Crop Scouting

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.

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.

ClayKnob11

Next the slopping hill side in the CRP.

Flat

Last the Soybean field across the road.

Soybeanfield

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.

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………..

Art of Balancing cover.indd

 

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.

Took a few weeks off, as I have been on the summer version of the rubber chicken and roast beef meeting circuit.  Lots of info was picked up at most of the meetings with one topic being overdone, and that would be the drought.  Everyone seems to have had a weather guesser, climatologist or dry weather/drought expert of some type speak.  With exception of one or two they all said the same thing and a few of the weather people seemed to talk down to us farmers as if we were not aware of how hot and dry it has been.

Anyway……….

Well, here we are at August 13 and I thought I would post a picture or two of the corn crop at this date.  I took the bush hog and ran into the same field I have posted pictures of in other posts here on the farm, to show just what our final yield prospects look like.

 

The stalks are rubbery and have greened up a bit after we got a few pop up showers as of late.  But that has done nothing to add yield, just make the corn look greener than it was.

I had to count 32 stalks (which in this field was 17.5 ft of row or 1/1000 of an acre) before I found an ear with any kernels on it.  This would be typical of this field minus the 6 or 8 end rows around the field that have an ear, of about the same size, on about every stalk.

Hardly worth the time to harvest………..

I have heard of several yield and aflatoxin stories the last 72 hours for this area.  One story is of a 60 acre field that, when shelled, fit easily into a tandem truck and had an aflatoxin score of 30.  Another was of a corn field that did average 30 bpa but had an aflatoxin score of 300.  Both were rejected.  Of those shelling corn, the best field average I have heard of so far was in the 70′s, but it was also some bottom ground that you would expect to have higher yields on.  Most of the upland ground that has been harvested thus far has yields in the 20′s-40′s.

I will try to follow up with some meeting highlights the next few days…………

Well I did it last night. I got brave enough or mad enough to walk into some of the worst looking corn I have.  The same field the Farm Progress video was shot in.

Here are the results:  5 random ears pulled from 17.5 ft of row.  That is representing 1/1000 of an acre, a representative sample in the ag world.

A picture is worth a thousand words they say.  Well this one screams those words in a high pitch as well.

I will say that better than 65% of my corn fields looks like this, 20% may look as good as the photo I posted in the blog post before this one and the last 15 % never put out an ear.

Been on the road to meetings the last few days, will post an update on some things I learned later tomorrow.

 

Today while loading some wheat I went out into one of my corn fields to look around.  I didn’t really want to, but the curiosity was getting to me.  Things were as I expected them to be, or maybe even worse.

Here is a picture some corn from the historically best spot in one of the highest yielding corn fields on my farm.   Noticed I said one of the best fields, and historically best, or highest yielding spot in that field.  This is not an average field or average ears from this field.  THIS IS THE BEST.

In a “normal” year I would expect to see 180-210+ corn yields in this area of this particular field.  In a normal year, this field would yield in the 150-160 range.

The quarter and nickel are for size/comparative purposes.

If you look very closely you can see that these plants set some big ears to start with.  Most were in the 18 round to 45 long when you count potential grains.  The best ear pictured was 18 round and 14 long but you can see by the seed size that they are not much bigger than popcorn.  Very shallow grains.

If they finish out and don’t shrink back, I really wonder how I am going to shell them.  I mean the whole ear isn’t much bigger around than the corn stalk at this point.  Setting the corn head to get these ears will be a nightmare.

Still is is better than most of the corn, which either didn’t even set an ear or didn’t pollinate.

Saturday we loaded up in the truck and struck out for Bloomington, IL to pick up an item I had purchased.  We drove up I -57 through Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign then took I-74 over to Bloomington.  Our return trip was down I-55 to  Lincoln, Springfield, Litchfield to Rt-4 at Lebanon then I-64 back to Mt Vernon and  home.

All I can say is wow, this crop is in serious trouble.  Outside of a few pockets of good looking corn, one near Effingham, Bloomington and Lincoln, the whole route looked drought stressed.  Very drought stressed and in some places stands showed the effect of dry soils at planting, especially on the soybeans.

Plus there were areas that looked N deficient as well as areas that were fired.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “good” (not even close to normal or excellent) and 1 being “near dead” I would give my my corn crop a rating of 3.  Overall I give the crop we saw from the windshield a 4 with some three pockets of 7 and an equal number rated at a 2 with one area of 1.

Most of the crop is a 4 or a 5, meaning its in the poorer end of “fair” looking.

All of  the corn we saw was twisted up.  It was just greener in some places than others………..

There are two distinct wheat crops growing in Southern Illinois this spring.  The distinction is in how they have been managed.

Those who have managed their wheat according to the weather and growth stage have some awesome looking wheat.  Plant development has been greatly accelerated due to the unusually warm weather we have had this winter and spring.  The result is that we are about a month ahead of schedule in some areas with where the wheat is in its life cycle.  Those fields have had their N applied earlier than normal and have had their weed control applied earlier as well.  The result is one of the best looking wheat crops ever in my opinion.

Those who have managed their wheat according to the calendar have wheat that is behind in its development and in some cases its health.  This wheat looks N deficient in most cases and is shorter.  In some instances we see tiller development aborted due to lack of N.  Nitrogen has been applied later and in some cases the weed control chemistry is just going on and with the hot temperatures for this time of year we see some cosmetic burn to the plant.  Worse yet some have combined their N and weed chemistry to save time and trips across the field.  Again we see some plant injury and loos of weed control.  This wheat crop looks average at best.

So which one is right?

Well with the lack of a late spring freeze appearing likely managing by plant development and going early could result in one of the best wheat crops in years.  Even better than last year.  If we were to get a late spring freeze, then that advanced crop is toast.  Then those who managed by the calendar will look like geniuses.  No matter what the later crop is going to be average at best but it will be a crop.

Last week, as you know by now if you read this blog or follow me on Twitter, I attended the KARTA meeting.  KARTA (Link Here) stands for Kansas Ag Research Technology Association.

KARTA (originally KARA) was organized in May 2000 by a group of innovative Kansas producers, university researchers, and industry members who shared a common desire to learn more about production agriculture and continue to be a part of the leading technological and informational changes taking place on today’s farms

This year was the fifteenth annual conference. It was an applied workshop consolidating information about new and old technologies with a focus on supporting scientifically valid on-farm research efforts and increasing overall farm business profitability.

Topics included precision ag, social media, economics of travel logistics between fields and farms, on farm research, and crop nutrition as well as various presentations by industries on their new, current or trending technologies.

The Thursday night after dinner topic covered land rents and land values.  This particular discussion was led by Dr. Terry Kastens & Dr. Kevin Dhuyvetter.  I would call it the “Bear Pit” of KARTA.  It was a fantastic discussion involving any and all attendees of the meeting.  The topic was batted back and forth and ripped apart…and that was just the three hours or so that I stayed for it!  Very good discussion…….

While the evening session or Bear Pit was my favorite part of the meeting, I must say that I give the entire meeting a “10″ as far as meetings go.  It was very well organized, very well attended by producers and industry. It was an open exchange of information. Information was CURRENT, RELEVANT, FORWARD LOOKING and it was HONEST.  It was everything that an agriculture producer meeting should be.

I think so highly of the meeting that I believe we need something like it here in Southern Illinois!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I hate the usual “rubber chicken and roast beef” agriculture meeting circuit here in Illinois.  Well, this wasn’t a rubber chicken meeting by a long shot………in my opinion it very closely resembled, for the production and precision side, what Farm Futures Management Summit is for the economic and business side.

I left there with that good feeling, that positive feeling of knowing that I had been rubbing shoulders with the progressive life long learners of agriculture.  When that happens you know you have been to a good meeting……….yes their world is different than mine here in southern Illinois, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s the mindset I look for.  The mindset of being proactive vs reactive.

KARTA is a great proactive meeting………I highly suggest you attend the 16th meeting if at all possible.

 

Who would have ever thought that on January 4th farmers would be plowing ground in Illinois?

Well, in the southeast part of the state, tractors are running and there is even talk of some spraying starting.

More updates as I get more information.

Well, it’s 2012, or something like, that and January is going to start off with a bang so to speak.  A very busy month ahead for Robertson Farms.  First up is the Farm Futures Management Summit followed by the KARTA meeting shortly there- after. Throw in a IEMA meeting, K9SIL meeting and some other training meetings and the bigger part of the month is gone.

In between those meetings I hope we see the start of the new machine shed as well as getting the new (to us) NH3 bar home so we can put the VRT controller on it.  There is a planter to rebuild as well as the backhoe and dozer to work on.  So we need to hit the ground running and not look back.

Plus if the weather allows we need to pull a few soil samples, grain to haul and some scraping to do.

Fun and busy!

If that wasn’t enough……..there’s more!  First thing in the spare time is a revamp of the website.  I have been wanting to a major revamp but have not had the time with all the other stuff going on this fall.  The revamp will coincide with two new business ventures we are going to be entering into here on the farm.  Can’t say much about them right now but I think some folks will be surprised at what we have planned.  These will bring new opportunities for us in agriculture as well as begin to pave the way for the next generation of Robertson’s to enter the the operation.

Hopefully we will be making some announcements in the next 30 days or so……………..

Don’t be alarmed if I miss a day posting this month with all that’s happening.

It looks to be an exciting and busy winter!!!

Instead of the “Year in Review” recap that is typical this time of year, how about something different…….

My Top 5 Blogs of 2011

#1  ICCA Board works to kill off CPAg Certification

#2  Combines, Grain Bins, Grain Trucks and Bush Hogs

#3  Harvested Nitrogen Plot Today

#4  Corn Harvest Begins for Some

#5  My New Bag Phone

My Top 5 Categories Viewed in 2011

#1  Cutting Board Portable 

#2  Soil Testing

#3  Field Scouting

#4  Ham Radio

#5  Guns

2011 was a record year for krfarm.net

Almost 27,000 unique visitors who made 77,000 visits this year with 835,000 page hits while they visited.  December, November, September and May were the biggest months for visitors and page content viewed.

Thanks for visiting!  Thanks for commenting!  Thanks for telling your friends about us!

We are going to try and ramp it up a notch for 2012…….stay tuned!

 

Seems like everyone has a blog, newsletter or magazine article on nitrogen and corn yields for the 2011 crop.  Well I guess I will chime in with my .02 worth on the topic this Friday.

A pound of N is a pound of N.  (Yea, we all know that I hope by now.)  It is where, how and when you place that N that matters most.  In 2011 where, how and when made all the difference in the world.  Yet there are still fertilizer dealers and farmers who are flat out in denial.

I have been told that some calculations have already been done here locally by a few farmers that their sidedressed corn had a $200/ac advantage to their preplant corn.  I believe that is the case and think is higher in some instances.  A lot higher in some instances.  Based on the available N testing that I did this spring, testing for both Nitrate and Ammonia N, there were many instances of preplant N loss, (urea, solution and anhydrous) of 50% with some fields I tested losing 75% by the time the corn was V2 – V3.  Some of those fields didn’t have corn growing in them by the 20th of April either…………

Fields with preplant N, where the farmer either tested and believed the results or assumed a N loss based on crop color and looks by V5-V6, and then sidedressed supplemental N at between 50 and 75 lbs/ac, and reported to me a 50-70 bu/ac yield increase over doing nothing.

So 50 bu/ac @ $6/bu = $300/ac Gross minus 75 lbs N/ac @ .50/lb = $37.50/ac Cost equals $262.50 NET/ac (no labor or machine cost subtracted).

So on 100 ac that’s another $26,250 of profit…………..Sidedressed N, applied with a knife, in the ground, between the corn rows.

Will that hold true every year……….. probably not.  But if a pound of N is a pound of N and placement and timing are everything, then how much are you willing to give up for convenience?  $262/ac?  $200/ac??  $50/ac??

In that range of numbers above is a lot of the cash rent that is paid in this area……….Where, how and when could have easly paid your cash rent………plus  a great return on your time an machiney investment.

Where, how and when was everything this year……..

 

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