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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Water Does Weird Things

In 1993 the Meramec River Guage near the mouth of the river along the Mississippi read 45.3 when levees of the Columbia Levee District overtopped.  This year the Meramec River topped out at 47.2 which was worriesome to me.  However, the Stage of the Mississippi was somewhat lower than 1993 and was able to absorb the water.  We did move antique tractors and tools to a safer location over this bridge the past two days.  I am glad we moved but even more glad that it looks like we did not need to.  Lots can still go wrong, but one hazard .

You have seen the I-55 bridge over the Meramec River was closed because of high water.  I would guess that if you ever crossed that bridge at normal water levels, you would not believe that water could close down that bridge.  It sits high above the river.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Update on Flooding

A weekend storm had lead to lots of flooding in the area around St. Louis.  In Hillsboro, water flowed through the emergency spillway on Glenn Shoals Lake.  That would be termed a 100 year flood, better categorized as a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year.

Our family farm is located in the floodplain of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.  Flood forecasts yesterday were predicting a 44.9 reading on the St. Louis gauge.  In our area the levees will overtop with around a 49 foot level.  With more rain in the forecast, it seemed prudent to begin moving some machinery from the farm.  Lots of people were hauling grain as fast as possible with hired trucks running in addition the local farmer's trucks.  We also saw farm machinery being moved. We also saw trailers being loaded with household goods.   We do not believe that the flood levels will reach the 1993 record level, but you can't wait and see and them try to move everything in a panic.  Our friends in the West Alton and Portage DesSioux area in Missouri were already put out of their homes by the levee there overtopping.  Right now the forecast looks good for my home farm, but more rain could be a problem.  Flooding on tributaries might reach records, but it looks like the big rivers will not reach record levels from this rainfall event.
Internal Water Protected Side of Levee 

Mississippi River at the mouth of Carr Creek

Monday, December 28, 2015

Floodplain Issues

We are about to experience the second highest recorded flood on the Mississippi River.  It will probably come in third or fourth on the flow list.  Floods bring out the floodplain management specialist in me.  One of the issues that always comes up with a big flood is that we should return the floodplain to nature.  I would contend that farming is a compatible use for floodplains if you are prepared for the crop loss.

However, residences are not as compatible.  Federal Floodplain policy is to remove insurable structures from the floodplain, or flood proof them.  Elevated structures like the one below east of Litchfield are allowed.  The problem is that you u need a boat to get home.  In the case of the one below, it appears to me to be in the floodway.  Construction in a floodway is prohibited.  This house was allowed because of a poorly drawn map.  The house is about 50 feet from Shoal Creek and stream bank erosion could easily compromise it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Very Wet

NWS radar shows we had a little under and inch to a little over an inch.  I made a trip to Shipman today and it looks much wetter.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Check Your Stored Grain

So you got done with harvest safely and grain is stored until delivery contracts come due.  Weather this fall and early winter is very variable.  Humidity and temperatures are running the gamut, making it imperative to keep an eye and nose on stored grain. Farmweek News has advice on Maintaining Stored Grain.    Be sure to follow bin saftey procedures as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Corn Crib in Barn

This barn has a corn crib built in.  I know this is not unusual, but it does not show very often.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fertilizer Prices

Current fertilizer prices are lower than they  have been in some time, but now is not the time to use your soil as a bank.  Low crop prices mean that over and under fertilization is still not  a good idea.  No_Till Farmer gives projected fertilizer prices for 2016 crop year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Weather in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Brazil the El nino is being seen across the country, in southern Brazil have a lot of rain and West in the center near the South are having normal rains in the northern Midwest are having lack of rain. Northern Brazil is being punished by lack of rain!

I will summarize in two problems I look now, in southern Brazil, in the states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul producers are failing to apply protectants to kill caterpillars, bugs and control Asian rust, the state Paraná is the second largest producer in Brazil, and the sun has not appeared much there and soybeans are already suffering from lack of sun. The forecast for the South is over three months of too much rain.

In the Midwest, the nearest part of the South are having good rainfall, it is not missing. In northern Midwest we are already seeing soybeans suffer from the lack of rainfall and the heat is killing the crops. Some areas have had two replants and there is no longer time for the third soybean replant. In northern Mato Grosso harvest should begin in January, but this year I do not think that will be possible. Mato Grosso is the largest producer of grains in Brazil.
We have large grain producers, as well as Mato Grosso and Paraná. the states of Bahia, Tocantins, Maranhão who are suffering from the lack of rain and soybeans is dying, and are.

It's too early to tell if all goes well in the fields of Brazil!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good and Inexpensive American Food

We hear and read about how inexpensive food is in the United States, but with all the convenience foods out there, we may not realize how inexpensive it is to make a really good meal.

Yesterday, has an urge for some comfort food.  In our household, that sometimes means chicken dumplings.  I went to the store and found a chicken for $2.79.  Wow, What a bargain!  Then I got to thinking how much is was going to cost to prepare probably 8 servings of great food.

Chicken - $2.79
Flour   -      $.25
Egg     -       $.15
Onion  -      $.25
Celery  -     $.40 It was kind of high priced.
Salt       -     $.01
Sage      -     $.10  (optional)
Pepper  -      $.05  (optional)
Heat      -     $.05  to operate the stove

Total      -     $4.05

Eight servings, less than 51 cents per serving.  Less then 50 cents to add a serving of fruit or vegetable, although as you can see it already contains some vegetables.

Learning how to cook, might be in order if you think food is expensive.  The best home made foods are also simple.  I could think of  at least 6 ways to use that chicken that would make  a lot of meals for little money.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Coal Train

I was crossing a wooden overpass on my 4 wheeler when this coal train came along.  I thought the view from above was interesting.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fulton and Schuyler Counties

I worked in the Bader area today.  In contrast to yesterday, soil moisture was short in some of the topsoil borings.  

I also got a good shot of a purple corn crib.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sampling in Rushville Area

We took a trip to Rushville today to sample for a new customer.  Low areas were very wet.  There is lots of tillage done in that area on some pretty erosive soils.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Subsoil Moisture Report

I did a septic tank investigation today near Herrick in Shelby County.  The soil was moist to about 30 inches.  Below that depth, moisture is short.  We just finished the 3rd wettest November on record in Illinois.  In my opinion, we are headed into winter with adequate moisture.  We are likely to recharge that soil easily by April 1 planting time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mato Grosso Moisture is Short for Planting.

By Eduardo Paim:

I see the very divergent information, foreign markets are seeing something that I believe is not as certain as the traders think. They speak in good weather in general in South America, but here in Mato Grosso, the largest soy producer in Brazil we still have very erratic weather, lack of rain in the north and we are already in December!

In some northern soybean crops, the heat is so much that the plants are dying, and some farms already had two replantings because of deaths by strong heat.

We have so much to happen until we get "all quiet".

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cover Crops and Soil Health

Healthy Soils For Healthy Waters was the title of the Symposium that kicked off the Edge of Field Monitoring and Nutrient Management Conference.  The highlight of the whole conference was listening to David Brandt of Ohio discuss his system of cover crops and No-Till.  Brandt has been using cover crops for over 30 years.  His soils test very high for microbial respiration.  This indicates high microbial activity.  His figure of a $72 per acre net benefit to using cover crops is a  compelling reason to go for it.  I also had the privilege to visit with Brandt in person.  He talked a good bit about the benefits of using multiple cover crop species to enhance benefits.  He has tried as many as 12 species, but finds little addition benefit beyond using 8 species.

In an informal discussion over dinner, one of the Ohio State University professors in attendance indicated that he did not think that you could ever get enough nitrogen out of cover crops to have top yields.  Brandt disputed those remarks saying that he could raise 250 bushel per acre corn if he planted cover crops after harvesting wheat instead of going to double crop soybeans. Brandt is also experimenting with inter-seeding soybeans between corn rows for their nitrogen benefit.  The more we hear about cover crops, the more compelling it seems to use them,

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What I Brought Home from the Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Conference

I looked at notes from Day 3 of the conference and found little new information.  What I brought home was:

  • Monitoring runoff and nutrient loading is difficult and expensive.
  • We don't always find the answers we think we will.
  • A little phosphorous in your water can be a big problem.
  • Controlling nutrient releases is not an exact science.
  • Conservative use of fertilizer can have a positive impact on water quality.
  • Watch out for unintended consequences.
  • Guidelines are scarce for farmers or consultants who want to do monitoring in a practical way. 
I was not sure what to think of a presentation by Brittany Hanrahan of Notre Dame University on the first day of the conference.  She set up her study to monitor the effects of cover crops on water quality in a small watershed in Indiana.  She monitored her outflows every 2 weeks.  Her results showed a positive effect from conservation practices applied.  As I listened to all the other presentations I could see that her study was not very sophisticated compared to all the others; yet she got what seemed to be valid results that showed a positive impact.  Somehow we need people like Hanrahan to lead us to a practical side of monitoring so that farmers can set up their own studies to guide decisions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nutrient Management and Edge Conference Day 2

i probably need to share more details on a few presentations today, but for now I just have a few quick observations to share.

  • Matt Lechtenberg says that he thinks it will take more than 4R to have a significant impact on water quality
  • Kevin King said that acceptable leves of dissolved P were achieved where soil test P values are not excessive
  • several speakers pointed out that half of dissolved P in surface waters is from tile water.  That is surprising to many.  
  • Conservation Activities 201 and 202 are for monitoring.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Nutrient Management and Edge Conference Day 1

I am in Memphis attending the Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Conference. The conference kicked off with a symposium on healthy soils and healthy waters.  The morn started with academic research reports.  The afternoon moved to much more interesting topics as farmers and other discussed healthy soils from a more practical standpoint.  lames Moseley of Agree a food and agriculture policy group summed up the afternoon discussing policy and summing things up.  Mosey speculated that 25% of the yield increase needed to feed 9 million people would come from improving soil quality.  The farmer presentations were very compelling with the notion that such an increase is possible.  He also asked who would lead.  He thinks that government leadership is a bad idea.  He suggested that individuals will need to step forward.  Moseley discussed regulation and the idea that farmers need to avoid regulation by implementing god management on their own.  I would add that the reason we need to avoid regulation is that regulations limit our ability to manage a dynamic system. We need the flexibility to address issues as they present themselves. Andrew Sharply of Arkansas pointed out that they are no cookie cutter methods to solve every soil quality and water quality issue.