Agriculture

Spring break for the kids so its time to help dad get ready to farm!  Morgan is busy cleaning up tractors and Matthew is busy welding up all the stuff I broke during the winter!  Great family times!

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Well a first for us is that we are cutting soybeans before we shell any corn.  Corn was still running in the high 20′s for moisture but the beans were dry.  So we went to the bean field.

I shot about 2 hours of video with the GoPro on a small tripod in the cab before I decided it was not the thing to use.  It kept falling over with every bump I hit.  I moved on to a Ram Mount ball where I could tie it down good and tight.  Anyway I managed to get three plus minutes of video to show how things were going on Saturday to make this video.

I will shoot some more and make another bean video and most likely a few corn videos as I work on perfecting my technique.

BTW the beans were good, averaging almost 50 bu/ac across 70 acres.  The more dust that rolled out of the combine the higher the yield was…..  seeing upwards of 70 in the real dusty places.  No dust, no beans or low bean yields in the 30′s.

Got a GoPro and am trying to learn how to use it and how to edit the video.  This is my first attempt………….

Took this off the man lift of the corn field behind the house, it sure looks a lot different this year.

Last week  I mapped and soil sampled a farm that had been in CRP for many, many years. I think it has been in two sign ups, so about 20 years.  There was also a 20 acre bean field across the road that was sampled as part of that farm.  I pulled out three samples and took pictures of them to show the difference in an eroded clay knob in the CRP, slopping hill side in the CRP and semi flat area of the soybean field.

Below are the three pictures. The quiz is this…….  Can you see the difference in drainage in the three pictures?  Can you see the difference in OM in the three pictures?  Can you see why this farm was in CRP and the other one was still farmed?

First the eroded clay knob in the CRP.

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Next the slopping hill side in the CRP.

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Last the Soybean field across the road.

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We are out of the woods so to speak here in Southern Illinois……but our friends to the west and north, not so much.

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A long and busy schedule of meetings in January is now over, thank goodness. I am worn out. I think I was on the road for meetings over half the month of January and into the first of February.

There were several good things I picked up that need attention in the near future. There is a lot of info that everyone might be interested in and I don’t want to forget something, but I will.

Bryan Young and Larry Steckel have put on some great presentations on Palmer Amaranth  ( short article intro to Palmer ) if you are not up to speed on this weed you had better get ready…….. the chemical management of this weed species is very important. If you get a chance to see one of these speakers, go to the meeting and learn about Palmer before you get it. There is also a good mode of action chart for management of resistant weeds that Bryan has been handing out: click here to access it.

Soybean size is going to be very large this year. You need to be aware of what seed size your getting and get the appropriate plate size to insure proper planting populations. This is industry wide and some are reporting shortages of plates in some areas……..you may have to do some calling to find them.

I have been in contact with some of you who have expressed interest in refining your management zones for either soil sampling or variable rate applications. I have been talking to, and have an initial agreement with, another consulting company to have access to a Veris tool (http://www.veristech.com/index.aspx) .  Veris tools are used for making more accurate soil maps, mapping OM or pH for VRT or soil sampling.  I am encouraging anyone interested in VR seeding to do some Veris EC maps to help guide this process.  Our soil maps in So IL are not the greatest, and in some cases have not been updated in 40+ years. We can also do elevation mapping at the same time. If you are interested in this, please contact me so that I can put together as many acres as possible to get the best utilization of the tool.

Work is coming along nicely on the new office.  It will be even better when we get lights in the shop!

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In the recent past, I read a lot of books. I mean, back a couple years ago I was reading two or three books at a time. I would pick one up and read until my head got full then I would pick up another title unrelated to the one I just sit down and read on it until my head was full of that particular book. Then I would pick up the first book and finish it and then on to a third book before I finished the second and so it went from there. The last two years I have not read that much book wise. While there are a lot of titles I want to get to, I just don’t have the time or more importantly the interest to read books the last couple of years.

However………..

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I picked up a book between holidays on soil fertility called The Art of Balancing Soil Nutrients by William McKibben. Both the title and the author caught my eye. I had meet Bill with my early affiliation with the laboratory that performs most of my analysis some 20+ years ago. So, knowing the author and also knowing how using the phrase “soil balancing” gets an agronomist all shook up, so I thought I would give the book a look.

The basic description of the book on the Barnes and Noble website I found it on said “A practical guide to interpreting soil test results for farmers and other stewards of the earth wanting to understand what nutrients are available to plants and learn how to more effectively grow crops, turfgrass and other plants.” Ok, pretty generic but it still didn’t run me off yet.

Reading the Preface also yielded “I view the information contained in this book to be a starting point….” which I found refreshing because other books by other authors on “soil balancing” are either written from the absolute standpoint or are so far out in left field you can’t read them.

So, based on the Preface alone, I threw down my $25 to give it a try. Heck, I might learn something, right?

So here is my book review.

The book is a basic introduction to soil testing and nutrient recommendations using Cation Exchange Capacity for the basis of both interpreting the soil test values as well as making the nutrient recommendation. McKibben talks about using both the basic cation saturation ratios (BCSR) and strategic level of available nutrients (SLAN) approach to balance the nutrients in the soil. He applies these methods to both low and high exchange capacity soils and explains how it differs based on CEC.

While only 8 chapters long, the book could be broken down into three sections: 1. Taking the soil sample and reviewing soil nutrients, 2. Balancing soils with low and high exchange capacities and 3. What I will call “other stuff”, paste test, irrigation water and figuring out really high exchange soils. I must admit that the last three chapters didn’t do much to hold my interest as we don’t have any irrigation around here to speak of, and any very high exchange soils and my experiments with the paste test were pretty much useless several years ago. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pick something up out of those chapters, I just didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing them.

Bill does an excellent job discussing and explaining soil nutrient balance in a way that even a beginner could understand. His examples are clear and concise which I liked very much. Bill shows examples of using a compromise between SLAN and BCSR to make a recommendation for nutrient amendments for the soil. I like this approach very much even though I lean more to SLAN than BCSR. He uses some “absolute” numbers for nutrient levels, esp. micro nutrients, which is fine but I find that one guys “desired values” are not necessary mine and don’t believe that one should take these numbers to heart. Only you know your soils and soils reaction to amendments, don’t take numbers out of a book as an absolute.

On a scale of 1-10 I give the book a solid 9 and highly recommend it to any agronomist as a basic introduction or refresher. It is by far the best book I have read for SLAN and BCSR soil testing and recommendations. It sticks to the title and premise of the book without going off in left field by having us use “magic dust”, “alternative ag techniques” or hugging trees. It educates and does exactly what the Preface says: “…a starting point….”, a very good foundation to begin refining your recommendations for your farm and soils.

Worth the time to read and the $25 to purchase.

At the end of 2012 I began testing an Apple Ipad with GIS Roam for pulling soil samples.  Initial testing indicated that this platform and software is every-bit as good for GPS directed soil sampling and mapping as Farm Works or SMS.

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There are several things I really like about the Ipad for this application.  Fist it is very small and light so it doesn’t bounce around on the ATV while sampling rough fields.  Second it has a very readable screen in bright light conditions.  But most important I can display the areal images as backgrounds while I am sampling.  This isn’t new, but with the cellular turned on, I can zoom in and out on the areal photos as well as see road maps etc.

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GIS Roam is a great little program for the soil sampling.  It allows you to do most of the same field mapping features as the other ag specific programs do and you can import and export shape files.  The ability to import and export files comes with the addition of a purchased module or add on program.  However GIS Roam itself is FREE and the module is only $10.

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I will try to post more info on testing this program as I get back in the fields here in the next month and follow up on some of the mapping will do with it and show some screen shots.

This was just an accident, apparently.  The hose broke during application from what I have gathered.  It also looks like the safety flow valve failed.

And to think some people try to steal this stuff and they put it in 5 gallon buckets, coolers and propane tanks.  Foolish.

If this was to happen run, run, run, run into the wind as fast as you can. It seeks out water. Its boiling point is -28 deg F (minus 28 F) or something like that, and it will KILL YOU.

The first weekend of shotgun deer season has come and gone with little fanfare it would seem.  There was very little shooting going on Friday and just a little more on Saturday and none at all on Sunday.  It will be interesting to hear or see what the final tally is for the first season.

Part 2 starts on Nov 28th and last until Sunday.

There are still several farmers trying to finish up soybean harvest in the area and that might have had some effect on the first season.  I know talking to one hunter that harvest was taking place not far from his deer stand and he said the deer were all stirred up as a result.

 

Well we are moving into the middle of November, that time of year when everyone is thinking about deer season, Thanksgiving and/or nothing at all.

The last three weeks of November are really screwed up in Illinois.  The weekend before Thanksgiving is the first shotgun deer season, which might as well be a state holiday, follow by Thanksgiving in the middle of the next week, followed by another shotgun deer season the following week.

This makes field work fun as every field you go into right now has a hunter around it somewhere.  Fields that are not harvested are harder and harder to get to and finding anyone to visit with or schedule anything is a challenge because of so much time devoted to either deer season or Thanksgiving.

Plus this year with the drought and the lack of a real harvest no one is really thinking about next year or wants to visit on next year.  It has been a psychologically demoralizing year and everyone is ready for it to be over.  Yet no one wants to think about next year yet.

Next year started in July for me, but its the middle of November for 80% of the farming community and next year doesn’t start until sometime next year for them.  Oh well, maybe a good deer season will get everyone picked back up.

Well harvest 2012 is all but in the bag so to speak.  I have about 3 acres of beans that are still too green to cut and a frost will help them along.  I will get them when I get them at this point.  With only about 10 acres of subsoiling left to do and the tillage will be put to bed for 2012 as well.

It rained last night and that brought our rain total for 2012 up to 28 inches here at the farm.  We are still about 20 inches behind for the year with the year running out……..

Trying to sell seed and finish pulling soil samples, but it’s hard to get guys to meet this fall as most everyone wants to get done and not talk about another year right now.

The first deer season for shotgun is this coming weekend.   I think I will go hunt just to have something to do that doesn’t require thought and is pretty relaxing.

Promise to start posting more as I am getting back in the mood for the blog after a hard and stressful year.

Well corn harvest is over and if my fuzzy math is correct my whole farm average is right at 18 bushel/ac or so.  The two farms that I had hope to make a yield did but not near what was estimated.

Aflatoxin was mostly a non issue minus the best 12 acres where one load tested over 30.  It seems like the lower the yield the lower the aflatoxin and as the yield went up so did the aflatoxin.  I am still hearing some wild numbers on aflatoxin from some guys and some even have put some high numbers in a bin, why I don’t know, but they are trying to find a place to go with it I guess.  Maybe they didn’t have insurance or think that they can move it later a lot easier.  I don’t what any of it around to mess with so all mine is at the elevator.

The mood in the country is somewhat gray as everyone is mentally tired and ready for this stuff to be over.  Nerves are on edge in some places with low yields and the other stresses of a bad year.  Heard a story of a guy determined to get a semi load of corn the other day and he shelled all day even into the night and quit at 4am when he ran out of corn on that farm and still had not filled the semi.

Even bean harvest is going to be a bear with all the butter beans and green pods that a lot of fields have.  A lot of guys need a good break away from it all but it seems like it is piling on in some places.  Rain totals ranged from a few tenths to over 7 inches and those that got the big rains are even more grumpy as it has made a bad situation worse.

Wheat has already been planted and I think that is a big mistake with all the residual N that is out in these corn fields.  I even saw a field of volunteer corn that was waist high mid week.  It had grabbed the N left in the anhydrous track and was dark green.  Not good with warm temperatures and excessive amounts of N in the soil for young wheat.

We are in the discovery period for the fall harvest price option on crop insurance and everyone is hoping for a rally in prices.  One thing for sure we will be above the spring price unless there is a drastic sell off this month.

 

 

In case you haven’t seen or heard about this yet…………. beware where you hunt.

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