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Link Soup

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m going to scratch the surface of the agriculture web just a little bit with this entry, and talk about some of the websites I visit regularly.

It’s winter, and a lot of farmers naturally are thinking a lot about grain marketing right now, both making the final sales of the 2010 crop, and possibly making some advance  sales of the 2011 crop. Marketing is not my area of expertise–I often joke that I can help you grow the crop, not sell it. But I do keep an eye on the commodity markets. I grew up with my parents having a DTN satellite screen in the kitchen for market updates and weather radar. You can accomplish the same thing for free on the web these days at a lot of different sites (including the DTN one I just linked to), but I often use this screen from e-ADM;. It auto-loads every thirty seconds to provide a ten-minute delayed snapshot of commodity prices. I usually have it up in a browser tab when I’m sitting at my desk at work. For free daily commentary and often a bit of advice, I listen to Mike Mock’s twice-daily video posts on The Anderson’s; website.

Weather is a huge part of agriculture, but I’m fairly basic when it comes to what sites I check. Weather Underground gets all of my hits for forecasting and radar on the desktop. The next is not exactly a webpage, but when I’m on the go and need up to the minute rain forecasting during spraying season, I use the amazing radar app Radarscope for my iPhone. This app was invaluable last year in wrangling the three spraying crews we run during May and June. In the spring and the fall, I also keep track of soil temperature trends in Illinois for planting and NH3 application purposes.

There are web forums for everything these days, farming is no different. I read AgTalk regularly, and have for the last five or six years. I don’t post very often, though…a lot of the forum regulars have a very strong distaste to seeing industry folks like myself post in a ‘farmer’s forum’. There’s also a lot of supplier bashing, and horror stories of unscrupulous salesmen. That said, I’ve learned a fair amount reading the forums, and it’s always interesting seeing farmers compare different cropping practices from across the country and the world. Just stay out of the politics forum.

On crop protection, if you do any work with herbicides, you need to bookmark CDMS’ Agro-Chemical Database right now. It has the full label and MSDS sheet for every registered product used on any crop in the United States. I use it frequently. It’s free. It’s better than dealing with the gigantic, expensive Green Book that we used to buy, every year. Also invaluable are the weekly newsletters from Cooperative Extension–The Bulletin in Illinois, the Wisconsin Crop Manager, and Integrated Crop Management News in Iowa. Those are the three I’m familiar with, many other ag states have similar seasonal newsletters.  They all provide updates on current pests during the growing season along with management recommendations and other timely guides and information.

If you’re looking for corn and soybean yield information to help you make informed seed purchase decisions, check out the F.I.R.S.T. Seed Tests. Unbiased, independent, replicated yield trials. I’m a seed dealer for a couple different seed companies, and I follow these tests myself to see what the industry is up to, yield wise. To check out how the big dog is doing, you can look at the Asgrow/Dekalb yield trials.

This final site is a pay site, but if you’re in need of high quality aerial photos, and a quick and easy field mapping system to make maps on your desktop, Surety Mapping is the way to go. I’ve been using it to make maps to hand to my spraying crews with their job tickets for about four years now. It’s definitely cut back on wrong field mis-application errors, and the operators of the rigs appreciate being able to see what the terrain looks like, and what hazards there maybe in the field. We’ve come a long way from the photocopied, black and white ASCS maps I used when I started in this business just ten years ago.

That’s my short list! What am I missing?