Archive

Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

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.

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!

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: , ,

New Toys

March 16, 2011 1 comment

It’s been a week for new toys. I think I’ll start with the one that is directly mine.

That is a Trek 7300 bicycle. I picked it up last Friday. It isn’t the first Trek I’ve owned; I had a mountain bike a few years ago that I sold about a year before I moved back to Illinois. This bike is a  little different; they call it a hybrid. It has thinner, faster tires like a road bike, and the slightly more upright seating and mild front suspension of a mountain bike. It’s good for both bike path and recreational road riding, which is what I plan on doing. I live a couple blocks away from a bike path that gives me access to a pretty huge trail network. I also have a lot of very quiet, rural roads surrounding town. The trail is still very soft from snowmelt, and still snow and ice-covered in spots, so my first few rides have been on the roads around town. My first ride on Saturday, I made about 3.5 miles before my legs completely gave up. Two months on the elliptical has done great things for my cardiac endurance, but there’s some different muscles at work when actually biking.

As you can see, my ‘bike computer’ is a bit of overkill. It’s my iPhone running Cyclemeter. I also tried Runkeeper‘s app, but I found Cyclemeter a little better for what I wanted. It uses the iPhone’s GPS to both map my rides, and track my speed. I may add an actual bike computer in the future; the GPS is a little iffy for instant feedback on speed, although the ending average is pretty spot on. Cyclemeter also syncs with Dailymile, so I’m tracking my workouts over there. Feel free to spy on me.

The last two rides I’ve done have been just over 6.5 miles, which makes me feel like I’ve gone somewhere. I have friends who run further than that as a quick workout, though, so I have some work to do. That particular loop is a pretty fun one to ride, although the last mile and a half is mostly uphill on a gravel road. Ow. I should get a bit faster on that last mile once the road dries up and solidifies a bit more. I can add mileage pretty easily by taking a loop around the south of town for when I start blowing through the 6.5 miles. And, eventually, it’s a 32 mile roundtrip to McHenry via bike path…I think I’ll get there. Actually, I’m not worried about getting there. It’s the 16 miles back, and the fact that the return trip is mostly uphill. Eek.

So that’s my toy. Now, let’s look at my father’s toy that I plan on playing with this spring:

That is a 2010 Agco DT225B. This is the last model year of tractor that will have an Agco brand name on it. Dad wanted it, even though the tractor it is replacing was only a couple of years old. Agco is phasing out the orange paint, and consolidating brands. Moving forward, it’s red paint with the Massey Fergusuon brand name, or yellow paint with a Challenger brand name if you want to pay a bit more money for some fancier options. It’s a bit sad; Allis Chalmers orange was an iconic brand in the tractor industry, and it’ll be sad to see it finally go away completely.

My family has always had orange tractors; none of this red and green stuff everyone else talks about. The recent DT series has been absolutely excellent. I’ve driven recent models from all three major tractor lines, and these tractors take a back seat to none. Agco is putting a Continuously Variable Transmission (essentially, no shifting! No gears! 0-32mph in one smooth acceleration) in all of their large tractors, now, and it is light years ahead of anything CaseIH has, and much better than Deere’s IVT. The DT 220 that we’ve run the last two seasons had a CVT in it, and I loved driving it both for primary tillage, and running the grain cart in the fall. I’m really looking forward to running the new machine for NH3 application this spring. Need to arrange that around my work schedule at the coop, somehow.

One thing this tractor has that the DT220 didn’t is an autosteer system from Topcon. It’ll take some of the stress out of NH3 application and primary tillage. We were out at the dealership today to get a little training on both the autosteer  system and all the computerized tractor controls. The Topcon reminded me of some of the systems I’ve run from Trimble, but I think Dad was a bit overwhelmed. The tractor itself has a lot of complicated settings and capabilities, as well. I see a lot of manual reading in our future, and I’ll have to see if I can get over there some weekend after the machine is delivered to ‘play’ with it before we try to do any serious fieldwork.

The dealership had this sign on one of their buildings. I think it came off the old Allis Chalmers factory in Milwaukee. In any case, the only part of the AC brand left was the orange paint, and now that’s gone, too. But Dad’s got one of the last new orange tractors!