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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Looks like summer..

Up until a few weeks ago I wasn't sure. Some of the night time temps were still on the low side. Tomorrow is suppose to be 90 here but then cool again. Be that as it may be crops look fairly good. Yes they are a little behind what they have been the past few year but should not be too bad in the end. We will need some time in September and hopefully we'll get it.
Wheat harvest is under way here and will last longer than usual start to finish but first reports are that the crop is pretty decent. Yes, in some areas where we lost spots due to water or winter kill is going to bring some field averages down but where that is minimal,  averages should be in the 80's based on these early reports.

This week is Ag Expo at Michigan State University. The Dennings group will be there so stop by and say hello if you are down there. The time is approaching where I'll be in the "BUNKER" more often than not. Soil test information is rolling in and though its going to be very difficult to get most fall information ready by the end of August that is still the goal. There are two conferences getting in the way of that this year. I will be attending the Info Ag conference in St. Louis next week and the week after is our annual Brookside Consultants in Louisville Ky. This I believe is the 63 straight conference for this outstanding group of independent consultants.
As I'm sure you are aware the topic of the year is DATA. Well, we can handle a lot of it and help you compile it so it can be added to your arsenal of decision making tools. What we need to know is how far you wish to go in the data world. There are going to be companies galore offering these types of services and virtually all of them will have a "product" at the end of the line for you too use. So you still have to be able to sift through it all and decide what is applicable to your operation. We can help with the agronomics of that data. Any time you want to discuss it, drop by the office or call and we can discuss the possibilities and pitfalls.
Our company Dennings & Associates Inc. is just about to launch our new web site later this week. Please bookmark and visit us often and leave comments or ask questions and keep us posted on what you want to see on the site and what information we can provide you with regards to agronomics.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spring things

Spring, if you can call it that, has been quite unusual to say the least. Obviously here in the Saginaw valley we are late. Growers are making modifications to planting plans, shorter day corn, more soybeans and likely more dry beans than anticipated. It makes me wonder how many of you are going to watch wheat a lot closer for 2015?? Too bad we can't plant corn in the fall!!
There are a few concerns that go along with springs like this. Compaction, nitrogen, sulfur, and cold soils.
With wet spring and rushed planting we will no doubt have some root restrictions, slow emergence and growth. The other two items to watch are nitrogen and sulfur. They are both subject to leaching and of course, nitrogen, thru volitization and denitrification. I expect to see some sulfur issues on light, low organic matter soils. We are seeing less atmospheric sulfur deposition as we are cleaning up emissions. Use of thio-sulfate in the planter is helping. If foliar feeding use a sulfate based material. The cheapest way to get sulfur on is by using gypsum. One problem...putting gypsum on sandier soils (where we need sulfur) may depress magnesium levels in those soils so be careful.
I've had some exposure to using Ag Leaders Agfinity, and John Deere's JDLink. It is pretty neat technology. I have done 50% more VR seeding prescriptions this year than last. With that being the case its nice to be able to get the Rx's directly to the monitor. I'm looking forward to collecting planter monitor data and yield data by these two methods.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

From time to time...

From time to time one needs to look back in order to move forward in the right direction. In my case I see things in articles and talking to growers that seems like cutting edge, but in fact it is stuff we were talking about, or doing, or a part of 25-30 years ago. The big difference now is that things are much easier to quantify given the advances in technology. I came across an article on an outfit that is touting its “coaches” and their network. It struck me as funny that this is something new. I’ve been a part of a network like that for over 30 years.
The laboratory running our clients samples is Brookside Laboratories Incorporated. I don’t discuss it much because I’m not sure how much interest there is in knowing the fine details. Well that look back kicked in so just a refresher in case you are curious. The total organization as it is today actually got its start from an observation on a dairy farm in New Knoxville OH. Mr. E.R. Kuck observed his dairy calves were eating the new plaster off the walls in his barn. He came to the conclusion that this was related to the mineral content (calcium and magnesium) of the plaster. He added the minerals to his rations and later to his soils. It was determined in the end that as magnesium was lacking in his soils, it was affecting his herd health.
His findings were published in 1946 in an article “Better Crops with Plant Food” The interest was so over whelming that a giant move to more research in agriculture at the farm level was put into motion. The Laboratory was started in 1951 and the field force of consultants started with gentleman out of the soil conservation service to “recruit” consultants. It was rough going at first as the concept of a private organization to provide something that was being given for free from Land Grant Universities, and the consultants had to support themselves entirely on commission.
Names associated with Brookside in the early days were those such as Senator Robert A. Taft, Dr. William Albrecht, and Dr. Rudolph Ozolins. Today there are over 200 consultants in the Brookside Network that provide services to over 16000 clients 48 states and 17+ countries. Up until January of 2013 the laboratory had been in New Knoxville OH at the same physical location. Today a brand new state of the art laboratory is located in New Breman OH. The field force of consultants both in agriculture and turf provide consulting services on millions of acres and 1000’s of golf courses and sports fields.
The experience of these consultants is SHARED every year at our annual conference, which has been going for 62 years straight. That shared knowledge is passed directly to our clients in the form of sound recommendations based on science and observations from across the country. We strive to keep informed on technology, markets, on farm innovations, fertility trends, tillage practices that improve soil quality and structure, fertilizers that work to improve the profitability of your farms. We also pride ourselves on our “INDEPENDENCE”. When you are involved in product sales, your focus becomes too narrow. There is so much more to crop production than the nutrients that are applied (remember…Chemical, Physical, and Biological). We want to keep focusing on all that fall within our control and scope. And today, “PROFITABILITY”, in a far more global economy, and “SUSTAINABILITY”, in an ever increasing regulatory intrusion into our operations is paramount to decision making.
Our network of consultants is there for our clients to tap into. If one of us does not have an answer to a question they have, maybe one of the other guys does.
Can you get data from other labs…of course. Is it good? There are a lot of good labs out there. I use Brookside because I believe it is the best in the business and I know the people who run it on a personal level as do all affiliated consultants.
The Brookside organization is unique. I don’t work for the Lab. It is its own entity. I am a customer of the lab. The Consultants organization is separate but connected thru the Lab. It’s a screwy setup and unfortunately one of the best kept secrets in agriculture. For the most part it provides services to consultants and universities only. The business model by todays standards, is ridiculous, but somehow it works.
This year we are rolling out a new test for soil quality. This summer will be a year of collecting data for our clients and for the entire consultant’s organization as we compile numbers and continue to calibrate this test. Its potential is mind boggling. It will not replace the regular soil tests but may give explanations that the regular test numbers do not give us. Get ready for terms like “carbon burst” C:N ratios, Solvita, soil respiration. This is not a test to be run every year on every sample zone, it’s too expensive for that right now. However I have the feeling that one benefit of this test may turn out to be the key to variable rate nitrogen which could be huge. Brookside is one of only 3 labs in the country that are set up to run this test.

Although they may not see it or think about it, there is quite a bit that goes into providing the service and the recommendations our clients get. A lot of it very new….and some things more than 60 years old that still apply.