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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Soil Surveys and Precision Agriculture

Winter meeting have begun and we have been busy with them.  Two weeks ago at the 2nd annual AgData Conference in Iowa City we heard two presentations about the shortcomings using soil surveys to define management zones for precision agriculture.  Tom McGraw, consulting soil scientist brought up the issue in his presentation on the Flaw of averages.  Afterward, I had a discussion with him about the topic.  His comment was that the USDA Soil Survey is the best in the world, but it is not good enough in many cases, to make site specific management decisions.  The Veris tool is a popular way to define management zones based on Electrical conductivity and soil color.  I have seen the Veris work very well and I have seen it not work well. 

Shannon Gomes, like me an old USDA soil scientist made a similar presentation later on.  Gomes is using lots of deep soil borings and an EM meter to define ones.  Gomes says that rather than try to use all the standard soil features to define ones, we can narrow it down to a few such as topsoil texture, color and depth, subsoil texture and dept, available water holding capacity,  and cation exchange capacity.  His methodology sounded kind of expensive, but considering that the work should last, until further refinement is necessary, perhaps it is not too bad.  Gomes did mention that he is looking over all at the five factors of soil formation.  They are:

  1. Parent Material
  2. Biota (including native vegetation)
  3. Topography
  4. Climate
  5. Time
We try to refine the soil survey in by using GPS to define the boundaries between soils that have similar management considerations based on the five factors of soil formation.  We sometimes end up with rather large ones that contain similar soils,  The large zones are broken down further to end up with 10 acre or smaller zones.  Our process is not expensive, but require us to be o n the ground, and it requires a trained eye.  The photograph below shows zone boundaries as I have defined them in Pike County.  The purple lines are the Soil Survey lines.  You can see that we are gaining signifigant refinement with a relatively simple process. 

Pike County Soil Survey vs GPS defined zones. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Randy Dowdy Program

Last week were invited to attend a presentation b champion corn grower Randy Dowdy.  Linco-Precision was a co-sponsor and invited us to the program.  dowdy may have made on of the best farmer presentations I have heard.  He had 4 main points.   He uses drainage to remove excess water. He uses irrigation when water is short.  He does a lot of soil testing and tissue testing in order to fine tune his fertility program.  He likes to spread his risks by spreading out his planting dates in a 3 to 4 week period. He pushes his soil fertility to the maximum.  He advocates for 1 pound of nitrogen for every bushel of corn. 

I listened and tried to figure a program that would work in Illinois.  Despite having decent annual rainfall amounts, we really do not have a good source of irrigation water except in the major river bottoms.  I am an advocate for drainage.  We can drain our fields economically.  His discussion about tissue sampling is leading me to consider offering a revised program that includes tissue sampling.

I was surprised that he is not pushing high populations although he is using narrow and twin row spacings to maximize sunlight to the plant. 

Dowdy was thought provoking and interesting,  While I am not sure how to implement his program entirely, I think we can learn some things from him.  If you get a chance to hear him speak, go for it. 


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Frequency of Soil Sampling

We like to sample every year.  We do not squawk too much when clients want to go with every other year.  If  you go further out than that it is difficult to track changes accurately.  It is also difficult to determine if your soil test results are influenced by environmental issues.  In reading my Corn Soybean Digest this week  found an article with the headline that Grid Data improves decisions.   While I take exception to the thought that grid sampling is the best way to monitor fertility levels,  found it interesting the Antonio Mallarino of Iowa State University advocated for sampling more often than every 4 years.   Dr. Mallarino is probably the foremost authority on soil testing.  He had done lots of research on soil testing and sampling from just about every angle you can think of.  His opinions are to be respected even when I disagree with him. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Crop Progress in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

I wanted to write to you to tell you how the soybean planting ended in most of the Brazilian states. In the South there were many rains and it disrupted the planting, mainly the corn was very harmed. In the Central-West (Mato Grosso) The rains had a slight delay to arrive, that delayed the planting beyond the ideal window in about 35%. Delay in planting historically means that there is a high chance of production dropping by about 15-20% in these non-ideal planted areas. They have not yet planted the states of Bahia, Piaui, Maranhão and Tocaontis and part of Minas Gerais, these states make up North and Northeast. There is a lot of caution because La Ninã is firming and has forecast of lack of rain or little rain from 15/12/2017 until the end of January of 2018, that would be a greater aggravation because we already had problems to plant within the ideal window. As the planting of soybeans has spread beyond the ideal, consequently the planting of second-crop maize will be less, because the producers will not risk much.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Swamper Tales Book Review

A family friend wrote the book below about his coming of age in the 60's and 70's showing dairy and beef cattle in Southern Illinois.  The book contains the stories of the characters he met and worked for on the fair circuit.  His stories cover farm life and times.  Every tale is true.  It is a quick read and very enjoyable.  Photographs enhance many of the stories.  Roger Peach is selling the book on his facebook page.  This would make a great Christmas gift for the livestock exhibitor in your life, or anyone who grew up in the 60's.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Compost Moving Day

Today I emptied out my compost bin by carrying to the garden.  It contained 2 years of decomposing vegetable waste.  By spring it will be further decomposed and ready to be spaded in.  This includes sweetcorn husks and cobs, pecan shells, coffee grounds with filters, and shredded paper.  The bin gets completely full when we freeze sweetcorn, but that breaks down fairly quickly.

Compost Bin

Compost in Garden.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

One Man's Junk

The Massey Ferguson 540 below has been parked along Route 16 between Litchfield and Hillsboro for several weeks. It is for sale.  It reminds me of  a story that took place in 1986-87.

One day I stopped to see a farmer named Herbie who was combining corn with a John Deere 45 with a rounded back end.  That means it was ancient even then.  When I pulled up, Herbie jumped off the combine and started to complain about it.  He farmed less than 200 acres, but it was worn out even for that acreage.  A combine can be an expensive purchase for a small farmer.

A few days later, I stopped to see a guy named Lance.  Lance was sitting in an older Massey Ferguson complaining that the transmission had gone out and he wished he could find a newer more reliable combine.  Lance also farmed around 200 acres or maybe a bit more.

Fast forward a year.  I stopped in to see Lance and he was showing me a Massey Ferguson 540 like the one pictured below.  It had low hours considering its age.  Lance had bought it on auction.  Lance was very pleased with it and it was working well.

A few days later, I stopped to see Herbie.  He had bought Lance's old combine and could not have been happier with it.  It was in much better shape than his John Deere and doing just what he needed it to do.  The story proves the axiom that "One Man's junk is another man's treasure."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking for Better Weed Control?

Weed Control has become the biggest field management issue of the decade.  Everyone seems to have troublesome weeds.  Finding the right herbicide, timing the application right, and getting good kills are important.

The best weed control I am seeing in soybeans right now is with cover crops and No-Till.  Cereal rye is the easiest cover crop to manage in soybean production.  You can plant it late after corn and let it grow or kill it early.  Some producers say it is easiest to plant  soybeans in green cereal rye and kill it just before or just after planting.

Narrowing your soybean rows to 15 inches or less can also help with weed control.  The past few years, we are seeing waterhemp growing in the middles of 30 inch row beans.  An early canopy is important for good weed control.

Notice I have not talked herbicide management yet.  If you are not using cover crops, start in the fall.  Fall herbicides can give you a jump on sporing weeds.  Soil applied herbicides in spring are important.  In spite of a lot of bad publicity, early dicamba can give good control of marestail.  Be cautious with later season dicamba operations.  Post planting applications should be done when weeds and crops are both small.  Don't rely on post applications for your whole program.

Prairie Farmer says to"Turn 2017 Observations into Better Weed Control."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Safe time to Spray Dicamba

After a number of inspections of dicamba affected fields, I can offer no good insights as to how to spray dicamba safely.  Prairie Farmer recently published and article on How to Hit Dicamba's Narrow Application Window.  Volitilization and re-volitilizatoin seem to be factors in many of the cases we have looked at.  Temperature inversions must be to blame.  It is easy enough to cover wind speed and buffers, but how do you avoid inversions that are not readily apparent at application time.  The Pocket Spray Smart App may be helpful according to the article above.  The app attempts to predict inversion conditions 72 hours out.  The label for new dicamba formulations are only approved for only one more year, so if you think we need this tool in the weed control box, we need to do a lot better next year.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Soil Fertility and "New" Removal Rates

New soil fertility removal rates are getting a good deal of press as we move into the harvest season.  I would ask if this is big news?  The basis for a good soil fertility program is soil testing.  In looking at the removal rate data, I noticed a big spread in crop removal rates .  This leads me to question the value of knowing what the crop might have removed if we don't really know the removal rate for the particular variety that was grown in a field.  Soil testing as an afterthought will not give you the data you need to make sound fertilizer decisions.  We still need to monitor fertility levels regularly to decide how much fertilizer you need to avoid crop stress in the next growing season.  My philosophy is to keep your fertility at ideal levels .  We have a lot that we can't control in farming.  Soil fertility is one thing we can control.  We want to take the fertility factor out of the picture.  We need to make sure we have enough fertility to grow top yielding crops, but we also need to think about environmental stewardship so that we minimize phosphorous and nitrogen loading in surface waters.  New removal rates do not take into consideration where your fertility levels are.  Only soil testing can tell you that information.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Farm Progress Show Highlight.

There is always one product at the Farm Progress Show that seems to catch the eye of a lot of People.  This year it was the Tribine.  The corn head was folding, and instead of a grain tank, it fills its own Auger Wagon.  I worry about compaction, but it might be  an effective way to load trucks without unloading on the go. I could tell this machine was interesting to a lot of people because they were stopping to look at 3:30 in the afternoon to take a look.  Most people are just strolling to see what they missed at that time of day.  They don't stop very often.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvest 17 Started

Corn Harvest is started in our area, although it is moving slow.  We have had some reports of decent yields and others with nothing to brag about.  The local yield surveys are trending 20 bushels per acre lower than last year and Pro Farmer tour is mostly 10 bushels per acre lower.  Will prices move up  a little?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Crop Progress in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Brazil most of the maize of the second crop has already been harvested, and the products in general have been records! We have already received some rains in Mato Grosso, for this time of year it is not normal to rain. In my small area we had 100 mm of accumulated rainfall in the last two weeks, this is not generalized, some regions did not receive any rainfall.

We are preparing to start planting soybeans in 30 days, in the North of Mato Grosso always start first. The rains damaged the quality of too much corn that was harvested and stored below the clear sky.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Missouri River Management Plan Needed.

Dr. Ken Olsen of the University of Illinois is calling for a new study and management plan for the Missouri River.  Dr. Olsen is a soil scientist who studied the 2011 Mississippi and Ohio River floods, first in terms of the flood damaged soils, and later in more comprehensive manner documented in his book, "Managing Mississippi and Ohio River Landscapes."  A summary of Dr. Olsen's"Big Muddy" Missouri River Needs a Plan, article in the journal of Soil and Water Conservation.  The Missouri River Valley is a highly productive region for agricultural production, but that production is not without risk.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dicamba Research Issues Starting to Surface

After many weeks in the denial and back steppping mode by the manufacturers of the new formulations of dicamba, we seem to be getting some information that perhaps Monsanto, BASF and DuPont need to take another look at what they did wrong.  First it looks like they hid behind the veil of corporate secrecy to get their label approvals. It also looks like there was little field testing of the products.  It looked good on paper so lets run with it.  Check out the RPM Soils Facebook Page for links with all the details.  We have been posting there.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Subsoil Moisture

We did a septic tank evaluation today about 5 miles west of Fillmore.  Soil is very dry to a depth of 4 feet.  This was in a corn field, so realistic of field conditions.  from 4 to five feet there is a little moisture.  Corn looked very good under the circumstances.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Southern Corn Rust

As if we have not had enough challenges this year what with too wet, too dry, and herbicide issues in abundance, Southern corn rust has moved north much faster than any other year.   Of course if your crops are already burned up as the corn below near Tower Hill,  no treatment may be the best option.  If you have gotten the timely rains, scout and follow treatment options.  Purdue has a good writeup.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Comments on Weather and Crop Report

This week's weather and crop report is interesting.  It shows corn condition slightly better than soybeans.  63% of corn is good to excellent.  59% of corn is good to excellent.  My northern Illinois observer tells me that fields are still very wet.  Southwest and West Southwest regions are both showing lots of inadequate moisture reports.  Moisture is hard to get a real good handle on because showers are very scattered in the dry areas.   It is interesting to note that the dry areas are also the hot areas.  That is a bad combination.  I have seen a lot that is getting worse by the day.  Even some soybeans are beyond help. those areas.  Rain will help on better soils, but there is no rain in the forecast until Friday.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dying Crops

Not everything looks as below, but crops look worse every time I go to St. Charles Co Mo.  Lots of land to the south if feeling dry weather effects.  Rain next week won't revive dead plants.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Subsoil Moisture

We had septic tank investigations in eastern Fayette County today.  As I drove over there, it was evident that rain had fallen the whole way.  First stop was at St. Elmo.  Judging from about 3 inches of moist topsoil my guess would be they had a half inch of rain or less.  The first 30 inches were fairly dry.  Soil below that was most.  Near Vandalia, soil was dry below the recent rainfall moisture to about 2 feet.  Moisture at those depths is considered available, but it takes more energy for the plants to pump it.  With corn pollinating and soybeans flowering, soil moisture is tenuous at best.  As temperatures rise, uptake can't keep up with evapo-transpiration.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dry Areas

Last week was pretty good for most of Illinois from a rainfall standpoint, but there were gaps in the West South Central area especially.  Some areas got very little rainfall.  Crops are starting to show a good bit of stress.  The photo below was on some sandy soils in St. Charles County, Mo.  The areas of burned up corn will continue to get larger every day now.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Dicamba Damage Heats Up

Dicamba damage is the buzz in agriculture right now.  New formulations were haled as the answer to drift issues with dicamba.  Industry officials are blaming everything except that dicamba is a bad idea.  Prairie Farmer has published a Monsanto Response that seems to be weak in some ways.  Drift is only one problem.  The field below had damage across the whole field.  That is likely caused by inversion.  We have heard that even a heavy dew on recently sprayed fields can cause a problem.

Some commercial applicators have quit using dicamba because of the issues.  If you continue to use it, be sure to follow label and understand that conditions can change quickly.  You may start a field on label and finish off label.  Dicamba residues in the tank have been blamed in some cases.  I am not sure how often that happens.  This article on what is happening in Illinois seems to cover many of the issues very well.  Monsanto claims that used as directed there should be no problems.  I am not sure I would use it at all.
Cupping indicates dicamba damage. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hannibal to Hillsboro

We made our return trip yesterday.  Crops on the Illinois leg looked better than Iowa for the most part.  I know that not too far from I 72 conditions are dryer.  The map below is the past 14 days rainfall.  Illinois is in the center.  The blue areas have had less than a half inch.  Some of the blue area are really dry.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Southeast Iowa Crops

We drove across Southeast Iowa this morning.  Irrigation rigs are running in the river bottoms.  Corn is dark green, but most is not yet tasseling.  Some fields had leaf rolling, but none of the corn looked to be beyond the help of a timely rain.  Soybeans are looking good too.  Judging from brown lawns, I would say rain would very welcome.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Corn Pollination

Early planted fields are starting to pollinate.  It may be 2 weeks before this field is done pollinating because of unevenness of the stand.  This can't lead to top yields.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Good corn Harvest in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:


The corn harvest has already started in northern Mato Grosso, and the productions are surprising, we are harvesting 20% to 30% more than we expected! The soybean harvest was over and great too!




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Comments on Weather and Crop Report

While I have not been everywhere, I have traveled hundreds of miles in the past week in Illinois, Iowa and a small part of Missouri.  The Illinois weather and crop report is consistent with what I have seen.  59 % of Corn is listed as good to excellent.  May be a a bit generous, but it is close.  67 % of soybeans are good to excellent.  I am not sure it should be that high, but soybeans are better than corn.  19% are still reporting short on moisture.  That seems about right.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Past 7 Days Rainfall

We have just had several days of wet weather.  You could get the idea that the effects of dry weather have been averted.  If you study the map, You will find that there are many areas that had only a half inch, especially to the west. On the plus side, many parts of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana had good rain.  Some of the early planted corn is good till silking time, which is coming in two weeks.  Later planted corn was helped as far as getting roots to grow deeper, but probably more than half of the corn I have seen will need more rain to assure a decent crop.  I have not seen anything that leads me to believe that corn yields will be above trend line.  Early planted soybeans are looking good, but later planted soybeans have population issues.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dry Weather Reprieve

Many dry areas of the Midwest had decent amounts of rain in the past two days. Areas below in blue and gray did not get much rain.  There are still acreage in southeast Iowa, Northwest Missouri and parts of Illinois, that did not get enough rain.  Those areas are in the heart of the corn belt.  This rain will not carry through the growing season except on some early planted corn.  Green areas below will be needing more rain in two weeks. This was certainly a welcome rain.  There is potential for more rain in the next few days.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Road Trip North and West

Weekend travels took us to Pella, Iowa for a family visit.  Some corn in Pike Co is in the V-8 to V-10 stage. On Friday, some corn in Pike County was starting to roll because of low humidity and high winds.  On the return trip, corn on the sandy soils had turned white.

Irrigation rigs were running in the Mississippi River bottoms as we traveled north. There were still a few planters in the field Friday.  Most of the soybeans in Iowa were V-1 to V-3.  It was interesting that almost no beans in Iowa were planted in 30 inch rows.

High winds, low humidity and high temperatures continued for our entire visit.  Corn in Iowa was V-3 to V-6 stage, so fortunately water requirements were lower than for some of the Illinois Corn.  In Iowa, people were already talking drought, although crops looked OK even as we traveled home Sunday.  To give and idea of the conditions though, I will comment that upper leaves on trees were wilted because they could not take up water fast enough.

Without regard to dry conditions, crops generally looked better in Iowa than they do in Illinois because soils were dryer for planting in Iowa.    

Rain in the forecast on Wednesday could help to rescue the corn from significant damage.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crop Condition Today

In general crop condition this spring has been fair at best.  Today as we were getting caught up on soil sampling, we were still seeing fields that are too wet to plant.  Corn was still being replanted.  Patching in will probably continue for  2 weeks.  12 acres of corn planted in Mid-March was the best looking corn we have seen.  I am not advocating for planting that early because the risk is huge.  About half the corn is starting to get some dark color.  It is also getting tall enough that you can't see the areas that have poor stands for the most part.  Smaller corn has decent stands, but we are still seeing nitrogen and sulfur deficiency symptoms, probably somewhat as a result of weather. My overall rating of corn condition is just average.

Weather is improving for now.  Next week we will start hearing from some people that a rain would be nice.  The first rain in the forecast is June 17.

Soybeans are looking a little better than corn.  Stands are more even and some early planted beans are at V2 or V3 stage.  later planted soybeans are germinating and emerging fast.  My overall rating of soybeans is slightly above average.

Weed control is an issue in some places.  I have heard of disappointing results with Dicamba and I have seen disappointing results with Liberty.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Flag Your Field

I have been seeing flags in fields.  If you Google "Flag Your Technology" you will see articles on placing flags in your fields to mark the technology your are using.  The idea is to prevent accidental applications that might damage your crops.  No-till Farmer has the biggest listing I could find.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Soybeans, Corn, Corruption

By Eduardo Paim:

We have the soybean harvest finished in Brazil, it is certain that the production is record in all the states. With the accusations of corruption of the Brazilian government we had a sudden rise of the dollar and this caused the sale of soybean in large productions. Last Thursday of last week. High stocks on farms are still a concern for all farmers, today our prices depend on the Chicago Stock Exchange and corruption scandals that are always raising the dollar's prices in our country and causing better prices. We know that if the US produces a large crop of soybeans, prices must drop dramatically, that's what we expect for prices. The good thing is that we have a large soybean crop.

Let's start harvesting the corn in 20 or 30 days, the rains were perfect for corn, we will also have a large grain crop in Brazil. The prices are also small with the large production and with the largest cattle slaughterhouses in Brazil involved in the corruption scandals and the uncertainty will be paid to the cattle producers when they deliver their cattle for slaughter. We are living a year complicated with corruption, the strategy is to sell for price that does not harm as quickly as possible, because we do not know what will be the economic destination of the country.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Palmer Amaranth Control with Dicamba

Reports out of Western Tennessee show spotty results with Dicamba on Palmer Amaranth.  Results are discussed in No-Till Farmer. If you do not get a complete kill follow up with other treatments.  A hoe may be the only effective one.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Micronutrients and Biostimulants.

I seldom recommend micronutrients.  The reason is that many producers have other issues to correct such as macro nutrient levels and pH. Those issues need to be taken car e of first.  When are to the point of fine tuning then you can look at micronutrients and bio-stimulants.  Karen Corrigan and Terry Gerken offered really good advice in the May Issue of Prairie Farmer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rainfall Amounts

Rainfall amounts have been excessive across much  of Illinois in the past week.  Below is a map showing NOAA estimates.  I am in the 6 inch range which matches my rain gauge pretty well.  I estimate a week with no rain before we can get back in the field.  Will your corn survive?  Probably not if it is under water.  If it is still in the ground, but not under water, it depends on when it was planted.  If the soil gets saturated before 24 hours have passed since planting,  you are probably looking at replant.  Keep in mind that stands with population over 20,000 may not need replant.  Also, if replanting, I would recommend destroying the old crop instead of letting early corn compete with late corn.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nitrogen Loss in Saturated Soils

We sometime hear that lots of rain will leach our nitrogen fertilizer.  My experience is that unless the soils are very sandy, most of the nitrogen loss will be from denitrification.  In other words, the nitrate nitrogen is converted to unavailable forms. Losses will be much less on recently applied anhydrous ammonia than on fields where nitrate forms have been applied, or where early applied nitrogen has already nitrified. This article out of Mississippi puts some numbers to it.  In warm weather we can lose up to 5% a day.  Some testing might be in order when soil have dried out.  When oxygen gets back into the system, There will be some renitification.  Cultivation can encourage that, but it will not take the place of fertilizer entirely.  You models such as Climate or Yield 360 can be useful too, but I do not trust them entirely.

Friday, April 28, 2017

New Field Equipment

We bought Ipad Mini 2's to use for guidance in the field.  We are running the IGIS App.  Everything seems to be working well.  Visibility is decent in map mode or blank. Screens are dark with Aerial photography turned on.  Sape Files need to be in a zipped directory to transfer them to the Ipad.    We make the fill transparent and thicken the lines.  Line color does not seem to make a difference.  It is a good tool for sampling and appears to have potential for field mapping as well.  The newer version of IGIS is much nicer than the old version I had tried previously.  I am running the free version.  A $25 subscription is needed for on screen labeling.  I need to touch the screen to see the labels.  The subscription is also needed to export your mapping.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dell Computer Update

I got a call a few days ago asking how my computer was working. I told the person fine and hung up. Today I checked the number and it turned out that it was a legitimate call from Dell. I bought a Dell Tablet two years ago that was nothing but trouble the first 6 months I owned it. I have previously written here about it.  Dell repaired it 4 times and replaced everything but the case and screen eventually. Turned out to be a bad battery. It has been working well ever since. It gets lots of vibration etc. because I mostly use it mounted on my 4 wheeler for work. Since they finally got it fixed, I am very pleased with it, but it was a painful process. I am really surprised they called to check on it after all this time. Way to go Dell.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Corn at Famersville

We sampled near Farmersville today.  Lots of corn was completely emerged.  Some is just spiking. There was still a lot of planters in the field. I think most were planting corn.  The Virden soil was still pretty wet, but over all planting conditions were excellent.    

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Corn Planting Progress

I have been working in The River Bottoms in St. Charles County Mo. the past week.  Corn planting has gone fast, even with showers over the weekend.  One client is finishing today and several have one or two days left to plant.  Rain in the forecast may slow things down again, but planting progress is excellent.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Good Soybean Harvest in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

The soybean harvest was great in Brazil, most of the states have already closed the harvest, the states further north, Bahia, Maranhão, Piaui and Tocantis are beginning to harvest, and the crop will be good, too. We have good corn crops second crop. Corn and soybean yields are great here in Brazil. Argentina has yet to show its crop yields, many rains have flooded the crops at planting and now at the harvest new floods have occurred, it is still uncertain!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Iowa Road Trip

We spent the weekend with our Iowa Family this weekend.  Corn planting seemed to be well underway on the Illinois portion of the trip.  The Missouri leg is mostly a view of Mississippi River Bottomlands.  There was a lot planted in Missouri too. Traveled from the Missouri Border to Pella.  Once we got into Iowa, there was not a lot planted. There we showers over night.  Topsoil looked amp in some place.  Other places only got sprinkles.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Topsoil Moisture

We sampled North of Springfield today.  Topsoil moisture is good.  Some of the low ground was wet, even though it has been 3 days since rain.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rainfall Shortage?

We have been hearing some concerns expressed about dry soils in our area.  Rainfall the past week should have relieved that concern in the short run.

Topsoil moisture on Wednesday when we went to the field was just OK.  Topsoil should be well soaked at this point.  Septic tank borings through the winter to a depth of 5 feet have showed that subsoil was at least moist and in some places saturated,

Soil Moisture does not change much until tillage and transpiration start.  In a dry period it is easy to mess up your topsoil moisture with too much tillage.  With wetter topsoil, that is even easier to do.

The real problem is that through the winter, the rainfall pattern was a dry one. Until the past 2 days, I can't remember the last time we had at least an inch of rain.  If that dry pattern were to continue into the summer, crop yields would suffer.  The fact is that we cannot grow top yielding crops without timely rains in June, July, and August.      

Monday, March 27, 2017

Should You Use Micronutrients or BioStimulants

A recent article in Prairie Farmer explores the use of micro-nutrients and bio-stimulants.  Karen Corrigan is quoted extensively and she is a very respected agronomist.  Karen says to use both soil testing and tissue sampling to determine needs.  I find myself in agreement with her concerning many of the additive mixes.  Often the amount of nutrient in the mixes will not completely correct a real problem area.

I also learned from Ted Peck that correcting the macro-nutrients and soil pH soil be done first.  If P, K, Ca, and Mg are not correct, there is no use messing around with the micros.  I always try to correct the big things first.  After a year or two we can look at micro's when everything else is right.  If you macro-nutrients are all at or above ideal levels, then perhaps you can push yields with micro-nutrients.

Bio-stimulants are coming into their own with many of the bigger ag supply companies owning or researching products.  Some of the products that are used for seed treatments have become mainstream.  Others need to be tested on your farm as Ms. Corrigan points out.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nitrogen Management Webinar

Emerson Nafziger is present a nitrogen management webinar on recent research next Thursday, March 30.  Click on the link for more info and to get registered.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Potassium is Critical

Often, the first time I sample for a client, potassium is below critical levels.  Potassium is one of the three macro-nutrients we apply regularly in fertilizer.  Several years ago, University of Illinois Professor Mulvaney came out with the notion that we do not need potassium fertilizer.  It has been my experience that crops do respond to potassium when soil test levels are below 230 pounds per acres.  Ideal levels are considered to be 300 to 400 pounds per acre in Illinois. Potassium is critical to help weather a drought.  Levels need to be high because availability goes down when soil is dry.

No-Till Farmer published an article out of Michigan that calls Potassium the overlooked nutrient.  You better not overlook it if you are going for high alfalfa yields.  Potassium is not currently an environmental concern, but over application can be lost on soil exchange sites.  Most people say that there is no need to apply over 300 pounds per acre unless you are growing a high demand crop.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cooperate on Insect Trapping?

U of I is looking for cooperators for insect trapping.  If you would like to participate, follow the link on the bulletin.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soybean Harvest Almost Done in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Good Morning! Here in Mato Grosso we are closing the soybean crop, productivity will be a record! The climate is perfect for harvesting and production. Overall the average should be between 65 bags per hectare and 70 bags per hectare. The planting of the second crop corn is developing well, with good rains for the development of the plants.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Little Fertilizer Can You Get by With

I read a recent article in No-Till Farmer talking about Postponing P and K applications to save as much as $52 in production cost.  university of Nebraska suggests that perhaps producers can lower costs by fertilizing to sufficiency rather that shooting for ideal levels.  Critical levels tend to be much lower than what we consider to be ideal levels.  What does that mean?  Until your soil test levels reach the critical point your chances of reducing yields are fairly slim.  So does that mean you can cut back?  I have no idea what your current soil test levels are.  If they are already low, then maybe.  Keep in mind that in dry years, potassium availability decreases as soil moisture drops, so keeping K levels right at that critical point may not be a great idea.  Yes your financial situation can come into play, but mining your soil may not be the best idea ever.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why Tillage Now?

We have been seeing a lot of late winter field activity this year.  If you are putting on Nitrogen, are you doing it knowing you might lose it?  Are you using inhibitor?  This is more like fall applied than spring applied.

What about tillage?  You are killing very few weeds since they are not growing.  You may be smoothing out the ground and setting it ip for erosion.  Rough ground prevents erosion.  You might be smoothing it out and setting it up for crusting.

Do you plan to till it again before planting?  Why till now?  Are you plannig to kill weeds chimically and plant in a stale seedbed?  That might work.

Before you do a winter tillage operation ask yourself why.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Harvest in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

The climate has become perfect for the soybean harvest and for the second corn crop. In the month of February we had many rains in Mato Grosso, there were soybean crops that were flooded by the waters, but this will not promote a big fall in soy production. I believe we are on our way to a big harvest in Brazil. We still have the states of Bahia, Maranhão, Tocantins and Piaui that suffered from the lack of rainfall and still did not harvest their crops. Another expectation is to know about the production of Argentina.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Phosphorous Pollution

When I was getting my degree, we were taught that phosphorous does not move.  In the modern world we hear of problems created by phosphorous in our surface waters.  Recent issues in Lake Erie, especially in the Toledo area is teaching us that phosphorous does move.  Very little phosphorous can also cause big problems.  Why is the problem surfacing now.  In many places farmers have been cutting back.  Nutrient stratification could be an issue.  No-Till could be an issue.  Joe Nester, A consultant in Ohio has been looking at rainfall pH as an issue.  He has run some simple tests and found that dissolved phosphorous does increase as rainfall pH approached 6 or a bit higher. Click on the link to learn more about the Great Soluble Phosphorous Mystery.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When to Plant Corn

Sorry I have been away.  Influenza A is the culprit.

Warm and dry weather has many farmers anxious to plant.  In some ways conditions seem similar to 2012, although in 2012, the drought began in 2011.

In general, early planting is one way to combat drought.  Get the corn pollinated before weather gets extreme.  In my opinion, April 1 is considered early in Central Illinois.  If soil conditions are favorable, starting planting the last week of March is pushing the envelope, but may be OK depending on the 15 day forecast.

In 2012, I know there was corn planted as early as March 9.  The yields on that corn was disappointing.  I think the problem was frost in mid-April.  Frost in in mid-April is not uncommon.  My meteorologist tells me that was dry  weather does not reduce the chances of a mid-April frost, so in deciding when to plant you need to consider the potential for frost.  Modern corn hybrids seem to be much more tolerant of cold conditions and even frost, but when the frost gets to the growing point, it can do damage  even if it does not kill the plant.  The growing point seems to move above ground as the corn grows from V3 to V4 according to Dr. Nielsen's Illustrations.

Warm and dry weather will speed up germination and emergence, so that could be a factor in determining ideal planting date.

Another factor to consider is fluffy soil syndrome.  The syndrome is discussed in the latest Journ of Soil and Water Conservation.  Fluffy soil syndrome will cause uneven emergence which can reduce yields.  Tilling shallow or not at all can help avoid the issue.  Tilling deeper in dry weather creates pockets of variable moisture that can cause uneven stands.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Should You Split Your Nitrogen Application?

Emerson Nafiziger discussed likely changes in removal rates for P and K at this year's crop management conference. Removal is not a good way to make fertility decisions.  You need to know what you have.

He also briefly discussed return to Nitrogen Dollars.  At least in 2016, split applications did not pay. Maximun return to N was at relatively low rates.  Check out his comments on nitrogen.  I would not change my application method because of this research, but you might want to look at the Nrate calculator to help in your rate decision.  My recommendation would be to go to the high side of the chart.

If you are applying Nitrogen right now you should be treating it as a fall application and use inhibitor.  A warm wet March would denitrify a lot of N.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cover Crops and USDA.

In past years, using cover crops and crop insurance had sometimes been in conflict.  These issues had been addressed, but USDA recently came out with new guidelines that clear things up and seem to fit into most management situations.  It you go to the USDA cropland page  and look on the left side of the page to click on the Cover Crops Termination Guidelines, you will get a download that tells you all the rules.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Climate Change

At the crop management conference, we heard from Jim Angel, Illinois Climatologist.  Angel presented some compelling evidence that our climate has changed for the  warmer over the past 100 years.  His opinion is that some of this change is man induced.  That is not  a huge stretch considering that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tripled since the beginning o the industrial revolution.  Not all of that has been from burning fossil fuels.  Farming more land than ever has contributed  too, because of the breakdown of organic matter.

I did not get to discuss the issue with Mr. Angel, but I have not heard from anyone as to how much carbon dioxide we need to sequester to reverse the trend.  I also have not heard. What is the cost?

It  seems there are some positive developments from climate change.  Carbon dioxide may be increasing crop yields.  It may be an advantage that the corn belt is moving north.

Global Temperatures since 1900.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

No-till Challenges

Everyone who No-tills faces challenges that their neighbors don't face.  Finding what works for you can require a good deal of experimentation.  In the modern world, covercrops can be a part of the formula that works.  A Wisconsin farmer overcomes some of his challenges with 4 keys to success.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Seed Emmergence

Yesterday we attended a program put on by Linco-Precision.  They put together one of the top one day meetings I have been to.  One of the presentations was on seed emergence in corn.  They presented data that suggests that the closer together in time that corn plants emerge for the soil, the better the yields.  The research numbers were more than significant. One of the biggest factors controlling emergence was the evenness of soil moisture.  They did not arrive at the same conclusion that I did, but they do tell you  how to achieve results.  It looks to me like you would be most likely to encounter even moisture conditions under No-Till or stale seedbed.  Prairie Farmer entitled their article, No Ear Left Behind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dicamba Use in Soybeans

Last week Dr. Hager discussed the use of Dicamba with Xtend soybeans.  He cautioned that the Dicamba will not be a silver bullet, but it may be a good tool in the toolbox if used properly.  He says Dicamba was never rated excellent on Water Hemp, but it is very good for now.  You should use the Dicamba according to its very restrictive label.  Beware of too much and too little wind.  There is only one approved nozzle.  If you mess anything up you could be in violation of label restrictions.  More on Dicamba Stewardship.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Weed Control

Last week we attended the Illinois Crop Management program in Springfield.  They seemed to save the best speaker for last.  Dr. Hager discussed weed control in the resistance era.  He continues to call for multiple modes of action in the same application.  He showed us why herbicide rotations are not really effective in keeping resistance at bay.  His discussion of Palmer Amaranth took up a big part of the program.  He says we need to have zero tolerance.  That means if soybeans are too tangled to walk through, you need to get in the truck or 4 wheeler and go get the plants.  The destruction of crop will be minor in comparison to the problems created by the Palmer amaranth.  Evena few weeds should be removed.  More on resistance here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Soybean Harvest started in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Mato Grosso soybeans have already begun to be harvested, in the north of the state some farmers are complaining that it is raining a lot and this can damage the quality of the grain. The average production is excellent for these first crops that are being harvested, 60 bags per hectare. In general Mato Grosso already has 15% harvested. Here in the south the harvest has already begun and the production is excellent!

Rainfall can change the quality of crops and productivity, and we have heavy rainfall forecast to fall in February.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

More on Lower Population Soybeans

I recently blogged about lower population soybeans based on Marion Calmer's research.  The idea makes a lot of people nervous.  This DTN article out of the University of Wisconsin confirms Mr. calmer's assertations about lower soybean populations.  Shawn Conley, Twitter aka @badgerbean goes in to some details on seed treatments and other insurance measures you can use to make sure those low seeding rates work.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lots of Geese

Geese were plentiful in Fayette County yesterday.  Both Canada Geese ans snow geese.
 Corn feilds should not have any volunteer corn this spring.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Soybeans in Brazil Looking Mixed

By Eduardo Paim:

Good morning mate! I've been away for a while. Here in Mato Grosso we are looking at a very good soybean crop, I believe it will be a record of this production. In the states of Bahia, Piauí, Maranhão and Tocantins there was a lack of rainfall and some crops were replanted. In the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná and Santa Catarina there was an excess of rainfall, which affected the crops. In Brazil in general I believe that on average we will have a good harvest! Argentina It has great problems with excess of chucas in part of the country and drought in another part of the country, I believe that this year will have great damages in soybean and corn, now it is left to plant wheat to recover part.

Monday, January 16, 2017

War on Crop Residue

2017 marks my 40th year in the business of soil management. In 1977 when I started working s a soil scientist, there was still a big question as to the effects of conservation tillage on crop yields. Farmers led the way in proving that top yields could be had even with high surface residue. In the past year, I have noticed that there seems to be a war on residue.  Tours at John Deere and Greg Sauder's Yield Center 360 both unveiled tillage equipment that looks to imitate moldboard plowing without moldboard plowing.  Burying residue seems to be becoming accepted management.It was refreshing last week to attend the National No-Till conference and see that there are still people out there that are interested in leaving residue on the surfacefor soil health benefits and erosion control.

Last week I read an Article in October Prairie Farmer "Residue Impacts on Corn Yield". The Article list 5 problems with crop residue that I will attempt to debunk.

1. Residue saps moisture.  While residue sticking down into the planting slit can wick moisture, a well adjusted planter will overcome that issue easily. Residue other than in the planting slit covers the soil and conserves moisture. 

2. Insulation effect.  Residue can keep soil temperatures lower than bare soil. This issue can be overcome two ways.  One, light vertical tillage can cut up residue and get it to decompose a bit to get some bare soil.  Two, Row cleaners move trash away from the planting area allowing soil to warm up as needed when seeds are planted.  The added bonus of the insulation effect is that as temperatures rise into the summer, crop residues keeps ground and field temperatures closer to ideal.

3. Toxic Environment. They say that too much decomposing residue adds toxins to the soil.  Residue on the surface is not a problem.  Incorporated residue could be a problem, especially in a corn on corn situation.  Rotate to a different crop.

4. N and P Stealer.  There are lots of ways to overcome this. Adequate P levels in the soil will reduce P tie-up.  Nitrogen may be tied up, but once again. adequate fertilizer N will help to make nitrogen available when the crop needs it.  Residue on the surface is not the culprit.  Cover crops can also help. 


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Maximizing Soybean Profits.

ne of the highlights of the national No-till Conference was listening to Marion Calmer discuss his soybean production  methods.  Calmer is a manufacturer of narrow row corn heads and an on farm researcher.  He uses replicated strip studies to test his ideas and the ideas of others.

I have written several times about soybean population research.  The point is that extremely high population soybeans do not provide any economic advantage.  In fact, in Calmer's six year study, Yields were nearly the same no matter what population he planted.  He admitted that he is reluctant to plant less than 75,000 plants even though his research would support as low as 50,000 plants per acre.   For every increase in population by 25,000 plants per acre he says it costs  an additional $10 per acre with no return.  If you are looking to save money in the coming year, look at cutting back populations.  If 75,000 plants per acre makes you nervous, try cutting back 25,000 from wherever you are.

He also compared 30 inch rows to 15 inch rows.  The 4 bushel per acre advantage of 15 inch rows is huge.  If you are still planting 30 inch row soybeans it is a costly production method.  He admitted that there might be an additional gain of 1 bushel per acre if the soybeans were drilled.  A few years back he was drilling his production acres.  He has switched to 15 inch rows in the past few years.




Friday, January 13, 2017

Responsible Nutrient Management

We have spent the past three days at the National No-Till Conference in St. Louis.  Not only is this a great No-Till Conference, but it is a great crop production conference.

At the Luncheon on the first day, Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners we awarded for their diligence in taking care of their soil nutrient levels.  Jason Carter, Mike Werling, and Mike Taylor were recognized for their nutrient management programs.  Jason Carter is using chicken litter to build his soils up.  His program also includes annual soil testing to measure progress.  As his soil has improved, he has cut back on chicken litter.

Mike Werling is looking at economics and applying fertilizer at modest rates to maximize profits.  He soil tests every three years.  Cover cr ops are also a component of his program.  Werling uses less than one pound per bushel of corn to produce high yields economically.

Mike Taylor makes sure his soil tests correlate with soil types on his farm.  He also uses cover crops and lower than average fertilizer rates to produce higher than average yields.  He uses variable rate technology as appropriate and also applies in row fertilizer to spoon feed his crops.  He is using No-till and cover crops to improve organic matter levels on the topsoil.

Friday, January 6, 2017

TO Do List for 2017 Growing Season

It would seem we might be too late to implement new management plans for 2017.  Things like Field drainage are already done or scheduled, but if you can afford the investment, now may be the time to get on your contractor's list for next year.  Hybrid selection is likely done.  Prairie Farmer offers other tips that can still be implement in their 10 tips article.