Disasters

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…………

Picture from July 24, 2012 of the same corn field and same place.  Further showing deterioration of the crop.  Temps today have been over 100 deg and humidity is once again very low.

There has been some corn shelled east of here with moisture reported to be in the mid to high 20′s.  No yield report so I suspect its pretty low.  Also the number of corn fields having been bush hogged or tilled has dramatically increased as well as a few soybeans fields are being destroyed.

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.

 

Here is a video interview I did with Josh Flint of Farm Progress on Thursday on  the drought here in Southern Illinois.

Its hot.

How hot is it?

Well on the 4th of July this is how hot it was around Robertson Farms at 2:20 pm:

Air Temp 99.6.

Heat Index 109.

Grass in yard, full sun 130.

Grass under shade tree 89.

Wheat stubble on surface in wheat field 150. (is it no wonder where the DC Soybeans came up that they have fried and died?)

Soil under wheat straw in field 98.

I want to try and get some bear soil temperatures tomorrow in the corn field that I have been taking the pictures of.  That should be interesting.  Heat index today here at the farm hit 113.

In the last 72 hours we have had two pop up thunderstorms, one with nickel to quarter sized hail and high winds, that  dumped in a short amount of time, a total of 1.7 inches or rain.

It is too late for the corn crop sans one 40 acre field that I planted late on May the 5th that is just now trying to tassel, but it should be more than enough moisture to get the beans I planted 10 days ago to germinate and come up.

But there is no moisture below the seed once it does come up………and we have all of July and August, typically our dry and hot period of the year, to go.

Holding out hope that we have a bean crop of some type………….

Here are some time lapse photos of one of my corn fields showing how we went from one of the best looking corn crops ever to a complete disaster in less than a month.

Heat index temps have been over 110 this last week and they predict another week of triple digit temps.  Soil surface temps are over 130 during the heat of the day.

This corn was planted on April 13.  Rain fall from April 16 to July 1 was 0.75 inches with 0.9 coming on the night of July 1.

Picture taken June 5, 2012

Pictures taken June 16, 2012

 

 

Pictures taken July 2, 2012

 

All of the corn pictured was planted between March 30 and April 19 in Franklin Co, Illinois.

Sorry for the bad pictures in most cases, between the time of day, angle of the sun and using a small camera it doesn’t do it justice.  Most all of the corn is trying to tassel.

Water math for a Southern Illinois corn crop.

Inches of rain we are behind in this drought:  14 inches for the year.

Gallons of water needed to produce 1 bushel of corn per acre: 4,000 US Gallons (some say more some say less but we will use this number) 

Gallons of water needed per acre to raise 150 bushel corn:  600,000 US Gallons per acre

Gallons of water in a 1 inch rain fall per acre:  27,154 US Gallons

Gallons of water in 14 inches of rain:  380,156 US Gallons per acre

Inches of water needed to reach our current growth stage (~R1): 13 inches of water per acre or 353002 gallons of water per acre (University of Nebraska Irrigation Guide To Corn) 

Inches of water needed to finish the crop out to maturity: 16 inches of rain per acre or 434,464 gallons of water per acre.  (University of Nebraska Irrigation Guide to Corn)  

Rainfall predicted in inches for the next 5 days:  0.25-0.5 inch of rain (NWS Hydrometeorological Prediction Center) 

Gallons of water in a 0.5 inch rain:  13,577 US Gallons

A half inch rain is hardly a drop in the bucket when your dry like we are and a flood when you saturated.

But I would gladly take a half inch rain right now……………..gladly.

I keep getting asked just how bad is it really down here in Southern Illinois with the drought and the corn crop.  Well below is a picture of what I would call a typical field that was planted in March or early April.  Nope its not the worst picture I could post, its an average picture.  There is better corn but it is the later planted corn, mid April to first of May.  Pictures of that next day or two.

This is not one of my corn fields and I will not say exactly where it was but it was in Franklin Co, IL.  I scouted this corn on Saturday June 16 at about 10 a.m..  The yard stick is for reference.  This field was planted on March 30/April 1.  It is trying to tassel in some places in the field.

While I didn’t take a picture of the field today, its rolled up very very tight and is a brilliant white color.  Its currently 94 deg with 40% RH and 10MPH winds while I type this at 1745.  This field has had less than 0.75 inch of rain between April 17 and today.

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………..

I guess we can let the cat out of the bag now and make the first of two major announcments that I alluded to earlier in January of some changes here on the farm.

Not only is this  a shed we are building, but it will also be a warehouse for Pioneer Seed.  Robertson Farms is now officially a Pioneer seed dealer.  We will be servicing farmers mostly in the western part of Franklin Co.  It is a natural fit for us.  We have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with Pioneer as a seed customer and seed grower, mainly because I have felt that their agronomy and sales staff have always had my success at heart when offering me products and services.  So when the opportunity presented itself last fall we began the process to become dealers for Pioneer.  We have a lot to learn but are eager and ready for the challenge!

The end of day 5 on the new shed…………….now we are ready for metal!  The nice sunny days have allowed for quick progress, but the bottom has fallen out of the ground around the site. We had to pull their forklifts and tellehandler out today.  The telehandler  was setting on the frame with the last truss suspended in the air………fun!

 

 

Meanwhile, while the last truss was going up, we spotted smoke accross the field and found that our neighbors old barn was on fire.  By the time we got over there the major part of the black smoke was gone but the flames were still going as high as the silo tops!


The old barn has been a land mark on Rt 14 east of Benton and the silos are also the site where the original farm owner killed himself back in the 40′s or 50′s…………more on that later………

Think for a minute where your water comes from.  While you think about that also think about where your power comes from.  Not sure?  Don’t know?  I am not looking for “the faucet” or from “the plug”.  

Water comes from a large source like a lake, reservoir or major stream or river.   Water is pumped, by electrical means from the source through underground pipes to a treatment plant.  Then it is pumped out in main trunk lines, that are under ground, to be distributed to houses and places of business through an even more complex and longer series of pipes.  At some point in the maize of pipes is a device to hold or keep pressure on the liens so that water flows when the tap is turned on and doesn’t sit in the pipes.  This is often a water tower or water tank in which water is pumped into at a great volume and height to keep a constant pressure on the outgoing water supply.

So your water gets to your house by underground pipe that has pressure applied to it by means of a water tower (at some point) and an electrical pump at many levels or locations from the source.

Turn off the power, drain the water tower or break a pipe and your out of water.  Now multiply that by the houses in your town, county and then in the region around you……………..

Think about your electricity the same way except it is all in overhead lines on wooded poles (for the most part) assuming that the major supply lines (those big steel transmission lines) don’t fall down as well.  Think about the last time you were without power.  How long did it take to fix that one pole that broke? Fix that one substation the went down?  Replace that one transformer that took a lightening hit.  Now multiply that time by the number of homes, poles, towns and such in your region.

And we haven’t talked about natural gas, fuel, propane, sewers, storm water, telephones and internet.  All things that travel under ground in pipes or in lines attached to poles up in the air.

It is estimated that it will take MONTHS to restore just basic service of water and power.  In some of the more rural areas it might be a YEAR or more.  Most pipelines that supply the NE US (Chicago alone gets most of its gas supplied though pipelines that run through this area) will have numerous breaks and take months if not years to fix.  Roads and bridges will be impassable for YEARS.

This isn’t a winter storm where the power will be out for a while and then come back on.  It is not a winter storm where you have time to go get milk and bread at the store before it gets here.  This will be a NO NOTICE EVENT.

The economic loss will be beyond comparison.  A 7.0 New Madrid earthquake would eclipse Hurricane Katrina in human and economic loss and not only hit the Mississippi/Ohio Valley hard but would hurt the entire eastern one third of the US.  Basically any service (natural gas, power, highway, rail or water) that runs through the shaded areas blow could be disrupted in a New Madrid event.  Look at the map, that basically blocks the east half of the country from the west half………

The human loss will be unbelievable as well:  Injured, killed and displaced.  During Katrina was the first time I have ever heard the news stations in the US and FEMA refer to people trying to get out of NOLA as “refugees”.  We will have a lot of “refugees” in the red and pink areas of the map above.  I don’t think we can comprehend the toll this event could take on human life.  The folks in NOLA had a chance to get out……….this is a NO NOTICE EVENT.

So, do you have a plan?  ”Waiting on the government helicopter to drop supplies” is not a plan………..  there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”. 

Another couple of thoughts from SLE 2011.

The next time you get in your car to go somewhere take the time to notice just how many bridges you have to cross, no matter how small or big they may be.  Notice how many roads go through low areas, especially those roads that are built up.  Notice how many power lines parallel the roads your on, not the little one or two line power lines but the larger 4-8 line power lines, on wooden poles.

Why notice this?

Because in the exercise most of those bridges, roads and power lines would be down and it would be impassable.  And we haven’t even talked about those large trees that might fall over along the same roads.

Well, I live in town…….ok how would you walk to anywhere with power lines down or even sewers collapsed etc.?

All those obstacles are just that, obstacles, to getting relief supplies and assistance to you in a major earthquake.  How long will it take to get to you from the least effected area?  DAYS.

So figure this:  The farther away you are from a major highway the longer it will take “the government” to get to your area to bring relief.

So that 65,000 gal of water that was requested yesterday is going to set on a truck now for the second day as they try to clear a road to get to your town or city.  It may be several  more days before it gets there.  That generator, same thing.  Those medical supplies, those doctors, that Hazmat team…….same thing.

And no Margret, there are not enough helichopters available in the first 72 hours to get the job done either.  Remember its not just your town its ALL OF THEM…….there are not enough helicopters for the job.

Roads, Bridges and Power Lines……………..

“there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”. 

 

Just a quick note this morning as I head into day 2 of SLE 2011, a state wide disaster drill here in Illinois that has a New Madrid earthquake as its plot.  I have been working with Region 11 as their RACES radio operator.

If an actual event were to happen as the plot has been……..well folks you are on your own so to speak for a good while.  How long?  Three days to 2 weeks?  Maybe even longer.  As one of the participants said as the request for assistance started to flow over the radio “there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”.

Which brings me to water.  It seemed like every time I turned around there was a request for water going out over the radio.  Not a case or two but thousands of gallons just for a days supply of drinking water for towns as they discovered their water supply was disrupted by the quake.

Water.

3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water………….

That got me to thinking just how prepared are folks for a disaster?  Do they have water?  Do they know where the hidden water is in their house?  How many ( I bet most) are counting on the government to supply water……..over broken bridges, broken roads and all other disrupted infrastructure…….

What else do they not know or don’t have if there were a disaster?  

“there wont be enough assets to cover this, you had better be ready to go alone for a while”.  

So what comes after water………..today we will find out.

 

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