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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: , ,

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.

Window of Opportunity

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

We had a great day of sunshine and wind, and temperatures about 50 degrees. It really helped dry out the soil. We started spreading fertilizer mid morning, and got a couple hundred more acres of wheat fertilized with nitrogen and sulfur. The wheat spreading list is starting to be whittled down. We’re nearly done with the Greenwood township work, and our next move will probably be over to Hartland township, where I have three hundred acres to spread. I also have a hundred acres south of Marengo…that’s at the faaar southern edge of the territory we normally cover. And then it’s back into Wisconsin for a couple hundred acres scattered between Genoa City and Elkhorn. I don’t expect to see the Wisconsin acres until sometime next week…if we miss tonight’s 30% chance of rain, there’s more chances every day through Sunday. At this point, it looks like the entire first half of April will be shot for accomplishing anything beyond these 1-2 day spurts of field activity. On the bright side, I won’t have any problems getting out to Rockford for the last Icehogs hockey home game of the season on Saturday.

In fun technology news, I’m currently working with Intellicrop and Nate Taylor on the beta test of their agriculture decision engine. I ‘met’ Nate through Twitter about a year ago, and he’s turned into a good friend and resource. Intellicrop is a new startup company working on combining advanced soil moisture modeling and weather forecasting to help companies like mine figure out where we are able to deploy our equipment after a weather event. Having a sprayer sitting when it should be working somewhere is expensive. I’ve had it happen; scouting the wettest end of my territory when I should have been looking at the far opposite end that didn’t get as much rain as we thought. Considering how the month of April is looking, I may get a pretty good chance to give his software a workout.

Finally, hey look! A second blog entry in a week! No promises, but I’m going to try and post shorter entries snapshotting some of the activities going on in my trade territory as we move into the 2011 planting season. For quicker, shorter updates I’m always on Twitter as @cornwuff, and you can also follow the hashtag #plant11 to see what the rest of the #agnerd contingent on Twitter is up to during this planting season.

Off to a Slow Start

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s April 4th, and unlike last year, there has been very little fieldwork accomplished in the area.  Last year, we had all the wheat fertilized and a lot of NH3 put in the ground. Farmers were thinking of planting (too) early, and we were moving a lot of fertilizer.

Totally different this year. Most of the wheat is not fertilized, and while a couple of farmers have picked up NH3 tanks, not much application work has been accomplished. The weather has been abnormally cold, and we have been getting regular showers with very little heat and sun in between events to dry the soil out. We did a little bit of wheat fertilizer spreading in the mornings last week while the ground was frozen, but we could only run until about 9:30 in the morning. It’s been frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about the weather. Forecast for the next five days is equally annoying; lots of rain in the forecast. The rain that was forecast  for this past weekend turned out to be less than expected, so maybe these new forecasts will be just as inaccurate…one can hope, right?

Not sure what I’m going to do with myself, today. I’m going to go check on one of my farmers who was trying to apply NH3 over the weekend, and see if he got anywhere. We may do a little training on NH3 tank filling this afternoon for a couple of our new employees. And I’ll be hoping for dry weather and 60 degree temperatures.

Categories: Agriculture, Weather Tags: , ,

Blizzard

February 2, 2011 2 comments

Here in northern Illinois, we just experienced the 3rd worst blizzard on record in terms of snowfall. The entire Chicagoland area was basically shut down today. We made the decision yesterday to close the office. I left the office early on Tuesday as well, just before the edge of the major storm hit us. We had been getting flurries all day, and the wind had picked up during the afternoon, so my drive home down State Route 173 looked like this at about 3pm Tuesday:

Fun Shit For Driving

It’s a short drive home, but  it still wasn’t very fun. Shortly after I got home, the snowfall rate increased dramatically, and the winds picked up even further.

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It was blowing so hard, my south windows began to fill with snow.

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By morning, my back porch was completely full of snow, and the front driveway was drifted in to depths approaching 3 feet. And the overnight snowplows left about 4 feet of snow at the end of the driveway.

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Snowmobilers were using 173 as a path…while it was well plowed in town, much of the road was actually closed to traffic, and it was drifting quite badly out in the country.

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It was quite a storm. After this, I think I’ve had my fill of snow for the year. We’re basically dug out, and I think the roads should be in good shape by tomorrow. We’re headed north to Wisconsin Dells for the Wisconsin Corn/Soy Expo in Wisconsin Dells, so I’m hoping things will be clear. After that, it’s on to Minneapolis for the weekend, where we’ll be seeing friends we rarely see, and taking lots of photos at the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

Here’s a few video clips of snow, snow shoveling, and snowmobiles:

February 2nd Blizzard Aftermath from Jim Doolittle on Vimeo.

Categories: Personal, Photography, Weather Tags: ,