Archive | November 2011

Farmers and technology

If you think farmers don’t use technology, think again.

According to research done by Successful Farming magazine, 94 percent of farmers own a cell phone or a smart phone, compare with 83 percent of the general public.

Farmers are using technology to get ahead in their business. Successful Farming says that beyond calling, farmers use their cell phones for “sending/receiving email; checking weather; news, and markets; and text messaging family and employees.”

According to a recent survey, more than 70 percent of farmers have agriculture related information on their cell phones. Photo by Successful Farming magazine.

The survey says that:

• 94 percent of respondents have a cell phone

• 46 percent use their cell phone to send or receive email and access the Internet

• 33 percent use their mobile phone to access the Internet daily

• 34 percent use their mobile phone to access the Internet as much as they use other devices.

• 70.2 percent of the survey’s respondents say they have agriculture related information on their p hoe and 53.8 percent have GPS/navigation.

A farmer in Minnesota told Successful Farming earlier this year that he sees “potential for the devices to house a wide range of ag applications, including real-time soil sampling and mapping, instant fertilizer analysis, chemical and seed quick conversions, weed identification, a farmer knowledge base, and more.”

Thank a Farmer

Inspired by the video from that appeared in yesterday’s post.

Post-Harvest Update

By Orvin Bontrager

Corn harvest is rapidly winding down in central Nebraska.  An extensive dry period since Sept 1 has allowed the crops to be harvested with little soil compaction.

Soybean yields were good but not great.  The shorter season mid group II’s yielded higher than the longer season late group II to early group III’s.  Soybeans dried down very rapidly.  It was very difficult to harvest in the 12-13% seed moisture range.  Many dropped to 8% moisture from the warm dry winds.  3-4 bu/ac yield losses result from the very dry beans.

Whole field averages of 70 bu per acre were fairly common, but many had higher yield expectations based on the number of pods.  Some soybeans shriveled back in the pods and the 3 bean pods turned to 2 bean pods.  Post emerge fungicides seemed to be hit and miss on payback.

Corn dried much better than expected.  Harvest got off to a late start, but warm dry winds dried the corn fairly well.  Plant health was excellent.  Many fields had a post tassel fungicide applied.  With little rainfall in Sept and Oct, corn leaves stayed very green for the most part.  Late stalk strength was good and stalk rots were minimal where the crop was managed properly with late irrigation water and fungicide applications.

Overall corn yields are off about 10 bu per acre from last year.  Pretassel greensnap hurt many hybrids, some severely.  Areas that had extensive greensnap in 2010 had better corn this year.  The very hot nights stressed the pollinating crop and contributed to poorer yields.  Some hybrids took the stress better than others.  Not giving up on the fields that had broken plants by proper water and fungicide application still produced respectable yields.  Seed corn inbreds and white corn hybrids were hurt the most from pre-tassel breakage.

Apply Anhydrous Ammonia After 2011 Season

By Fred Vocasek

Anhydrous ammonia will be applied across a wide range of conditions this year as producers get the 2012 crop plans underway.  Questions arise about “when to apply” and “how much to apply”.

Anhydrous ammonia enters the soil from the knife orifice as a liquid, then converts quickly to a gas or vapor.  Gaseous ammonia combines rapidly with water, so soil moisture content can be important.  The ammonia molecules migrate outward from the injection point until they contact water and are trapped in the soil.  This forms a kind of pear-shaped “ammonia cylinder” with it’s length along the path of applicator travel (as illustrated below).  The distance the ammonia expands away from the injection point will depend on the nitrogen rate and the amount of water.  Migration distances are greater with high nitrogen rates, with wide injection spacings, in dry soils, and in sandy soils.

As a rule, the ammonia cylinder expands to about 2 to 3 inches away from the injection point in a fine-textured soil with good moisture when applied on 30-inch centers at normal corn nitrogen rates.  The ammonia cylinder radius can double in very dry and/or very sandy soils because of comparatively less soil moisture.  A 6 to 8-inch application depth works well in most situations.

Ammonia losses can be quite high in very wet soils.  These may be very “slabby” when worked- leaving large voids that allow the ammonia vapors to escape to the surface.  If the injection slot doesn’t seal properly and remains open, vaporous ammonia escapes to the soil surface.

White vapor is visible in cases of severe loss, but most vaporous losses are invisible and take place over several hours.  A good rule-of-thumb is “if you can’t smell it, you aren’t losing it”.  One option is to make a short pass with the equipment, wait an hour or two, then come back and take a breath about six to twelve inches above the soil surface.  The odor threshold of ammonia is very low, so even very small losses can smell quite strong.

Another option is to dig some soil from the application depth and squeeze it in your hand.  If it is too dry to make a ball, it is too dry to apply.  Set the applicator deeper, back off the rate, or wait for rain.  If the ball leaves moisture on your palm, it may be too wet to apply.

There is a common myth that soils will only hold about 10 lb of nitrogen for each 1 unit of CEC.  Thus  producers are discouraged from applying anhydrous ammonia to sandy soils which have CEC values of 10 meq/100g or less.  Truth is that in theory a soil could actually hold a maximum of 140 lb N per each unit of CEC.  The application depth, spacing, and soil moisture have more to do with application rate than anything else.

If the field conditions are good for seeding, they are probably good for applying anhydrous ammonia.  Your nose and your clenched fist might be your best tools for knowing when conditions are right.