Precision Ag

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.

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Next the slopping hill side in the CRP.

Flat

Last the Soybean field across the road.

Soybeanfield

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.

I planted my first soybeans of 2012 yesterday and into last night.  Got 80 acres planted, no tilled into corn stalks.  We got 0.25 inch of rain on Monday and that softened up the very hard soil surface enough to get the drill in the ground.

There was some moisture down about 2 inches deep.  I hope its enough and it holds long enough to get the beans up.

I was very glad to have auto-steer last night, as without it I doubt that I could have got done.  I was very hard to see even in the light.

Started planting corn today.  Field I was in had been deep tilled in January when it was so dry and it also has tile.  It was dry and worked like a lettuce bed!  Best working ground we have had in years.

I ran the autosteer but for what ever reason it kept loosing GPS fix in one place in the field so I ran with the markers down and it was good to see that the competing technologies matched up!

One thing that always amazes me is that coyotes are not scared the least bit of farm equipment.  And it always amazes me that I never have a firearm when these events happen………

Progress was made today on many fronts on the farm it seems.

First off after two unsuccessful tries the roof is now complete on the new shed.  I am happy about that!  It looks like about one more good day and then the whole thing will be closed in, minus the doors.  I am told next is concrete.  So we are getting ever closer to being done.

Second I got the NH3 bar all but ready for side-dressing.  It has been a hit and miss job so to speak.  Minus a few little details its about ready.  But it will have to wait a while because one of the needed repairs to it will require a torch.  Why wait on a torch?

I ran out of acetylene and went to get another cylinder at the “air and acetylene company” (omitting full name to protect them) and they were out.  Out of acetylene.  How could you be out of acetylene?  Well its in short supply and they wont have any until Thursday.  Short supply?  What? Has there been a run on acetylene?  Well no, we just haven’t had much on hand lately (ah back to my no inventory pet peeve).  Well isn’t your company name “air and ACETYLENE company”?

So I wait until Thursday to finish the tool bar.

I then spent the rest of the day working on my truck getting ready for soil testing season to start.  Which looks like it could start this week.  Next is to work on the ATV and then I will be ready to go, sort of.

The new enclosed trailer is here now and I have to find time to get it outfitted for soil testing and other activities.  But I will use my old trailer until I get time to fix it up right.

That pretty much sums up today……..

I have been hit recently by those in academia who believe that anything that comes from the university system that is called “research”, “peer reviewed” and published is gospel.

Who’s gospel is my question.

Having been through a MS program and having done research, thesis defense and abstract of other research papers as part of my MS program, I read all research with much skepticism.

First thing I want to know about any research is who funded it.  Follow the money.  One does not fund a research project with hopes that their desired result is not discovered.  So who funded the research.  If the money is tied to a company or individual who could benefit from such research, then the results are suspect to me.  If the government funded any research it is suspect to me.   If  those who funded the research also are sponsoring the researcher, then they and their research are junk.

Call me paranoid.

Second I want to know who the researcher(s) are and what they have to gain from the research.  Now don’t get me wrong, a researcher who is looking for a cure to a disease is looking for RESULTS or POSITIVES in their research.  That to me is not suspect.  One who is getting sponsorships from the one who funds research and gets a positive result, then that is suspect.  We have a bunch of those folks in the world of agriculture right now.  There are several well known agriculture professors who are out on the rubber chicken and roast beef circuit who are pumping up the results of their research, who are also being sponsored by those who funded the research.  The ever-present sales pitch is part of their “research”.  So I take their results with a grain of salt.

Call me skeptical.

Lastly there are those who use old research to justify their current research.  In other words it’s easier to get researcher A’s paper and then go and duplicate the result on a small scale and get the desired result without doing real research.  Again there seems to be a herd of those type university folks out there right now.  I suspect its a lack of funding from the traditional sources but more likely its just to prove their bias or please their sponsor.

Call me hacked off.

What is research?  I think I know real research when I see it.  1)  It must be randomized and replicated in a way that removes the element of bias of a given result. (Side by sides are not research and multiple side by sides are not research)  2) It must be done in enough locations to show a true cause and effect relationship (for fertilizer, chemicals and additives)  3) The researcher should be free of bias.  While they can get funding from the persons for whom the research is for, they should not be sponsored by them.  4) The research should last over several trials or several years to show it is not luck, happenstance or coincidence.

The sad fact is that a lot of peer reviewed scientific research that was showed at winter ag meetings this winter had little true research in them.  Mostly it was either rehash of old research or it was so biased that it was meaningless.  Worse yet the professors from the Land Grants should know better……..and are the worst offenders.

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………

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.

 

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Exhibitor hall at KARTA meeting.  Good crowd of progressive thinkers. Should be a good meeting! 

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!!!

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……..

 

Well its that time of year again, time to sign up for the Farm Futures Management Summit.  This is the second year that I have been asked to speak and am looking forward to not only speaking but just attending the meeting itself.  I just love this meeting and think it is the best meeting of the year and not because I am speaking.  It is just one of those meetings where the line up of speakers is relevant, current and forward looking and not reflective and re hashing the same old wore out research or topics.  

Its fresh.  Its alive…………..that is the best way I know how to describe it.  I always leave St Louis with a positive outlook even in those years when their wasn’t a positive outlook to see on the horizon.

I think the reason why is that all the other meetings I attend during the year are based on reacting to what is happening in the agriculture world after it happens.  The speakers at the Summit focus on being proactive and managing what is happening in the agriculture world before it happens.  The information gained at this meeting has help me be a more profitable farmer each year.  No its not one big thing that David Kohl or Mike Boehlje say or that Moe Russell or Daryl Dunteman point to but its the trends they talk about and all the little things that add up to something big that make the difference.

So I have taken to labeling meeting invites I get anymore into two categories:  Reactionary and Proactive.  Then I try hard to make all the Proactive meetings I can attend and fill in with the Reactionary if I need to.

The problem is, in my opinion, that most of agriculture is focused on being reactionary…………  A result is that a lot of meetings beat the same old dead horse to death.  Reactionary meeting invites fill my inbox and mail box.  Proactive meetings seem to be few and far between these days.  They exist and you must seek them out and you will have to travel to get there but that is a small sacrifice to pay for the empowerment they give you.

So I hope to see you in St Louis for what I anticipate will be the great PROACTIVE meeting of the year………….  I wouldn’t expect anything else at the Summit.

 

Got started shelling corn today.  Shot this video with my phone.  Not the best video in the world but hey it worked!  Anyway shelling east of Benton along Rt 14.  Corn is doing well, as you can see in the video, some of the end rows along the woods were not so hot, but that is to be expected with the hot and dry July and August.  But across the field is good corn for the year and growing conditions it had to endure.

Anyway here is about 1:15 of corn shelling from yesterday.

I seems that we are bombarded with experts at every turn anymore.  If there is no one to serve as an expert, someone seems to always self appoint themselves.  In some cases there are gatherings of experts walking all over each other trying to get to the top of the expert pile.  Most of these folks while possibly well meaning or even good hearted generally have no clue what the heck they are talking about or they come across so absorbed in their own self promotion that they are not tolerable.

Case in point #1:  I got a notice that a person to whom I have a very casual knowledge of had passed away.  Upon following a link to read what happened I found a gaggle of experts on a discussion board that not only knew what happened to him and how it happened, but his life story in many details.  The kicker is that the 4 or 5 pages of comments were dominated by three or four people who were telling all the other people they were wrong.  The funniest post was were one person commented on the deceased’s connection with Illinois, to whom the lead expert on this fellow admitted he didn’t know he had any ties to Illinois then wanted proof that the commentator knew what he was talking about.  Funny to me but I can just imagine how sad it might have been for any of the family members who might have happened upon this mess.  I do know the “one”  head expert mentioned above in this discussion, he is an expert on everything he talks about, just ask him.  He is one of the skid-marks in the underwear of life that we, regrettably, cant dispatch in a burlap bag with a concrete block  tied to it over a bridge into the river.

Case in point #2:  While I was trying to find some ballistic information online I came across a discussion on how the .17HMR was not suitable as a coyote round and would not kill anything bigger than a prairie dog.  Having dispatched coyotes, at range, with my .17HMR I thought that I must hurry out into the fields and tell these coyotes go get up and run along, despite the smell and decay, as they must be mistaken that I had killed them.  The expert was using all kinds of “math” and “physics” to show that the .17 lacked the punch and power to take a dog down beyond 50 yards etc so forth at nausea.  Despite testimonials and the comments of a real hunting expert (a person acknowledged as knowing what he was talking about), this fellow held to his guns that you needed a big gun to kill coyotes at range.  Maybe coyotes in Ohio wear bullet proof vest or their fur is like Kevlar due to difference in their winters or something.  Despite this expert, I still dispatch ole wile coyote with a .17HMR at every opportunity.

Case in point #3.  I have been bombarded with propaganda to attend a farmer/consultant field day on growing corn and soybeans like a “high yield expert”.  I do attend field days, when there is something to learn or there is a topic of interest.  Its just part of the learning and educational process that farmers must go through if they are going to compete and stay profitable.  That being said this particular field day is a big JOKE.  Its put on by a couple of self promoted and self proclaimed experts whom I wouldn’t let on my farm.  One half of this Abbot and Costello team I have know and been some what acquainted with for over 10 years through a friend.  They are only about the sale and what they are selling today is better than what they sold yesterday.  Did I say this was a joke already?  What do they know?  NOTHING.  Most of what they are going to present is either stolen from universities, picked from other companies with similar products or services and other field days or is not proven with independent non biased research and is only being used to end up selling a couple of products that they get kick back for.  Yet, with no industry certifications or qualifications, they have set themselves up as experts, and got the backing of people who should know better,  on growing high yield crops and are fleecing attendees for big money when its all said and done.

Case in point #4.  The University of Illinois Extension.  A complete Chinese fire drill of experts who have never “been there or done that” trying to tell the world how much they know about the real world.  Nuff said there.

Yes, I have had my fill of experts this year already.  That is why I wont be going to any more field days, conferences or meetings other than a very select few for the remainder of the year.  That is also why I have assigned junk and spam status to a lot of emails from experts and why I have erased several talk and discussion boards from my internet favorates.

The result of riding myself of so many experts is that my blood pressure is much lower lately.

Trust me, I know what I am talking about…………..

 

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