Friday Farm Flicks #plant14 style 5/16/14

You may have noticed quite a bit of dust stirring across the country side in the last few weeks.  Planters have been rolling for hours on end, precisely planting the 2014 Corn and Soybean crops across the Midwest.  Overall, the 2014 planting season got off to slow start a few weeks ago but then was quickly stalled out with rains and constant cold throughout most of the Midwest.  Our farm was no exception to this rule. We began planting Corn this “spring” about 3 weeks later than we would normally like to, but that is ok.  Why? you may ask?  Because 5 out of the last 6 growing seasons where we have planted late, have resulted in above trendline yields on Midwestern grain farms!  Most notably for us was 2009 and 2013.  Both years served up difficult and late planting seasons but also offered 2 of the best harvests we have ever had.

To prep for #plant14 we first have to prep the ground using our 4 wheel drive tractor and soil finisher.  The finisher slices up the remaining stubble from the previous year, levels the ground and uproots any weeds that may be present all in a matter of seconds.  With the soil finisher we can travel at around 8.5mph across the field, pulling 3 or so inches deep and 39’9″ wide, averaging around 38 acres per hour.  As you may imagine, doing so requires a good tractor to pull it.  Our tractor is a John Deere 9510,weighing in at 44,000 lb,  touting 510hp with a fuel capacity of 300 (give or take) gallons of Diesel Fuel.  When pulling the soil finisher we burn around 0.7 gallons of fuel per acre, or 26 gallons per hour.  Learn more about our tractor by clicking here.

cropped-20140505_194945000_ios-1.jpgI made a short video of this tractor and finisher in action using my UAS Drone and GoPro Camera.

Click here to watch!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTNRrxx0pE

As the ground began to slowly dry out, we decided to plant our first field of corn.  Mother nature wasn’t exactly cooperating though, as it was and still is much colder than what we would like it to be for this time of the year.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

 

This year is my first year as a GoPro Camera owner.  I have one for my UAS and 2 other older GoPros to play around with.  So, I put them to work while planting our first field this spring.

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Click here to see the Spring Planting video!

THE most important thing on our Family Farm is, you guessed it, Family!  While the Spring Season brings the time to plant with it, it also brings things like Tball, Baseball, and Softball for us.  On the day this pic was taken, we could have been out in the field planting corn, however we were right where we needed to be, watching our little mans first ever Pinto Baseball game!

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This Spring I had a great opportunity to talk about what we do to many many people when I was invited to bring our tractor up to our towns “SpringFest” which included a “Touch A Truck” section.  There were Fire Trucks, Police Cars, a Garbage Truck and a Semi truck there as well as our tractor for kids of all ages to explore.  I was more than happy to answer the questions of the (my estimate) of 300-500 people who visited the tractor in the 5 hours I was there.

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While the rain delays of the spring season continued, I was honored to be asked to do a presentation on Agricultural UAS (Drones) for an Agricultural Technology Class at Joliet Jr College.    After a 30 minute presentation indoors, the weather cooperated (just barely enough) to take the class outside and give a live demonstration.  Mr. Johnson in the schools Ag Department even piloted the UAS for a bit.  The schools Ag Department hopes to purchase their own UAS in the coming months so they can better educate their students on the benefits of their use.

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Soon after plant14 began to roll on once again, and things got back to normal.  So I thought.  After running out of seed one night in a nearby field, I drove back to the house, filled with seed, had a quick bite for dinner and drove back to the field.  There I found something I never thought I would find.  4 puppies who had obviously been dropped off.  Naturally I stopped and tried to coax them to come by me.  At first they were a bit shy, but once they realized I was there to help, we quickly became friends.  My wife brought out our portable dog kennel, and we loaded them up to keep them safe.  From there they spent a few nights in our shed, protected from the elements and predators that they would have been up against out there all on their own.  Within a few days time, we had them checked out at the vet, (all are in good health) and have found Furever homes for them.  Well, all except one, which we decided to keep!  Like many Pirates, he has one bad eye that will require surgery to fix, leading us to name him “Captain Jack” (Sparrow) from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.

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After all was settled with the pups that night, Plant14 rolled into the night.

Shortly thereafter we finished up Corn Planting for the season.

Click here to watch as we close up the #plant14 corn season around midnight.

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As the weather turned more favorable, we switched to planting soybeans.  In this picture, we are filling the planters large seed boxes with approximately 5.8 million soybeans taken from our seed wagon.  These soybeans will  be precisely planted at various populations over roughly 80 acres of land before I will have to fill up again. Check out my recent post about how farmers are using GPS and VRT Technologies to Plant Efficiently by clicking here 

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Last but not least:

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Warmer weather and a nice warm rain have helped bring new life to the farm.

TOP: a soybean planted 2 days ago shows a future root emerging from the soybean seed as it begins to grow.

BOTTOM: Our first planted field of corn is emerging nicely.

Have a great weekend everyone and check out the latest “AgriNews” newspaper. You might just see some familiar faces on the front page!

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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.

Experience #plant14 via a #GoPro!

On a normal spring day your driving down the highway out in the country, enjoying the scenery of farmstead after farmstead and fields that seem to have no end in sight.  Along the way, you see some dust flying just ahead and begin to wonder what it is.  As you drive closer you notice a farmer in his fields with his tractor and planter, planting perfectly straight row after perfectly straight row.  You begin to wonder what it would be like to be in the fields with him/her, planting the seeds of the future, risking so much just to put his/her future in the unpredictable hands of Mother Nature.  Well, now you have the chance to experience just that!

 

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

While planting our first 100 acres, I took out my GoPro and began to make a video showing what its like to be in the fields, planting corn, as well as some close up shots showing how the planter operates.  Check it out by visiting our farms YouTube Channel (BoucherFarmsIL) or by clicking here > Planting Corn 4/25/14.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

A few weeks ago I posted about how farmers use GPS and VRT technology to plant more efficiently, which can be viewed by clicking here and This past week, we began to use that technology when we began #plant14 on the farm.  So far we have 180 acres of corn planted and are hoping for some nice warm weather to help it get off to a great start.

Close up of the Row Cleaners at work

 

I highly encourage you to follow the #plant14 hashtag on twitter and facebook.  Thousands of farmers from across the nation and beyond are posting their experiences this planting season using that category.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

 

 

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

Friday Farm Flicks 4/11/14

This week was an eventful one on the farm. As the weather has begun to warm up and so has the activity on the farm.

This past Sunday, my cousins took their Steers to a show and decided to take a #selfie! Only this was no ordinary selfie:

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It was a #cowfie!

This weeks good weather also meant it was time to evaluate the health of our winter wheat crop after this brutal winter has passed. So I took out my new crop scouting tool and took to the skies to get a birds eye view of the field.  You can watch the crop scouting video here  http://youtu.be/6OKMBJl8Wzk20140408-235630.jpg

 

 

Just like your car or truck, every so often it is time to trade a tractor in for something else that better suits your needs. The “new to us” tractor on the right has a new home here on the farm while the one on the left has a bright future ahead of it on another farm.

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This newer model will provide us with a bit more horsepower, better fuel economy and better maneuverability in the fields.

 

 

On a parts run to our local tool store I picked up a battery operated grease gun. This is our 2nd one if this style.

We prefer them over other similar models largely due to their quality and battery life.

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This week has been a busy week for the seed division of Boucher Farms, called Potential Ag. Not only have we been deliver ins quality seed corn and soybeans to other local customers to plant this season, but in addition we have provided a few farmers with waterway mixes as well which will help control soil erosion and general runoffs from their fields!

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There are few things better than watching the sunrise from your front porch on a nice spring day!

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Lastly, I highly encourage you to follow us and many other farmers through the planting season by searching for #plant14 on FB, Twitter, Google+ and more. I also created a special place for #plant14 posts on this blog. By following #plant14 you will be able to keep up to date on what is going on this planting season with thousands of farmers all across the globe.

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Have a great weekend everyone!