounts, you may past that.  Even if you have seed, know what you have.  For example, is your corn resistant to gray leaf spot?  You can avoid fungicide applications if you panted resistant hybrids. 

Crop rotations are another way to reduce the need for crop protection products.  On average, corn soybean rotations yield better than continuous corn.  Getting a third crop into the rotation is even better.  Especially avoid planting the same crop as last year in fields where you had a lot of insect or disease pressure last year. An example would be to avoid soybeans where you had SDS last year. 

Scouting and integrated pest management will assure that you only use crop protection products when needed.  If you don't have time to scout yourself, a scouting service can be a bargain.

Treated soybean seed pays for itself and then some most of the time.  You could cut it out thinking you used to grow soybeans without treatment, but be sure and think it through.  

I can't finish this entry without saying that cutting rates is not the answer.  The efficacy of many crop protectants depends on applying them at the recommended rate.  If you are going to cheat on the rate, it might be better to just not use the product at all.

With weed resistance and increasing weed pressures, you need to think your program through before cutting back on weed control.  If you start with a soil applied residual herbicide, you may want to scout to see if you can avoid additional applications of post planting products.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Saving Money on Soil Fertility

 Happy New Year!

With lower crop prices, many producers are looking at cutting costs.  One place they might consider cutting is soil fertility.  Is this a good idea?  There is no way to know without a recent soil test, no more than 2 years old.  If you nutrient levels are high enough, there is no requirement that fertilizer be applied every year.  Make sure that Calcium and magnesium levels are at the proper levels so that pH is correct.  Decisions on phosphorous and potassium should be based on soil test.  Sulfur is much like nitrogen, so if your soil test indicates that you need sulfur, you should not really cut back much.  

Nitrogen on corn is a place to look at cutting back.  The first thing you can do is use nitrification and urease inhibitors as appropriate for your fertilizer material.  They will not save you under really poor conditions, but they can buy you some time.  The next thing you can look at is sidedressing nitrogen.  You can easily reduce your rate by 25% if sidedressing.  Another thing to look at is the maximum return to N (MRTN).  Researchers in the midwest have accumulated a lot of data over the years and are recommending nitrogen be applied based on economic factors (corn rice and nitrogen price) instead of yield goal and removal.  You should at least be looking at the N-rate Calculator to factor cost prices into your decision. 

Variable rate is another factor to look at to cut costs.  I am sold on VR Lime, phosphorous and potassium.  VR nitrogen is a little more tricky, but using some sort of a chlorophyll sensor might be useful.  Pre-sidedress nitrate testing can help you pinpoint how much nitrogen to use as well. 

I know a lot of what I mentioned cost money to implement, but the savings can be substantial.