Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snowmobiling today

I always wanted to snowmobile when I was a kid. Those were rare machines in southwest Ohio in the 50's and 80's.

I never got to ride one until 1999 when I met LuAnn. She lived near Buffalo NY so snowmobiling was their winter fun.

She owned two big touring sleds, her son had a fast 650cc SkiDoo and the youngest had a Polaris. We used to ride all over their part of the country. 100 MPH on snow is pretty crazy! 50 is a nice comfortable speed on the flats for me.

They sold all the sleds when they moved here except for the Polaris. It wasn't worth much in NY so we just kept it.

Now we ride it on those rare days we get enough snow to sled here in southwest Ohio. Today was one of those rare days.

It was awfully cold because it is windy today. But it is always fun to go riding. It is more fun to ride in pairs or groups but we are lucky to have one sled to take turns on and really can't justify any more.

The neighbor kids came over and all got to ride. That kind of makes the farm special with a sled sitting in the machinery shed along side the jet ski and TransAm.

Took me a lifetime to buy a farm and ride a snowmobile but it is worth it. What a fun way to spend a winter day. Sounds like we might get a few more rare days, too!

How was your day?

Ed Winkle

It's almost February!

Where did January go? Mine was spent on record keeping, planning and keeping this house warm! I wrote several articles on those subjects.

February is Ground Hog Day, Valentine's Day, the National Farm Machinery Show and the Conservation Tillage Conference in Ada for some of us in Ohio. It is also the start of Lent this year, the major religious event of the religious year.

I still remember my first farm machinery show. My roomate Bernie at Ohio State, I think it was 1969 said they are having a tractor pull in Freedom Hall! We were burned out studying and wanted a taste of summer so we loaded up my Chevy and headed for Louisville, Kentucky.

That was one of the first indoor pulls and there was no such thing as smoke removers yet. I will never forget the MM U some guy from the midwest had, stripped down so much for the 5,000 pound class he used vice grips to steer the thing! That was overkill of course for weight but sure made for an interesting show.

I remember the big diesels out of Illinois in the heavy class opening the throttle with a huge plume of smoke and then the driver disappeared. We breathed all that carbon and diesel of course and came out with oily faces and black in our nostrils.

Wasn't many years before they built a smoke catcher that sucked the black smoke out of the exhaust pipe into the ceiling and a huge fan blew it out into the atmoshpere. Now we watch the big tube snake behind the sled while the puller tries to conquer the sled running wide open down the track.

The National Farm Machinery Show became the winter standard for midwest farmers to get away in winter and look at new machinery, talk to company rep's and dealers all day then watch the pulls at night. Makes for a very long, tiring but enjoyable week and weekend for thousands of fans!

I remember the 560 alchohol powered Farmall that stood straight up, over-turned smashed the driver into the track. The guy had a near-death experience but was revived and never came back to the show. I remember Bob Bussey's hot 88 screaming down the track with the new North Carolina owner, got a real bad wheel hop and split into three pieces on the track. The rear end, belly and engine and front end separated.

I remember the year all the Farmall guys figured out how to get more weight on the front end of the their tractors by taking off the heavy cast iron rear end cover and replacing it with steel or aluminum. Trouble was that left the gears unprotected from rear end vibration and they hauled off every puller with all kinds of rear end problems and grease all over the track.

Don Nolan won the heavy weight class for years with his G-1000 MM running on gasoline instead of alcohol because injection wasn't perfected yet. Dave Stangle proved that by blowing parts all over the track many times with his Solid Junk G-1000 MM trying to carburate alcholol inside a building. That was the Harriott-Perry tractor of Perry pulling transmission fame today.

That is some of my quick memories of the National Farm Machinery Show.

Have any you would like to share?

Stay warm,

Ed Winkle

Friday, January 30, 2009

What Worked in 2008

I have been asked many times what worked well last year. I made a list and look forward to your email and comments!

Old technology worked best in these parts!

Conventional soybeans, conventional herbicides, conventional corn.

The best new technology we have seen was 32 bu more no till corn after radishes with many farmers reporting 10-40 bushel increases.

8 and 10 bu more no till soybeans after annual ryegrass or radishes. Soybean cyst nematode and weed populations were reduced.

The new soybean inoculants continued to pay great returns on investment, 3-4 bu again this year and some reporting increases over 10 bushels per acre.

Seed treatments paid on early no till soybeans but not on later plantings.

Higher soybean yields came from lower populations if you controlled the weeds.

Seed quality was of utmost importance, some soybean lots really suffered!

Foliar fungicides were all over the board, great returns to no returns. I continue to think they pay in diseased fields and high yield environments.

Good soybean headers and sharp sickle bars paid good dividends as did corn reels and up to date corn heads.

Very few farmers spread the chaff past the width of the header and that still continues to be our number one challenge in harvesting. The narrow bands of residue change soil and pest conditions for years.

Resistant weeds cause great yield losses here, thus the conventional herbicides or combined with RR system is recommended. 10 bushel losses to marestail was reported.

LL beans look exciting, we will grow some for seed in 2009.

Marketing was the big dollar loss or gain this year. Not near enough of us sold beans at $12-16, corn at $7, wheat at $10. We convinced ourselves our crop was sick while we watched prices tumble with oil and stocks.

Farm owned sprayers and spraying with the right pesticide or foliar product paid good dividends.

Combine residue spreading continues to be a failure across the country as we band our residue(yes I said this twice!)

What worked or didnn't work for you?

I am curious to know!


Ed Winkle

2009 NoTill Soybean Strategies

I have been spending much of my time discussing my talk at the NNTC in mid January on no till soybeans.

Over 70% of the US soybean crop is now planted no till yet yields have not risen and even slipped the past few years. Farmers are asking how can I can my yields up and that is a very good question.

Here is an overview of what we discussed:

Let’s break it down into 5 chronological steps.
1. Before planting
2. Planting
3. Before Flower
4. After Flower
5. Maturity

We have very few days left before we start planting so plans should really be in place. Fertilizer, seed, chemicals and equipment should be lined up and ready to go.

Soybeans are planted last not first like corn
Soybeans are often not fertilized and have to scavenge for food after corn
Weeds, RR resistant weeds are a major problem where I live
Equipment, half the no till drills I see have too much wear

Plant more soybeans first or at least earlier
Inoculate the seed
Plant the best seed quality you can find
Planted treated seed
Plant less seed, farmers tend to over seed to overcome the above problems

Before flowering assess your stands and pull tissue tests. See what weeds and insects need to be controlled. Find out how well your fertilizer program worked and add deficient nutrients if possible. Apply your last herbicide as needed.

After flowering yield is set and farmers are hoping for rain. Apply strip trials of fungicide versus insecticide or if you have a high yield situation apply a fungicide to protect that yield. Fungicides won't make a sick crop healthy enough to pay for itself.

At harvest make sure your equipment is top notch and be ready to adjust the combine on the go. Spread the residue past the header(most farmers fail here). Cut at 16% moisture and try to harvest your crop before it goes below 13%(most farmers fail here also).

Take the yield data and store for winter analysis. Build a five year plan to increase yields and efficiencies. This will also improve other crops. The main advantage of GMO soybeans is no herbicide carryover to the next crop. If you can harvest before October 1 here plant a cover crop. Tillage radish is recommended for fields going to corn.

This is my plan. How does it compare to yours?

Ed Winkle

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Manuals for Dummies

I was just reading Machinery Talk and found a thread on operator's and repair manuals. I got to thinking about the file cabinet I have full of manuals.

What makes a good manual? A good manual gives a clear, concise description of the product and its features step-by-step with good illustrations and pictures. A well written trouble shooting section and list of all fluids and capacities is invaluable.

One farmer brought up all the legalese written into manuals to try and support the manufacturer in case of a lawsuit. "Too many laws and too many lawyers" and not enough common sense in this country immediately came to my mind! How much money do we spend on language, converting one language to another, printing one manual for use in several different countries? Press one for English comes to mind. All because we won't enforce the laws we have and make English our common language!

The legal part brings up the local situation where a little village had a real problem with sewage from septic tanks trapped on poorly drained soils. The EPA deemed the situation intolerable after a man wrecked his lawnmower into the effluent, got gangrene and lost his arm.

Now the 500 homes in three communities have been required to hook up to a new sewage plant at over $100 a month forever with three lagoons built on a 50 acre swamp farm! The new line fronts our property but thankfully our house was over the 200 foot limit needed to mandate us into the sewer system. The neighbors are outraged and will never trust the EPA, let alone the government again!

Back to Manuals for Dummies. Have you read yours? Honestly we quickly skim the information, get it running, figure it out for ourselves and only refer to it as needed. Half the time the information you need isn't in there. My filing cabinet sets here full of pretty much useless material.

How about a manual written by a farmer who understands engineering and can actually write in English we can understand? Most of the innovation came from farms anyhow, it was only tested in the lab or the university. You have people who never farmed a day in their life telling farmers how to farm and how to operate the machine they sold them!

Farmers would just LOVE to have the engineers who design some of this stuff on their backs in the "mud, the blood and the beer" repairing some of this junk they design! Some farmers wondered why they started tractor pulling and combine demolition derbies, it seems to go against preservation.

I tell them I like to see the limits of the machine and the demolitions have moved a lot of our unused old machines out of the fence row onto the track! Talk about hands-on learning now, this is the epitome of machine meeting man!

This country sorely lacks common sense. Maybe life is too complex for all of us to understand. A well written manual and all of us speaking the same language here would really help!

Have a great day! The weather is frightful in the Midwest and I hope you aren't reading this powered by a generator!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have always liked firewood. It is good excercise, wonderful heat and we never seem to keep our fencerows trimmed in southern Ohio since coal and fuel oil came along!

I remember dad getting our new house in 1958, swearing to never cut another piece of firewood. I imagine he and cut and split more than any of us have ever seen.

That changed in the 70's after the oil embargo and his cheap dutch son put in a Vermont Castings woodstove to heat his family's home. Dad helped me cut wood on the farm in Sardinia and I hauled it to Fayetteville to burn.

This year I have burned more wood at this point than I did in 77-78, the years of record cold and the Blizzard. I think I have went through 7 big pick-up loads, 100 5 gallon buckets of scrap wood and more.

Firewood is more popular this year too thanks to the economy. I haven't seen so many ads of wood for sale since '78 either.

We can't move ash any longer across some county lines risking a $5000 fine of spreading the Emerald Ash Borer. That hasn't stopped the movement of other species.

Oak is my favorite and I like locust, hedge, apple and other wood. Apple is good in the fireplace. My friend in Finland thinks it is the key to romance.

Wood heats you more than once. It is getting to the time of the year I am tired of dealing with it and anxious for spring to come.

But late this summer, you will probably find me getting more ready to burn next winter.

I like wood, I like firewood burning. We have plenty of it in these parts to keep us warm and let more sunshine into our crops.

Stay warm,

Ed Winkle

One Smart Wife

I am married to one smart wife. LuAnn is one of the smartest people I ever met. We hit it off instantly when we met and just wanted to know more. I couldn't ask for a better mate for life.

We both love our farm forums. For me it's NewAgTalk, for her it's Women in Agriculture. Some of us DH's, that is short for dear husbands like to sneak over there and see what the ladies are talking about. Usually though we try to stay away, that is their space.

She read to me her expose in reply to another farm wife on job lay off's. She never ceases to amaze me even though she is extremely intelligent and perceptive and an English major.

In a response about the Big Three Automakers, lay-offs, and the economy she said "I would like to comment on one of the main reason's that the Big Three is in so much trouble. My non-profit does sub-assembly work for a Class A supplier to two of the Big Three plus Honda and Toyota. At the risk of offending the pro-union folks, the labor overhead for the Big Three due to unrealistic union contracts for both active and retired is $77 per hour. Honda and Toyota's averages $44 per hour.

I remember my parents admonishing us kids to buy American made cars instead of those foreign pieces of junk. I have never owned a foreign made out of loyalty to my country mainly. But I will tell you this, unless those unions make more and deeper concessions, the Big Three will go bankrupt as soon as the govt lets them. The bailout was a mere bandaid where a tournequet was needed. The bailout only delayed the inevitable. The Honda and Toyota plants, as well as their suppliers are virtually union free. They will weather this and when it is all said and done, there will be American made cars (due to the improving value of the dollar) but the companies will be owned by the Japanese.

Until I took this job, I had absolutely NO experience with the auto industry. None. I had no manufacturing experience. I have had to learn a great deal about the industry since our sub-assembly contracts that provide the work component for our participants has been largely automotive. The two suppliers that we work for are Japanese owned. The work ethic is based on a buy in from the top down. The cleanliness of the facilities is second to none. Their view of their environmental responsibiltiy is clear and well-demonstrated through action. I have a whole new respect for Japanese auto companies. It is very likely that, even if the Big Three (or One or Two) is still in existence when I need to buy a vehicle, I will buy a Honda.

With that said, regarding the question about spending habits and consumer attitudes, not much will change. I charge everything and pay it off each month. That way I take advantage of my points earned and I don't have to carry cash. We have always been fairly conservative about our spending, buying pretty much only what we need but buying the absolute best we can afford when we do make a major purchase. I hate to buy junk. I never have been a WalMart (or any other big box retailer) fan due to how they have changed the landscape of so many small towns and villages when they came in and drove out small family owned businesses. We would rather spend our money locally and in privately owned businesses even if it costs a bit more. You tend to see that attitude around here which is very differnt from the suburban areas where the parking lots of the big stores are always full. Perhaps that is due to lack of choice?

We are very conscious that my job, and that of my son who works in the automotive industry, is more vulnerable than health care or education or public service professionals. However, I am also aware that if the mammoth layoffs continue it is going to strain or drain those sectors. Our local hospitals are in danger of bankruptcy due to the increase in the number of hardship cases from the people who lost health insurance with their jobs. The towns and villages are laying off across the board including safety related positions due to the decline in tax revenues. And schools are cutting costs any way they can, including teacher layoffs.
I just have one question.....As a business woman, I have to look one to three down the road (anything longer than that is nothing more than wishful thinking), carefully monitoring cash flow. How is it that these towns and cities, school districts and companies, ALL OF A SUDDEN, (since the early fall 08...what? four months ago?) are going bankrupt.

Were they running so close to the edge that they had no cash reserves, leaving them nothing to weather a 6-12 month recession. If that is the case, then they were top-heavy with labor a long time ago. Shame on them. Either they are paying too much to workers or they have too many workers. Labor is pretty much the only variable that you can manipulate to get into our out of a bad situation. My costs for utilities and occupancy are somewhat volitile but carefully managing labor costs can give you wiggle room when a disaster hits. Why weren't they monitoring cash flow and making adjustments way back in early 2007. I don't know about most places but I have to provide my board with an annual budget and cash flow projections along with an analysis of cash reserves....

I can think of numerous cases where labor costs were just out of control. We have a firechief in our small city making over $100, 000! That is absurd. We have three assistant principals, three principals and a few curriculum developers each making over $80,000 in our small rural school district where, a few years ago, the kids were better educated under an administration of one superintendent, three building principals and a committee of teachers who did curriculum development.

We created this mess. It is greed, it is an entitlement attitude, it is unrealistic expectations of young people who don't want to start in a modest home and work up. It is marketing and media that have convinced us that we need $100 jeans and a baby needs a $1000 crib. I have seen this stupidity up close and personal.

It is our politicians....whatever happened to statesmen?(I have been asking this question for years...)

It is our "I want it all and I want it now" attitude, it is our mistaken belief that we are "paying" for an item with our credit card. Notice the subtle marketing maneuver? It is all catching up to us and I sure don't know anything that is going to stop the bleeding.(I told LuAnn a tourniquet wouldn't stop this knife wound cause d by greed of the exec's and unions)

Unfortunately, we did away with our economy that was based on production (sent that all overseas or to Mexico) and we based our economy on service and consumer spending...well guess what folks, when folks are told long enough that the economy is bad, they stop spending, no economy. It used to be that our production-based economy could weather a recession where people tightened their belts but no longer. If we need consumers spending big to get us out of is going to be a long can you spend when you are unemployed and have no money coming in?

Several of my board members are older experienced manufacturing men who are very knowlegeable about the manufacturing sector and our economic relationship to China and other countries. They are telling me don't look for anything to improve until (at a minimum) second Q 2010.

This is all my not-so-humble opinion of what this mess is all about."

On Market Talk, our well-respected poster Senior Citizen says " GM has a negative net worth & some unfunded pensions. If it were an ag enterprise, the banker would have had it on the auction block months ago & any guarantors would be facing $37 billion deficiency judgments & after the auction those judgments would most likely increase a couple hundred billion. GM is DEAD...Chrysler & also FORD...the new environmental changes will insure such & while they might subsist another year on the gov't is over. Even under the so called Govt salvage...a lot of jobs will soon disappear.....part of the waxed toboggan ride I refered to I might add, some board members similar in thought and appearance to the "Lost Patrol" comic strip which used to be in the newspapers."

Doesn't sound too good for the Big Three. Point is, when everyday citizens are smarter than elected officials, CEO's and Union bosses, what can we expect?

We have met the enemy and he is us!

I will focus on my smart wife and my daily problems of balancing our own budget here on the farm.

I wish others would do the same!

Ed Winkle

PS How do you like my picture of the Big Three Automakers? No one is serving as referee!

Healthy Soil

What is healthy soil? Simply any soil you can grow plants in is healthy. Man was never satisfied with that as he could not "populate the earth" as the Bible teaches without getting into the science and art of farming.

I am curious by nature so I started learning early on what makes soils "tick." God left us plenty to grow on in the United States with beautiful glaciated soils to soil that glaciers never touched, refined rock by the ages.

One of my earliest memories is eating soil by the house when the parents were getting ready for the county fair. Oh boy did I get a spanking! Mud caked all over my face and toddler clothes!

Must have been healthy soil is all I can think of! Dad and grandpa were pretty good farmers and manure and crop rotation was the basis of our soil fertility program. Tile and limestone added to that soil health 100 years ago.

I teach and talk and write about healthy soil almost every day. Not many days when I don't think about them. When my soil test shows over 70% calcium, 15% magnesium and 3.5% potassium ion saturation on an ammonium acetate soil test I see and harvest a great response from my soil.

Not much is needed to added because the beneficial soil organisms, I like to call them livestock are healthy and happy and breaking down residue and rock into nutrients all plants need.

My soil test on this new farm is closer to 65% calcium, 20% magnesium and 3.2% potassium which is real good compared to many others I deal with. I keep nudging the calcium and potassium up and the magnesium down. If I had access to cheap gypsum I could accomplish my goal a lot quicker. But I don't, so I just keep adding what I can afford in my quest for healthy soil.

Healthy soil feed healthy plants. Every year I would draw a big circle on the chalboard(now dry erase) with soil, crops, livestock, and man each in relationship with each other to survive. It takes all to make it work! Students still remind me of me teaching those lessons so I hope I did my part.

Most of us are still feeding the plants instead of feeding the soil. You have to set a long range plan to accomplish healthy soil and what you start with has huge implications on the speed of your success.

If you just bought or rented a worn out piece of ground, plowed or excavated to death with little organic matter, you have "a long row to hoe" as grandpa taught. If you have a field that has been rotated and no-tilled you are way ahead of schedule!

Design a sampling plan whether by field, soil type, management zone or grid. Select a lab you can work with, trust, and deal with. I spend a lot of time talking to lab agronomists to accomplish my goals. Build a soil history and keep adjusting it to your budget based on economic and climate conditions.

Once you have planted your crop, tissue test the crop at fruiting time. Pull off the ear leaf on corn, flag leaf on cereal grains and the two newest trifoliates on legumes. Tell the lab exactly what you pulled and its condition. Fill out the form as completely as possible.

This test will show you the relationship between nutrients based on uptake, based on following the soil test and how healthy your soil is. Weather enters in but we can't change that.

The old gardens, orchards and livestock lots still show the advantage of careful nurturing over the years and are higher in organic matter and nutrients than soils that didn't have them.

This is a simple primer on soil health and a place to start this quest on this icy, snowy day(here in southwest Ohio and across much of the country).

I am here to help you start this plan and refine it. My goal is profit for farmers and healthy crops for anyone wishing to improve their results. My background taught me to leave this place better than I found it but I need to make a living while doing it.

It is possible and even profitable!

Ed Winkle

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miserable Monday

Someone at ABC News appropriately called yesterday Miserable Monday. Weather-wise that fits today better but they were talking about more announced job lay-offs yeasterday.

"President Obama said today in his speech on fuel-efficiency standards that layoffs at Caterpillar, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and elsewhere "are not just numbers on a page."

"As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold," he said. "We owe it to each of them and to every single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose."

Obama said he looked forward to signing a stimulus plan "that will put millions of Americans to work."

Well-known companies headquartered in the Netherlands also announced major layoffs today: financial services company ING said it would cut 7,000 jobs while Phillips Electronics plans to cut 6,000. Both companies employ people in the United States."

LuAnn had just set up an agreement with CalMar of WestVaco Companies to run some of their plastic bottle lines at Turning Point Adult Learning Center in Hillsboro. She had come to the conclusion "they are group of really good people there." When she called the production manager yesterday she asked how he was doing. He responded "this is the worst day ever after working 27 years here. We have been told they are closing this plant by the end of December and moving all the lines to Mexico." She was devastated in his behalf. She became depressed and somewhat angry.

I think that about sums up the feelings of hundreds of thousands of citizens who have lost their job this past year. I know economies go up and down and we have been blessed in our family but it really hurts to see your friends and neighbors lose their job.

Neighbor Dave just stopped by. Asked if he could take the family sledding down the hill. Sure thing David, you go have fun! He has plenty of time to do that now that the DHL hub closed in Wilmington and he can't bale hay right now. I don't know how he and all the part time farmers around here will make it but I will give them all the support I can. It could be me but it isn't.

The little red flags in the yards of former AirBorne Express employees who got contracted to DHL is in the thousands. You can't drive down a country road without seeing one, some roads have over ten, some have three or four in one yard.

It's tough times in this part of the country, it's tough times in this country. Anyone not affected by it is pretty lucky! We have been impacted like most people but not nearly as badly as some.

When is Miserable Monday going to stop?

Makes you stop and wonder...

The Badlands of South Dakota would be a good place...

But not today!

Ed Winkle

Snow Day

Can you remember when your mom came in and said Snow Day or school has been called off? I vaguely remember but I do remember it being like Christmas. Lots of snow and being able to stay home was a special day like Christmas!

We have that today in southwest Ohio. The schools are all closed which means two of the boys are at home giving them a day to work around the house and play with their kids. I also remember enjoying that as a teacher. People joke about the teachers wanting the snow day more than the mom's who had to watch the kids and change their routine.

So today the new washing machine probably isn't coming, got to call off the meeting with the crop insurance agent and local sales agronomist and back to the paperwork! Add the burden of keeping the stoves going and breaking in the new puppy Sable, it doesn't have its magical connotation as it did when I was a kid!

The guys who have to get their January grain contracts filled and delivered sure aren't enjoying this snow day, either! Trying to start machinery and clean drives in this weather makes you happy if you don't have to and dread it, at least a little, if you do!

I bet Kroger's was busy last night, I know Brown's and Marathon were as people were picking up necessities to prepare for the Winter Storm Advisory they posted all day yesterday. They is NOAA and they have a station right up the road on SR 138 beside the now defunct DHL hub.

Wish I had gotten another load of wood in the pickup yesterday but was satisfied with a dental checkup, haircut and all of the apple trees cleaned up after Hurricane Ike hit September 15. The wreckage of storms seems to hang on a long time and now you wonder what all I will have to repair after this one?

This one is just a snow and will melt away. A wind storm leaves its wreakage a lot longer. We just got all the barn doors and roofs repaired from the last one on.

That storm blew so much corn down farmers who plant RR corn and RR beans are trying to figure out how they will handle RR volunteer corn in their RR beans. Throw in the increased volume of conventional soybeans this year and you have another pickle to deal with!

Oh, it will all work out in the wash. I will be glad when we can wash clothes again and it doesn't look like that will happen today! Funny how we take routine for granted and have to rethink what we do when we have a Snow Day!

Have fun trying to deal with it if you do, good day to fire up the old snowmobile and go riding across the fields! Ooops, I wonder what all has to be done to get that thing running too!

Have a great day,

Ed Winkle

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tillage Radish

My dentist is an avid deer hunter and I was telling him this morning about our working with radish. When I told him how the deer have been grazing them he was all ears!

I learned about radish cover crops from Leon Bird and Steve Groff a few years ago. When Steve told me farmers were seeing 10-40 bushels more no-till corn after radishes I was all ears too!

Immeadiately I got some seed and started planting them myself. What's the catch? Cover crops need to be planted around Labor Day here and many years we haven't even started harvesting by then. Hmmm, big problem.

Do you plant crops that harvest in summer like wheat or barley? Sure, so start there! We usually plant double crop soybeans especially when they are $10 so I have another problem.

Can we fly them on like the old Soil and Water fly-on program we had years ago? Sure, but you know you have to over-seed whenever you broadcast seed on the ground, right?

OK, this is too big of a pain, how can I possibly plant a cover crop at the proper time? After wheat or barley is going to be the best answer for me or fly-on or broadcast seed into standing beans and possibly corn.

Cover crops have to be inexpensive to get farmers to adapt them so what is the cost? Another problem, those seeds are $2.50 a pound but you only need 8-10 pounds drilled but you better double that for broadcast.

Enter in Dave Brandt, cover crop "expert" from Lancaster, Ohio. Dave was selected as one of the three Responsible Nutrient recipients at the 17th annual National NoTillage Conference in Indianapolis this year. Dave was smart enough to use a 15 inch row no-till corn planter with splitter units to dial down his radish to one pound per acre in one row and a couple of pounds of Austrian winter peas in the other.

Dave was also smart enough to get Rafiq Islam from Ohio State to sample the soil and cover crop to get some data why these work so well. He announced at the conference they found 650 lbs of N, 22 lbs of P and 250 lbs of K in those samples plus sulfur, calcium and other nutrients crops need! Those numbers are staggering! Now my ears are really perky!

So maybe I need more cash crop cereals to harvest in summer then plant the cover crop for the next no-till crop. OK, now this is starting to make sense. I understand this huge amount of nutrients is not going to be released when the cover dies but by the time the corn tassels we should have a pretty good release! And if not, we are still building the soil for next year!

Have I PERKED your interest yet? Need more answers? There will be 2 days of discussion at the annual Conservation Tillage Conference at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio February 26-27 with a special all day seminar on the science of cover crops on Wednesday, February 25.

Maybe I will see you there!


Sunday, January 25, 2009


Matthew Gray from New Zealand was ribbing me about the washing machines last night. He said I should give up the subject or his lady friend might start wanting a new one. Bottom line there are so many choices we haven't picked one out yet. I hope LuAnn can do that Monday.

I got to thinking about my grandmother Mabel Gray. I never knew her very well but I remember her. She was mom's mom. At least I did know her, I never met my grandfather Samuel Carrington as he passed away before I was born. The Gray's usually originate from Scotland and the Carrington's from Ireland.

My surname Winkle seems to come from Winckel from the Black Forest area of Germany. I do know I felt a strong connection to my roots when Rich Werner and I road through there on the train to Strasbourg France to look up the Werner family history. That was in February 1993, our final seminar of LEAD Class IV at Ohio State University.

When I got woke up in the hotel there I looked up my name in the telephone book and there was two full pages of Charles Edward Winkle's! I knew of only one back in the states! I told Rich our family must have gotten kicked out of Germany because the rest stayed here!

Grandpa was George Winkle and there were lots of George's in the family. Issac was grandpa's dad and Levi was one of his many brothers. They had big families of course in those days to do the farming. Lots of Winkle families had 15 children. There was even a town of Winkle here but it was renamed to East Danville. Peter and Christina Winkle settled around Sugar Tree ridge and most of the Winkle's and Kier's are buried in that area.

Dad's mother was Mamie Kier. Kier is very Dutch like Uetrecht or Van Zielst. I have good friends in both those families. I have met many Kiers in this region and there is a Kier Road south of me and Winkle Road is near Sardinia.

I never got into geneology but have lots of family records stored away thanks to dad's family. Roma Jane Mercer did a lot of the history on the Kier and Winkle side of our families.

We bought a place on Canada Road in 1983. It had a Sears and Roebuck kit house on it, the first pre-fab house in American. They must have taken the horses and wagons to the Midland City railroad station and hauled all those pieces to the building site. It was a basic 24 by 24 house with two stories, an option in those days. The stairway and built in China cabinet was beautiful for a kit house. Maybe they had a craftsman build that, I never really knew. The house was added onto the back and made a good place to raise the kids out in the country.

The next door neighbor was Merlin Winkle and he was a farmer, too. I went to meet him and asked him if we could be related. He guffawed and chuckled and said "I doubt that." I got to know Merlin and Dot quite well and one day he asked me if I was interested in attending the Winkle reunion. I said yes and we went one Sunday afternoon.

Turned out that his Grandpa and dad's grandpa were brothers, Isaac and Levi! When we got home he and Dottie took me upstairs to see Kenneth's room, left just like it was when he was a child. They showed me his picture and I gasped. It looked so much like my own picture at the same age it was like looking at myself. Kenneth had died of childhood diseases that summer and was confined to a wheelchair most of his short life.

There are lots of jokes out in the country about not talking about family because you are probably related to them! I found that to be quite true in my own experience.

That is a little family history of me. I always said I was a 4 way cross between German, Dutch, Scotch and Irish. Not far from true! I am sure you have considered your family history too. It makes for good research for some people. Geneology is a key part of who we are. We learned that in science with genetics and environment making us who we are.

Whoever you are and whatever your history is I trust it is good and you have made the best from it. I know I have tried!

Have another Blessed Sabbath,

Ed Winkle

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clothes Washer Died...

I knew it would happen. As soon as we start talking about clothes washers on Machinery Talk ours dies.

It has been a good one though. Always owned Kenmore by Sears and got great service. Need one right now so not sure we will go to the city to get another one.

We really would like front loading stackables for our little utility room or dirt room some call them on the farm. It has a door to the side porch and a door from the hallway near the kitchen.

The dryer is so close to the toilet that, well you get the picture. The room is tall in this old house and pretty small dimension wise.

Don't you just dread it when an important machine goes down? The washing machine keeps the clothes clean but planter provides the income! I know that is comparing apples to oranges but farmers do both. I just happen to have a tractor down at the same time. At least it isn't a planter down at planting time!

The stackables would be like a new planter or drill on this farm. It isn't in the budget. The old machine lasted ove 10 years with no repairs and I paid $400 for it for the boys while they were in college on Neil Avenue. When they graduated, it came home to replace the old Kenmore that died at Rhude Road.

It came here with us in 2004 so we got another 5 years out of it. I wish it had a use meter on it like tractors and automobiles have, it would be astronomical in number of uses.

LuAnn is doing her research on it right now and there seem to be some "bargains" out there right now in January in a record slow economy. There is a local store that charges more but gives good service but they don't handle Kenmore of course.

We do like to keep our money invested locally, especially in these challenging times. Our community needs our money spent where it is earned. That is key to viable local farm communities but that is a whole different topic maybe we can touch on some other time.

Right now we need to find the right machine for us in our empty nest years. About the time I say that though and something will change in the family, too! We are fortunate to have all six kids living within 80 miles of us though we can see where three of them may have to consider moving farther away to advance in their careers.

More research is needed to make the mud room work better while handling the washing, drying and folding of clothes.

We would rather be looking at seed catalogs to plan the garden this year!

Have a blessed weekend while we continue to think about our friends and family in need. The community will be tuned to 60 Minutes tomorrow night when they cover the impact of DHL closing their large hub in our county seat at Wilmington.

Ed Winkle

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crop Insurance,, Nemesis or Friend?

I never bought crop insurance until 2004. Crop insurance was started in the United States in 1938, The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation or FCIC. It remained an experiment until 1979 when one insurance product covering 12 crops was offered to farmers. In 1980 new federal legislation expanded the program beyond an experiment to cover many crops under many circustances.

In 2004 my operation expanded to the point I didn't want to bear all the risk by myself. Financiers often require crop insurance for an operating loan and put a lien on the crop until it is paid.

Some smart friends explained to me the GRIP or Group Risk Income Program which I signed up for. It paid nice dividends due to group yield versus price for me in 2004 and 2005 but was expensive. In 2006 and 2007 I received no payments for my premiums which added to my expenses without adding income. At an investment of $30-40 per acre, the cost of many premiums is often the difference from profit and loss on a crop.

Some farmers never participated in the program and some still do not today. The GRIP program brought in a lot of new customers trying to hedge their risk on volatile price swings that have occured during the recent marketing years.

Writing crop insurance has become very profitable for the agents receiving up to 16% of the premiums paid that they sold. Crop insurance is a "hot topic" in crop country this time of the year.

I ventured over to Williamsport, Ohio this morning to hear the explanation by Cargill and their crop insurance partners RUA out of Minnesota. I viewed a good presentation and met some farmers and agribusinessmen new to me in the industry.

The program is so complex now to cover so many situations that it is full of acronyms. The program is based on the original APH or Actual Producton History as the program started to just protect against low, unprofitable yields. CAT or catestrophic insurance was added for potentially extreme losses.

The basic group layout looks like this:



It is easier to look at this complex program by reading the link in this sentence. My point isn't to explain the program or which one I will choose but to point out a complex decision to be made by farmers by the cutoff date of March 15. Since this date falls on Sunday this year we have until March 16 to sign up for a crop insurance program.

Add this to the myriad of decisions being made right now selling last years crop, pricing new crop, finishing budgets, filing taxes, pricing and buying inputs, whew! The farmer is busy doing what some farmers love and most farmers hate and that is farm business management!

The decision whether to buy crop insurance or not is easy or mandatory for some but not for others. Once you buy it you still have decisions to make!

Crop insurance is a good tool for risk management when a farmer learns to leverage is risk with the right program. Choosing that right program is no easy task once you decide you do need risk coverage. Agents tend to specialize in one type or another as that is what they are use to writing and may fit the need of a majority of their clients.

I don't know which product I will choose this year but I do know it is another big decision I have to make before March 15.

A farmers work is never done! The financial aspect has become a huge time and business management issue for many farmers.

I encourage comments on this complex issue and look forward to what you have to share.

Until next time, have a good day!

Ed Winkle

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Sun is Shining

The sun is shining, the temperature is up, Sable is getting used to her new home and things are good. We are blessed.

Two children are back to work after medical procedures and the three new grandchildren are growing well. I can't wait to meet them this summer but satisfied just watching them grow with their mothers right now. Grand nephew is expected too so it looks to be an exciting year!

Today is Right to Life day. I was listening to the rally in our nation's capital via listen live feature. That announcer named Doug on EWTN who sounds like Bill O'Reilly was doing a good job and I heard from some of my friend's families being interviewed. They are from one our top agricultural counties, Mercer County Ohio, home of many good German Catholic farmers and descendants.

Hard to believe that 40,000 lives are snuffed out each day "legally" in our country thanks to a bill passed in my youth in the 60's. The millions of souls sent back to heaven in man's time is astronomical and unbelieveable. Yet we recall the terrible Halocaust and war and disaster and even accidents down the road.

We wonder why we have so many problems when the cause is us. America needs a good look in the mirror and I think the picture isn't going to be pretty.

Enough of the negativity, that stuff gets me down. Hard to concentrate on farming and business though when there is so much more important things going on.

A poster on admitted he has a problem with depression and lots of farmers came out of the woodwork to share, to help and give hope. I immeadiately thought about all the farmers I know of who took their own lives because they just couldn't handle life anymore.

You can't run a business, you can't be sociable, you are miserable to be around, you can't even run your own life properly if you are depressed. I have seen it in most families and how they try to struggle with it. The family can struggle, the partners can leave but no one can help the depressed person until they seek to help themselves.

I have referred more than one good friend or stranger for medical help and I will do it again. I guess we can't talk business until we can talk on the same page. Sick people can't do that and depression is a treatable illness. Get Help!

See, even I couldn't change the subject. When one is hurting, caring people can't get it off their mind, just like the one hurting. Well, at least I can't.

Our prayer list is huge, just from NewAgTalk alone. I have family with disease, friends and family with problems, the list goes on and on.

If you are having these problems, my prayers are with you.

The sun is so bright right now I can't help but smile.

Have a better one,

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inoculate Your Soybeans

One thing grandpa taught dad was to inoculate legumes. In those days it was mostly clover as the main legume on the farm. We planted our first soybeans in the 70's so the tradition of inoculation went right on.

Then scientists thought that rhizobia bacteria lived in the soil long enough that it wouldn't pay to inoculate once soybeans had been planted and inoculated. The bacteria would live on.

That notion spread until 1995 when Dr. David Kuykendall was working on a sugar beet project for USDA in Beltsville, Maryland looking at soil bacteria. In his search for other organisms he discovered superior strains that competed for a place to live in the symbiotic relationship of soybean roots.

This strain was sold to Urbana Laboratories in St. Joseph, Missouri. My friend Leon Bird saw the product at a seed meeting and brought it to Ohio. I got some from him and started testing it. I always got a response of 2 bushels or better and up to 7-8 bushels on some fields.

Another friend planted wheat into his soybean field where he had tested the product by filling half the drill with seed and inoculant and the other half untreated. The crop visibly showed the extra nitrogen all summer and into the combine but when he planted the wheat, it still showed the extra nitrogen produced. The wheat was dark green and taller where he had treated the soybeans and less green and shorter where he hadn't. We don't like striped fields but this one proved the power of the inoculation.

Years went by as farmers learned about the product and the company was sold to Becker Underwood. Leon always stayed in contact with Dr. Kuykendall and asked him if he had any other strains. He said "yes, I have some with more potential than the first."

They came up with 3 superior strains in one product and a new company was formed, Advanced Biological Marketing. A local farm boy, Dan Custis did all the leg work and became president of the company. They provide new, proven biological materials to wholesalers, retailers and direct to farmers but the new America's Best Inoculant was and is the mainstay product.

The old peat moss based forms called humus inoculant still have a place but take time to inoculate the seed. Liquid formulations were introduced and rapidly grew in sales as farmers learned their advantage. Many farmers treat their own seed with chemical seed treatment with liquid inoculant while bulk filling drills and planters.

A polymer was found that would make it even easier to treat the seed and extend the life of the living bacteria. Now a farmer can apply his own or the seed treater or source of soybean seed can pre-inoculate the seed, making it easy to inoculate soybeans.

Dr. Jim Beuerlein at Ohio State University was initially asked to test the famous "USDA strain" discovered by Dr. Kuykendahl. Dr. Beuerlein now has the most extensive soybean inoculant test data in the U.S. His results show very positive results over the years and when he speaks to farmers he always recommends inoculants.

Farmers easily on their investment so it is considered a standard practice again, just like when grandpa inoculated clover 100 years ago.

Isn't it amazing that what comes around goes around?

Ed Winkle

The Famous T-22

I just answered a call from a farmer in Ontario who reads NAT. NAT stands for NewAgTalk, not the National Ag Talk he quoted. He wanted to know my thoughts on T-22 for his crop of Spanish onions.

I read about this discovery around 1995. I contacted my seedsman and he said he had heard of it too and wondered if it would help control our disease problems in crops.

Long story short, we took off for Geneva, New York to see what this was all about. We met with Dr. Gary Harman, then a research scientist at Cornell University and he had been trying to cross beneficial fungi in the lab to get a superior strain that could be used in crops.

T-22 is the twenty second attempt by him and his colleagues to cross a common northern strain of trichoderma with a southern strain. The 22nd attempt worked.

He found it increased root mass on everything he tested it on. Now good, healthy roots are a good thing but anyone can have too much of a good thing! Yet he found increased disease resistance resulting in healthier plants, increased yield and superior fruit and grain quality.

My mother couldn't raise potatoes anymore and she is Scotch Irish. I thought this would be a good place to try T-22 so I sprinkled it on the cut tubers and planted them. She had the best crop she had in years and called it Magic Dust!

Well, it is not Magic Dust but I use it on everything I plant including new trees in the yard. Over the years I get about 7 bushels more corn, 2-3 bushels more soybeans and 12 bushels on cereal grains. It really works well on sweet corn, garden vegetables and any root crop like potatoes and onions.

Finally T-22 is available already pre-treated on the seed. The wheat seed I bought last year had T-22 applied to the seed while the seedsman was putting on chemical pesticides. Now the farmer gets chemical protection to the new plant for 21 days and by then the T-22 has colonized, giving season long control and effect.

I still like to put some fresh T-22 on all seeds or planting and add fresh inoculant to pre-inoculated seed to make sure I have the seed properly inoculated. The benefits just outweight the costs too much not to.(More on soybean inoculants later.)

That is a little story on the infamous T-22 the farmer in Ontario called about.

I trust I sent him in the right direction.


To GMO or Not To GMO

That is the question!

Much has been discussed and tried since the RR and Bt genes were introduced into the marketplace. Is it healthy? Is it leading us down a dark path?

From a farmer standpoint "the events" increased yield and ease of controlling pests. That is it once did. Now more and more farmers are finding that weeds have become resistant to the glyphosate treatment and required refuge acres yield as much as GMO acres.

This happened right here. In this part of Ohio we have farms that have been continuous soybeans for decades. The introduction of the RR soybean made it easy to control weeds for awhile but now we have documented resistance to marestail, lambsquarter and now giant and common ragweeds. Perennial weeds have become tougher to control, too.

On the corn side, years of testing on my farm and others never showed a yield gain with Bt and other traits that were introduced. I never switched to GMO corn because it just didn't pay and cost more. Now all traits are so expensive farmers are really searching for the most profitable seed for their cropping programs.

In 2006 we had excess rain here and everything worked pretty well. In 2007 we couldn't buy a rain and nothing worked well. Last year we had the same scenario here but the cool nights saved us and we had a pretty decent crop overall.

Still, county, state and national soybean yields were down from the year before. Here that was much in part to resistant weeds that shaded plants and stole valuable moisture and nutrients from our crop.

I saw the low population of escaped weeds in 06 and 07 and decided to plant as much wheat as I could in the fall of 07. It was so dry. Grandpa taught us to dust in a fall crop whenever you could and we did that. The unexpected $10 wheat price last winter was a bonus.

I also decided to double crop those wheat acres with conventional soybeans so I could see if I could control the weeds without a post application of glyphosate. Sure enough, I had to go back to my pre-RoundUp training to control weeds in soybeans but I was successful and had a good crop.

This year I am planting all non GMO crops to see if I can knock back the population of GMO pests while saving on seed costs. That is $16 for a bag of soybean seed worth less than $10 today on the grain market instead of the $34-$60 I have seen quoted for GMO soybeans.

Will this be a good move? I don't know but I think so on my acres.

What are you doing on your acres this year?

Ed Winkle

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Commodity Checkoff's, Cussed and Discussed!

The American Soybean Association has accused the United Soybean Board of mis-use of funds among a host of other things.

The Soybean Association is the educational wing of the soybean checkoff and the Board spends the money for research and promotion. Almost every commodity is represented this way in one shape or form.

This might seem like a poor topic to my non-farm and even my non-soybean producing friends but it has some of my friends in ire. I don't like to see them upset. It is about like the dissension and apprehension involved with our new President who was just sworn in minutes ago. Do you pledge all your support or stand back?

As American's and soybean growers we get so involved and dis-interested sometimes we stand back and let someone else do the work. Besides, it is hard enough keeping up with our own daily routine and chores these days.

I have listened to Orion Samuelson, formerly of US Farm Report fame and now AgriBusiness Weekly shown on the satellite networks we watch out in the country and some local channels. I met him at the Farm Progress Show and FFA Conventions several times and he is almost always the voice of reason.

This is what "Samuelson Sez":

News > Featured Columnists > Samuelson Sez
Samuelson Sez
Samuelson Sez - Checkoffs are Essential - 1/19/2009

There are several things, I’m sure, that America’s farmers and ranchers don’t really need in 2009. Today I would like to focus on two areas that I think we could well do without in agriculture, in this new year.

First of all, we don’t need a family squabble in this relatively small agricultural family in the United States. Secondly, I really don’t think we need another farm organization; yet we are getting both in the current controversy over the spending of checkoff dollars in the Soybean Checkoff Program.

Many of you, I’m sure, are aware that the American Soybean Association has filed an official request with the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to check allegations of funds being misspent as well as some questionable personal-conduct activities in the soybean program. The Association wants them fully investigated and corrected.

Now, along with that we have a group of soybean farmers who have formed yet another soybean organization, The United Soybean Federation. I’m not quite sure why and I certainly don’t understand why we need yet another organization in agriculture. Be that as it may, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Shafer, in his news conference at the Farm Bureau Convention in San Antonio last week, said “the allegations are serious and as the overseer of all checkoff programs, the Department of Agriculture will indeed check out the allegations to determine if they are true or false.”

I want to go beyond this single incident however, and talk about the checkoff programs in general; because any “black eye” for any one program is going to spill over to all checkoff programs and raise questions about funds being collected and spent. I firmly believe that American agriculture and producers have benefitted from check-off programs; dollars that have conducted research, promotion, marketing and advertising; dollars that brought us “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”, “Pork, the other white meat”, “Got Milk?”, “3-A- Day” and all of the promotions that have helped expand the consumption, as well as the nutrition and safety, of America’s agricultural products.

I have been saying for decades that if producers are not willing to invest their time and money into marketing their products, then one of two things will happen. It won’t get done at all or it will be done in a way that will not help producers. We need these checkoff programs; we need the staffs and farmer board members to conduct them in a legal and constructive way; and we need to correct this situation quickly before it infects the entire checkoff system.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.

I can't disagree but a statement from Orion or Ed won't settle this disagreement between the Association and the Board. I am afraid the courts will and that is never a pretty situation in any marriage.

What do you think?

I think I just want to see my friends happy. They have worked so hard to get soybeans used and respected as they are. We are really going to need that this year as farmers can't afford to grow as much corn in the past and intend to plant more soybeans.

I can tell you that I have worked hard to get local schools burning biodiesel and a couple thanked me for that last summer when diesel hit $4 per gallon. Soydiesel generates jobs right here in the country where we need them badly right now.

Soy is invaluable in food, feed, ink, platic, so many, many things we need an use.

We don't need our leaders disagreeing.

Stay warm, it is COLD here...


Monday, January 19, 2009

My No-Till Experience

My dad first started no-tilling in the mid seventies when the local White dealer brought a new White 5100 no-till planter to the farm. I was teaching ag 30 miles up the road and we were all looking for a better way to save soil on hilly farms and free up time to tend livestock and other jobs.

We had already switched from moldboard plowing to chisel plowing so it was a natural progression for us. We made lots of mistakes because we didn't understand what we were trying to do but we were willing to learn.

Our problem was weed control. We knew how to control weeds with plowing and disking but never understood how to control weeds with chemicals in no-till. We had 2,4-D and atrazine, enough to get started but had no idea what paraquat was or how it worked.

We quickly learned how to use it to kill what was there so the crop could get a start and control grasses and broadleafs somewhat with 2,4-D and atrazine.

We finally got the weeds under some control but always fought them. We had dear old Johnsongrass(I am sure there is a place in heaven for Johnson and his followers and those led down that washed around path somewhere) and there was no control for it.

We kept no-tilling corn through those years and finally got to raising soybeans for a cash crop. It really caught on with the oil embargo in the early 70's and we were forced to learn how to no-till soybeans when it did.

We drilled soybeans in plowed ground and there was no no-till drill so again farmer innovators developed the first no-till drills. This was years after planting no-till soybeans in 30 inch rows with the no-till corn planters.

The problem with the corn planter was the coulter. It would smear the damp soil so you had to wait for the soil to dry out before you could plant. By the time you waited you could plow and disk and get the corn planted and started growing. Drilled beans canopied faster than corn planted rows, too.

Case IH came out with the first good no-till row units and they caught on. The reduced inside diameter gauge wheel tire and low row unit pressure was key to their success. The first real no-till drill I ever used was the Haybuster and the Tye drills and it was 1990 by now.

In the 90's we had so much moisture in the Ohio Valley we had to wait forever it seemed to plant so I was ready to quit no-tilling by 1995. It so happened I bought my first modem for my IBM computer and found the Internet. A successful farmer near Dayton whom I had met during my stint as a county agriculture agent kept urging me to try it. There I found Crop Scouting on who were pioneers in the agricultural internet revolution we enjoy today.

I posed my delemna on Crop Scouting and a farmer in Iowa told me to take the no-till coulters off and let the double disk opener do the tillage! I thought that would never work but was willing to try anything to keep the benefits of no-till on our soils.

Sure enough it worked but the row unit wasn't as good on the White as the Case IH. I bought an IH 400 Cyclo corn planter and had the best of both worlds but liked the easier-to-use vacuum seed mechanism on the White planter better. The drive to find the combined features of both was on so the farmer in Iowa worked with Howard Martin of Kentucky and his cousin, the local ag mechanic to perfect the IH row unit principles on Deere, Kinze and White planters.

Mr. Martin was working with Eugene Keeton of Tennessee who developed the famous Keeton Seedfirmer, a long plastic spoon that tucked seeds on corn planters at the bottom of the seed trench. This great invention is worthy on its own and deserves its own recognition.

This group came up with the Nu-Till setup adapted and promoted by AgSpectrum Company in Iowa. That partnership didn't last so Howard promoted his own Martin System thanks to the farmer and mechanic and others who quickly adapted the system and shared it with all who would listen. I was one of those and helped bring it to Ohio and across the land thanks to the agricultural Internet, email and talks we were invited to. We all learned together and shared our learning and pitfalls.

Today you find many innovative farmers using the Martin System of no-till planting which is any row unit with a single disk opener slicing the residue and applying Nitrogen and sulfur, a Martin row cleaner sweeping the residue out of the way of the trench, the standard double disk opener doing the tillage by slicing a Vee for the seed so it can germinate and grow like any corn planting system.

The planter meters the seed into the seed tube where it is sensed and monitored, drops into the seed trench, pressed firmly into the trench and lightly tilled like a garden by a pair of Martin spiked closing wheels(smaller Martin row cleaners mounted to reverse action), leaving a seed trench gently lifted by the weight of the planter through the action of the reduced inside diameter gauge wheel tire, yet keeping the seed in its place at its desired depth and spacing by the planter. We strive to keep the same amount of soil and pore space with this system just like you do in normal planting of seeds. The row is topped off with a slight mound with crumbly loose soil with a 40 inch looped drag chain made of 3/8 inch heavy square steel running loosely behind the seed trench, attached to the planter to form this last tillage without bouncing up into the spiked closing wheels.

The result is the best corn planter I ever used and I know many farmers agree. This system has been out now since the mid nineties, catching on year by year giving farmers a tool to plant corn and other crops the first day you could drive a tractor over that field. This system allowed drenched midwest soils to be planted first last year and many years giving the crop a chance to catch all the sunlight it possibly could in a no-till situation.

The NNTC or National NoTillage Conference demonstrated its effectiveness again last week when many of the winners of various awards was found to be using this system now for many years. Corn yields keep going up in this country regardless of weather and this system allows it to happen in no-till too, saving "soil, oil and toil" when it is most needed and appreciated.

This is a part of my no-till learning over my lifetime and I thank the many people who helped make it so, "for others as well as myself" as the FFA Creed so aptly says from 1930.

Other advancements could be written about for days in future blogs.

I trust you enjoyed this one whether you read it for the first time or have practiced yourself for many years like I have.

Ed Winkle

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sable is Home

Remember the first day you brought home your new dog? Sable came home today.

We picked her up at the breeder's after church. Her father is Haus Von Fasanlauf and her mother is Heidi Von Koch II. What do you like better, Sable Von HyMark or Sable Von Winkle? Winkle is definitely German, pronounced Vinckel.

LuAnn bought a cage to house a monster like Haus or Hoss like her dad. Good thing, she is going to fill it up quickly!

She is very attentive and is learning quickly. I think she will make a great dog.

Like all of us, she had a cold week outside with her siblings. The black male sold yesterday so only the black female sister is left in the pen. I am sure someone will buy that dog because they have good breeding and aren't charging that much in this bad economy.

Empty nesters have a new baby. This one with 4 legs not quite as busy as the ones with two!

Madison and Brynne and their cousins Zach and Cameron came to meet Sable and just left. Now Tara and Erik are here so it is almost dinner time.

Turkey tetrazinni anyone? Not sure if I spelled that correctly, need to learn to use the spellcheck on Google's BogSpot and start checking my posts a little closer. I see some mistakes.

Thanks for all the email on the last and previous posts and keep the comments and email coming!

Another question for you, do you like links or not? The wife says use less links so I never used any in this post, personally I love links to learn and see what the writer is thinking and referring to.

Here is hoping for a much warmer week for all of us!

Got my new QST magazine in the mail while I was gone so 73 to all of you. That means Best Regards in voice or Morse Code.

Ed Winkle