Monthly Archives: February 2011

Well I took a short walk across one of the wheat fields checking out the how things were looking. I took a few pictures and experimented with a couple of different views, starting with the ground up.

Overall the wheat is in pretty good shape, I would like to see a bit more tillering in some places but the first shot of nitrogen has done its job and we have greened up and are looking pretty good overall. Still some burn from the cold weather but not bad at all.

One thing for sure we are going to have to apply some herbicide to control some of the winter annuals and garlic out in the fields this year.  Weather will dictate when that happens as much as when the next application of nitrogen will take place.

This is why we cant trust our government anymore.

Roy Lee ” Boss” Robertson, Jr

Benton, IL

Roy Lee Robertson, JR, 81, of Benton; died at 4:25 a.m. Thursday, February 24, 2011 at the Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.

Funeral services will be at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, February 26, 2011 in the Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Il with Pastor Sammy Simmons officiating.  Burial will be in the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery, Benton with Military Rites to be performed by the Benton American Legion Post #280, V.F.W. Post# 2671 and the Illinois National Guard.  Visitation will be from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Saturday in the Immanuel Baptist Church.

Arrangements are with the Leffler – Poulson Funeral Home of Benton.

Mr. Robertson was born on April 1, 1929 in Franklin, Missouri, the son of Roy Lee “Jim” Robertson, SR and Mable Gertrude (Quinley) Robertson.

He was a retired over the road truck driver and had various other occupations including: horse trainer, farmer, and Permit Agent for the Seismograph Exploration Company.  He was a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War and a member of the First Baptist Church of West Frankfort.

Survivors include a son: Kelly Robertson and wife Lori of Benton, a daughter: Chelsea Halbin of Mt. Vernon; five grandchildren: Matthew and Morgan Robertson of Benton, T.J., Cayce and Kylee Halbin of Mt. Vernon; three sisters: Genevieve Griffin of Lyons, KS, Gertrude Odil of Gladstone, MO, Velma and husband Eddie Moore of Columbia, MO; two brothers: Howard Robertson and wife Norma of Franklin, MO, Carl Robertson of Shawnee, OK; and many nieces and nephews.

Mr. Robertson was preceded in death by his parents; and two sisters: Irene McQuitty and Helen Smith.

Memorial contributions may be made to the organization or charity of the donor’s choice.

Leffler – Poulson Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.   

Got ready to go pull some soil samples today but by the time I was ready to roll it started raining.  Not much rain but enough to make it kind of sloppy on top.  One thing that I noticed right off was the need for a mud flap of some type to keep the mud thrown up from the front wheel from getting into my sample bucket.

I searched the shop over looking for something that was light, strong and easy to replace if it didn’t last long.  I found that I have a good supply of these Pioneer field signs from days gone by.  They are light, strong and one sign will make two mud flaps.  So I was in business.

After a bit of eyeballing, I bolted it in place.  So now my samples are kept mud and debris free and Pioneer gets a bit of free advertising for pimping my ride.

Well today I thought I would share a few pictures.  Nothing spectacular but just a way to get a couple of points accross.

First picture is the field tile line running water. Why is this a big deal?  Because it is running!  It quit running in July 2010 then ran again briefly a the end of December 2010 and now it runs again on 17 February 2011.  Note that is is not running that much. Despite the snow, we still haven’t had that much rain and water to recharge the system!

Next is the conventional wheat planted into corn stalks the first week of October.  The ground was worked prior to planting and was just near bug dust.

Last is the wheat planted no-till into the canola/dc bean stubble about 10 days later.  Quite a bit of difference in the two stands

But the good news is that they are both green……….and growing with a little warm weather and the first shot of Nitrogen on them!

On the Franklin County Farm Bureau bus about to invade the National Farm Machinery Show at Louisville, Ky. Will try to post some pictures on Facebook and here as the day goes on.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

I am speaking today at the BSPC winter meeting. AutoCopter is speaking now, I am on next.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Cant wait for this to get out on DVD………I have the Art of the Tactical Carbine I and II as well as the Tactical Shotgun DVD….. EXCELLENT!

To finish up the short series on P testing that I started last week……….I am sure some will disagree with my comments today and even my use of the check samples.  That’s fine, as I always learn something from the discussions!

First off I want to show some check samples I ran. These samples were run this fall by two different labs with the calibrated Bray P1 for each sample shown in the middle. Notice that only one sample, AA, had both labs and the calibrated Bray P1 showing a need for additional P for cropping even thought it is still in the Optimum range of the test values, except the Olsen where it is low. The other question is sample A showing a 17 Bray P1 compared to the known test value of 92. Something is going on there.

The soil water pH ranged between 7.0 and 7.3 for samples AA, BBB, BB, II and A while the pH for sample FF was 6.3. No Olsen was run on sample FF.

      Calibrated      
Sample M3 ICP P (ppm) Bray P1(ppm) Bray P1 (ppm) Bray P1 (ppm) Olsen P (ppm) Notes
FF 42 28 27 20 na No Manure
AA 30 17 17 11 8 V HIGH pH
BBB 38 20 24 14 8 V HIGH pH
BB 72 38 52 30 16 Manure
II 131 92 101 56 29 Manure
A 120 105 92 17 20 No Manure

Why do I run these check samples with such high P values? First it is not uncommon to find fields with Optimum P soil test values with the famers I work with. We try to maintain those levels to the best of our ability so I want to make sure that when the labs are reporting a high value, that it is high, with a known soil that is also high. In other words I don’t want my test values to be skewed one way of the other while trying to live life on the edge of Optimum/High. With the cost of fertilizer I don’t want to apply any more than is needed to maintain the test values and raise the best crop possible.

Second is that in a couple of areas I work in, there has been, and still is, quite a bit of animal agriculture. With that is the application of manures to soils. We know that with the Bray P1 test that if not done properly, with the dilutions, the soil test values can be highly over or under reported. Again accuracy is the key. With regulations and such it is important to know exactly what you’re dealing with in the soil.

Also these soils tend to be over limed with high calcium limestone and the pH ranges of 7.0 to 7.5 are not uncommon in these areas. My fear is not under fertilizing a low testing soil but in over fertilizing a high pH and high P soil.

To add to this comparison, and maybe confusion, here are some M3 P ICP vs. Bray P1 test values on samples I have split to act as a check as well. This was done to check and see just how close one test was following the other. These samples were run by the same lab.

  ppm   ppm  
Sample M3 P M3 P B P1 B P1
1 16 L 6 VL
2 8 VL 9 L
3 5 VL 9 L
4 17 L 16 O
5 30 O 17 O
6 21 L 17 O
7 27 O 22 H
8 34 O 22 H
9 28 O 22 H
10 41 H 27 H
11 48 VH 27 H
12 33 O 27 H
13 40 H 48 VH
14 85 VH 50 VH
15 47 VH 51 VH

Note that the samples in Blue would get a Build Up and Maintenance application of P while the samples in Green would not get any fertilizer applied. The samples marked O for Optimum would have got a Maintenance application of P only. Is the chart perfect? NO. But it does point out one thing to me: Once you pick a chemistry stick with it! You need to check it as I have done here, but stick with that chemistry once you head down that road.

Again I mostly use and prefer the M3 P done ICP.  Pick a chemistry that you feel comfortable with and that will give you the best results for your soils and stick with it.  That being said I still use and check soils with the Bray P1

I think one of my Plant and Soils professors said it best one day when he said something to the effect of “a high soil test is high and a low soil test is low, we know what to do about those soils, it’s the ones in the middle that give us all the trouble.” And I believe that is what it boils down to. We know how to not apply fertilizer to high test soils and how to apply to low test soils. It’s the ones in between that cause us to scratch our heads when they don’t respond or over respond to the amendments we apply.

Pick a chemistry, do a good job of sample pulling and handling, pick and lab and then be consistent in everything you do to insure you are getting the most reliable and accurate soil test you can to make the best recommendations you can.

Fertilizer is too high to guess, soil test!

Got the first shot of nitrogen on the wheat yesterday. Applied 50 units with Agrotain. Two good things about yesterdays N app: First the ground was frozen and two the sprayer got rid of the “sky carp”.

I shouldn’t complain, these geese were Canadians and not Snows. So the damage is very minimal. A Canadian will only eat a little bit off of each plant because they want to come back and eat again someday. A Snow will pull the plant up and chew on it and then spit it out. I have no use for Snows, but the Canadians are pretty and fun to watch. Either way this year I am glad they are gone so people will quit asking to hunt them!

Shortly after this picture was taken it started to snow, as in precipitation, no geese. Got about an inch. It wont last long, to be in the high 40′s to low 50′s by Sunday.

Found this while looking around this morning.  At a time of year when farmers are moving grain off the farm to the elevator or river terminal its a good reminder to think before you get in a bin.  The National Corn Growers hung this video up on their site and on YouTube.  Give it a thumbs up and visit the NCG site.

Well I went and got a little project to work on this spring in my copious free time:  A 60 watt solar panel array for charging batteries.

I have wanted to experiment with solar for a while and looked at another similar product over Christmas but it was only 45 watt and I didn’t like the reviews it got.  This one got some pretty good reviews and it is heavy.  So when I get caught up from the lack of activity in January I will spend some time working on this as an back up power source for my radios and camper.

I also got to looking a the windmills that generate power and found that fascinating as well.  But they are quite a bit more expensive than the solar panels I got so I decided that the learning curve was costly enough with the panels before doing a windmill.

Once you have your soil test pulled you must decide on which chemistry you will used to test for P. From the basic descriptions that were given in the last post, we know that some test work better in different soils than others do. No matter which test you use, you need to know how to interpret the results of that test. Below are the interpreted categories for each test as used in Iowa for low sub soil P soils.

Soil Test ppm P ppm P ppm P ppm P ppm P
Low Sub Soil P Very Low Low Optimum High Very High
Olsen 0-5 6-10 11-14 15-20 21+
Bray P1 or M3 Color 0-8 9-15 16-20 21-30 31+
M3 ICP 0-15 16-25 26-35 36-45 46+

It becomes clear that based on the soil test used the results for the various ranges change pretty quickly. Samples testing High or Very High with any method would not get any P fertilizer yet the bottom of the High range varies 21ppm from one testing method to another. This is where some of the confusion comes in. It is important to know what method the lab you’re sending your soil test to is using and what they are reporting.  So the question is: Is one method better than the other? The answer is it depends on your soil. It also depends on what is the established recommended practice for your state or area. As an example in Illinois, the Olsen is not recommended and the Bray is preferred. This is due mainly to our acid to neutral (pH =<7.0) soils.

I use the M3 ICP most often because I also run into a large amount of soils that have been over limed here in Southern Illinois, due to readily available and cheap lime, where the pH is greater than 7.0. I also find that the M3 ICP runs consistent with the Bray P1 for the most part in all soils that I work with. I also run the Bray P1 as a check on a lot of samples as well. I feel very comfortable making a recommendation with either testing method here in Southern Illinois.

As important as what chemistry you use is, sample handling and what lab you use is just as important. It is also important not to switch between labs or testing methods in order to develop a trend or benchmark from which to know how your soils are reacting to the amendments you apply based on the test results. Next post we will look at some difference in test values for some soils with know P levels, or check samples and why labs, test methods and consistent sampling is important.

There seems to be a lot of chest beating as of late in the countryside between competing philosophies on soil tests for phosphorus.  These discussions and debates, often aimed at competing consultants, fertilizer dealers and company agronomists are funny from the stand point that most have taken a “side” in the debate, yet can’t accurately defend their position.  More sadly they are armed with incorrect information or selective information about the testing methods for phosphorus.  Worse yet, all this does is cause confusion with the farmers, who in some cases, are tough enough to get to soil test anyway without the name calling and finger pointing.  

What I will attempt to do is in several blog posts is discus the difference between the three testing methods, test result interperation and recommendations.  It will not be perfect by any means but is meant as an overview to help kill some of the confusion in the farming community.  

Let’s review a few things about P testing here in the Midwest, or at least here in Southern Illinois and the surrounding area that I work in.  There are three methods of soil testing for P:  The Bray-Kurtz P1 test, the Mehlich 3 test and the Olsen test. 

The Bray-Kurtz P1 test, or know more commonly as the Bray P1, was developed in 1945 at the University of Illinois by Dr. Bray and Dr. Kurtz. The test’s extractant is a dilute hydrochloric acid and ammo­nium fluoride solution. It is recommended for neutral and acid soils (pH < 7.0), but not for alkaline soils (pH > 7.0).  This has been the most commonly used P test in the Midwest for many, many years.  The test is done by colorimetric test which forms a color in the test tube. The amount of the color is then measured. The more P, the darker the color.  With high P testing soils or those that have had been heavily manured, accurate P testing might require several dilutions to get a color that is “light” enough to read.  

The Mehlich 3 Test was developed by Adolph Mehlich in 1984 and iss a modification of pre­vious Mehlich test for the acid soils of North Carolina. The Mehlich-3 extracting solution consists of mul­tiple chemical solutions: acetic acid, ammonium nitrate, ammonium fluoride, nitric acid and the chelate, EDTA. With the development of Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectros­copy (ICP) instrumentation, it was found that not only the concentrations of plant-available P in the Mehlich-3 extracting solution could be determined, but also the con­centration of plant-available potassium (K) and other nu­trients could possibly be measured at the same time.  P testing using the Mehlich 3 test can be done by ICP or colorimetric methods.  M3 P works well in neutral, acid and alkaline soils.  The colorimetric method correlates very well with Bray P1 in neutral and acid soils.  However M3 ICP does detect more P than when done colorimetric.  I will discuss this more in a later blog post.  

The Olsen test, referred to as the bicarbonate test for P, was developed for the alkaline soils of Colorado by Drs. Olsen, Cole, Watanabe, and Dean in 1954. The extracting solution is a solution of weak sodium bicarbonate. The Olsen Test does not correlate well with the Bray P1 but does seem to have some good correlations with the M3 in alkaline soils.  The Olsen test is used very infrequently in Southern Illinois but does show up on some soil test reports from labs used west of the Mississippi.  On soils that have been excessively over-limed this soil test can do a very good job in assisting the agronomist in P fertilizer recommendations. 

In the next post we will look at some difference in soil test levels using the three mentioned soil test methods for P on some check soil samples I have here.

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