Filed under: cold, Farm, Minnesota, rain, seasons, time, Trees, weather | Tags: cold, colorado blue spruce, drought, drought stress, farm, Minnesota, nature, plants, rain, snow, trees, weather, winter
The drought toll talk in farm country has mostly centered on food and feed crops, but another effect of the drought is starting to show up, it’s the trees.
The spruce tree above is showing the stress of last summers drought. Needles are falling and the branches are getting bare. This is not how you expect a blue spruce to look in the winter.
This is more like what spruce branches should look like. This tree went into the winter with a bit more moisture underneath and should survive the winter. The needles are the healthy blue-green you would expect from a Colorado Blue spruce. The snows of a winter in southern Minnesota have slowed it down but not stopped it, and that is the problem, these trees are still trying to take up moisture from the frozen ground. When we get a warm winter day they try to grow a bit more. If they went into the winter under moisture stress they will not survive. These trees were planted together 30 years ago as 6 inch long seedlings. It will be a shame to lose any of them but it is obvious that not all of them went into winter with the same amount of water under them. Other evergreen trees are also showing stress, this is a red cedar that is in decline due to drought stress. Evergreens are the most likely to die when they go into the winter dry. Deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall do not suffer so much in the winter, but they also can go into winter looking a bit poor and not survive. Winter is hard on trees, and doubly hard when it is dry.
If you have evergreens you really cherish, I hope you watered them well last fall or you may lose them. You may still be able to save them by getting water into their roots early next spring. It is possible the damage may already have been done, only time will tell.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, garden, harvest, Minnesota, rain, seasons, Soybeans, summer, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, garden, harvest, Minnesota, peppers, plants, pumpkins, rain, Soybeans, summer, tomatoes, weather
It’s August 24 and harvest is approaching faster than we would like. I’ve been at several farmer seed dealer meetings lately and all are saying we’ll be harvesting our corn before soybeans this year. So, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the field here in Southwestern Minnesota.
Many corn fields began the turn from green to tan this week. There are still green leaves on most of the corn which is good for the health of the plant, but the husks on the ear are drying and loosening up. This is needed for drying of the kernels of corn and is good to see.
If you take a corn stalk and cut it vertically you can see that the stalk is starting to shut down. There are definite signs that the stalk is taking stored energy from the stalk and putting it in the ear in a last attempt to get the maximum amount of weight in each kernel.
Corn is a plant that needs a certain amount of heat, once it has had that heat, it shuts down. In warm years like we have this year you then get an early harvest. Two years ago we had a cold year, and corn harvest was late.
If you break an ear of corn you will see that the kernels are deep an healthy. Most ears have 18 rows of kernels but there are a few 16 and 20 row cobs out there. Most corn has not yet reached “black layer,” a point where the kernel shuts off the connection to the cob, but is still in the “dough” stage, where the inside of a kernel is moist but not watery. These deep kernels suggest a good test weight which puts more corn in the bin or silo and means more feed value in each kernel.
We will see a bit of a yield reduction here, but how much is hard to tell. Timing of rain showers and hot dry winds, how much water the corn was able to access out of the soil and farming practices of many types will all have an effect on the final outcome.
Some soybean fields have just started to get a bit of yellow in them. Soybeans are photo sensitive plants and will grow until the day length tells them that fall is coming. We rarely see harvest here before the first week in October. When leaves start to turn on a soybean plant you usually have about 4 weeks before harvest, depending on how wet or dry the weather is. You can see that the beans on the right will be ready before the beans on the left. (p.s. this is not my field!)
Our soybeans have a long way to go before the crop is set. Most pods are still a bit flat and some rain may still help fill out the pods on the greenest plants. There is nothing new here, this is where we expect our soybeans to be at this time of year. Soybeans are always hard to guess on yield until you get to harvest. I’d say yield will be down, but not much.
Our tomato plants are just starting to ramp up production. We’ve had a few tomatoes in the past weeks, but the plants are loaded with green fruit. Soon we’ll be looking for volunteers to take some tomatoes off of our hands.
We’ve also dug the first potatoes and carrots and the late radishes are done. Some trees are starting to drop their leaves and plant growth is slowing. Fall is coming and cooler temperatures are here, what a wonderful time of year.
Filed under: garden, Minnesota, pond, water garden | Tags: broad leaf arrowhead, garden, Minnesota, plants, pond, water garden, water hyacinth, water lettuce
My pond has been overrun by floaters this year and something has to be done.
I took half a wheel borrow full of floaters to the compost pile earlier this week and the floaters filled the cleared spot up the next day. All of this green is from 10 small plants purchased in early June.
The floaters in my pond are water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and water hyacinth (Eichhoria crassipes). They are just leaves and roots. So far neither of these plants have bloomed for me.
The roots on the water lettuce are about 8 inches long on mature plants. The plants send out side shoots with smaller plants on them. As the plant gets bigger, it also sends out more babies. They continue to grow as long as they can reach water.
Water hyacinth are much like the water lettuce in that they are just green plant and roots, and they send out shoots to produce more plants. The hyacinth have bladders to help keep them afloat. In southern states they are considered invasive. Some places in Africa and Asia they will heap hyacinth together to make floating islands where people will live. Here in Minnesota both plants will freeze off as winter nears. Then I just net them up and add them to the compost pile.
If you look at the bottom of the picture you can see the newest addition to the pond, sagittaria latifolia. Sagittaria latifolia is a plant found in shallow wetlands and is sometimes known as broadleaf arrowhead, duck potato, Indian potato, or wapato. This plant produces edible tubers that were extensively used by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, GMO, Minnesota, rain, science, Soybeans, tillage, weather | Tags: alfalfa, Corn, drought, farm, GMO, Minnesota, nature, plants, rain, science, Soybeans, weather, Weed control, weeds
The grass in our yard is dry and brown except in the small areas where we are trying to save it. There are large cracks in lawns and fields. The earth is hard and resists efforts to dig in it. Yep, we’re in a drought again.
This years dry period started almost a month before last years did. In 2011 we saw our last significant rain in mid July. In 2012 we are already dry. An area from Kansas to Ohio is so short of moisture that farmers there may not even get a crop, over 60% of our countries crop growing area is in a drought and the area seems to be expanding daily. Here in Southwestern Minnesota we are doing OK, but how long can we hold on. I took some pictures to show you what our crops currently look like.
Our corn fields look pretty good. Yes, there are some areas on sandy soil that are already gone, but most of our fields are still finding water. When the temperatures are near 100 and the hot wind blows the corn will get grey as it shuts down a little to protect itself, but usually in the morning it looks good.
I was surprised to see two ears on many of our corn stalks. The early moisture seems to have encouraged the growth of that extra ear. We had decent temperatures during pollination so there is hope for lots of kernels on each ear, but how big those kernels will be is yet to be determined.
The GMO varieties that we now plant are able to produce much more corn with less water. They have stronger roots and are resistant to insect predation. These all mean that we have a much better chance of getting a crop than I would have expected only a few years ago.
A small amount of rain or some fog, and a corn plant will collect that moisture on its leaves and funnel it down to the ground. This wet spot is after only 0.04 of an inch of rain. Corn also will send its roots down deep. We still have some moisture deep. if you dig down 4 or 5 feet, you will get water in your hole. I find it interesting that corn that grew in what were once wet areas is showing moisture stress, this is most likely because the roots did not develop deep enough, soon enough.
This picture is of some soybeans on some of our sandier ground. These 15 inch rows are not quite touching here, but where the beans got a bit more water they are covering the dirt. A green canopy of leaves will help soybeans hold moisture in the ground. When it rains, or there is dew or fog, the plants will take advantage of every drop they can gather.
Soybeans will abort pods in dry weather. They will only produce what they can support. If it stays dry, I do not expect a lot of pods on the plants, nor will I expect to see any large seeds.
I’ve been cultivating the soybeans that are in 30 inch rows. When the soybeans do not cover the area between rows, it gives more weeds a chance to grow. These beans are for the production for next years seed and the productions reps want to be able to walk the fields easily. Since they pay us very well, I don’t complain about the wider rows.
I’ve also noticed that some of our weeds are developing resistance to the herbicides we use. There is no weed yet that had developed a resistance to the steel in a row crop cultivator.
The third cutting of alfalfa looks like it will be short. This first year alfalfa gave us two good crops already, but needs lots of rain to produce more. We should see blossoms soon which will mean it’s time to cut, the current cutting looks like it will be about one-third of the first two cuttings. This alfalfa was planted just before the last rains of 2011 and only got about 6 inches tall last year. When the rains came, it really developed well.
So there you have it. Our area of Minnesota looks good, but will need rain. I expect we will get a crop of some kind, but how much will we get. Will it be enough to cover expenses? Time will tell, until then we pray for rain.
Filed under: birds, Farm, fish, house, pond, water garden, Wildlife | Tags: animals, barn swallow, farm, garden, goldfish, Koi, plants, pond, raccoon, raspberries, robins, wildlife
We’ve had a few animal visitors lately, some we want and some we’d rather had stayed away.
I was delighted to see this frog sitting on a lilly pad two days ago. I had lots of frogs in the pond early this spring, but very few since.
My mom had been harvesting about two quarts of raspberries until the robins found them. Now every time she approaches the garden a dozen or more fly off. They don’t even let the berries get ripe, but eat them just before they are ready.
I heard a splash in my koi pond two nights ago when I went to look at it before going to bed. In the morning a few pots had been dug in, but not much to worry about. This morning my goldfish pond looked like this.
Water lilly’s had been torn up and hyacinth and water lettuce were upside down. Worst of all, four 10 year old goldfish are missing. I suspect a raccoon, but have no evidence to prove it. With my sweet corn about ready for harvest, I hope I am wrong.
Some barn swallows built a nest on a roof bracket over the kitchen window. Although I like barn swallows since they eat insects, what they do to the side of the house has my bride upset. The word is out, they need to move soon!
I really do want animal visitors, but sometimes i wish they would not be so messy.
Filed under: fish, garden, Minnesota, pond, water garden | Tags: ater garden, butterfly koi, flowers, Koi, Minnesota, plants, pond, water, water lettuce, water lilly, water plants
I’m into year two on my west pond, and things are looking good. Last years pond may have been a little infertile since many plants are doing so much better this year.
Last year the water lettuce and hyacinth, both annuals in northern ponds, were just not growing well. This year they are taking over quickly. The water lilly is doing better as it should in its second year.
The year old koi are really eating up the fish food. Most of the juveniles are changing color, but some may stay black. The butterfly koi are blending right in. They can be identified by their longer fins.
There are a few yellow flowers on the plants under the bridge. I can’t remember the plants name. I added some spiral rush in those pots this spring after the rushes I planted last year died.
I’ve added a few new annuals in the pond side pots that add a bit of new color and texture also.
The thyme growing in the sitting area rocks are really starting to look good also.
The new hibiscus is blooming again as it has come out of transplant shock. I really like these flowers.
So there they are, pictures of the second year of my pond. Hope you enjoyed them.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, planting, Soybeans, Tractors, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, global warming, heat dome, history, machines, Minnesota, Planting, plants, Soybeans, summer heat, weather
Are the farming practices of today actually lowering temperatures? That is the question that came up at a recent marketing meeting as we considered the prospects for yields this summer in the face of dry conditions in Southwestern Minnesota.
It’s a known fact that asphalt, concrete and roofs are raising the temperatures in our cities. There has been an effort made to add green plants to the roofs of our country. Green spaces and trees are encouraged in parking areas and along city streets. These efforts are as yet making little headway in the heat dome associated with large cities. Could the reverse be working in farm country?
We were told that the last time Southwestern Minnesota had a 100 degree day was back in 1983. I remember from my childhood that 100 degree days were possible, but not abundant. Still no summer was complete without a few. Today the carpet of green in corn and soybean country is something that is new in the modern era. For the 100 degree days to go away in the face of increasing global temperature, something must be happening.
When the pioneers came to this area the hills were covered with the green of the prairie. The lush green of spring and summer always gave way to a dustier grey green and then tan and brown as the year went on and spring rains decreased. Late summer temperatures could build up as the browns of autumn allowed the earth to hold heat.
Then the farmer broke the prairie and planted mostly wheat and oats. These crops, like the prairie grass before them used the rains of spring and summer and then were harvested leaving fields either black or brown from late summer into the winter. Farmers needed the wheat for a cash crop and the oats to feed their horses. Corn was rare here although present, wheat gave a better yield. Livestock was still a major part of the landscape and pastures were needed to feed a few cows and the horses.
As corn yields increased, wheat became less popular as a cash crop. Corn had previously been a crop for human consumption, now it fed an increasing number of chickens and pigs, both animals that thrived on seeds. As modern machinery moved in, we learned how to chop up and store the whole corn plant making it feasible to use as a winter feed source for cattle. The production of young cattle moved to river valleys and western, drier areas where cultivated crops had a hard time growing. To ready cattle for market, they were moved to corn country, or the corn was moved to them.
A major change in technology, the tractor, made further changes in the way farming was done. 16,000 plants per acre was an incredible population in corn fields of my youth. There was no way to keep the weeds out of the field short of manual labor, and many corn rows were still planted far enough apart so you could get a horse between the rows, 38 to 40 inches.
With todays modern machinery, the use of herbicides to reduce weed competition and careful use of fertilizer, farmers are planting over 30,000 corn plants per acre in 30 inch, 22 inch or even 20 inch rows. Even soybeans are planted in narrower rows, between 7 and 15 inches, to shade the dirt between the rows and hold the moisture and keep weeds down. Both corn and soybeans stay green longer into the fall than did wheat and oats, thus reflecting heat that otherwise would reach the ground. The result is a steamy jungle in the fields. The plants are drawing moisture from the soil and “sweating” it out. This moisture seems to be holding down daytime highs and raising night time lows.
To show you what difference green plants can make, just look to our deserts. With no plants to cover the ground, daytime temperatures can soar over 110 degrees, even in northern deserts. At night temperatures drop dramatically, sometimes approaching freezing. Add green as in our forests, and daytime temperatures are decreased and night time temperatures increased. One of the major factors used to slow desert growth is the introduction of trees. It has been proven that deserts increase where trees are removed.
So are todays farming practice actually lowering temperatures? It sound possible. Perhaps we can look to farmers, ranchers and foresters to help us hold off global warming.
Filed under: fish, garden, Minnesota, pond, spring, water garden | Tags: day lilly's, frogs, garden, iris, Koi, marsh marigolds, Minnesota, outdoors, plants, pond, sedum, spring, stone cap
It’s a beautiful April First here in Southwestern Minnesota and we are enjoying the warm before the weather turns a little more like April. I went out to check the pond and found the “flat” near the bridge was full of leopard frogs again.
We counted 12 of them before I took the picture, you should be able to see at least 8 of them in this picture. I found over 20 frogs around the pond at various times and they all have their favorite spots. If they don’t like what’s going on around them they jump into the water and head down to a hide out. So far they have been quiet and have not started “singing” to us. Most of the frogs are black with a bit of yellow-green on them, but a couple have started to shift to green.
The Koi are not easy to photograph since most of them are “black” and prefer the deeper water. These three orange one year olds are the easiest to see. There at least 12 more one year olds in “black” (several are visible as grey ellipses in the picture) and three older black ones.
The marsh marigolds are the only bits of color in the pond for now. I’m not sure if any of the other plants will come as the year goes along, but it is nice to see these yellow blooms.
Since I have had the creek running the water has cleared up a lot. It is still a bit brown due to the dead leaves in the bottom, and the brown algae on the rocks, but warmer weather should green things up a bit more.
I added rock steps to make getting into the pond easier this spring. As long as the grandchildren understand that this is a garden and not a swimming pool my plants should be safe. Since Allison and Katelyn are still too young to get to the pond without help, I should be OK for this year.
The sedum, irises and day lilly’s are really starting to green up along the “creek.” The stone cap stayed dusty green all winter long under the snow and is really spreading out over the rocks. All it needed was to have the dead plant material removed to show its color.
I spread some grass seed in a large bare patch and put the sprinkler on it today. That area of the lawn has had issues for years. So far it grows weeds best but I’m hoping with some sturdier varieties I can get it to green up properly.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, family, Farm, farm animals, fertilizer, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, organic, P & E, planting, Politicians, rain, tillage, Tractors, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, children, family, farm, Food, machines, plants, repairs, science, weather
Farming, like any other profession has its own lingo, and much of America does not understand it.
I just got off the phone with a gal doing a survey on farming practices who was having a great deal of trouble with her farm english. It was very hard to understand what she wanted to ask because she was murdering words left and right. You had to listen carefully and try to interpret what she wanted to say. I hated to ask her to repeat any of her questions because her pronunciation of words did not get any better. To be fair she did not sound like she grew up speaking another language, she just could not pronounce these words because they were strange to her. Kind of like trying to pronounce those strange names you find in the Bible.
Really, it is no wonder that folks with no connection to the farm do not understand us. We deal daily with names like FSA, SCS, CAFU, EPA, USDA and PCA. We go to places like the Commodity Classic and Farm Equipment shows. Farmers deal in dollar amounts that would make the head of the average person spin. We fertilize, apply pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, we deal with too much rain and not enough rain, and all so we can pay off our loan at the bank and feed our family.
Farmers talk of tractors and combines, rippers, chisels and disks, they discuss spraying and cultivating. We speak of organic, minimum till, no till, plows and erosion. Farmers know horse power, breeding schedules, days on feed, days to maturity, bushels per acre, chemical rates and livestock nutrition. Livestock producers know about sires and dams, sows and boars, rams and ewes, gilts, colts, geldings, barrows, chicks, hens and toms. Farmers deal with politicians, activists, genetically modified crops, inbreds, pure breeds and hybrid vigor. Farmers can fix many of our machines with duct tape or a welding torch, can rewire delicate electronics, and some even understand computers. No machine on the farm is complete without a well supplied tool box, and no pocket without a pliers, knife or a few odd screws. We on the farm live a complex life that our city cousins would like to understand, but have not lived, and so they can only marvel at our differences.
We hide ourselves behind jargon and numbers. What you really need to know is that farmers care about what happens on the farm. We raise our families here. We drink the water and breathe the air. We depend on the soil to feed us and our family for many generations to come. Farmers and their farms come in many sizes, but we all care deeply about what we are doing. We are here on the land because we cannot think of anything more important to do with our lives.
Despite all of the strange words we use, we are just like you, trying to build a good life for our families. So if you do not understand us, ask. We want you to know. We are not trying to hide things from you. You, our customer, are important to us also.