Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Moving forward

Well my friends...times change. This blog is moving soon and I don't anticipate another post at this address. I have been with the same firm for 37 years and now I am starting my own company. My boss and friend is starting to wind his career down a bit and in order to simplify things for him I am forming my own company and will proceed as I always have. I hope to have a website in place the day we officially are separate entities. The new site will be It is not yet active but with any luck on March 1 2017 it will be.

I can only hope that I will be more timely and contribute more often on the new site. It will be a goal of mine to do so. Thanks for following and reading and please record the new site address and check it regularly. Best Regards to you all!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Long overdue update

When I started this I thought it would be easier than this to keep this blog updated. It was January when last I wrote this thing...YIKES!
So now its a case of remembering what has gone on since then. I do of course email blast my clients more frequently. My goal is to only convey information or happenings that I think would be of interest to those following.
In April I went to Hungary to visit a large vertically integrated operation. Not only was it an experience I wont forget anytime soon but Hungary is a beautiful country. Budapest is fantastic and as my grandmother on my fathers side was born there, it made it all the more interesting. The farm that my technology consultant (no better in the world) and I visited is an excellent operation, but I am sure they will benefit by our partnership. I was stunned by some of the regulations that are in place in that part of Europe regarding rotation and residue management. It's almost the exact opposite of what we practice here. I'd like as much residue as possible, over there, corn residue is frowned upon. A similar problem there as in here is that they don't like to take manure too far from source. Not good from a water quality standpoint or a fiscal one. My expectations of success on this farm is high.

This spring was fairly typical here in east central Michigan. Wet at times and as we moved into July, brutally hot and dry. It has taken a toll on every crop we grow in this region save maybe soy's. They may yet surprise us.
Dry edibles varied but the heat definitely took a toll. The late rains I believe helped the soy's and possibly some corn but until the combines run we wont really know. After the first 3 weeks of no rain I observed sulfur deficiency in corn and in beets. It was limited to sandier and lower organic matter soils. Obviously the lack of water moving to the root was the the biggest issue. When the rains came late the problem started to become less apparent though their will be a yield drag. Sulfur is a tough one. No one wants to spread Ammonium Sulfate anymore. I hate to recommend too much thio-sul only because of its cost.
Big Data....Just an observation. I like the concept of utilizing "Big Data" however the more I look at individual data the more think about how it is compiled and massaged, the more hesitant I become. Every farm is different and every management style is different. That being the case the data submitted for grouping into larger datasets may lack the quality we desire. For example one farm calibrates every year, another doesn't. One farm works ground differently or different rotation yet same hybrid and planting date are used in compiled yield data and disseminated to the masses for variety recommendations or comparisons. I think big data should be big data from a small regions and the chance of similar rotations. It is a difficult thing to grasp. In the long run your own data will best serve you in making decisions as long it is collected with the proper steps for each crop and or applications.
Moving into low crop prices most of the farms I deal with can withstand a fall of no applications of P or K. I rarely make an exception for lime but there are crops that have a tolerance for a wider pH range.I still fail to understand why people continue to guess at fertility.
Check out the new Brookside Laboratory website and Like it!! A work in progress but some good stuff on there!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

An Education

I was attending the Great Lakes Crop Summit in Mt. Pleasant MI these last 2 days. Good information for the most part and a fair amount of companies with booths for info. I took in a session this morning with a panel of "Millennials" there to discuss their views on food and agriculture. They were asked to make comments on GMO's, organic farming, conventional farming, What do they look for on, or do they even look a labels. How do they view farmers. These kids were all very cooperative and forthcoming which was incredibly eye opening.
I cannot go into a lot of detail as to how they answered, and the comments, but that being said, agriculture has a massive project to undertake. It was down right scary the lack of knowledge about agriculture and food production. It is not my intention to cast these people in a poor light, I just want to point out....WOW.
In general, good was, small, organic, more non GMO than not, no favorable view of pesticides. Bad was of course the opposite. They like to shop at farmers "markets" when possible and I think that their perception of that particular venue is small and organic. some read food blogs and they watch "Dr. Oz" and those sources are gospel.
We who work in agriculture have got to start educating these folks and the sooner the better. As we head toward 9 billion people on this earth, as nice as it would be for everyone to grow their own food milk their own cows, we in this business of food production know that that part of our past, is never coming back. And if we don't like the idea of hunger, for shouldn't come back.

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26 2015 thoughts

Well, as usual time in spring is fleeting. We have had a wet spring so far but it did not delay planting as much as last year. We are also somewhat ahead on GDD's. The corn and soy crops have realy looked poor the last few weeks due to rain and cooler temperatures. It is now starting too recover and look like its progressing. My friends in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana are really struggling!!

In a previous post I had discussed the issue of pop ups. The biggest concerns voiced by growers to me was would 10-34-0 used as pop up injure the plant, reduce stands etc.

You tell me which side of row is 10-34-0 and which is premium low salt side...I'm running tissue tests on each to see if there are major differnces in uptake of nutrients. at this point, I dont see where the extra 7-10 bushel is going to come from to pay for the "premium" fertilizer.
Our sampling rush is starting to wind down and hopefully not too much to ge back and get this fall. However when we have alot of rain during sampling season it happens.

What do you suppose the real impact on yield is from wheel traffic??

It is sometimes unavoidable but makes one think a bit doesnt it. Be safe out there!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Slim Margins

I have a story to which most all of you who farm can probably relate in some way. I had a grower in my office the other day and we were discussing his spring fertilizer needs. He asked me about a "program" out there that a retailer was offering, that would allow him to put an "in furrow" fertilizer system on his planter at no charge, but there had to be a commitment to purchase product for 3-4 years. Now during the conversation I was told that the retailer had been very good to the grower lately, there was a trip involved for he and his wife and the whole nine yards which is great...very cool. Well I proceeded to do the math with his help. Recommended rate, 3.5 gallons of material which would have given him 8.4 lbs of P and 2.1 lbs of N in furrow. This program would cost about $30.00 per acre for just this nutrition alone, $8.5 per gallon. 
Now suppose you had 500 acres of corn, and with a 4 year commitment that would be $60000. My recommendation was 2 gallons of base product 10-34-0, $3.20 per gallon, (and no 2 gallons will not burn) givng me same basic plant food, (1 lb less P) for $6.40 per acre, @ 4 years... $3200. So considering the slim margins we have this year and maybe for a couple years, which way makes the most sense no matter how you've been treated? If you feel guilty, send the retailer a check covering your "good treatment" so you can sleep, put the system on yourself if you want in furrow fertilizer, and pocket the difference. After discussing our math for awhile we continued a little further. Suppose we take retailer good treatment out a ways. Perhaps there were maybe...250 well treated growers, and all went on a nice trip. If average size of farm was say 1500 acres thats about 375,000 acres. So I would imagine about a $3000 price tag per grower for said trip. Now, 3 quarters of a million dollars is a boat load of cheese!! But for arguments sake say half the growers were so happy with trip, they decided to make the commitment to the retailer. So 125 growers need system, $1,250,000.00. Add to that 750,000 for "treatment". Thats 2 million investment by retailer/parent company. So we have 125 happy growers that farm on average 1500 acres in which we'll assume half is corn. 93750 of corn, @ $30 per acre for 3 years $8,437,500.00. Lets subtract base material cost. $1,800,000.00 and the 2 million. So, retailer/parent company should net $4,637,500.00 or 76% return on investment for 3 years. Now I know I have simplified this but you get the picture. And dont get me wrong the retailers are doing their jobs for the shareholders of the company. That is capitalism at its best. However, you being sole shareholder of your operation have a duty also and that is to be profitable...just sayin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BIG DATA....and other buzz words.

Well, every meeting season the buzz words come out. BIG DATA, SUSTAINABILITY, PRECISION FARMING, and so on. I feel bad for you growers who get innundated with this information and can’t keep it all sorted and put in the place it belongs. That being either the trash or the toolbox. These "buzz words” should not be feared but rather just catagorized into either useful or useless. And if you can’t decide which, I may be able to help. I usually see a lot of the same things you do, only presented in a slightly different manner. As your consultant and part of your staff, I try to determine the value that a product or service brings to the grower. It may be something that will and should fit in your toolbox, or mine on your behalf. Some may dismiss one of these products or services after discovering the cost to the operation however dont forget benefit side of the equation. The value maybe 2-3x the cost. As agronomists we need the tools necessary to help drive the decision making in the operation. When we come accross these things they will be pointed out and then you get to decide whether to implement. If you are sitting on yield data, or any other geo-referenced data from planter, monitor, or imagery and dont know really what to do with it. Give me a call, I may be able to help you sort thru it!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Trying year

As I have stated before, these blogs should be run by people who have office assistants that can keep them up to date. It has been an  "interesting" year to say the least. We all remember the late and long spring, well summer was short and winter is early so growers are struggling with the remaining corn acres out. Sugar Beets in this area were outstanding. Some of the best farm averages ever. That's what happens when you never really hurt for moisture. On the other side, white mold was an issue for soybeans and dry beans which reduced yields and quality. Corn reports are variable but mostly good production albeit wet and lower than normal test weights.

As we move forward there are things we need to stay aware of as we move into spring. First, tillage conditions are going to be tentative at best. Soil moisture conditions I don't believe are, or have been ideal for working ground. This will lead to less than ideal planting conditions in the spring if we are wet again. However depending on rotations we don't have much choice. This is why planter setup is critically important also. For all with beets in the rotation this is a very difficult situation. The heavy equipment compresses the daylights of our soils, and depending on axle load this can affect the soil to depths that our typical tillage instruments cannot get to. This has repercussions all the way down the line. As you make decisions on tillage, ask yourself is this going to improve water movement and provide conditions to enable preparation of seed bed in the spring?

As for inputs, at least nutrient wise, this is why we test soils on a regular basis. Lower crop prices combined with fertilizer prices that are not following suit add up to margin issues that are reminiscent of 1990's rather than the beginning of this decade. Therefore we'll have some serious discussions this winter on "needs" of the crop for 2015.

Regulations!! An interesting bit of information came across my desk yesterday out of Ohio. The short of it is fertilizer application regulations are moving their way thru the Ohio legislature as I write this.

Sec. 905.326.  (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, no person in the western basin shall surface apply fertilizer under any of the following circumstances:
(1) On snow-covered or frozen soil;
(2) When the top two inches of soil are saturated from precipitation;
(3) When the local weather forecast for the application area contains greater than a fifty per cent chance of precipitation exceeding one-half inch in a twenty-four-hour period.
(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply if a person in the western basin applies fertilizer under any of the following circumstances:
(1) The fertilizer application is injected into the ground.
(2) The fertilizer application is incorporated within twenty-four hours of surface application.
(3) The fertilizer application is applied onto a growing crop.
(4) The fertilizer application consists of potash or gypsum.

This is not going to be pretty. I can already see various problems cropping up with this but we will have to deal with it. Oh and by the way if this had been in place last year someone figured out that it would have eliminated 60 days of possible application time gone, YIKES!

We have a new company website, I'm unsure if I will move this blog to tha site but we'll see. Hard enough to keep one blog going let alone 2! Our company site is a work in progress so check back regularily for changes.