Filed under: Farm, science | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, glyphosate, nature, resistance, science, super weeds, Weed control
The headline says “Glyphosate resistance spreads,” but for me that is nothing new. Chemical manufacturers always expected this to happen. They warned farmers that it would happen, Why are we surprised. I noticed a resistance to glyphosate for certain plants from the first time I used it, this day was always going to come.
It is a fact of life that organisms adapt or die. Those that do adapt live to overcome the adversity that they were facing. If you live in a dry area only those plants that can tolerate dry conditions adapt and survive. If the soil is constantly wet, only those plants that can adapt, live. No matter what the problem, it’s a live or die world.
Despite headlines, these are not “super weeds” only survivors. There are still ways to control these weeds, it’s just that one of the cheapest methods is now gone. It is part of the battle for mother earth that we on the farm fight everyday. When we overuse a control method, ways will be found to get around it. There are ways, and we will find them, what we don’t know is how long the new methods will last.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, fertilizer, food, genetic modification, GMO, Minnesota, nitrogen, science, Soybeans, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, farm, Minnesota, nitrogen fertilizers, science, Soybeans, weather, Weed control
As much as some would like to stuff it back in, the GMO genie is out of the bottle. The use of genetic modifications in sciences of all kinds will continue to come. Medical breakthroughs will help us to lengthen life. Our food plants will grow faster, use less fertilizer and water. Our food will grow faster on less feed. Our companion animals will live longer and be more helpful. All because of genetic modifications that are either now being developed or will be in the future.
My specific focus, on the crops raised here in Southwestern Minnesota, will also see some changes. Here are some I’ll especially be looking forward to;
- Drought tolerance and efficient water usage will increase.
- Use of fertilizers will decrease as plants become more efficient.
- Plants will be breed to take their nitrogen from the air eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizers that are currently produced by the oil industry.
- More plants will be developed for specific industries with corn varieties specific for feed stocks in industry and livestock feed, and changes in the oil and meal content of soybeans.
- Disease tolerant varieties of crops will be developed quicker as new crop diseases and insect pests develop or move to new areas.
- More crops will be developed that contain needed vitamins and minerals so that those in countries facing vitamin and mineral deficiencies will live a healthier life.
These are just a few of the discoveries we have to look forward to. The future advantages of genetic modification far outweigh the potential problems. It is going to be an exciting future.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, Soybeans, Wildlife | Tags: aphids, farm, field soybean, insect damage, lacewing, lady bugs, Minnesota, scouting soybeans, Soybeans, spider mites, weather, Weed control, wildlife
I’ve been out scouting soybeans for some time now, but today was the first day that I took my camera. I’ve been out looking for weed escapes, insect damage and yield potential. So here’s what I’m finding in our Minnesota soybean fields.
This is from our last planted field of soybeans. There are not as many pods here as I’m used to seeing, but there is still potential as there are flowers and smaller pods at the top of each plant. These are seed beans that are planted in 30 inch rows.
We’ve got a lady bug on this leaf. This is a good bug. The problem is that when you see good bugs, there are lots of bad bugs. This leaf has both aphids and spider mites on it. Most of the insects will be on the stem or the bottom of the leaf. To find them on the top of the leaf usually mean there are a lot of them.
Here’s some soybeans that were planted in 15 inch rows. They were planted earlier than my other beans and seem to be doing better. Although the plants are shorter, there are more pods on them. The tighter row spacing allows the plant to canopy sooner and help hold moisture. That should mean that we will harvest more soybeans from this field.
Soybean flowers are very small and usually self pollinating. They grow at the top of the plant and keep putting pods on at each new node as the plant grows. you can have large fat pods at the bottom of the plant and new flowers at the top. This helps the plant add seeds when ever the conditions are right.
Soybeans are rarely all the same height. This patch is showing some moisture stress. You can also find shorter beans when there is lots of insect pressure, a wet spot or compacted soil. Soybeans tend to grow taller if there is competition from other plants also.
So there you have it, that is what I’ve been finding in my soybean field.
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: Corn, Farm, Soybeans, tillage, travel | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, farm, machines, outdoors, Planting, pond, rain, Soybeans, travel, trees, Weed control, wildlife
Watch a farmer drive across country and you would think his head was on a swivel. Checking out first one side of the road and then the other can give you whiplash, but for me there is so much to see.
What do you see as you travel farm country? Those not involved in farming see very little, but farm folks see so much more, an example: It rained Sunday, I took a trip today and had to see how the area was doing. Because of all the rain I was checking out where water had eroded hillsides, where water was ponding or had ponded, where a deer had walked across wet ground, where geese were congregating in a ponded field and where the wind was starting to blow dust. I do that every mile when I travel, it is continuous. I also check out how tall the corn is, if the soybeans are coming up or not in planted fields and how the weed control is or is not doing. I also check out farming methods and how they are effecting water movement.
It’s a wonder I get to my destination all the things I find to look at on a trip down the road. The fact is that most farmers are the same. Driving to another state where farming practices are different can really get the head moving. We look for crops we do not plant, and different methods of planting those we do. We study irrigation and tillage methods, look for cattle (or bison) on the hillsides in ranch country and notice trees around building sites and rivers. We’ll look for wildlife and farm machines, tillage practices and building sites, there just is so much to study. Farmers look for so much when they travel.
The next time you travel through farm country, take a look at all there is to see. If you only see green fields you are not seeing, but only looking. Travel the country with a farmer if you really want to see the countryside.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, fertilizer, planting, rain, spring, tillage, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, corn planters, corn rows, farm, machines, Planting, rain, spring, weather, Weed control
After the dry fall and winter we are finally getting some rain, and it could not come at a better time, most of our corn is now planted. This morning found half an inch of water in the gauge to add to the 2.5 inches of rain we had earlier in the month. Things are really looking good for corn planting.
I had commented to our pastor on Sunday that if the weather held the dust would be flying on Tuesday. By Tuesday morning the corn planters were indeed rolling, and a few ambitious pieces of tillage equipment had made it to the field on Monday. The ground was so dry after winter that it takes a lot of rain to make it too wet to work the fields. So, when it got dry enough, the planting started.
This has been my primary view from Tuesday to Friday, looking down the hood of the tractor to keep the planter centered on the marker. I have not yet embraced the computer assisted steering that draws information from space to keep me gong straight. My planter is not big enough to make the switch, and will probably never be. I just do not have enough acres. Still there is a pride in the straight line of corn rows after planting.
The above picture is from later in the week when we got to some of the corn on corn ground. For several years now we have been in a corn-corn-soybean rotation on most of our acres, one rental farm has been in a corn-soybean rotation. The market has been paying better for corn than for soybeans, and I need to respond to the financial cues of the market.
When we grow crops, the left over plant material in the fall needs to be kept in place so it can break down and help feed the next years crop. Until the advent of modern machines farmers would try to bury as much of the “trash” as possible. We have learned that the ”trash” is needed to help hold the soil by reducing wind and water erosion. Keeping it on the top also helps to slow weed growth and moisture evaporation. Fields such as I planted this week were considered sloppy farming only 20 years ago. Now I look at the rough surface with all of its clumps of crop residue as a sign of long-term health.
This is how our fields look after I plant corn into last years soybean stubble. This is strip till. Last fall, fertilizer was injected into the ground in narrow strips under where I planned to plant corn. This keeps a maximum amount of cover on the soil, while providing the corn plant all that it needs close by. The soybean residue helps to control wind and water erosion and holds what moisture we have. This can really help in a dry year.
This is a side view of how our planter is set up. When we drive through the field, fingers on the “trash whippers” push plant material, small rocks and clumps of dirt to the side to help make a good seed bed, then the disk openers make a slot in the soil for the seed to fall into. The larger wheels under the planter help to control the depth of planting. We want the seed deep enough to reach moisture, but not too deep so it cannot get out. Finally the smaller wheels in the back pack the dirt tight around the seed to promote good soil to seed contact so the seed will germinate.
The larger yellow bin holds the corn seed we are planting. This planter uses a vacuum meter system to make sure that seeds are delivered one at a time and in the right number. The smaller yellow bins at the back could be used for insecticide or herbicide, but are just used to hold parts and tools. The white tank that you can see part of at the top of the picture is for fertilizer. We do not use these in strip till, but do use them in more conventional tillage. They help to get a small bit of fertilizer right where the corn plant needs it to get a good start.
This little loop of metal, most likely a bit of metal from an antique piece of farm equipment, caused a lot of trouble. Somehow it got caught on the disk openers and stopped them from turning. I had left about a half a mile of seed sitting on the surface in that row before I discovered it. It is amazing how one little piece of material can ruin a lot of work.
This is an old monitor system, but it does all we need it to do. The computer takes information from each row on the planter and speed traveled cues from space to tell me how many seeds per acre I am planting in each row. If there is trouble, a beep from the monitor will alert me to check on it. With the price of seed corn, we try to use each seed to its maximum. Tools like this monitor help to make planting less stressful.
Our planter still uses a mechanical marker. The disk leaves a slot in the soil for me to follow on the next pass. Those with larger planters have gone to GPS systems that use technology created by our military to find your position on the globe as guidance systems. The technology is still evolving, but is getting better each year.
It’s hard to tell that this field has been planted, and that is the way I like it. If you look across the road you can see the next field I will plant. It has not been worked yet to level off the surface from last falls tillage. Both fields still have plenty of “trash” on them.
Now I will be waiting for the next few dry days so I can finish corn planting. With only 80 acres left to plant I should be able to finish that in an afternoon. So far I feel that our planting is right on time. Those who planted corn earlier have not gained on me, since cold weather has kept their corn from emerging. The addition of about 3 inches of rain will give our seeds a good start. The conditions are looking a lot better than they did only a month ago. It has all the beginnings of a good growing year.
Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, harvest, Minnesota, planting, science, tillage, weather | Tags: farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, tillage, weather, Weed control
In my opinion some farmers spend too much time working their soil, and it shows.
With this early harvest and dry weather I’ve been seeing many of my neighbors out doing extra tillage. My word to them is DON”T DO IT. Autumn in Minnesota can be chancy,we can get late harvests with minimal time to till the ground after harvest, and we can have plenty of extra days like this year. When there is extra time some farm folks seem to think they need to work their fields again, and again, and again. Over working is not good for your soil, even when it is dry.
The hard chunks in the field will go away. All we need is some rain and the normal freeze thaw cycle we get so much of here. Why spend the extra time, fuel and machinery wear when you can let nature do the work for you. Every trip across the field buries and breaks up more of the plant material that is left on the surface. Plant material that is needed to protect our soil from wind and rain. Plant material that both helps to hold moisture in the ground during dry years and aids in water infiltration in wet years.
Although I have not abandoned tillage completely, I have cut back on how much tillage I do compared to what I used to do. Tillage is cut back to the minimum needed to get fertilizer and manure into the soil in the fall, and the seed bed smoothed out in the spring. Costs in machinery and fuel use have been reduced to minimal levels needed to grow the crop and keep the weeds down. The payoff has been in better soil condition and less erosion. Crop yields have not suffered, weed control is easier, it’s a win, win condition.
A few years ago I talked to a neighbor who installs field drainage. He commented that he could see we had switched to less tillage. He could see by the way our ground looked down below the normal tillage area that our soil was doing better. There was less compaction and more and deeper root growth than in fields that were still being tilled “conventionally.” In other words, our soil was healthier.
Even back in the 70′s when I was in college, we were talking about the need for less tillage to reduce erosion and improve soil health. The problem is that it is hard to change your ways when what you are doing seems to be working. Those that switch to the lower impact methods rarely switch back if they give it a real try. It can take many years to see the impact of less tillage. This is not a change your tillage today and see the results tomorrow kind of thing.
It has taken me a while to get to where I am today, but I would not go back. The reduction in wear and tear on the machinery, the reduction of fuel needs and the better soil health have made me a believer. No more recreational tillage for me.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, fertilizer, Minnesota, tillage, Uncategorized | Tags: Corn, farm, grandchildren, machines, Minnesota, tillage, weather, Weed control
The harvest may be done, but there is plenty more to do.
I’ve been spending most of my days lately in this rig. The tractor is a JD 4650 rated at about 180 horse power. It’s pulling a 14 foot Wishek deep tillage disk. With the dry conditions it has been turning over some really hard chunks of earth. The last two years were wetter and did not allow me to till as deep as I would like to. Now with drier conditions we’re sinking the Wishek in and really doing a good job.
On the left you see the corn stalks before they are disked, and on the right is the after. I like the Wishek because it can go through the standing stalks without any other preparation. It leaves a good amount of plant material on or near the surface to help control erosion without leaving too smooth of a surface. The rough surface creates ponding areas to hold water on the surface and let it go into the soil not run off. The old plant material and rough surface will also help keep down wind erosion. I have one field that I only worked part of the field. Those areas that were too steep or too sandy I left untouched. That will protect them during the harsh winds of winter.
This field will be corn again next year so we broadcast most of the fertilizer next years crop will need and work that into the top 8 inches of soil profile. Next spring we’ll smooth this off a bit and plant it. I like to keep at least 30% cover after planting to reduce erosion and promote water infiltration.
I also spent some time burning off the grass in a road ditch that is too steep to mow. Burning removes the stems that could catch winter snow and keep it on the road. It also helps to keep down weeds that are unwanted. Burning tends to promote the growth of grasses over things like trees and broad leaf plants. It also allowed me to spend some time reshaping part of the ditch so that I can get my mower down into it.
I also want to spend some time with these two young ladies. Being a grandfather is such hard work you know.
Filed under: Farm, history, Minnesota, planting, tillage, time, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, weather, Weed control, wind
I was recently asked about why we do not use old tractors and plows anymore. In my last post I talked about some of the reasons we do not use that old small machinery anymore. I would like to elaborate on one item here today.
When I was growing up we plowed every field, every year, with a mold board plow. The purpose of a mold board plow is to turn the soil and plant materials that are on top so that it is completely buried. This would take all of the last crops left overs and bury them, leaving the surface soil “black.” It helped in weed control since many small seeded weeds could not germinate when buried so deep. It was a matter of pride for farmers to plow so that the ground was completely “black” and smooth. While this did help to make the ground ready for the next years planting, it also exposed the soil to the effects of wind and water. Any ground with a slope would move down hill when water flowed over it. Any high wind would blow the soil up into the air. The last years plant material rotted quickly and became food for the next years crops, or all too often, ran off with the soil.
As time went on we learned that a smooth black surface between crop years was not in the best interest of the soil. With the advent of new machines and new chemicals we learned to grow our crops with minimal disturbance of the soil. Newer breeds of crops have been developed to grow better than the old ones in the presence of crop residue. There are still times that a plow can work for the best interest of a soil, but many farmers are leaving their plow in favor of other methods of tillage that do not destroy so much of last years crop material.
I took the above photo to show the development of our soybeans last week. If you look around the soybean pods you can see that the soil surface still has some of the previous years crop material on it even after months of weathering and machinery work. The pieces of cornstalk and root can last for several years on the surface helping to protect the soil from the effects of wind and water. The old machines of my youth cannot handle the crop residue left over on the surface. New machines had to be developed to work in these conditions. Some times we will even plant a crop right into the previous crops left overs without any tillage at all. The old crop material can slow or even stop the emergence of a crop, but with the right machinery we can keep that effect to a minimum.
When I was younger, large wind or water events left their mark almost every year somewhere in our fields. The lost yield and extra work this created was extra money we could not put in our pocket. It could at times mean we could not pay our bills if the effects were bad enough. I am proud to say that I have not had any noticeable erosion on the farms I work for many years now. Places that would have gullies in them every year, now stay in place. Erosion that would expose buried rocks, now leaves the rocks safely buried. We manage our crop residue to help hold our soil in place.
The old days, and old ways are not always better. In the case of farm machinery, I would not return to the old ways. They were not healthy for the soil that I farm. Today I know so much more about what it takes to keep my soil in place, and I make every effort to do just that. I’ve learned to hold my ground in the face of wind and water erosion.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, food, garden, harvest, Minnesota, rain, Soybeans, summer, tillage, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, garden, harvest, Minnesota, peas, rain, Soybeans, sweet corn, weather, Weed control
This is the third morning in a row we’ve had rain. The other two were thunderstorms with wind, lightening and sheets of rain. This morning it is a gentle rain. I really prefer the gentle kind of rain.
Driving around the area I can see places where the field ponds are back again. It’s got to be frustrating when you have already replanted twice to have the crop drowned out again. One neighbor has a pond that has never gone away. There is a lot of tile that goes through his farm and his is the lowest and thus the last field to drain.
My garden weeds are starting to get ahead of me. I do pull some when I am out to harvest, but the wet means I cannot use the tiller in the more open areas. I never did get the potatoes hilled, and the sweet corn may be nearing it’s last possible days of tilling also. I plant my pumpkins and other vine crops in the corn to discourage the raccoons. Raccoons don’t like the sticky vines all over the place. It can make harvest interesting, but so far no raccoons for 30 years.
The peas are in full production now. I’ll not have enough to freeze, but fresh peas are a great part of eating at this time of year.
My potatoes have been blooming for a while now. Usually there are some new potatoes available to steal when they are in bloom. I’ve not taken any, but I have seen some really nice ones while I’m pulling weeds.
With this rain I’m sure we will be getting a new flush of weeds. That means one more trip through the bean fields with the sprayer before they close in the row, and another trip with the garden tiller in the garden. Lots of work, but so worth while.