Thursday, January 31, 2013

Travel II

"From the time I was a child I have been an inquisitive doubter. I needed to feel it, taste it, hear it, try it when it came to anything others tried to tell describe to me. An example is that I could intellectually accept that the Holocaust was real and evil. But, standing in Nuremberg, on Hitler's parade grounds, in front of the reviewing stand, on a windswept, dreary day in November, I could FEEL the evil that permeated the place.

It is a shame that all American kids don't have the opportunity to visit Gettysburg and Arlington to see and feel what sacrifice and honor is.

Seeing pictures of the Mona Lisa in a coffee table book, I can appreciate its mystery and beauty. Seeing it in person at the Louve you FEEL her eyes. You see the texture of the paint.

I didn't want my world view to be filtered through the perception and biases of journalists or politicians. I SAW and felt poverty in Haiti. We are so naive in America. Our pets eat and sleep better than most of the world's children. Americans have no concept of poverty. You will never convince me that we have poverty in America despite what the journalists and political folks want us to believe.

Compared to the wealthy in America, you could agree there are less fortunate people here but poverty? It's almost laughable when you compare what we think of as poverty to the world's standards.

I have sought medical treatment in Canada while traveling. Our leaders would have you believe that any system of socialized medicine is sub par and access is limited. Their system was just fine.

We are being routed through Dubai on our return flight next month. For five hours (not much time I admit) I will see first hand what it is like to be woman in a Muslim country. I will be able to experience for myself and make my own opinion, not that of some journalist or writer with a political agenda.

I am not saying that travel is the only way to broaden one's horizon, and I feel sincerely blessed to go where I've been, but I will say I was motivated to go looking for myself because I was tired of the small mindedness of people who had an opinion about everything and everyone and had barely left their home county, much less their state or country . They speak with such authority yet their authority is derived from second or third hand knowledge.

Several in my birth family members are those I describe above. It never occurs to them to seek knowledge on their own. Maybe they are afraid of something besides the plane ride?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) - Healthy or Holy

Ed's post about alfalfa just started a war on legumes!
More seriously, it reminded me of how sainfoin was one of the predominant legumes before horses gave way to tractors and alfalfa replaced it altogether in European countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Poland and most of Eastern Europe.

The name "sainfoin" comes from the French "sain" (healthy) and "foin" (hay), probably from the Latin name of the look-alike but smaller alfalfa, "medicago" (same root as medicate). Sainfoin makes the most palatable hay for livestock, is a non-bloating legume, and also fights intestinal nematode parasites, so the name gets confused at times with "saint foin", or holy hay.

Sainfoin is mostly pollinated by honey bees, although the whole range of pollinating bees and other insects will gather its nectar. Sainfoin honey is delicate, great for toast, herbal tea and baking, but is becoming rarer as growing sainfoin is also declining worldwide. Sainfoin honey is very clear and liquid on harvesting, and becomes white with yellowish strikes upon crystallizing.

There are two main kinds of sainfoin, the most common comes from the Middle East and is being grown as a biennial or triennial, allowing up to 2 crops of hay or even seeds (and honey) per year. The original species lasts up to 5-6 years but allows only one hay crop per year. So it is no wonder that the more productive alfalfa has replaced it in modern agriculture.

Sainfoin is planted at 35-45 pounds of husked seeds per acre on finely leveled ground in spring or end of autumn, or 125-145 pounds if using the one-seeded pods whole. The pivot roots grows as far as 15-20 feet deep, with numerous lateral roots. The seeds require a special inoculant. The rhizobia growing on sainfoin roots are much more diverse than the ones on cultivated alfalfa or clover, and have not been studied much to this day. Eventually it all resolves into producing more nitrogen, but I can't help comparing it to feeding the soil with whole wheat as opposed to white flour. Talking of wheat, sainfoin works great in a rotation with small grain cereals. Or, as was the usage for the common single crop variety, together with wheat, oats or barley planted in spring, so it could grow slowly under the protection of these cereals for the beginning of the season.

As hay, sainfoin is either grown alone, or mixed with other grasses such as fescue. It adapts to more types of soils (especially dry land)  than alfalfa or clover, except for stagnant water, and can be cut at different stages of growth, offering a longer harvesting period which can be helpful in case of detrimental weather. The finest hay should be harvested just before first flowering. The regrowth is harvested too but is usually a bit coarser, while still very palatable to horses and cattle or goats because of its sweetness. One acre of sainfoin produces 7,00 pounds of hay dry matter on non-irrigated, over 8,000 pounds on irrigated ground according to Montana MSU, about 80-90% of alfalfa yield over 2 crops per season. Cultivar WL320 reached over 11,000 pounds in Oregon with 3 crops per season. In Montana and the Western Plains, sainfoin is often harvested only once, the regrowth  is used for direct grazing. Some great pictures of 300 acres of sainfoin in Idaho here.

For seed production, as with wild rice, all seeds are not mature at the same time, so a middle point must be chosen to maximize the number of seeds harvested. The green seeds will continue maturing as they dry and will be just as viable as the mature ones. Until such a time as sainfoin becomes as important as the so-called cultivated "wild rice", which is now a GMO plant at 100%, with the gene that makes all its seeds mature simultaneously. In case you thought that the brown-black wild rice seeds in your rice mix were still harvested 3 times by shaking the uncut stems over the bottom of their kayaks by Native Americans... The seed must be kept very dry, especially at the beginning, as it has a strong tendency to ferment before it dries out. So, long flat beds work better than heaps. Yield reaches up to 1,000 pounds per irrigated acre.

Sainfoin has been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages, and after nearing extinction in the recent period, currently experiences a rebirth thanks to pelletization, which allows the more costly to grow sainfoin to be sold at higher valued prices. A lot of the original biodiversity of sainfoin, whose orchis-like flowers range from light pink to bright purple, has probably been lost already: Only 3 cultivars were (and are) still present on the seed catalogs in France when interest in sainfoin resurfaced, but new ones have started to be marketed in the U.S. after a break of over 25 years.

Its antiparasital role also contributed to the recent interest in sainfoin, and seems to be caused by the tannins present in its hay, which deters nematodes from reproducing in the guts of livestock. Regions traditionally known for their sainfoin honey have mostly moved since to rapeseed honey, but are trying to recover this sainfoin specificity setting up controlled flower origin labels for honey.
Dioscorides, Galen and Pliny mention sainfoin as a medicinal herb with leaves that are fortifying, resolutives, diaphoretic and diuretic, whatever the 2 middle ones mean! ;)

Another old French name for sainfoin is "esparcette", from the Provencal esparceto (meaning "spread out"), which gave the current German, Danish, Finnish and Spanish names for it. Still, not as funny as the Spanish "pipirigallo" (I assume because chickens love the seed) or the Hungarian "Takarmánybaltacim", or even the Latin name "Onobrychis" which basically means "assnip", making donkeys as raving mad for it as cats for catnip.


P.S. Had to remove quite a few anonymous spam posts, the ransom of Ed blog's success...  ;)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Origin, Distribution and Naming of Alfalfa

This is especially for my friend Bill.  I found this in my old college notes of 1969.  Dr. Paul Henderlong was my Forages 412 instructor.

Alfishfisah, probably close to the Arabic word for "mother of crops," can arguably be called the world's most important forage crop.  This crop was the first to be and is the most widely domesticated, with references tracing back to the first attempts of man to sustain himself with agriculture.  The reference we have dated back to the Hittite tablets, 3,300 years ago.  It is by chance that alfa is the Number One letter in the Greek alphabet?  Many countries in West Asia still call the crop alfa-alfa.

In an evolutionary sense, alfalfa is almost indestructible, making it well adapted to extremely varying climates and usages.  Its origins are thought be in in ancient Media, which is in the NW corner of modern day Iran or Persia.  A second center of diversity is probably Turkestan, in Central Asia.  The Media types evolved under pronounced continental conditions, hot and dry summers with cold  winters.  This is how it got its persistence.  Several types currently found in North America are most likely derived from these, having gained adaptability to arid and hot climates or non-dormant.

The Turkestan types evolved under milder winter conditions.  Because agriculture, and especially irrigated agriculture, has been practiced here for as long as history records go, the types evolved with their own characteristics and resistance to diseases and insects.  A third origin of modern day alfalfa is from a hybrid between Medicago Sativa and the yellow flowered M. falcata, called M. varia.  The M. falcata types evolved under extreme cold conditions in the area from Siberia to the Black Sea and the Himalayas(winter hardiness.)

The Persian origin of alfalfa also explains the taxonomic identification as Medicago or plant from Media.  The word medicine most likely derived from the plants of Media, used by the ancient Persians, and other tribes who gathered on the Mesopotamian Plains to cure illnesses.  In Italy, alfalfa is still widely called "erba medica," almost literally "medicinal herb."  The species name of Sativa is perhaps derived from the Latin for overabundance, for its ability to provide fantastic yields of green forage.  Perhaps this explanation is wishful thinking.

When the Persian Empire extended its influence into Greece around 500 BC, alfalfa was brought along as fodder or forage for horses.  From here it was taken through Italy into central Switzerland.  Alfalfa was particularly adapted to the calcareous soils around Lake Lucerne, thus the name lucerne for this crop in Europe, except Spain and Portugal.  The biggest expansion of the crop was the the Moors, travelling from present day Turkey through Northern Africa into Spain and Portugal around 700-800 AD.  When the early Spanish explorers ventured with their horses in to the New World, they brought the crop called alfalfa with them.  Alfalfa proliferated in Argentina, Chile and Peru, and was brought into Northern Mexico and California by the Jesuit Priests and Conquistadors around 1800.

About the same time alfalfa was moving westward into Italy at the beginning of the Christian Era, alfalfa was also establishing itself in the east.  Early Chinese Emperors found the crop well suited for fodder and forage for their herds in Northern China.

About 100 years before alfalfa was brought to the United States via the Spanish South American route, the crop was brought into the New World by early British and French explorers.  They introduced it to the East Coast of the US and Australia and New Zealand.  It was called Lucerne here because of its European introduction.

I will finish this story in the future.

Ed Winkle

P.S. by Chimel: I think I finished the story already by publishing Part II before noticing this Part I was not published yet...  ;)
P.P.S. Lucerne or luzerne in French comes from the Provencal luzerno for the glow-worm, because of the shiny seeds.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Awesome Radish

We saw some awesome radish this week, some of the most interesting I have ever seen.  My friend took 149 different cultivars or varieties from the world seedbanks and planted them.  They selected 19 out of that bunch they wanted to look at.  I saw radish that I think will grow twice as fast and twice as big in the fall as the ones we plant at home now.  I saw one with more branches on it than I have ever seen and a massive, massive root system.  We need to find another specie or two to plant with the radish and the grass like rye to kick the biology up another notch.

This thing is advancing quickly thanks to work like this.  The future looks very exciting.  I see now I have not nearly explored the soil biology as much as I can.  We have barely scratched the surface.

We are on the north coast town of Whakatane New Zealand at the moment and I stopped at the local library to check my email.  I better go find my companions as it will soon be time to meet again after a little shopping.

The Blueberry Farm we just stopped at called Blueberry corner was wonderful.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Alfalfa Part II

The Dutch and British settlers also brought alfalfa to the New World along the trade routes to South Africa where it has been successfully used as a forage for the thriving ostrich industry.  It success in the eastern US has remained limited.

In western US the Chilean types were predominant, often called California or Arizona Common varieties.  The types spread eastwards.  In the mid 1800's, the typical German immigrant introduced a type that later to be named Grimm after him.  This type was an Medicago media, so naturally winter hardy after years of selection in the very cold climate of Minnesota.  It allowed alfalfa to be used in the cattle ranches of the norther plains.  This and later selections finally enabled the crop to establish itself throughout North America, from the East Coast to upper Canada in the late 1800's.

Until the the 1950's, most varieties were either variants of the Chilean common types or Grimm variegated, M. media.  use of such public or improved varieties has since decreased dramatically.  In the US, one can generalize by stating that by the 1950's, 80% of the varieties were unimproved and only 20% public now remains.  The Waterman-Loomis Company played a major role in the development of proprietary varieties.  In many countries around the world, a similar shift from publics can be seen, proving the value of improved quality forage products.

This ends one lecture by Dr. Paul Henderlong, my Ohio State University Forages 412 class I took back in 1969.  I hope you have enjoyed it.  We never produced much alfalfa on our farm because Timothy and clovers were so much better adapted and required less management.  Good alfalfa is difficult to grow in humid and normally wet Ohio.  I admire the farmers who grow good alfalfa here because it is no easy task.

We studied everything compared to Vernal variety which was the comparison standard in those days.  I think dad had a stand that lasted 17 years but we can raise 200 bushel corn on that field very easily today.  I remember Cimarron coming and going and many Pioneer and other varieties.

When I was the county agent guy, I read the Haymaker quarterly public publication out of Fresno, California.  Dr. Gary Lacefield was the expert to go to from the University of Kentucky in those days

LuAnn and I still love the color, smell and texture of fresh cut alfalfa.  No wonder livestock like it so well.


Farmer: Independent entrepreneur or Big Ag employee?

And blind employee at that. Is there any job out there that has so many long term uncertainties about the cost of seed, fertilizer, pesticide, feed as well as a market price of their production totally unrelated to the production cost?

And the biggest uncertainty of all, weather, does not really make farming conductive to successful business planning, yet year after year farmers deliver the crops and animal products which, regardless of what courts have recently said about the right to the Internet service, are still the real fundamental and essential needs of the human being. So maybe farmers should be regarded the best managers there is, considering the constraints and uncertainties they deal with.

Well, perhaps I exaggerated, not everything is uncertain, we know for sure that prices of intrants are ever rising...  ;)


Saturday, January 26, 2013


That's the new license plate number on my purple plumb, 2004 Dodge Dakota.  Ryan hangin' on like a hair on a biscuit" Daugherty ran a carfax on it for me yesterday as he had some expiring.  I suppose he has been looking for another ride, too.  Anyway, LuAnn just calls after walking the parking lot, laughing at herself.  She had walked up to it thinking that's where she parked it but she saw the license plate and though it was from KENTUCKY!  Roll on the floor laughing or whatever you want here because we both got a big kick out of it.  I laugh at myself almost every day.

It's a new style plate with a blue background.  With the yellow FFA emblem on, I mean corn gold, it does look like a foreign plate at first glance.  She is used to looking for AF47LJ on the old red and white plate on Ole Red.  Ole Red got a new home last night.  I am handing it over the trusted hands of Charles, another Charles who needs a ride.  He has worked his butt of to get back financially where he can drive again.  I like him so I helped him out with a deal no one good refuse.

The worst thing is though I had to put a $120 starter on the darned thing, couldn't send it away like that.  I have been getting by on the bad starter and disappearing antifreeze for a year now.  It still runs good and I think he can get a couple of years out of it.  Those little trucks make 200,000 miles pretty easily and 300,000 if you are careful.  After that, they are pretty much junk or parts.

Tara called me worrying about getting her mother into Dubais and out safely.  She doesn't think her mother and be quiet and not look at Saudi's like Shariah law says.  She thinks we will be kept for investigation.  I said you have to give up those fears!  People go through that airport every day and you don't see anyone on the news!  That's my point she said, you never hear from them again!  Laugh out loud on that one but I hear her, too.

If I got sick there, LuAnn couldn't leave with my presence so I better not get sick!  I woke up with no voice but I know how to treat that and am.

Lots of my friends are reviewing the Herman Warsaw blog.  I want them to think about soil conservation and deep and balanced nutrient placement.  As Chimel pointed out. there was no GMO corn then and our yields have plateaued shortly after the arrival of them.  I know that any seed corn is in short supply because of the huge demand for seed this year.  Last year was not a stocks builder, either.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Scouting Corn South Island

We just finished walking fields south of Ashburton.  We saw problem fields and very good fields.  I am trying to understand the effect of their typical fertilizer program on the corn I see.  I want to get some of these tissues SAP tested to compare to their typical ash tissue results which are like ours.  We need to get a better handle on what is going on in crop fields quicker so we can respond.

We saw corn growing on rocks that are pretty unbelieveable.  There is just enough soil to anchor and feed the corn plants.  If I ever get to post my pictures, you will be amazed.  It looks like corn growing in a rock field or on the moon.

The best corn is exellent and should make high tonnage,  pushing 40 US tons per acre.  I am impressed with the Silo King Inoculant on the growing corn in the corners where the irrigation won't reach.  It looks very good for little water and seems to be able to take in more N than normal.

We are really enjoying the beautiful weather with our friends and new friends.  Lionel Dobbs is a nice man and wonderful farmer.  We can talk farming very easily.

Have to get back to the fields and the fine company we have.



'Messing' with biotech the right way

Earlier this week, Pr. Joachim Messing of Rutgers University, NJ, has been awarded the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture for his contributions on genetic engineering and sharing his discoveries as open public domain technology, a far cry from the intellectual property copyright prevalent in all biotech companies.

He will collect his prize later in May from none other than President of Israel Shimon Peres at the Knesset, as the Wolf Foundation is based in Israel.

Jo has been working of late mostly on both the genome sequencing and generic engineering of corn and sorghum, trying to make the former into a complete feed by adding missing essential amino acids, and improving the yield of sugar, therefore ethanol, on the latter. His latest hobby is duckweed, which he deems would make a better source of biofuel thanks to its tremendous reproduction rate. The plant is also not competitive with other food crops, although tilapias vigorously deny this, but it requires a lot of water, so we're not there yet.

When I say Jo's work belongs to the public domain, this actually means that every gene is here for grabs by anybody, if they find and patent an application for it, for instance if a corn gene is found to deter the Colorado potato beetle, then nobody else can use that gene but the patent owner and their licensees.

So, at long last, Jo will not be remembered only for his colorful ties, but his contributions to humanity!  ;)  Who am I kidding, I don't even have my own wikipedia page. Does any reader have one?

Looks like I missed yesterday's blog, mistook that timezone shift the wrong way, I was so sure of myself I didn't even check the blog.

Bad Chimel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arrival New Zealand

We arrived safe and sound early Monday morning New Zealand time.  The weather is beautiful in summer down under and it was so good to give Chris and Judith a hug again.

We quickly went to work and Perry, Chris and I walked a few of Chris's maize or corn fields and discussed what was happening.  I will talk in detail about this in future blogs but we saw improvement in the 3 years since I was here but I would like to see some more improvement.  The fields look good and fairly consistant but are starting to suffer from drought stress.  It's been very dry on the farm and a good 2 inch rain would solve a lot of problems.  Isn't that often the case?

Chris took us to a neighbors farm who was digging onions and potatoes.  This man grows 3000 tonnes or so of onions per year now and a couple thousand tonnes of potatoes.  He had some huge potatoes and is tayloring size to markets.  The quality looked excellent.

On Tuesday we toured the FAR plots near Hamilton where they have had more rain and the crop looked excellent.  Thanks to FAR we had  nice lunch after the tour with Mike Parker and a few farmers who came to greet us.  It was good to see Hedrik again after 3 years, the consultant from South Africa.  We could talk to these people for ours but of course are time limited.

We have since driven south and waiting on the ferry to cross the sound to the south island.  Wouldn't you know the ferry broke down for the first time in many years!  So we found some New Zealand gold dollars so I am writing a few notes.  I just took a walk to the pier and saw some Maori construction workers diving for sea urchins for lunch.  Quite a sight!

I am taking some written notes too so I will try to fill in the spots later.  We love New Zealand and the people and it is so good to be in summer during our winter.

We are very blessed.


Monday, January 21, 2013

15 Billions 2012 Crop Insurance

Step 3: Take refuge in the bush where Ed can't see or react to what's happening on his blog!  ;)

Crop insurance claims hit a record high 15 billion dollars last year according to the USDA, about half of which comes from our taxes. Crop insurance has effectively become a form of disguised subsidy from tax payers to farmers. Claims of over $3.50 for each dollar of premium will benefit mostly large farms from the North and other dryland areas, as opposed to the (mostly) irrigated South.

Crop insurance is now mandatory in almost all loans for land or equipment, it is an additional warranty that makes sense from the loaner's point of view, so farmers don't have much of a choice in the matter, but I can't help wondering if there is not a better way than the current model that basically encourages bad and risky farming practices to the detriment of good farmers. In a way, this is similar to the free rein given to the banking and trading industry, where a different form of bad and risky practices were not only allowed, but encouraged.

You can't really force a savings program to replace crop insurance onto farmers either, given that many are already slaving away for low if any profit, and you can't immobilize $15B into savings, that would be bad for the economy, but if extreme weather events are becoming the new normal, we'd better prepare for it and improve the current system in a way that is sustainable and does not rely on tax payers' money.

Song of the day: Hello Cruel World, by Bad Religion, from their album True North, a superb rock album altogether, every song is 5-star material. They are from Los Angeles and have unique vocals. And I am a total ignoramus because they have released 15 studio albums since their formation in 1979 and I never ever heard the name. No Ed, I didn't pick this song up because of the name of the band.  ;)



Step 2: Prepare blog posts in advance to encourage that Frenchie' laziness. So, from Ed's own words this time:

Think of the word gypsum.  Some farmers act like that word means you are going to jip someone or you will become a band of gypsies!  When you hear gypsum, think of oxygenate your soil.  That is what it means to me.  I was looking over our field to SR 28 at dusk last night.  I wish I had done what Ben Franklin did and wrote out This Land Has Been Plastered In Gypsum, spelled out with calcium sulfate on that ground.  The greener letters would stick out!

I get a lot of questions not because I ask for them but because I say things on the Internet, email and talks I give that raises questions.

"I have seen you mention several times on AT about adding calcium on your beans and having a yield response. If this is not a trade secret, would you mind sharing how much you apply, and in what form i.e. pelletized, granular etc. 

We soil test regularly and apply lime VRT as needed.

No trade secrets here, folks, just a few hundred years of experience I have read over my 6 decades.  Think oxygenated soils.  Ca is the weaker cation of it and magnesium but it moves to gravity when applied to soil, bringing oxygen with it and taking H2O deeper into the soil profile.  That is exactly what I want to do.

A triangle of calcium, sulfur and ammonium (nitrate) is a powerful force for good for soil health to feed crops. This is what I think of when I hear gypsum, calcium and sulfate.

My goal is to get all of our land "plastered."  I need more oxygen in all of my soil so my crops can grow more efficiently.  I want to put that simple triangle to work.

While that is going on under the soil, I can cause more of it to happen right beside the germinating crop by adding a furrow applied side dress of 2 gallons of calcium nitrate mixed with 8 gallons of reverse osmosis structured water.  On the other side of the row I can apply my nitrogen and sulfur and voila, we have our triangle of power in the root zone until the crop roots get big enough to reach more we already applied.

I also looked at where I had applied drywall and planted tillage radish over the top.  The soil was all black and granulated and looked like it had been tilled from underneath!  That is one beautiful looking soil and the earthworm activity was very evident!

When you hear radish, thing of radish ripper or radish tillage, a great biological ripper with so many more benefits.  When you hear gypsum, think of calcium sulfate that will oxygenate your soil.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Do-nothing farming

Chimel here, taking over Ed’s blog during his and LuAnn’s vacations, or, as I like to call it, the “How to destroy 20 years of a farmer and ag teacher’s reputation in 20 days” experiment.  ;)
Today, step 1, give away your Blogger password to a total stranger.

To go back to the subject of this post, I would like to dedicate today’s blog to Masanobu Fukuoka and his 1978 book “The One-Straw Revolution. Yep, these were not my own pictures.

While in the U.S no-till really started in the 70s with the development of appropriate equipment and improved herbicides, Masanobu Fukuoka had been developing since the 50s a completely different form of no-till, more harmonious with the landscape and the laws of nature. He calls it do-nothing farming, and it inspired the permaculture method.

His learning on the job cost him dearly at first, but he finally managed to evolve a double crop rotation of rice and winter barley or rye that each yields about 80-90 bushels per acre, as well as a no-pruning method for fruit trees.

His method goes beyond no-till and is based on his observations of the natural cycles. For instance, barley or rye is sown in the still standing rice field, 2 weeks before harvest, and the rice is sown back in the field before winter: Its natural dormancy will allow the barley to be harvested while the rice is just getting started. The field is flooded for 7 to 10 days, allowing the rice to shoot up and overcome the weakened weeds. Rice is then grown in a dry field, not the traditional paddy wet fields. Masanobu Fukuoka also developed an ingenious method to protect the rice seeds from being eaten by animals or insects, by encasing them in clay pellets, like we do for coated seeds.

The only fertilizer used in the fields are clover sown in the field, and a small cover of chicken manure spread over all the straw mulch from the previous crop in a double crop rotation of rice and barley or rye.

Each field unit is a quarter acre, easily manageable by one person even at harvest time, and providing food for 5 to 10 persons. This type of farming produces jobs and high yield at a cost lower than both organic and conventional farming. Not taking any position here, but such reading is a nice break from the current productivity race. The rest of the book contains several other peaceful considerations on farming politics and many other matters. I’ll leave you with one excerpt from the book to reflect upon: There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song. I strongly recommend the book if you are curious about other farming practices, it is as much a reference book as Edward H. Faulkner's Plowman's Folly (1943).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

We Can Do Better, Farmers!

I read our local paper tonight and right there is a stick in the eye to the agriculture industry:

.Syngenta Settles Lawsuit With City of Wilmington

Come on farmers and industry, we can do better than that!   The suit points out they had to prove it has been going on over 10 years.  Now I am wondering how they are applying atrazine between here and Wilmington to go over the EPA regulated amounts so much so long?  It's not that much and I do not believe it is that harmful, but I know we can do better than that.

We lost our best corn herbicide, Blades or cyanazine doing these things, why in the world didn't we learn our lesson?  I cost myself bushels last year because I did not use enough atrazine and returned a bunch to Philip Huffman.  I am too conservative.  Obviously others are not.

Before your bash all pesticide use, remember the book from the Hudson Institute proving all the benefits of pesticides because they are natural in nature.  I can't think of the name of it but my copy has a dark soft cover and I can't find it on my bookshelves.  I probably shared with someone who was bashing pesticides.

Some pesticides are more harmful in nature than others and atrazine easily moves in water.  The label of precautions is huge although it is a mild herbicide compared to others.  Ir just moves freely in water.  We were told that the salt of glyphosate is very safe if you swallow it without the oils but it stays in the soil a long time and chelates minerals the plant needs and can't get because it is so firmly attached to the soil.  We were told that glyphosate was safer to man than a dose of aspirin or a cup of coffedd.  More so, Robert Kremer of USDA proved it is a biocide, killing off the good guys in the soil so the bad guys like pythium run wild, killing plants.

The city of Wilmington, Ohio couldn't be happier and I couldn't be more concerned.  We don't need black eyes like that in Clinton County or any county agriculture, 3088 of them.  We must do a better job.  This is inexcusable.  I will talk to my industry friends and find out more how this happened.  I knew EPA kept finding very low levels of atrazine in Wilmington drinking water but I never dreamed Syngenta would have to pay a fine like this because of simple misuse.

Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastics

If you click on this review, I do not entirely agree with the reviewer although he points out the weak points in the argument.

I am of the opinion after a life of study that DDT and Alar and so many pesticides should have never been banned.  PCB's yes, I have never seen a good way to deal with PCB's which are currently hard to avoid because of the way we transform electricity.  People can use so called science to disprove real science.  Perhaps the glyphosate GMO issue fits here.  We are far from proving that but the evidence so far does not look good to me.

Farmers and agricultural industry, I know we can do better than this, especially right here in Clinton County.

Ed Winkle

Friday, January 18, 2013

Herman Warsaw

Herman Warsaw was one of the first farmers to break 300 bushels of corn per acre 35 years ago.  He truly was a pioneer in growing high yield corn.  I wandered over to his farm one summer when I was a young man and his corn was even better than the corn dad and I had raised beside the cattle loafing shed.

Joel Gruver at Western Illinois University just converted those ols VHS tapes so now we can all see his great advice and wisdom.  Even if it is 40 years old, many of his tips work today like soil fertility and soil tilth for example.

Herman had great soils, better than our older Illinoian Glacial Till Soils on his Wisconsin Till Plain.  Saybrook Silt Loam was named after his town, Saybrook, Illinois.  It is just north and west of Champaign, Illinois and I still love to stick my hands in that soil.  I got to do that once more on my trip home from Farm to Plate Conference in Riverside, Iowa.  Everyone seemed to get near his yield level in that area in the last decade but their yields have been going downhill the last five or six years.  There are many reasons for that we won't discuss here today.

I remember the 1066 IHC tractor in the videos but I don't remember the big Massey V8.  Maybe he didn't have it yet when I was there, I don't know.  In fact I thought he had a 1206 IHC so maybe I was there a few years earlier.

Herman's name has been brought up many times on Crop Talk since its inception but it has come up again as University researchers can't produce the yields Herman did 40 years ago.  Everyone wants to know why?  Again there are many reasons but one noticeable difference is GMO corn had not been invented when Herman farmed.  I don't know if that is the reason for the yield differences or not but it sure makes me think. 

Here is another link where you can read more about Herman.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.41248874,d.b2U&fp=43632ea51b4889a4&biw=1896&bih=894

Since I am having problems imbedding the link in my text I will leave it here until I can fix this later.  I wanted you to catch up on the talk of high yield corn going around.

I am no Herman Warsaw but I can help improve corn yields.  I think we all can but not by doing what we have done in previous years.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


We are down to  last minute details.  Things are coming together like this was God's plan, not ours.  I can't believe the hurdles we've crossed to be able to do this or even travel at all.

I can't wait to give a big hug to the Pellow's Monday.  They are such wonderful people, close friends in a distant land and we've only met once.  That one time was enough for a lifetime of friendship.  They farm in a peaceful valley one hour south of Auckland near the villOKage of Onewhero.  Try to pronounce that the first time.  It is spoken like Aneephero.  Wh is ph in the native language.

Calcium nitrate just might be the magic tool to get Chris's yield up to tillage corn yield levels.  I have discovered this past year the average farmer gets 20 more bushels per acre by putting a little alongside the seed trench.  I know his soil and his fertility program and this just may be the answer.  I hope we get to find out!

There is no magic in farming or traveling or relationships, it just seems like magic when the right chemistry and biology come together.  Follwing God's plan for my life reveals a life that really seems like magic to me.  When I am in step everything flows.  When I get out of step the whole world comes crashing down on me.  Each day is one repreive.

Some days I really wonder why we are here.  Why did He pick me and you to do His work?  Would I have known any difference if he hadn't?  I clearly see what happens when you don't figure this out, you get a life of misery instead of joy and peace.  I have great joy and peace at this moment.  I wish that for all beings not just myself.  So, I pray for God's Will for everyone I know and don't know.

This wasn't intended to be a lecture or a mini sermon, just what I am doing to complete last minute details.  Instead of getting scatter brained like I did most of my life, we have planned this out since the day we booked this trip months ago.  Every thing we have done has been to progress us to this point.

My farm plan is the same way.  I have been planning this out since the day I planted my first crop in 1963.  I didn't know it then but I was going to learn from every mistake.  I hate repreating the same mistake expecting better results.  I am open to try about anything,, thus our trip to Australia finally after hearing those faint CW signals the same year I planted my first corn.

Just like life and society has changed, my farming plan has greatly changed the last nine years.  I am doing things today I didn't do in 2004 because I knew to do them then, I just didn't think they were that important.  NoTill, cover crops for biology and calcium for chemistry.  How you mix the three is really important, just like every step we will take from Martinsville to Auckland.  There is nothing like a fine tuned machine or a fine tuned plan!

That's what's happening today.  I was going to share a link to how 11 states have more takers now than makers.  I hope this is not the indication on the path for America but I think it is.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Old Wood Stove

I just sang one person barbershop quartet to Sable.  She just sat on her haunches and stared at me moving her head to the music.

The old wood stove, the old wood stove,
is such a cove, is such a cove.
It keeps you warm, it keeps you warm,
On frosty morn, on frosty morn!

Only 72 hours before lift off and I think I am getting punchy.  The more we work to dot every i the more t's come up to be crossed!

We got the deermobile down to Jason's last night but boo hoo, Mass had been cancelled!  Maybe we need to read the bulletin more carefully?  We agreed that has to be the 10th time we have done the same dumb thing, creatures of habit that we are.  Maybe Ed should get a smartphone so he can text Judy, is there Mass tongiht?  He could also text his spiritual director Steve "I feel like ****."  Hmmm, that is something to ponder!

When God spoke through Ed Saturday He raised a lot of eyebrows.  Now the email is crashing in after the computer did the same thing.  Not good.  As LuAnn said so eloquently last night, we will do all we can do and then Saturday they won't be able to find us!

I can't wait to tell Perry and Chris what's happened the past year.  I think better spray water and calcium nitrate could help them both very much.  Chris emailed that Dr. John Baker of the Cross Slot Drill wants to meet with us to show how they are drilling corn or maize down under.  I am very interested in that.

I am heading to Dr. Albino's for a spinal alignment like the deermobile needs and to Dr. Mehnert for a hoof trimming job so I can walk the many miles the next 30 days.  There is a corn school in Wilmington today but I don't think I will be able to stop and look.  Alan Sundermeier is speaking on cover crops and I would like to see what he says.  I was asked to do that March 22 for NRCS.  I should have said only if we get our CSP contract worked out!

If I had bought corn and wheat calls last week like I wanted to I would have already made a thousand dollars.  It's hard to write a check on a gamble you think you know the odds on.

Such is farming my friends, such is farming.  Life too, you know!

I think I'll rest by the old wood stove a few hours before we take off but I better stay busy because my dear wife is working her tail off.  Seriously.  I cheated on the picture.  That's the Countryside corn burner pellet stove, not the Vermont Defiant.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dogs DO Eat Avocado!

LuAnn was scraping an avocado shell and Sable was just sitting there so alert, her way of begging.  LuAnn said, dogs don't eat avocado?  Her dog Alex ate carrots and we have all heard stories how dogs eat strange things.  Trixy loved corn and carried ears everywhere on this farm and yard.

So LuAnn let her taste the last bite of avocado and she started licking the spoon.  Hey Mikey, she likes it!  Dogs DO eat avocado!

Sable is a really good dog.  Sable is a really smart dog.  She missed me last week and about ate me up when I got home.  I know she isn't going to like 30 days apart so I sure hope Cozy Pets can tease the trucker who owns Rico to stay and play with Sable.  Those two dogs are a hoot, she almost forgets I am there when they are together.

I just wiped out a paragraph on this laptop.  My computer died the blue screen death so its going to the shop in a bit.  The same thing happened a year ago.  Brian works third shift and I don't want to wake him up.  Everything is saved on the G drive but I just remembered I better bring all my software.

Three more blogs and I am going to turn this over to Chimel.  I have written a few extra blogs for him but I am using up material as fast as I type it.  I like my MicroSoft keyboard so much better than this laptop and you know how I hate texting on the Droid.  That is no way for me to write a blog.

I am getting lots of questions about my posts from NNTC last week.  There is glyphosate showing up in soil and manure tests and farmers are asking what to do.  The structured water concept is raising tons of questions.  How little we know about the water we drink and spray!  We take water for granted!  You can a post about farm to plate by Bear's Fan on Crop Talk.  It is still on the first page at this writing.

I need to make sure we get everything ready as possible.  I am asking my friends to take me off their email lists for awhile.  We will only be reading personal email and texts to LuAnn after Friday night.  We have two vehicles to move, the dog to move so the bathroom remodeling crew can take over our house.  I've had the mail held and visited the sheriff and done about everything I can think of.  We have a list we keep adding to.  30 days is a long time.

I challenge all farmers to rethink everything you do.  Do you have enough calcium?  How much is your water reducing your spray?  Do you really need genetically modified seed?  Do you really want to spray tank cleaners to control your weeds?

That is about as simple as I can put it.  Just as simple as Sable eating avocado.

It won't be long until we will be seeing Sarah and Perry and our friends down under!


Ed Winkle

Monday, January 14, 2013

CSI Agronomy

I hereby copyright  CSI Agronomy, Operation Stripe, and Living In Your Fields, HyMark Consulting LLC, 2013.  I really like these titles.  I dreamed about the  third one.  I got the idea from the first one from Dr. Jerry Hatfield at NNTC.  We pull plants, plunk them down on the table and try to figure out what killed them.  Operation Stripe is my term for planting 2 hybrids of dissimilar origin but 4 days apart in maturity side by side.

CSI Agronomy has shown we are not producing crops as well as we could.  The prognosis for American agriculture isn't very good unless we really get our act together.  We have beat the soil to death with tillage in this country and pretty much the world.  Genetic pools for crops have become very small as we have only selected a yield lines for yields and injected them with traits.  We have a crop production system that has failed us the last 3 years in weather stress.  We are going the wrong direction!

I showed a favorite picture of me pulling soil samples in wheat behind the house.  I got to thinking, that same spot looks 3 times greener and 3 times healthier today than it did a few years ago.  What is the difference?  Biological activity is the difference!  Keeping my soil covered each year has really increased my soil biological activity.

What if we have another 100 years of these strange weather cycles?  That's excactly what Dr. Hatfield's lab looked at and the likelihood is very large.   The outcome is not very good!  Will we have to rule that man can't till anymore?  I imagine that would create another Civil War.  That very idea is being proposed by some scientists and leaders in the world.  LuAnn saw the idea on Google World News last week.

We have to start somewhere to try and improve our soils and quit turning our rivers brown every time it rains.  We need to bring these dead soils back to life.  Who is going to do it?  Those 1250 farmers in Indianapolis last week represent the few that are leading the way.  They quickly learned the benefits of notill farming and now are adding cover crops at a rapid pace.  Why?  Not just because it is good but because it makes us money, too.

Yield is Genetics X Environment X Management.  We have a limited gene pool, we can't control the weather and now the government is going to tell us how to farm?  I think we better show them how to farm, first!  We can't show anything if we don't change and very few are willing to make these changes.

I am sure I just stirred up Crop Talk.  I posted this about the Farm to Plate Conference I attended in Riverside, Iowa.  I link you to a non GMO corn sample I was sent from my friend Keith.  I would imagine the non GMO corn was raised on soil that was GMO soybeans the year before.  My email and phone is already ringing from my sharing of this report.

How can we keep doing the same farming practices that are failing in front of our eyes and expect better results?


Sunday, January 13, 2013


This morning our faith group talked about God and prayer.  Who is God?  How does prayer work?  Jim gave a great example.  He quoted Mose Yoder, an Amish man in northeast Ohio.  Mose said "I don't know how prayer works, but I don't know how electricity works, either.  I am not going to sit in the dark before I figure it out."

We compared that to the Bible and the book of Acts.  One said ACTS stands for adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication.  Another said God answers prayer.  Sometimes he says NO, sometimes he says SLOW, sometimes he says GROW and sometimes he says GO.  That made great sense to me.  I am often too quick to accept the answer NO.  I sometimes understand when he says SLOW, you are not ready.  Sometimes I understand GROW, often in fact, because I am always growing.  I have seen that all my life.  I love it when he says GO because I am always ready to proceed before he is!

Yesterday I gave my talk at NNTC on soybeans.  I explained that I was the pinch hitter and not the first chosen speaker.  I had nominated Kris Nichols to speak on soil biology.  She is ill, so I opened my presentation with prayer.  I asked God to heal Kris so she could speak next year.  I asked for Gods words to be spoken, not mine and that God's will be done, not mine.  My will often messes things up.

Thank you for answered prayer!  I asked you to say a little prayer for me yesterday at 9 AM and I felt the answer!  I can tell you from the way I felt and the way people listened and wrote, that was God speaking, not Ed Winkle.  My dear friend and NNTC committee member rushed up and said, Ed, that was the best presentation of the whole conference!  I was astonished.  I knew it wasn't bad but I did not know how well it was received.  Usually I get questions in the corner for an hour but yesterday was two hours before I said halt.  It was 11 o'clock and I had to clean out my room and check out.

LuAnn had the best picture of the entire conference of Keith's pods on stems.  We have never seen any thing like it, 31 pods on one raceme.  Usually we have 3-4 pods left on a node!  I can't upload that picture today and it should be my picture for this blog.  Maybe I can upload it elsewhere and post the link here.

My presentation flowed like water because I worked hard, I studied, I prayed and asked for intervention.  It worked.  I was immediately asked to do three more presentations in other states. One I had just presented at 3 years ago and they asked me how I learned that much in 3 years?

How is that for an answer to prayer?  What's your prayer for the day?

Ed Winkle

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dr. Jerry Hatfield

After all these years and all the emails, I can see why my friend Paul Reed and Jerry are friends.  They are both very smart people of the same mindset.  I can learn from them both.

Jerry gave a presentation tonight, the title is so long I don't remember how it goes but it was about the varied heavy but seldom rainfall we are receiving in the midwest.  And, it is how farming interacts with those events.

Is your soil farmed in a way to receive sudden cloudbursts that are infrequent?  I can answer NO but I know many are worse off than I am.  I must get better and let my soils and my fields speak for themselves.

He had one slide that was scary to me and one I must corner him on.  It was a long range prediction from his government body, the former National Soil Tilth Laboratory, that predicts this will continue and that 2080-2090 could be very tough years.  Nothing like what we saw in America this year!  This will impact my grandchildren or great grandchildren.

I congratulate two friends for receiving the coveted NoTill Innovator Award last night, Darryl Starr and Dan DeSutter.  They are better men than I but God used me to help them a tiny bit on their path to success.

I am reminded that I must keep limited soil disturbance and plant a crop the day I harvest at all cost.  This is key to biological improvement.  I must add a half ton of gypsum to my soil each year to add calcium and sulfur to enhance my chemical and biological activity.  Others don't see the need for gypsum every year.  I must continue to secure the best seed I can find and enhance the seed with chemical and biological protection and plant it correctly on the best days I am able.  This is after a rain event and before a major predicted rain event.

I must scout fields with diligence and Live In My Fields(copywrite HyMark Consulting LLC 2013).  That could be fun and life changing with the grandkids and my network of friends.  I want to see the autocopter fly my fields and learn what the 4 images tell me about them.

Most of all I must turn it over to God and follow his will, not mine.  That is the most challenging goal because my mind gets wrapped up in details and lofty goals in a hurry.  It really works for me though and has made for a great life.

Say a little prayer for me at 9 AM that I might share his words.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Stuctured Water

I have become very interested in structured water I have heard about and learned more about here at the NNTC.  We know very little about the water we add to our spray tanks.

To put it simply, some farmers are structuring their water by using reverse osmosis by Vatche's unit at Pursonova water in San Francisco.  The final step is spinning the water backwards as it enters the spray tank.

So, one unit reversis the osmosis of water, the second unit structures the water and the third piece is a cone that spins the water backwards from normal gravitational flow of water.  The results I see is less water needed for a pesticide or fertilizer to work to full capacity.  These folks are killing weeds with a fraction of the amount of chemical I am using and the fertilizers look many more times effective.

I don't have time to add links to this blog today but hope to later or discuss it later here if there is enough interest of my readers.  Reverse osmosis I basically understand but structuring water is new to me.  Normal water looks like a blob under the microscope but structured water looks like a crystalline structure, more like a snowflake looks like under magnification.  Remember no two snowflakes look alike?  We are wasting and misusing our most precious resource.

I am interested because years ago I remember learning about the neutralizing of some pesticides like glyphosate and many insecticides by pouring the chemical in typical spray water from a well.  Some farmers caught their own rain water and claimed improved results.  I am sure they did.  This Monsanto technical water said use a water pH of 5 or risk losing the herbicide.  I know for sure much glyphosate has been sprayed that had no power.  I remember helping an orchard farmer get control of mites by acidifying is water for Guthion insecticide.

Imagine the implications to agriculture by just structuring our spray water.  Imagine we could pick up 300 or more percent effectiveness of our fertilizers and pesticides?  Ponder that awhile.  That is a statement like I should apply a half ton or so of gypsum on my fields every year or should I spray tank cleaner on my fields every year to control weeds and expect better results?

This looks like another very important addition to my farm or any farm.  I understand it enough to know I must do it remain sustainable and econonomically competitive.

In the coming days, let's learn more about structured water.  Ask questions and share results.

Todays picture is of the Quebec notill farmers who visited our farm the summer of 2010.  They can be proud of their "Queen of Conservation," Odette Menard.  Her presentationis linked on my Crop Talk post called NNTC.  One of the farmers even posted a picture of my bean field on Crop Talk from their visit.


Ed Winkle

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Harry, Henry and Floyd

Harry, Henry and Floyd are 3 men of agriculture I talked to yesteday.  Those are great old names, aren't they?  Harry Young has the NoTill Plaque on a roadside near his farm where notill really started in America in 1962 near Herndon, Kentucky.  His son and his grandson opened the 21st NNTC up, describing how notill has changed their lives and their farm.  I think everyone sitting there felt the same way.

Social media is so powerful now that my old friend Dr. Howard Doster was at home in Ohio when he saw a Tweet that his student Harry Young Jr. was speaking in Indianapolis.  Once again his dear wife Barbara got him here on time to listen to his former student at Purdue!  It sounded like the beat my land speed record from east of Cincinnati to downtown Indianapolis.

Before his talk I was part of two bus loads of notill farmers that got a wonderful tour of ET or Equipment Technologies in Brownsville Indiana.  We got to see Apache sprayers built from the ground up and received free spraying lectures and a lunch from City Barbeque as they often provide their dealers and customers.  Did you know an Apache sprayer loaded with product weighs less than a dry John Deere sprayer?  This is critical to notill.  Their philosophy matches the modern notill farm of simplicity, speed and light weight, ready to tackle any issue.  Their sprayer reminds me of Gleaner combines, simpler, lighter and stronger.  The big Gleaner weighs 6,000 pounds less than the equivalent John Deere.

In the seat ahead of me was Derek Hines of Maine, his wife, his son Keith and his 9 month old son Floyd.  Floyd reminded of Floyd's Toy pulling days when my oldest son Matt was little but he really reminded me of our grandson Finnegan by his face and his demeanor.  He listened to me pretty well for a 9 month old.   That reminds me of little Katherine!

Derek is renting worn out potato ground to notill soybeans and barley.  He was interested in what I had to say because his barley yields have tanked.  I mentioned SabrEx and he became very interested.  I explained he could get SabrEx on his beans too by innoculating with GraphEx SA which includes SabrEx.  I could tell he needs more disease control at seedling stage to harvest.  Potato ground is pretty dead because they spray so much fungicide.  He needs more soil health by keeping the ground covered and inoculating his seed for disease control.  We never had time to talk about the importance of calcium.

I got to talk in lenghth with Henry Apple of Bowling Green, Ohio at the FHR Hospitality suite.  He was allowed to miss class at his senior year at Bowling Green High School to attend the Farm to Plate Conference at Riverside, Iowa in December and now the NNTC!  His dad is a very progressive farmer with an innovative soybean seeder.  He took a worn out piece of ground and put on 3 tons of burnt calcium lime 8 years and now it is one of his best fields.

With all the young people here I say agriculture and notill has some good young hands coming up.  We need to nurture those hands and minds and keep sound agriculture at the forefront.

The hotel is overwhelmed with over crowding but so far we are getting along.  My French friend Odette Menard just gave a wonderful presentation on earthworms.  I will try to get her to put it on Slide Share and get her night video of earthworms on YouTube!  It was worth the price of admission!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 1

I think the NNTC has broke a new record of 1100 attendees.  I went to sign in and Darrell said here is your 15 year pin, Ed, thank you for your continued support.  I asked him where 15 years went?

I had attended a couple of times when I was selected as NoTill Innovator of the Year in 1999.  I had helped so many farmers convert to the Martin Till system of notill planting corn and soybeans I got nominated and selected.  It was a great honor to receive the award in January 2000 that changed my life forever.

I had just met LuAnn and all of this fell upon me, a great grace from Heaven.  I had floundered through the 90's, helping my children get through high school and get into college.  It was fantastic, wonderful times.  I got my award along side Jon Kinzenbaugh of Kinze Mfg.  It was surreal.

Through my own fault, I suffered a lot of hardship the following years but continued to receive great graces.  Alice Musser gave me a big hug and I said how are you doing Grandma?  She said great. how are you doing Grandpa?  I also said great, we just held our 11th grandchild, Deirdre.  She was a little bit jealous.

What did I learn today?  Number One, the Internet has changed my life for the good.  Number 2, notill is the only reason I am farming and enjoyed the blessings of farming the last umpteen years.  Number 3, we know enough to this day to be dangerous.

I have seen so many familiar faces here at the National NoTillage Conference yet guys my age want me to meet their sons and grandsons!

I have one thing in the back on my mind, Steve Groff told me he got 202 bu out of and 83 day northern hybrid.  That allowed him to shell early and plant another cover crop record early.  I have several pages of notes already.

I have so many ideas spinning in my head but one will stick out for years.  The best crops I saw this year across the US had  years of gypsum applied to it.  It was non GMO corn and soybeans.  When I see a picture of crops now I look for pink leaves in corn versus tall, green corn with brown husks right near it.

How do you do that?  Come to the NNTC and learn how or better yet, put the Farm to Plate conference on your agenda for the first week of December. 2013.

I hope you had a great day like me,

Ed Winkle

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


It's time to pack up and head for Indy. Part of me doesn't want to go. Can you believe that? Yes, it's a lot of work and responsibility. So, LuAnn, yes, even little ole me doesn't even want to leave home some days!

LuAnn wrote two very nice pieces on travel on WIA or she calls wea.  It stands for Women In Agriculture and the forum is on  She is a highly kudo's poster on that forum because she has many friends there and she is an excellent writer.

"The thing about travel is the desire to experience sensory pleasures that are completely different from your own environment. Viewing natural landscapes or a work of art, tasting local cuisine or wines, listening to music or theater of a region or locality, touching objects that are foreign or unfamiliar or touching natural objects from a different environment,.... That is what makes travel valuable. Even the air smells different in different places. Who would think that something as simple as breathing in a new environment could be so much fun??!!

It enables us to step outside of our comfort zone and stretch our world view. The phrase "broadening your horizons" accurately describes the experience.

I understand that people have an aversion to tourist traps but those are not what I consider true travel. I would consider a Disney World experience a vacation, but I would not consider it a cultural experience.

To enjoy travel you have to be flexible, curious and adventurous. We've met some very seasoned travelers who admit they once did not like to stray to far from home but they became travelers through a passion or hobby. One couple had a passion for Civil War history, another for flowers and gardens. Those interests fueled their desire to explore.

For us, our love of agriculture and my photography has taken us places. Our desire to see the land of our ancestors has motivated us. I cannot begin to explain how connected I felt in Paris and in Nova Scotia. Those were the lands of my people.

I would sacrifice a lot to afford to travel. I cannot imagine the person I would be without the sensory experiences I have enjoyed.

My motto is "you can't truly live life from a recliner in front of TV or behind a book". There is no substitute for been there done that. Even the smallest adventure can yield the biggest benefits. "

Going to Indy or NNTC used to be a big adventure for me.  Now it's only small and it seems more work than benefit this week.  I do have a lot of good friends myself though counting on me and I know I will pick up some good ideas.  I always do.

I will see some of you in Indy, safe travels!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Death and Tractors

I was going to name this Funeral but Death and Tractors came to mind.  We went to the city yesterday afternoon to be with my Winkle cousins for Aunt Jane's funeral.  The center of the message was giving.  Aunt Jane was a giver, a care giver and worker at church.  It was appropriate her funeral was held at the church of her adult life, the Montgomery Presbyterian Church on Zig Zag Road.  The road is well named.  It zigs and zags over Interstate 71 in Montgomery, near Blue Ash.

She was 7 years younger than dad and died 12 years later to the day.  They both lived good lives, all of the siblings lived good lives.  She took care of her husband Jim, then took care of the 3 sisters she lived with in Florida.  Then she cared for her daughter and grandson until they had to take care of her.  She ended up at Otterbein, the nicest nursing home around her last few years.

A farmer asked what tractor do you pull a 6 row corn planter with.  It was a lively discussion on Machinery Talk 2 days ago.  A younger friend wrote me this;  "Well, I don’t feel so alone!!  What is ironic is most of these guys are very smart folks and probably are more efficient/profitable per acre than the BTO’s!!  I am some what disappointed that they don’t come out of the woodwork too often.  I would much rather read posts about guys trying to figure out how to take 2013 technology and adapt it to work with simple older reliable equipment than to read 15 posts about which is the better semi to buy or where to find a chrome exhaust for brand new tractor or who makes the biggest bestus planter."

I am reminded that over 90% of the commodities are now produced by less than 10% of the farmers or farm operations.  We are in a minority within our own minority!  This even came up at dinner after the funeral.  My family doesn't care for big farms, GMO's or the lack of small, independent farms.  But that's the way it's went in America.  Big Agribusiness is big and we few small farmers left are truly a minority within our own minority.

My family often asks me what is going on in farming since I am the last one left of a long line of farmers.  Our oldest, Matt, is doing a little farming while teaching agricultural science but it's not enough to support his family.  The number of families left where all of the family work on that farm is very, very small.

One friend of the family told me her husband is actually afraid to eat the food available in America!  He thinks genetically modified food and spraying glyphosate on all of the crop ground is not good for America or our health.  Many people fit in that category but there is little they can do about it.  The love the advent of farmers markets and subscribing to a farmer to get their summer produce but that's very incidental still, compared to big agriculture and what we buy at the store and the restaurant.

Male, white, agriculture represents a dying breed!  I am one of them.  Will we survive?  Where will our food come from in just 90 years, the length of Aunt Jane's life?


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Charity and Humility

My routine is to go to Mass Saturday at 5 and attend my Sunday Morning Sunshine Group at 9 AM on Sundays.  I pass this little well kept cemetery when I go "the back way."   I listen to Sacred Heart Radio on the way and again this morning I heard this wonderful speaker teach me new things.  I was reminded why the wisemen brought gold, frankencense and myrhh.  Gold for a King, Incense for God and Myrhh for victory over death since myrhh was used for embalming.  I thought about charity and humility.  I caught these acts of charity by agribusiness on AgWeb, the Farm Jounal people.

1. AGCO has donated a new Massey Ferguson tractor to Atlanta-based Piedmont Park Conservancy. The tractor, valued at nearly $50,000 including accessories, maintenance and training, will be used for park maintenance and improvements. Piedmont Park Conservancy is a popular urban green space that Atlanta residents have enjoyed for more than 100 years.

2. Syngenta extends its FFA jacket support to 2013. More than a half a million high school students representing all 50 states wear the iconic blue jacket today. Syngenta and its retail partners have been donating $500 at a time to various local FFA chapters since 2008. Over time, that money has added up in a big way—more than $2.6 million has been donated to date.

3. Farm Aid’s grant program tallied up to $532,000 that benefited 67 different family farms in 2012. Farm Aid money is specifically raised to help farm families stay on their land and help build new market opportunities for them.

4. ArborGen donated 75,000 longleaf pine seedlings to the Dixie Plantation, a historic 881-acre property along the Stono River and the Intercoastal Waterway in South Carolina. The donation is expected to strengthen the plantation’s rich ecosystem of longleaf pine forests, wetlands, savannahs and tidal marshes.

5. The Trees for Troops initiative also had a busy 2012. Donations go to providing Christmas trees for military families. This year, the organization delivered more than 121,000 trees to 62 military bases in the U.S. and Middle East, covering every branch of the armed services.

6. ADM employees donate more than 245,000 pounds of food in observation of World Food Day on October 16. Donations were made in 29 communities in six different countries. ADM also announced in October that it was contributing $1 million to Feeding America to fund 30 mobile food distribution units in 21 states.

7. Pork Checkoff's event trailer headed to the East Coast in November to assist in feeding victims of Hurricane Sandy. A total of 9,000 servings (200 boneless loins, 306 boneless half loins, 64 cases of brat patties and two cases of Italian sausage grillers) were distributed to New Jersey residents.

8. Many other companies made monetary donations to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Among the notable donations were Bayer CropScience ($150,000) and FMC ($75,000).

9. Burrus Hybrids purchased a raffle ticket to win a custom pink motorcycle named "Fight Like a Girl" for a fundraiser for Illinois-based Shelby Memorial Hospital. Shelbyville resident Steve Koontz constructed the bike for his co-worker, Vicky Wagner, as a fundraising idea for SMH to help offset some of Wagner’s medical expenses when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Burrus beat the odds and won the raffle—and donated it to SMH, who sold it back to Koontz. "This is one of those situations that was totally unexpected, but really ends up making an enormous difference," president Tom Burrus says. "It’s great to see the proceeds directly reaching people who really need the assistance, and need it right away."

10. Monsanto donated $3 million to the Missouri Botanical Garden this past summer. The money will be used to help the World Flora Online project develop the first-ever comprehensive, authoritative and accessible online resource for the world's approximately 400,000 known plant species.
Monsanto has given many $2500 donations to organizations all over the country, including my son's Fayetteville FFA and my wife's work at Turning Point.

11. Time is money, and nearly 22,000 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team volunteers gave time to private lands conservation last year, tallying more than 435,000 hours of service on America's farms and ranches. Translated into dollars, the value of those donated services totaled $9.3 million.

12. America’s egg farmers gave nearly 10 million eggs to hungry Americans this past Easter. The fresh eggs were shipped to Feeding America's 78 food banks in 40 states. Since 2008, egg farmers have contributed 60 million eggs in total.

My friend Robert south of here has given a portion of his harvest to the needy as well as farmers across the country.  There are so many good projects.

You and I helped these companies donate that money by buying their product.  Do you feel part of the charitable giving they are doing in your behalf?  Does that influence your purchasing decisions?  How do you handle charity and humility?


Saturday, January 5, 2013


Too bad DHL didn't stay in business in Clinton County.  I think they would have been OK in the US market.  I think UPS is overwhelmed.

DHL's move to Clinton County turned out to be disasterous.  I think it did more harm than good but I didn't work there 25 years like Les did so I would have to ask him.  It's hard to believe when I drive by that multi billion dollar world airport sitting nearly empty.  There are so many out of work but DHL had trouble finding enough dependable people.  It's all a sign of a sick society.  UPS seems to be a different story.  I wonder why?

We order lots of things online so their truck is here almost every day, sometimes more than once.  Today I felt sorry for a new kid handed a truck with 150 packages and a county road map.  He asked where Mad River Road is and I said 7 miles to the east and told him how to get there.  Then he asked where McK road was and I said spell it.  McKibben Road, well that is 3 miles west of me.  He said he was time limited and I told him I wish I had time to ride with him, we would knock his load out.  He laughed.

This morning neighbor Neil called to ask for the Newman's phone number.  He wanted them to see the sandhill cranes migrating our way if they were interested.  I need to introduce them to each other, its been years and time just creeps away.  We don't even know our own neighbors.

I work pretty hard at it but I fail, too.  I really wanted to get know Harry Ertel(this is LuAnn's picture of his old windmill where we were just standing so she could take a picture of the sandhill cranes) where the Newman's now live.  I was so busy getting this farm in order I looked across the street one day and the yard was full of cars.  Harry had passed away.  I think it was 04 or 05.  Now my aunt Jane has passed and I haven't seen her since her 90th birthday party nearly a year ago.  I guess I am no better but it doesn't seem like a year ago.

We will go to the city for her services tomorrow and start another busy week.  I don't know how much I can get done before we leave for New Zealand and Australia but there are things I must do!  I must put a check in the hands of a new trucker and lime spreader I haven't used and a check in the hands of a fertilizer vendor.  I can't farm without those materials.

Yesterday a Don Effren called me out of the blue to tell me about his new remote control heliocopter that flies over your field by GPS and takes 4 different kinds of pictures you download after the flight and look at your crop from pictures from visual to UV to NGIV.  It looks very promising to me.  I try to send the files that crept through the Frontier server and remind myself I must get on Road Runner cable.  It's lying outside our frontroom window.

I come up with this new idea of what it feels like in my corn field all season.  I name it Living In Your Fields and I envision camping in a tent with Liam and Corbin and taking temperatures of crop canopy, soil, BRIX readings, all kinds of informational things.  Smelling and touching and feeling and experiencing what a plant does though I am not a plant.  I am the steward of that plant.

Pretty crazy, isn't it?