Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yield Checks

This past week we did our last yield check for the fall harvest season.  Yield checks are a great way for farmers to evaluate their crops and determine if the management practices used during the growing season were successful. 

This is my weigh wagon.

The wagon has an electronic scale to measure the pounds of corn or soybeans unloaded into it.  Once the crop is weighed I auger it into the farmer's wagon or semi.

Another tool I use to do a yield check is a portable moisture tester.  This measures the moisture and test weight of the crop.  The moisture percentage of the grain being harvested determines how it will be handled and dried.  Typically corn is harvested between 18% and 30% moisture.  Some years the corn is wetter and some years the corn is drier.  Towards the end of this fall harvest there was some corn coming out of the field at 16%.  This is great for the farmer as few dollars will be spent on energy to dry the crop.  Our corn goes into our bins at 16%. 

Here is a self portrait or yours truly pushing my measuring wheel.
In order to figure out the yield of a crop on a bushel/acre basis I need to know the area that the farm has harvested.  So, I usually walk behind the combine and measure how far the farmer runs the combine.  The width is based on the row width a farmer plants the crop in and how many rows the combine harvests.  In our area, most corn is planted in 30 inch rows.  However, we have neighbors who plant 20", 36", or 38" rows.   Most of the combines in this area harvest 6,8, or 12 rows at a time. 
As farm equipment gets largers our costomers comment that
the hardest part of a yield check is getting the combine auger lined up
to dump corn into the little weighwagon.

Once I have the weight, moisture and area I enter the information into a couple of mathematical equations and come up with the yield in bushesls per acre.  It was a fun fall to run the weigh wagon because the yields in our area were excellent.  The corn yield checks ran from 190 bushels/acre to 275 bushels/acre.  The soybeans were great as well ranging from 62 bushels/acre to 84 bushels/acre. 

I consider the farmer to the original over achiever.  The yield checks we do help farmers determine if management practices worked for them or if they may want to change something next year.  Farmers often put in test plots or experiments in their fields to determine for themselves if something needs to be changed.  Maybe I should say farmers are the original scientist.  We do yields checks or test plots to determine the effects of planting date, planting seed populations, fertilizer applications and rates, various seed treatments such as fungicides, tillage practices even planting depth of the seeds.  The sky is the limit as far as to what a farmer may experiment with!

Once I have the yield data I input this into our Pioneer computer along with the GPS coordinates and field history for the yield check plot locations.  If you go to www.pioneer.com you can enter a ZIP Code into the yield map locations and bring up yield checks and plot results for most of the US.  It's a great web site to learn about crops in the US if you are interested.  Have Fun!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Proclamation - The Original

First Thanksgiving ProclamationFirst Thanksgiving Proclamation

For those of you who need a little larger print . . .

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trash or Treasure?

This is a corn field ready for harvest.

This is a corn field after the combine has harvested the corn grain. 

What is left after harvest is called stover or fodder - it's the corn plants leaves, stalks and roots.  Around our farm we affectionately call this stuff trash.  However, the left overs are far from trash!

On our farm like most farms in northeast Iowa, we use the corn stover to help control soil erosion.  The leaves and stalks on top of the ground help protect the soil from wind, heavy washing rains, and snow melt over the next 5 months.  The roots left in the soil also help protect the soil from moving.  In fact, if you look at the first picture of standing corn you can still see remnants of the corn stalks from 2010 still between the rows of corn. 

By leaving trash on top of the soil we are also putting organic matter back into the soil.  This is just like putting leaves onto a garden or mulching a flower bed.  As the leaves, stalks, and roots decompose nutrients are released back into the soil.  It's a very organic process!

Livestock farmers also take advantage of the corn fodder.   It's common to see beef cows grazing the standing corn stalks in the fall. 

Another use for the stover is livestock bedding.  The leaves and stalks are very absorbent and have great insulating value to keep the animals warm and dry through the winter.  Earlier this fall while our neighbors Dan, Ann, and family of Rolling Prairie Guernsey Family Farms were making corn stalk round bales I snapped some pictures.

Gathering the corn stover into the round baler.

Once the baler has tightly rolled the stover together, the
baler wraps with bale with a netting to help hold it together.
 Each bale weighs 1200 to 1400 pounds.  Our neighbors make several hundred corn stalk bales in the fall to keep their cattle comfortable all winter. 

Even after the round bales are made there is still trash left
to protect the top soil.

When livestock farmers clean out animal barns the used bedding is spread back onto the fields where it will decompose and add nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.  This another great way to add value to a corn crop!

These lovely ladies are enjoying a beautiful October day but
in a few weeks they will be lounging in the thick, warm and dry cornstalk bedding.

Unloading a trailer of round bales. 

Someone doesn't look too happy - he should eaten his Wheaties
if he wanted to climb round bales.
Just a Note - I have the Growing Season Picture Diary updated.  Check it out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunday Supper

We had about 2 inches of rain and 2 to 3 inches of snow over the past few days so harvesting has stopped until the snow melts off the corn and the ground dries some and firms up.  So, I'm sharing some pictures from a warmer Sunday. 

We have 5 wonderful friends and neighbors who help us in the fall besides our full time help.  Some come in the morning and leave early evening, some come in the late after noon and stay until late in the evening and a couple have been known to come in the morning and stay into the evening.  In the fall we feed everyone lunch and supper - we want everyone to be happy and healthy :-).  I do box lunches at noon so everyone can eat on the go. Now, my mom does hot meals for supper - soup, casseroles, pie, etc.  It's an attempt to get the guys to slow down just a little and take a breather.  On Sundays though we switch things up.

It's become somewhat of a habbit or tradition that Sunday lunch is hamburgers on the grill and Sunday supper is always pizza.  Pizza night gives the head cook a much needed break.  And, for some reason pizza tastes best out in the middle of a corn field!