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About that drought…

July 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The last time I wrote here, I was complaining about the dry weather that we were looking at. How we had gotten about a half inch of rain for the last four weeks, and we really, really needed moisture to save the corn crop from the sweltering heat.

Well, we got a lot of heat. It was into the high 90s for several days. Rain didn’t materialize when forecasted, and we were getting ready to pack it in as far as corn yield was concerned. And then…it rained. And it rained. And it rained more. In the last six days, I’ve had around 10 inches of rain in my gauge at home. We’ve gone from being bone dry, to worried about flooding. My parents have lost some acres in the low ground they farm to ponding. We’re getting ready to spray fungicide on soybeans, and more of it will have to be done with the helicopter than we had planned. Some fields just aren’t going to dry out, and there’s more rain in the forecast over the coming week.

It’s amazing how fast things can turn in farming, when you’re dependent on the weather for your livelihood. We still lost some of the top end out of the corn yield; it suffered in that heat for about a week while trying to pollinate. But we’ll have a decent crop, now. I have a lot of hope for soybeans, they could really be fantastic with this late season moisture.

How’re things around the country?

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Categories: Agriculture, Weather

Corn Status

July 19, 2011 1 comment

We’re somewhere around the midway mark for the 2011 growing season. Every season has challenges, and this one has been no different. Unlike last year, we did not get the crop planted very early in this area. Most of the month of April was lost to excessive rain, and we had a lot of stop and go in May. After a stretch of good weather towards the end of the month, we did finally get everything planted. The month of June was pretty good growing weather, and aside from some concerns about a lack of rainfall in July, I was really pleased with the way the crop was developing. Until about 8am on July 11.

We had a very large derecho blow through the area with straight line winds upwards of 70mph. A lot of corn fields experience some degree of root lodging. In the field above, the rows of the non-Bt refuge corn was severely lodged, while the rows of corn that contained Bt genes for corn rootworm resistance remained mostly upright. I don’t think this issue was as much to do with the lack of rootworm resistance as it was simply due to a difference in hybrids; the hybrid being used for refuge in this field is known for being a little weak in the roots, and susceptible to root lodging.

Root lodging

What was of greater concern to me was the amount of greensnap I found in some fields.

When corn greensnaps like this, it doesn’t grow back. This will be a dead plant. Sometimes, the stalk will bend over and pinch itself off; plants like this will also usually die. If you have 10% greensnap in a field, you have 10% less yield. Some fields in the area had spots of 30% greensnap. Not good; when these same fields looked amazing just before the storm…there was some really high yield potential in this area. Not as much, anymore.

Remember my concern about lack of rainfall? This huge storm that blew through left us a quarter inch of rain or less. An insult. That’s about the sum total of the rainfall I’ve had in July. The corn here is now tasselling, the temperature is 95 degrees, and we haven’t had any significant rainfall in a month. Corn trying to pollinate under severe heat and moisture stress is not a good thing. Overnight temperatures in the 80s are also not good for corn; it needs a chance to breathe at night. Pollination while being blowtorched by this week of 90 degree temperatures will reduce yields further.

There’s still the potential for a decent, if not spectacular crop, but we really need a rain this week. It’s a typical farmer thing: we complain about too much rain in the spring, and then turn right around and bitch about lack of rain in the summer.

Categories: Agriculture, Weather Tags: , ,

Sunday Scenes

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Quiet for months, I know, I know. Blogging < crazy planting season. Bear with me. Until then, some scenes from my Sunday.

Good Morning!

Mixing Loads

Valve

My interesting choice of reading material for the day

At the end of the day, this robin in the tree above my house.

Progress Report

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

There really is no progress to report, as far as planting is concerned. We had a good run on fertilizer last week; we’re about halfway through anhydrous ammonia applications, and I’m down to less than 1,000 acres of dry fertilizer to spread. That came to a halt on Friday; it was too windy to spread fertilizer, and by 3pm it was raining. It hasn’t really stopped raining for very long since then, and yesterday morning I woke up to a scary site for April 18th:

A little over 2 inches of wet, heavy, sloppy snow. It was all melted by afternoon. As I write this morning, it is just above freezing, and it is once again raining. Not very nice late April weather, and certainly not conducive to corn planting. The state of Illinois is apparently 9% planted, but in the two or three counties I deal with in northern Illinois, I’d estimate 0-1%. Last year we were probably 30%. Big difference. April is usually my busiest month, but  it looks like May is going to take the prize this year as we continue to push planting further back.

Quick Update

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

We mostly missed the weekend rain that was forecasted for the northern Illinois region, and as a result, we’ve been busy since Monday. There has been a tremendous amount of field work going on in the area, as well as a lot of fertilizer going out the door. We’ve spread a thousand acres or so since Monday, and have perhaps 1400 to go, a very doable number. Anhydrous ammonia has been flying out the door so fast that it has been hard to get transport semis in here on a timely basis to keep the storage tanks full. At the moment, the storage is completely empty, there are eight tank wagons waiting to be filled, and we have just five full ones on the property for customers. It’s going to be an interesting morning tomorrow; but I’m hoping at least a couple of the five loads I’m currently waiting on show up overnight.

Rain is in the forecast again for the end of this week, but right now it looks like we’ll get another full day of work tomorrow, and possibly part of Friday, as well. We’re at the point now where I would actually welcome a (short) rain delay; the first week of hard running at a fertilizer plant always identifies things broken that we missed during March prep, and we’re waiting for two critical pieces of machinery to show up that have been repeatedly delayed (a new RoGator 1194 sprayer, and a rebuilt trailer to tend the sprayer). Rain Friday night would give us Saturday to make some critical fixes, and a Sunday to recuperate from the long days we’ve been pulling this week.

With that, I’m going to finish making tomorrow’s Plan for the application crews, and get set to watch some Blackhawks playoff action. Go Hawks!

Rainout

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

After a crazily busy week, we have been rained about for the weekend. I received about an inch of rain overnight at my house in Hebron. Looks like it was a bit heavier to the south, and a bit lighter to the north. So, today is cleanup day around the plant. The crew will work on some maintenance jobs, and we’ll collect some of the fertilizer spreader carts that went out over the past few days. I think we’ll be in for a half day tomorrow; I have some seed to deliver to one of my customers who’s a weekend farmer. But after that, it’s a rare April weekend off of work.

We got fertilizer spread on nearly all the wheat ground; 60 acres left that was too wet, and maybe a couple hundred that are  scheduled to get liquid N sprayed on instead of urea. We’ll take care of that next week when it dries out. We still have about 1500 acres of corn and soybean ground that needs dry fertilizer spread; so someone will be in that machine for a while, yet. And someday, someone will start planting corn around here, and then it’s a never-ending run of pre-emerge herbicide spraying.

How was your week, farming or otherwise?

Progress

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Today was a good day. It did not rain overnight, and we were able to start spreading fertilizer early in the morning and continue until late in the evening. My floater operator covered over 450 acres, with quite a few miles of roadtime, as well. We had a field 3 miles south of Marengo to spread, and that’s a long drive from home base for a floater doing 35mph.

I was in Marengo around 10AM, checking the field in advance of the floater. Honestly, it was a trip I probably didn’t need to make. Fields in the area were very dry, drier by far than up here on the state line. It was like a different world, just 20 some miles away. Dust was flying from all the fieldwork going on, NH3 tanks were everywhere, and I saw a planter in the final stages of being readied for the field.

Closer to home, we were busy, but not frantic. We had a couple of customers call for spreader cart loads of fertilizer, and had a couple of people pick up alfalfa and oats for seeding. NH3 tanks trickled out, and I had to deliver a couple late in the afternoon. We sprayed preplant herbicide on a 14 acre plot of sweetcorn (this job is always our first spray job of the season). We made some in season sales, and I was particularly happy when a large vegetable/row crop grower in McHenry called me out of the blue (we’ve talked and met before, but not in a couple months), asking if I could find some specialty chemicals for him. One of my other veggie customers has apparently been talking me up…referral business is awesome. The distributor I use for weird chemistry pulled through for me, and was able to locate what he needed. Score!

The fancy weather forecasting from Intellicrop that I’m accessing this month tells me that it is unlikely to rain until tomorrow night, meaning that tomorrow is definitely going to be busier than today was. We will finish all the remaining Illinois wheat acres (aside from some acres that will be sprayed with liquid N instead of dry urea), and may possibly finish the wheat acres in Wisconsin, as well.

I’m finishing the evening with a beer, Blackhawks hockey, and the iPhone WordPress client. Hawks are up 3-2 at the end of the 2nd period!