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Monday, August 31, 2015

Harvest is Really Started

I took advantage of the need to go to Springfield today and did a mini crop tour.  I was surprised to see soybeans turning yellow and dropping leaves.  Not all of them of course.  I also passed many fields that have mature corn.  Near Springfield, a few fields are harvested.

On the way home, I headed down the Black Diamond Trail and near Raymond, I saw Combines in the field.  The field in the third picture down has 3 combines in it.  They were almost done with that field.  The last picture is nearby, but a different field and a different farmer.

I will be spending Tuesday at the Farm Progress Show near Decatur.  It is the greatest spectacle in agriculture.

Yellow Soybeans

Mature Corn

Harvest near Raymond

Harvest near Raymond

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Deer in the Cornfield

As I was working on sampling this week, I spotted numerous deer tracks.  I even heard on rustle nearby.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

I was attending a meeting in St. Louis as Hurricane Katrina came to shore.  It was close to a year after my retirement from USDA.  As news reports came in, I thought that perhaps some of my experience could be put to use in Louisiana.  I sent a resume to FEMA and I had a phone interview shortly.  It took until almost Thanksgiving before I heard from them again.  I left for Orlando the day after Thanksgiving to report for mustering in and training.  After a week of 11 hour days training in Florida we reported to Baton Rouge.  I spent most of my time inventorying properties that had repetitive claims for flood insurance.  I went all over Louisiana and saw a lot of devastation everywhere.  The second picture below, sums it up.  A house sitting on a pickup truck in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.  Tom Brokaw reported from in front of that house a year later.  The mess was still being cleaned up.

The people of Louisiana were very nice to me.  I made the acquaintance of Rodger in the third picture down and we worked together many days.  I still hear from him from time to time.  I worked 6 days a week 12 hours a day until Christmas.  After Christmas, We did 11 hour days and got Saturday afternoons off.  I stayed in Port Allen across the river from Baton Rouge after Christmas.  The people below also became friends and even invited me to their superbowl party.  I was also able to celebrate Mardi Gras season in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  Despite news reports to the contrary, I never met anyone who treated me badly.

It is gratifying to see the ten year anniversary reports on television showing how well the area has recovered.  I am proud to have been a small part of that effort.

Why did we need to save New Orleans?  It is an area that is very important to commerce and agriculture.  A large portion of our agricultural exports go through New Orleans.  A large part of a our petroleum imports come through New Orleans.  The port of New Orleans extends up the Mississippi River as far as Baton Rouge.  There are 47 refineries located in the area.  If we did not restore New Orleans, we would have needed to build a new port and all that infrastructure somewhere else.  A new city would like not have been any safer from hurricanes than New Orleans, and would have been much more expensive.

Having lived through the flood of 1993 on the Mississippi River, I saw first hand what it takes to recover from a major disaster.  Some people asked me how long I thought it would take to recover in Louisiana.  I told them that it would take at least 5 years until you could look around and say, "It looks like we are recovering."  I said it would take 10 years until things really felt "normal" again, but it would be a new normal.  I am sure that 10 years later we can still find damage, but it is good that the people are back and that commerce continues to move in Louisiana.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stalk Nitrate Testing

As we see corn get more yellow every day, we might want to know how we came out on nitrogen.  One way to make that estimate is to take a stalk nitrate test.  The test should be done after black layer or maturity.  I took Stalk nitrate test and also pulled soil samples for nitrogen analysis. It is possible that the tests will not match.  The soil test gives you a chance to do extra thinking about what might have gone wrong, or right.  No-Till Farmer has an article on late season nitrogen assessment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Seepwater Damaged Crops

It seems appropriate to follow yesterday's blog with pictures of crops damaged by seepwater near  Portage Des Sioux, MO.  The seepage controls mentioned yesterday are meant to preserve the integrity of the levee.  They do not keep seepwater out.  These are large fields and only shows part of the damage.  There are very good crops in the same field, but how do you make up for large areas of zero yield.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Levees are more than meets they eye

Dr. Ken Olson and his Co-author Lois Wright Morton have written a series of articles concerning flooding especially in southern Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky based on experiences in that areas during the flood of 2011.  Olson and Morton have done  good job of talking about the effects of flooding on soils and agriculture.  In the latest article they explain how Slurry trenches and relief wells are installed to strengthen Ohio and Mississippi river levee systems.  Click on the link to see how there is more than meets the eye when it comes to levees.  The seepage control is an important component of the system, are often not visible at least to the untrained eye.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hay Time

Whole fields of corn are maturing.  SDS is spreading in soybeans.  We have heard several reports of harvesting, but no yield reports.

Humidity is down and rain is several days off, so weather is perfect for hay.  I saw 3 people working on hay this afternoon.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Getting Residue to Break Down

Why do we want residue to break down anyway?  Some say we want to release the nutrients.  That may be especially true in the case of nitrogen. More likely we don't want to tie up the nitrogen with residue breakdown because we want it to be furnishing nutrients for our crop.

No-till Farmer ran this article on residue breakdown , but it offers little in the "how" department. One of the reasons I see for wanting residue to break down, is for soil warmth and aeration.  If we are in a high residue cropping system, if the soil is completely covered, it may keep soil wet in the spring. Properly done vertical tillage can help break up the residue and start decomposition in three ways.  One is that we make the pieces smaller. Two is that we mix in small bits of soil which contains microbes that inoculate the residue to decompose.  Three is that we expose a bit of soil to allow improved air and water movement.  Keep in mind that vertical tillage should be shallow and should not bury residue.  Another tool that will have the same effect is the Aerway.  If those tools are not available, a very light disking could help.  The disk should be in the ground an inch or less.

Some people like a bit of UAN over the top to break up residue.  The shortcoming is that it is really a waste of nitrogen.  Something else to keep in mind is that the root residue in the soil maybe more of a drag on yields in corn on corn than the  residue on top. Perhaps a small amount of nitrogen incorporated would help with that issue.  The residue on the surface is not really the problem with nitrogen tie-up, because it has limited contact with the rooting zone.

Good drainage is also important for good residue breakdown.  Tile drainage will promote better aeration, but even good surface drainage can help.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hey National Ag Statistics Service

Just curious if National Ag Statistics Service considered any fields that look like this or worse.  This is between Gillespie and Litchfield.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Comments on Weather and Crop Report

I noticed a few surprising things in the weather and crop report this week.  The first is that We are somewhat ahead of average on growing degree days since May 1.  Nitrogen loss and growth conditions should both lead to earlier maturity.  Also , I have never seen any research on the subject, but extremely dry weather seems to slow maturity.  We will not have that this year.  We had a bit of corn planted the first week in April.  I am expecting to see combines in those fields by September 1.  Everyone is waiting for early yield reports to debunk the USDA crop estimates, but I am expecting early yields to be decent except where ponding became an issue.

I am also surprised to see anyone reporting short topsoil moisture.  At this point a few weeks of dry weather should be welcome.  I sampled yesterday and moisture was not an issue in any way.  Corn condition over all continues to drop.  I suspect when leave turn yellow and lower leaves start to dry up, reporters are lowering their condition numbers.

Haying is reported as a major activity the past week.  This is the best haying weather we have had this year.  I expect that second or third cutting is better than normal, but probably does not make up for the over mature and rained on hay that was harvested earlier in the year.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Start of Fall Sampling?

A new client called to have me sample  a small field.  The good thing is, it got me out in the field. I saw many soybean fields like the one below with waterhemp coming through. I also saw a bit of SDS north of Nokomis. Corn is turning yellow and brown.  I saw some ears that were dropped, but most of the corn is not mature yet.  I checked for black layer in two spots.      

Saturday, August 15, 2015

End of Corn Soybean Classic

Really, the Corn - Soybean Classic was started as an alternative to county by county agronomy programs that had become burdensome because of costs, low attendance and not enough specialists to cover the territory.  The Classics have filled that void and made more efficient use of staff time.  Now, staff is no longer able to support even those venues.  Even though information is available from other sources, the Corn-Soybean Classics have been a staple in continuing education.  The U of I announced this week that 2015 was the last year for Corn-Soybean Classics.

It is a shame that our politicians can find money for all sorts of pet projects, but the cannot support fund our great university and agriculture.  Agriculture is our largest industry and University research and extension is a key in helping Illinois Farmer remain competitive.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

USDA Crop Report

I can't help but comment on the USDA Crop Report. In my opinion they missed something.  Good Corn in the Western corn belt will not out weigh what I have seen in Illinois.  we headed south today on I-55 and corn is headed toward maturity.  Yellow and brown leaves are showing up high on the plant.  Waterstreet Solutions analyst Arlan Suderman commented on Agweb.  He is much more of an expert than I am.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vegetarian Fed Chickens

Our local supercenter has eggs from vegetarian chicks.  One issue I have is, "what are they using for a calcium source?"  Oyster shells?  Oops that is an animal product. Limestone?  Oops, remains from shell fish.  And how do they keep them from eating insects that might make their way into cages.  And I should pay double for such a dubious product?  

I found a Washington Post Blog on the topic that is well done.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

In Row or Near Row fertilizer

Daniel Kaiser of the University or Minnesota made a presentation called "Management of Fertilizer Placed with Seed."  His presentation left me with little information to recommend in row fertilizer.  He found that in row fertilizer made the corn look better early in the growing season, but did little to improve yields.  To me it is an additional headache not needed at planting time.  There may be situations where it is appropriate, but producers need to keep in mind the extra work. Kaiser did say that potassium in row did nothing for seedling vigor or yield.

Salesmen, especially of liquid products sell their product on the idea that in row placement is more efficient.  You can get the same yields with half the fertilizer.  This might be true in the short run, but if you are looking to maintain fertility. you will need to blanket apply too.  The plant roots do not know that they are supposed to pull fertility from the row only.  I have sampled fields where fertility was  not maintained because of in row fertilization.  Fertility was in the dumper.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ideal Soybean Populations

I have written on the topic in the past.  Cost cutting is difficult when looking at low prices.  We can't skimp on inputs because it affects the bottom line negatively.  We need to look at logical things to cut.  If you have  a good soil test, maybe you can cut back on fertility.

Another place to look at cutting back is soybean planting populations. Dr. Shawn Conley shared is research with us.  Much of his research is posted on his web site as well.  While certain practices may pay off in increased yield, they don't pay for themselves.  Multiple applications of fungicides are one of these thing.  High seeding rates also do not pay.  Conley found that germinated populations of 100,000 plants or more were enough for top yields.  He also said that replanting does not pay if you have more than 50,000 plants in the field.  This is consistent with other researcher's findings.  Conley is also an advocated for narrow row soybeans. He says even 20 inch rows are a big improvement over 30 inch rows.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wisconsin Road Trip

I attended my annual consultants meeting held this year at Lake Geneva Wisconsin.  I followed I-55 and I - 39 north and then turned east on IL 72 and took IL 23 north to the border.

Wetness issues were present the whole trip.  Most of the way north I saw corn experiencing yellowing because of nitrogen loss.  Wetter areas were obviously wors with corn severely stunted.  In some places corn was drowned completely.  Some of the stunted corn will not set any kind of ear.  The yellow color was evident even through sunglasses.  North of i-94, corn looked  a little better, but I did not pass as many corn fields either. On the way home yesterday, yellowing seemed even more evident if that is possible.  Lower leaves are dying back because of the nitrogen issues.

Soybeans are in somewhat better condition, although there were unplanted fields all along the highways I traveled.  We have heard some reports of SDS, but I did not see any evidence on my trip.