Friday, July 25, 2014

I Bent My Brand New Blade!

I keep a woodpile near the hog barn where I unload firewood from various places.  It's coming from the Greene Road farm the last two years because it was so overgrown.  Taking out a quarter mile each of two fence rows made quite a pile over there.  We keep cutting it up and hauling it to that woodpile when we take time to do that.

I put 3 brand new and expensive blades on the DX-24E early this spring.  I had it cutting perfectly.  I needed it too because I've cut as much grass as I ever have here on Martinsville Road.  Every three days, I better be out there mowing again or I can't keep the 5 acre farmstead looking nice.  This is a beautiful place and I like to keep it mowed up.

I had been careful around the woodpile as to not hit any firewood.  I finally got the pile cleaned up and decided it was save to mow the weeds where the pile had been.  Big mistake!  Somehow I dislodged a strip of oak hardwood and it wedged a blade against the deck.  It took me nearly  a week of pounding and prodding that piece out!  I know, I am getting old but I didn't want to do more damage than I had to.

It was time for Tommy and Zach to come back through to Arizona from New York so I saved it for them.  They helped me pound a little harder.  Zach and I was prying up on the whole deck and mower and we rocked the tractor so hard it looked like we were going to roll it on its side.  Tommy burst out laughing and we couldn't work for several minutes.

We did get the piece out and I could not find the socket that fit the head.  1 1/4 was too big and 1 1/8 was too small.  I could not find 1 1/16 or Metric to fit it.  I went to the Equipment Superstore and  got what I thought was the right blade.  I still didn't have the right socket so  I borrowed one the next day and got the blade off.  Sure enough, they gave me the wrong blade.  That's happened two times in ten years!  Remember what you teach, Ed, RTB!  READ THE BOOK!

LuAnn came home that afternoon and texted Tommy, "mower is fixed and the lawn looks beautiful."


I would have rather been out joy riding our farm on the Mule!

Ed Winkle

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Crop Report

Yesterday the phone rang all day.  People wanted to know what I've seen around here.  Here is a summary of my crop report.

Corn has looked fantastic.  Lots of fields have that full, level pollen top across the field.  The only problem is in the drowned out spots and that varies greatly from county to county and region to region. Some counties will be up to near record high yields or may set new ones, but will have to factor in the drowned out areas. It’s just a great-looking crop.

Although there is some leaf disease, because of the commodity price, people aren’t spraying fungicides or adding much cost to their crop like they normally would consider doing. Insects haven’t been bad. We had some earworms in the sweet corn, which is an indicator that we will see them in the field corn.
“Soybeans are all over the board. Planting date was critical. If you planted in April, you’ve got pretty good beans. If you planted in May, you’ve got average beans. Most of the beans in southern Ohio were planted in June or July and they will be below average. Anything planted after June 4 is short, water-damaged, and lagging behind.

“Resistant weeds are a real problem in the soybeans, whether it’s Roundup Ready or non-GMO. Liberty Link is the only thing that seems to be controlling the weeds. The acres I have been into or scouted completely look fairly clean but there are resistant weeds in every one of them. I can’t say that there’s a 100% clean field anywhere. Common and giant ragweed have been difficult to control. Lambsquarters have been an issue in a few fields. Anyone who didn’t have a marestail program is going to pay the price. These weeds are showing resistance to 2 or 3 modes of action. We have a lot of acres of beans, but they just aren’t good beans overall.”

How do things look in your neck of the woods?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Next Five Years In Ag

"The leaders of giant corporations have to have great vision to be able to lead these companies in the right direction.

If you could talk with the president of Monsanto or DuPont, what would you ask him, specifically about the next 5 years?

I need to come up with something intelligent, they don't want any venting/bitching/whining.

Can some of you guys help me out?"

I thought this was a well thought out reply:

"The OP's question has more facets than a diamond.
The big ag companies are fighting a many headed monster (along with us) of a Niagara Falls of regulations coming out of state and federal governments.
They are also being demonized over GMO crops, pesticides, herbicides, etc. etc.
Their customer base is us and we are changing rapidly and radically.

The small family farmer is dwindling and is being replaced by larger operators (our local BTO's - the 6000 to 40000 acre guys).

The BTO is easier to deal with when he replaces a dozens of pig headed farmers. But he also is a bigger customer and it hurts more when they lose him to the competition.

 While the BTO is being replaced by the medium size corporation that is more vertically integrated - such as owning the local elevator and the machinery dealerships, etc. These guys have real clout and the ag corporations dealing with them have to sharpen their pencils to a fine point to get the business.

Where I see this going is where it has already gone in a few select markets such as Pineapple where a few corporations own most of the business from the land to processing to shipping to the can on the supermarket shelf - think DOLE, etc.

We have that locally where a single family of 3 brothers went from general farming 30 years ago, then added on growing pickles for a local pickle plant, then to doing business with a national pickle company, then got into fermenting tanks and shipping the fermented pickles to the national company, and now have an integrated operation from growing to fermenting to processing to canning and finally to marketing their pickles to buyers who put their own labels on the cans.

I see greater integration of grain farming coming here in NA where corporations will own large tracts of farming land and operate like a business as opposed to the family farm. You will hire on as the janitor sweeping the shop and move up through the ranks - loading trucks, cleaning machines, running the grain wagon tractor, then tillage, then combining, then supervision, etc. etc. No different than a factory.

The losers in the end will be the family farms - who cannot acquire the capital to expand from a few hundreds of acres, to thousands of acres, to tens of thousands of acres, to owning the storage and shipping and marketing facilities for their grain."

DuPont did call me today.  We had a very good chat and they took good notes, they repeated the gist of what I thought.

What will we see in agriculture in the next five years?

Ed Winkle

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cold Winters

"Ten days ago, the sun was quite active and peppered with several large spots. Now the sun has gone quiet and it is nearly completely blank. It appears that the solar maximum phase for solar cycle 24 may have been reached and it is not very impressive.

It looks as if this solar cycle is “double-peaked” (see below) which is not all that uncommon; however, it is somewhat rare that the second peak in sunspot number during the solar max phase is larger than the first. In fact, this solar cycle continues to rank among the weakest on record which continues the recent trend for increasingly weaker cycles.

The current predicted and observed size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle since Cycle 14 which had a maximum of 64.2 in February of 1906. Going back to 1755, there have been only a few solar cycles in the previous 23 that have had a lower number of sunspots during its maximum phase. For this reason, many solar researchers are calling this current solar maximum a “mini-max”.

Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009. In fact, in 2008 and 2009, there were almost no sunspots, a very unusual situation during a solar minimum phase that had not happened for almost a century."

I was hoping this winter would be warmer than last, like we discussed in an earlier article this year.  It still could be and I hope it is.  If you believe in the effect solar cycles have on weather, then the outlook in our lifetime is not so good!  Not good unless you enjoy cold winters, that is!

At my age I still like the four seasons but I am not crazy about cold winters, especially if they are long like this year was.  This past winter started reminding me of 1977 and 1978!  Those were the hardest winters of my lifetime and the weather definitely affected my activities.

At this point in my life I have a choice.  I can get away part of the winter if not all of it and we just may do that.

Ed Winkle

Monday, July 21, 2014


"War, famine, mass extinctions and devastating plagues - all of these are coming unless some kind of miraculous solution is found to the world's rapidly growing water crisis.  By the year 2030, the global demand for water will exceed the global supply of water by an astounding 40 percent according to one very disturbing U.S. government report.  As you read this article, lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers are steadily drying up all over the planet. 

The lack of global water could potentially be enough to bring about a worldwide economic collapse all by itself if nothing is done because no society can function without water.  Just try to live a single day without using any water some time.  You will quickly realize how difficult it is.  Fresh water is the single most important natural resource on the planet, and we are very rapidly running out of it.  The following are 25 shocking facts about the Earth's dwindling water resources that everyone should know...

#1 Right now, 1.6 billion people live in areas of the world that are facing "absolute water scarcity".
#2 Global water use has quadrupled over the past 100 years and continues to rise rapidly.
#3 One recent study found that a third of all global corn crops are facing "water stress".
#4 A child dies from a water-related disease every 15 seconds.
#5 By 2025, two-thirds of the population of Earth will "be living under water stressed conditions".
#6 Due to a lack of water, Chinese food imports now require more land than the entire state of California.
#7 At this point, the amount of water that China imports is already greater than the amount of oil that the United States imports.
#8 Approximately 80 percent of the major rivers in China have become so polluted that they no longer support any aquatic life at all.
#9 The Great Lakes hold about 21 percent of the total supply of fresh water in the entire world, but Barack Obama is allowing water from those lakes "to be drained, bottled and shipped to China" at a frightening pace.
#10 It is being projected that India will essentially "run out of water" by the year 2050.
 LuAnn flew over the Everglades last weekend and was shocked at all the dried up holes.  In January, we could not understand why there was not more concern about the scarcity of water in Southwest.
Google the phrase "water crisis" and you get over 180 million results!
What do you think, readers?
Ed Winkle

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Carbon Dioxide or Oxygen?

Do your plants need more CO2 or does your soil need more oxygen?

Soil CO2 respiration should be center-stage in the emerging Soil Health discussion, according to Brinton who addressed the recent Soil Renaissance gathering in Oklahoma City. He showed early data from the Swedish soil ecologist LundegĂ„rdh who quantified plant CO2 demand due to photosynthesis and contrasted it with soil CO2 respiration. A biologically active soil was able to cover the plant’s carbon budget but depleted soils did not come close. Air CO2 must make up the deficit. Calculations show that wheat at full growth would need to filter 10 cubic acres of air (and corn 38 cubic acres) to support an acre of carbon yield. This means CO2 could be a temporarily limiting nutrient like nitrogen or phosphorus,- but nobody thinks of it that way.

While many assume carbon is simply coming from the air Brinton stressed that “we’re overlooking the role that healthy soil respiration plays in directly sustaining plants with sufficient CO2 for photosynthesis – and right where plants need it”. LundegĂ„rdh complained in a 1926 Soil Science article that “unfortunately mineral nutrients are getting all the attention”- still true today. During intense plant canopy development it is possible that biologically depleted soils do not furnish sufficient CO2 from soil efflux for the full crop potential. Combine this with recent evidence that plant nutrient uptake – especially nitrate – comes at a biological CO2 cost, and soil-plant respiration emerges as a vital indicator of a truly productive soil crop system.

 In this way Brinton thinks CO2 respiration may be of central significance in plant productivity, “separate and above” other soil biology or soil health parameters that are being proposed. Brinton developed Solvita as a means to enable more cost-effective measuring of soil CO2. “Now, if we can grow yields by healthier soil-plant CO2 exchanges, that’s a huge benefit all by itself,- but we won’t do it overnight”.

On July 1, 2014  Brinton presented this topic in a SSSA hosted Webinar on Soil CO2 Respiration.  Lots of talk about the greenhouse conditions across the Midwest this summer, but some soils have more oxygen than others.  I am not talking about tile lowering the water table, I am talking about soil containing 50% atmospheric air.  That does not happen near enough.

Take a look at gypsum to increase your air and water movement.  I've written a lot about it and I can see it's advantages.  Here, it is the cheapest two nutrients a farmer can buy, calcium and sulfur.

Six dollars a ton picked up at the plant, what a deal!

The straw is so heavy in today's picture, we are going to have to discuss how to break this straw down.

Ed Winkle

Monday, July 14, 2014

Boron Toxicity In Wheat

"Australian scientists have identified the genes in wheat that control tolerance to a significant yield-limiting soil condition found around the globe – boron toxicity.

Published in the journal Nature today, the identification of boron tolerance genes in wheat DNA is expected to help plant breeders more rapidly advance new varieties for increased wheat yields to help feed the growing world population.

The researchers, from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide's Waite campus within the University's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, say that in soils where boron toxicity is reducing yields, genetic improvement of crops is the only effective strategy to address the problem.

"About 35% of the world's seven billion people depend on wheat for survival," says project leader Tim Sutton, Ph.D. "However productivity is limited by many factors such as drought, salinity and subsoil constraints including boron toxicity.

"In southern Australia more than 30% of soils in grain-growing regions have too high levels of boron. It's also a global problem, particularly in drier grain-growing environments. Boron tolerant lines of wheat, however, can maintain good root growth in boron toxic soils whereas intolerant lines will have stunted roots.

"Our identification of the genes and their variants responsible for this adaptation to boron toxicity means that we now have molecular markers that can be used in breeding programs to select lines for boron tolerance with 100% accuracy."

Sutton says wheat has been difficult to work with in genomics. The wheat genome is very large, with about six times the number of genes as humans. This complexity has meant that genes controlling yield and adaptation to environmental stresses have remained extremely challenging to identify.

"Advances in molecular biology and genetics technologies of the past few years, coupled with the extensive collections of wheat genetic material available around the world, have paved the way for a new era in the analysis of complex genomes such as wheat," he said.

In this study, the researchers tracked these specific boron tolerance genes from wild wheats grown by the world's earliest farmers in the Mediterranean region, through wheat lines brought into Australia more than a century ago, to current day Australian commercial varieties."

I learned about boron and other micronutrients as a county extension agent.  I knew Boron was an important micronutrient as a child but I never learned its importance, even today.  Twenty Mule Team Laundry detergent works very well and someone calculated that the 40 ounce box has about a half pound actual boron in it.  Two boxes could treat an acre for an actual pound!

Maybe this is why Ohio Certified Lion wheat responded for me so well.  Perhaps it is more boron tolerant.  Our soils are very deficient in boron and the University of Kentucky was the first to recommend an actual pound per acre on alfalfa.

Ed Winkle