Farming 101:  What is a Superweed?  Hint…it’s not one of the Avengers!

By now You may have heard the term “Superweed“. 

Generally it refers to a weed that is naturally resistant to common herbicides like the popular Roundup Herbicide made by Monsanto.  However there has never been a great definition on what a Superweed really is until now.   Yesterday, AgWeb, a popular agricultural news source, published an article (click here)  which included the excerpt below aiming to define what the so called Superweed really is:

“the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has defined the term “superweed” as:

Slang used to describe a weed that has evolved characteristics that make it more difficult to manage due to repeated use of the same management tactic. Over-dependence on a single tactic as opposed to using diverse approaches can lead to such adaptations.”” – 4/30/15  in AgWeb

While the so called Superweed Is a growing problem for farmers, there really isn’t anything “Super” about it. It doesn’t have a cape, change clothes in a phone booth, or turn into a big angry green monster like the Hulk.   It’s merely a weed that is naturally un affected by a certain herbicide, which is nothing new.  Weeds have done just that for years!  This is not to say that other herbicides or the old school garden hoe won’t do the job.  After all it’s not like it has Avenger Style Super Powers or anything.  It’s just a little tougher than the average weed. 

Farming 101: Are farmers forced by Big Ag and Monsanto to plant seeds they don’t want to?

For years now, there has been a myth going around the internet about how farmers seed options have been growing smaller and smaller to the point where they are basically forced by seed companies to plant a certain variety in a monocropping style production method.  This myth is most likely rooted in the fact that farmers who want to use the “latest and greatest” corn hybrids or soybean varieties must sign a contract (discussed here) with the respective seed company agreeing not to reuse the harvested grain as seed for the following year.


The fact is this myth simply isn’t true.   Today there are quite a few seed companies out there that offer countless options for farmers to pick from.  The three most well known seed companies are Monsanto which has the Dekalb, Asgrow, Channel and other brands.   Syngenta Seeds providing the Golden Harvest and NK brands. And DuPont with the Pioneer brand.  Others include smaller privately held seed companies like Wyffels, Becks and Burrus Seeds.

FACT: Farmers have the choice to purchase seed from whatever brand they want to as well as the choice to purchase whatever seeds they want to from that company.   In fact, based on what I have seen in many farmers sheds this spring (and for years prior) many farmers choose to diversify and buy a few bags of seed from 3-4 companies on average.  You can learn more about how farmers choose what seeds to plant by clicking here.

Here are 17+7 reasons why this myth is 100% busted.  
Every year we conduct seed trials on our farm comparing the yield potential of various seeds and brands.  As in years past we go above and beyond what is considered a normal size seed trial which is usually 4 rows wide and 500′ long.

For 2015 our main “Potential To Yield” (P2Y) seed trial consists of 17 corn hybrids from 7 different Seed brands including everything from the big Monsanto brands to the little guy, Wyffels Hybrids Brand.  Each corn hybrid will be planted 32 rows wide and 1/2 mile long and will provide ourselves and other farmers with quality yield data after harvest is completed this fall.  That data will then help farmers choose which seeds may be best to plant on their farms in 2016!

For more information on our “Potential To Yield” (P2Y) seed trials visit our web site Potential Ag.

Have a comment or question?  Feel free to post a comment below.

I look forward to discussing your concerns with you!

Thank you and have a Great Day!

Farming 101:  What difference do a few pennies make?

Farming is an expensive occupation.  Whether the farm raises cattle on 20 acres or raises corn and soybeans on 5000 acres, the expenses and risks are high.

That being said what difference do a few pennies make?

All the difference in the world.

Today the USDA released its monthly report showing the status of cash crops grown in the U.S. such as corn and soybeans.  At this time of the year (prior to most farmers planting the current years crop) the reports can show esitimates of how many acres will be planted into certain crops, estimates showing how many bushels of grain are sitting in storage in the country and the demand for their eventual usage.  All of these factors and many more go into determining the price of the grain for local and worldwide market levels.

When reports like this come out the market often reacts quickly. Sometimes it rises quickly and stays there offering the farmer a opportunity for increased revenue, other times it’s not so positive. To a farmer, that move in the market prices can mean the difference between turning a profit for the year or being in the red.

Here is a screen shot of the markets reaction to the USDA’s report today. Showing a $0.13 cent drop in the Corn price shortly after the report was issued. 

Let’s pencil this out:

A farmer farms 1000 acres of Corn

After paying the landlords rent, or making land payments (if he/she owns the land) and paying for all input costs like seed, fertilizer, machinery, fuel, etc, he/she may have a total per acre expense of $750.00/acre of corn.

That same acre of corn has been known to produce an average of 190 bushels per acre (bpa) of corn grain at the years end.

Using the prereport price per bushel of corn for $3.98 the potential income equals

190 x 3.98 = $756 income per acre.

Now let’s Subtract the $750 he/she spent to plant the acre.

$756 – $750 =  $6/acre return on investment.

Remember: there are 1000 acres of corn,

This results in a mere $6,000 profit for the year.

As you can see there is income but isn’t enough to support the farm or the farm family, but, this is a real life situation.

So what financial effect did the reports initial reaction have on this farmer?

At the time of this screen shot the market price for corn was $3.85. So let’s calculate the farmers income.

190  x $3.85 = $731 income per acre.

Remember the farmer needed $750/acre income to turn a profit.

$750 – $731.50= $-18.5 per acre loss.

1000 acres x $-18.5 per acre income = $-18,500 loss for the year.

Harvesting Corn

Harvesting Corn

Sure the market moved only 13 pennies per bushel of corn but the result to the farmer was a $24,500 change in potential income and a $18,500 loss, all in a matter of minutes.

  I bet the pile of change you have in your cars cup holder looks a little different now!

Interested in watching how the market performs in the coming days?  You can watch the price of May Delivery Corn fluctuate by up to $0.40 per day by clicking here to visit the Chicago Mercantile Exchange website.

Farming 101: How Do Farmers Determine If Their Crop Is Dry Enough To Harvest, Store, or Sell?

Every year as fall arrives farmers need to determine when their fields will be ready for harvest.  Many factors go into making that determination such as standability, plant maturity, plant health and grain moisture content just to name a few.  For the purposes of this post, lets talk about moisture content in field corn and how that plays into a farmers harvest plan.

First off, lets start with a little background information.

There are many types of corn grown throughout the United States, including Sweet Corn, which you buy at the store or farm stand in the summer, and #2 yellow dent field corn, which is most commonly grown by farmers throughout the Midwestern ares of the nation.  Sweet Corn is most commonly harvested by farmers as a produce type product in mid summer at a very high moisture content, when the kernels are tender and full of sugars, which is what makes it one of my favorite summertime foods!  #2 Yellow Dent Field Corn is quite the opposite.  Field Corn is harvested by farmers as a grain product in the fall months when the kernels are dry, hard, and full of starches.  While Sweet Corn goes directly into the food chain as canned corn or consumed directly off the cob, field corn has thousands of uses including Livestock Feed, Corn Flours, Corn Syrups, Ethanol to fuel your cars and much much more.

As you may already know, Sweet Corn has a short shelf life.  Ears left in the refrigerator or left out on the counter do not last very long.  However, Field Corn has a much longer shelf life if managed correctly.  The shelf life of Field Corn is largely determined by how much moisture is in the kernels themselves.  The higher the moisture content is there is a greater chance of the Corn spoiling in storage. The ideal moisture content for stored Field Corn is around 14-15%.  Click here to view a chart on Field Corn’s Shelf Life

So How do farmers determine if their crop is dry enough to harvest, store, or sell?  

The picture below shows 2 devices we use on our farm for determining the moisture content of our grain.  They work for multiple crops but for this post we will concentrate on Field Corn.  For reference the moisture tester on the left is around 4 years old while the tester on the right is around 25 years old.  Both are very accurate but the newer tester has a few other useful features we can discuss later.

Ears ready to be tested

Ears ready to be tested

To determine if a field is ready to harvest, we first must determine the moisture content of the grain in the field.  To do so, we walk out into the field, walk down a row of corn for a few hundred feet and pick a few ears at random.  For example, if the field is 80 acres in size, we will walk into around 3-4 areas in the field and pick 1-2 representative ears from each area.  In the picture above, we picked 5 ears to test.

Shelled Kernels ready to be put into the tester

Shelled Kernels ready to be put into the tester

Now that we have our ears picked and the husks are removed, we break the ears in half and begin to remove the kernels, by hand, into a bucket.  While the entire ears kernels will be harvested, we normally test the kernels from the middle of the ear.

The filled tester cup, ready to be tested.

The filled tester cup, ready to be tested.

After the majority of the kernels have been removed from each ear, we blend them in the bucket and remove a measured sample for our older tester to test.

Dumping in the corn

Dumping in the corn

Next we slowly dump the corn into the tester.  This has to be done slowly to be accurate.

The tester filled with corn

The tester filled with corn

After we dump the corn into the tester, we wait 15 seconds then press the button in the lower right hand corner of the tester, and it gives us an accurate reading of the kernels moisture content.  This test reads 15.6%.  This means the field is ready to be harvested and stored directly into one of our grain bins.

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The newer tester operates on the same principles as the older one does, but is a little different.

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With this tester, we fill the clear container with corn and place it atop the tester before we dump it in.  This clear container has a special black slide gate on the bottom of it which helps slow the amount of kernels going into the tester when opened.  Much like the older tester, it has to be filled slowly to provide accurate results.

IMG_6539When filled, we remove the clear container and run the test.  The corn we tested here has a 29.2% moisture content which was too wet to harvest at the time of this test.  As you may notice, this tester also provides us with other information including test weight (how much a bushel of this corn would weigh) and what the temperature of the grain is.

To store the grain in our grain bins, we need the moisture content to be at or under 15% as a rule of thumb.  Some farmers like it a little higher and some lower, but 15% is our target.  There are many times we harvest corn that is above 15% moisture and have to dry the corn artificially before we can store it in our bins.  Check back for an upcoming post: Farming 101: How Farmers Dry Their Corn For Storage for more information on how we dry our corn.

 

Do you have any Questions or Comments?  

Feel free to post them in the comment section below.  I will gladly do my best to answer them asap!

 

Farming 101: How do farmers estimate their corn yields before harvest?

If you drive around the countryside this time of the year (mid August) you will find number of farms with their shed doors open, some farm machinery sitting around the yard, and farmers busily prepping for the coming harvest.  Our farm is no different.  For the last few weeks we have been taking steps to prep for this years harvest.  (You can follow many farmers harvest on twitter with the #harvest14 hashtag.)

One of the most important things we do this time of the year is to create yield estimations of our corn fields.  This is very important, and gives us a good idea about what yields to expect in our fields at harvest.  By having the estimates we can develop a “Plan A” for #harvest14 which will determine how many acres worth of corn we can store in our bins, how many acres of corn we will need to haul to the grain elevator straight from the fields and how much LP (liquid propane) we will have to purchase to dry the corn we store in our bins.  While the estimates are just that, estimates, they help provide us with a pretty accurate guess as to how many bushels per acre in our fields.

 

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Here is how we do a corn yield estimate:

Conducting a corn yield estimate is actually fairly simple, and if you have any sweetcorn handy, you can do this too!   We start by picking a handful of sample ears from a few fields, label them by field name with a marker to keep them separate from the other fields corn.  Yields can vary from field to field and corn hybrid to corn hybrid, so we try to be as thorough as we can when picking the sample ears and keeping them separate.

 When we go into a field to grab ears, naturally we are drawn to the large ears.  Its hard not to pick the best looking ears out there, but that’s not what we are after.  We want to pick ears that are a good representative of the field.  To do so we choose the ears at “random” from at least 2 different areas in the field.

We first choose an area of the field  that looks “average” meaning it’s not the best spot in the field, but it’s not the worst either.  After choosing those areas, we enter the fields, walk at least 100 feet into the fields and find a row or two that again, qualify to be considered “average”.    Now comes the hard part, avoiding picking those nice LARGE ears that you naturally get drawn to.  To avoid doing so, we literally close our eyes and take a few steps forward, feeling for an ear.  When we touch an ear, we pick it, then take a few more steps and pick another, then another.  Generally speaking, we take 2-3 ears from each area we walk into.  This “random” picking of a few ears in multiple areas in the field gives us a decent representation of what the entire fields ears may look like.

While in the same area, we also need to determine now many ears per acre there are.  To do so, we measure 17.5′ long (1/1000th of an acre using 30″ wide rows) and count every ear in that length.  While picking these areas, we found the average number of ears to be 32.  So we multiply 32 by 1000 to get, 32000,  the overall ear population in one acre. (this is important for later)

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

After we pick and label the corn, we take it to the shop to be husked and counted using a simple formula to estimate their potential yield.

Here is how:

Take an ear of corn and simply count how many kernels it has on it.  Simple right?  That may take a while.  Instead of counting every kernel, we simply count how many rows of kernels (Around)  there are on the ear and write that number down.

AG FACT:  A ear of corn will ALWAYS have an even number of rows around on it.  Usually ranging from 14-18.

After you have the number of rows around, we now need to count the number of kernels long.  Starting at the bottom end of the ear, and omitting the last few kernels on the bottom and top, count the number of kernels in one row long.  These numbers usually range from 28-42.  We do this for each ear, then average them all together.

 

Here is an example of how the estimates work.

Lets say you have 5 ears, after counting them all up, you come up with:

36 kernels long on average

16 rows around on average

and had the 32000 ear population stated above.

So: 36 x 18 x 32000 = 18,432,000 kernels of corn in one acre

From here we need to turn those kernels into bushels.  Normally, a bushel of corn weighs around 56lb and can contain anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 kernels.  In order to keep our yield estimates on the conservative side, we will use the 90,000 figure, keeping our estimates lower.

18,432,000 / 90000 =  204.8 bushels per acre

Here is an example from our fields taken yesterday:  NOTE:  This particular variety has larger kernels than normal so we also conducted an estimate using a 80000 kernels per bushel figure.

Ears picked, and estimated from our field on 8/19/14

Ears picked from our field on 8/19/14.  This field has some wind damage causing the ears to be smaller than normal.

This group of ears averaged 36.3 long x 15.3333333333 around x 32000 ear population = 17,811,200

17,811,200 / 90,000 = 197.90 bushels per acre

17,811,200 / 80,000 = 222.64 bushels per acre

Although the combine will tell us what the yields really are, now that we have some basic yield estimates we can make a plan to haul the correct amount of bushels to our bin sites or the grain elevator for storage during harvest.   

The next time you have corn on the cob for dinner, you can do the exact same yield estimate on your ear as we did here to see what it could have yielded if harvested like field corn would be.

Have any questions or comments?  I would like to hear from you!  Please comment below!  I look forward to talking with you!

Farming 101: How do farmers select what seeds to plant for the coming growing season?

A few weeks ago I posted a poll asking “What Would You Like To Know about Farming?”    The selection that received the most votes asked,

 How we  (farmers) select our seeds for the (coming) season?

So lets dig in to the answers!

When you go to the store to purchase seeds to plant in  your garden, you may be confronted with countless choices to pick from.  Carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, sweet corn, green beans, the list goes on and on.  You also may notice that within each vegetable category there are different types as well.  Tomatoes are a great example of that.  Early Girl, BeefMaster, Better Boy etc.  The list goes on and on (click here for more).  You may also have the choice to purchase Conventional,  Organic or even Heirloom seeds as well.  With all of the choices you have, it may be difficult to choose, especially not knowing which variety may be the best yielding for your own individual garden.

Photo credit to “Its Not Work, Its Gardening”

Just as you stand in the store, going back and forth and back and forth debating on which packet of Carrot or Cumber Seeds to buy, farmers do the same exact thing when it comes to purchasing their seed needs, albeit on a much larger scale.

Lets “dig” into the details!

For farmers, the decision on what seeds to plant often occur in the fall, while harvesting the previous years crop.  Every fall, grain farmers across the Midwest and beyond harvest their crops and compare which soybean or wheat varieties or corn hybrids were the best throughout the year and of course which have the best resulting yield.  On average if a farmer is pleased with a certain variety they will purchase and replant it again the following year, if not, then they look for something new.

Generally Speaking, if a farmer is looking for something new, here is an example on how the choice is made:

First the farmer must determine which Production method best fits their needs, This will determine which seed category he/she will purchase from, and yes contrary to what the Natural News’s of the internet say, there are countless seed options to choose from for each Production Method.  If you need proof, just ask any farmer.

Production Methods Vary from:

  1. Conventional (which may include GMO)
  2. Non GMO
  3. Organic

Just like you choose what CROP of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which CROPS they will plant for the following year.

When choosing a CROP, Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. Which Crops Grow the best on the Farmers Individual Fields
  2. Which Crops Grow the best in the Farmers overall Location
  3. Which Crops are readily marketable in the Farmers Location
  4. Which Crop’s harvest-able goods  has the highest demand.
  5. Which Crops have the greater ROI for his Location
  6. Which Crops the does the farmer need to plant to feed his own Livestock.
  7. Which Crops are best adapted for the Farmers local Weather.
  8. Which Crops can the Farmer efficiently Care for and Harvest with their current farm equipment and labor situations

NOTE:  Although I know there are many crops grown across the USA I will stick to corn and soybean seed decisions because that is my area in which I am most knowledgeable.

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After making the decision what crop to plant, it is time to choose what variety/hybrid to plant as well.

Just like you choose what Variety of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which Variety/Hybrid they will plant for the following year.  And just like the vegetables in the store, there are countless choices!

When choosing a Variety/Hybrid  Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. How quickly the seed emerges
  2. How tall the resulting plant is
  3. How does the resulting plant stand throughout the year?
  4. How strong are the resulting plants roots, stalk/stem?
  5. How is the resulting plant affected by various insects and diseases?
  6. How is the resulting plant is affected by it being planted on various soil types?
  7. How well does the resulting plant preform under stress from excess water or drought?
  8. How well does the resulting plants yield stack up to others?
  9. How long will it take the resulting plant to mature for harvest?
  10. How does the resulting plant react to various populations and row spacings?
  11. What weed pressures do the farmers fields have?

 

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The above questions are just a handful of what goes through a farmers mind when choosing what will be best to plant for his/her farm the following year.  As you may imagine choosing the right seed for the field is a very important and difficult task, and guessing what the weather may be in the following year, an even greater task yet!  Luckily determining which soybean variety or corn hybrid preformed the best in the year before isn’t so difficult.

Every seed company in the market today conducts annual seed trials on various farms across the Midwest and beyond.  Farmers then have access to those trial locations to get “hands on” with the plants throughout the year and also has access to the resulting yield data at the end of harvest!  In this aerial photo, taken by an Agricultural UAS Drone, each corn hybrid shows height and slight color differences.

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

A great source for farmers to source accurate independent yield data from is from the F.I.R.S.T. Group.  Click here for more info.

The researchers at FIRST pride themselves on providing independent research of Seed Technologies.  Every year they provide farmers with countless corn and soybean trial results so they can better choose which seeds are the best for their farm for the following year.

 

I hope this post helps you better understand how a farmer chooses his/her seeds, but if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me directly by visiting the contact page by clicking HERE.

What would you like to learn about Farming?

Its no secret, the 2014 planting season is just around the corner.  With our future first day of #plant14 (the hashtag many farmers use to discuss the 2014 planting season on twitter) coming up in a few weeks, I turn to you, my readers, to guide this blogs subject matter until I can post live updates from the field.

That being said,  my question to you is:

What would you like to learn about Farming?

I set up a brief poll with a few options for you to choose from, or you can add your own.  Anything goes, and you can pick more than one option, however you can only vote once.  The subject with the highest number of votes will get posted first and so on.

 

 

Thank you for Voting and be sure to check back often for the results!

Farming 101: How Farmers Use GPS and VRT Technology To Plant Efficiently

As the weather continues to warm up and spring arrives, farmers all across the nation will begin to plant their 2014 crops.  Have you ever wondered how a planter works?  While the basic mechanics of a planter are relatively simple, the increased use of modern computer controls help make planters themselves more precise every year.

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Through the use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and VRT (Variable Rate Technology) farmers are able to plant seeds in more precise ways than ever before.  Today, farmers can program their planters to plant precisely the correct amount of seed in specific parts of their fields as determined by factors such as changing soil types, changing elevations, as well as past yield history from a specific field

So how does precision planting work?

For the purposes of this post, I will use one of our fields called “Home Place East” (HPE) and use the last few years of Yield Mapping Data we collected as our main variable.  This field covers 160 acres.

To understand how this method of planting works, we first we need to understand what Yield Mapping is and how yield maps are created.  Yield Mapping is done in the fall as we harvest our crops.  Our combine has an integrated GPS computer system which senses the amount of grain coming into the combine as we are harvesting, references its current location in the field as well as other data, such as grain moisture, elevation and which Variety we are harvesting in that said location every few seconds.  As you may imagine, this creates a huge amount of data.  I have a short video on Yield Mapping on YouTube that can be viewed by clicking here.

After the field is completely harvested I then download the data from the combine and upload it into my laptop.  After uploading, the data is formed into a map similar to how a radar map looks, as shown below. 

The Yield Map for HPE for Corn Harvest 2013

The Yield Map for HPE for Corn Harvest 2013


These maps show the areas in the field where yields were higher (Greens) and where they were lower (Reds)

In order to make a quality planting plan for 2014, I incorporate data from Yield Maps like this one from multiple years.  In this case I will combine data from the years of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2103

Multiple Years of Yield Mapping Data

Multiple Years of Yield Mapping Data

These maps reflect the yield results from 2 years of drought as well as an high yielding year and an average year which will make a very nice representation of what the field is capable of producing.  From this point, I create a Composite Map which groups these four yield maps together and averages them into one map, shown below:

A Composite Yield Map of 2010-2013 Yields from HPE

A Composite Yield Map of 2010-2013 Yields from HPE

This map helps show the areas in the field that have consistently produced higher yields (Greens), areas that have had consistently lower yields (Reds) as well as everything in between (Yellows and Oranges)

Up until this point, we are simply viewing the data, but now we can apply this accurate data to our planting plans for 2014.

I set the maps up to have  15 statistical ranges, each with their own color in the above map.  For planting purposes I will assign a planting population for the 2014 soybean crop.  When planting soybeans off of maps like these, the best producing areas will receive less seeds per acre while the lower yielding areas will receive more seeds per acre.  Doing so helps to best utilize the soybean’s and plant’s potential without stressing either.  Here is an example:

Assigning Planting Populations based off of the composite map

Assigning Planting Populations based off of the composite map

The resulting map looks like this:

Resulting Planting Prescription Map for Soybean Planting 2014 on HPE

Resulting Planting Prescription Map for Soybean Planting 2014 on HPE

As you may notice in the summary below the map, the average planting rate is just over 129,000 seeds per acre with this map.  If we decided not to use this map, we would plant 145,000 seeds per acre on a flat rate across the entire farm.

So lets do some quick math:

145,000 seeds per acre * 160 acres = 23,200,000 Total Seeds Needed

129000 seeds per acre *160 acres = 20,640,000 Total Seeds Needed

This equates to a savings of around 2,560,000 Seeds, the equivalent of 18 bags of seed costing $55 each.

Total Cost Savings = $990 for this 160 acre field.

By using this map for planting, we not only place the correct amount of seeds precisely where they will yield the most in the field but we lower our needed amount of seeds and our input costs as well.


The map below shows our final planting prescription for 2014 Soybean Planting for this field.  I will take this map data and upload it into the planters computer rate controller and prep it for planting the field.

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This spring, as #plant14 rolls on, each of our fields will have a map like this uploaded into the planters controllers.  As I drive across the field with the planter, the planter will know where to place precise amount of seeds using VRT.  As I drive from a green to yellow area on this map, the planter will automatically increase the seeds population and decrease populations when driving from yellows to greens.

I hope this answers a few questions you may have had, but if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments or email me at boucherfarmsil@yahoo.com

I also highly encourage you to follow along as farmers from all across the world plant their crops by using the #plant14 hashtag on twitter.

Thank you and God Bless

Matt Boucher

Scouting Winter Wheat With a UAS (Drone) “The Results”

A few days ago I posted about Scouting our field Winter Wheat that may or may not make it to harvest due to the extreme winter we had this past season.   It can be viewed by clicking here: Scouting Winter Wheat with a UAS (Drone).  To quickly recap, we have two wheat fields on our farm.  One sits up on some higher ground and looks fairly good, while this field is on some lower lying and “tighter” soils.  This field  is usually wetter and requires a bit more attention annually than our other fields do.  So this past Sunday I went out to check out how that field was doing, but the field was too muddy to be conventionally scouted  by foot or ATV.

Healthy Winter Wheat Growing in our field

Healthy Winter Wheat beginning to grow in our field after one of the harshest winters on record

With limited Scouting options at this point, I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring out our latest Crop Scouting tool and put it to good use.  Having purchased this new tool during this fierce winter, the opportunity to use it to its full ability hasn’t presented itself to date, until now.

Our latest and most advanced crop scouting tool to date, a DJI Phantom 2 with a gopro camera and more

Our latest and most advanced crop scouting tool to date, a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro camera and additional options to crop scout more efficiently.

With the Phantom 2, I was able to fly over my field in minutes, and learn exactly what was going on, from a whole different perspective, all without stepping foot into it.

This picture shows the wetter (darker) and drier (lighter colored) spots in the field.  Generally, Wheat prefers drier soils.

This picture shows the wetter (darker) and drier (lighter colored) spots in the field. Generally, Wheat prefers drier soils.

Within minutes of flying the field, which only took 10 minutes of flight time, I was able to see the wetter areas in the field where the wheat could have potentially been drowned out by thawing snow and falling spring rains as well as see where some of the greenest areas are in the field.  (at the Wheat’s current height, it is hard to see)

I flew twice that day.  The first time I flew around 350′ high, (a UAS is legal to fly to 400′ high) to determine the extent of potential water damage to the wheat, and then a second time at a much lower altitude to determine how much new green growth there was.

Click on the picture or the link below to watch the video of Scouting with the UAS over the field.  

Scouting Winter Wheat Video

Snapshot 4 (4-9-2014 12-30 PM)

The video explains much of what my concerns are and what I learned from the images the UAS took.

After the results were downloaded and analyzed, I have determined that this field is indeed under a lot of stress, but with the warmer weather coming, I remain hopeful.  I plan on going back to fly over it again in a week to ten days and reevaluate the field.  At that point, we will either decide to keep the field as is or terminate it and plant corn directly into it.

Check back in a week to see what we decide to do!

 

Thank you and God Bless,

Matt Boucher