Thursday, February 26, 2015

Considerations On Inoculants

"The benefit from using rhizobium-containing inoculants is not as clear cut as are the benefits from using fungicide and insecticide seed treatments, according to the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board (MSPB). We all know that these bacteria must be present in the soil in sufficient numbers for proper nodulation on soybean roots to occur. What we don’t know in such a hard-and-fast fashion is just when to expect an economic or agronomic response when inoculants are applied.
Points to consider in the decision of whether or not to use an inoculant are:
  • An appropriate inoculant is cheap, generally less than $3/acre. Thus, cost is not a factor in deciding whether or not to inoculate.
  • Do not apply inoculants to gain a yield increase. Rather, apply them to ensure that nitrogen fixation will be sufficient for the crop to realize the yield potential from the planted site.
  • Inoculants are generally not compatible with fungicide seed treatments, so inoculant application must be made at planting. This will slow the planting operation.
  • There is overwhelming evidence that applying inoculants to soils that have recently been cropped to soybeans provides no yield benefit.
  • The cheapness of inoculants warrants their application when soybeans have not been grown recently on a site and the risk of insufficient native soil inoculum is high. The importance of this fact is because there is no option after planting but to apply expensive nitrogen fertilizer to overcome the effects of poor nodulation.
  • With the change in cropping systems that is occurring in Mississippi, it is a good idea to inoculate when soybeans are planted on a site that has had continuous cotton or corn or if the site has not been cropped to soybeans in the last 4 to 5 years.
  • There is a potential advantage from choosing inoculant products that contain more than one strain of bacteria.
  • Results from a study that was planted behind the 2011 flood in Mississippi showed no advantage for applying inoculants even though the flood period was several weeks.
For more information, read MSPB’s “Soybean Seed Treatments and Inoculants.”

I started inoculating soybeans again in 1994 when the USDA strain came out.  I've not seen a year since I didn't think it paid.

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Analyzing Plants With Google Glass

Scientists from UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have developed a Google Glass app that, when paired with a handheld device, enables the wearer to quickly analyze the health of a plant without damaging it.

The app analyzes the concentration of chlorophyll — the substance in plants responsible for converting sunlight into energy. Reduced chlorophyll production in plants can indicate degradation of water, soil or air quality.

One current method for measuring chlorophyll concentration requires removing some of the plant’s leaves, dissolving them in a chemical solvent and then performing the chemical analysis. With the new system, leaves are examined and then left functional and intact.

The research, led by Aydogan Ozcan, associate director of the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute and Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, was published online by the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip.

The system developed by Ozcan’s lab uses an image captured by the Google Glass camera to measure the chlorophyll’s light absorption in the green part of the optical spectrum.

The main body of the handheld illuminator unit can be produced using 3-D printing and it runs on three AAA batteries; with a small circuit board added, it can be assembled for less than $30. Held behind the leaf, facing the Glass wearer, the illuminator emits light that enhances the leaf’s transmission image contrast, indoors or out, regardless of environmental lighting conditions.
The wearer can control the device using the Google Glass touch control pad or with the voice command, “Okay, Glass, image a leaf.” The Glass photographs the leaf and sends an enhanced image wirelessly to a remote server, which processes the data from the image and sends back a chlorophyll concentration reading, all in less than 10 seconds.

“One pleasant surprise we found was that we used five leaf species to calibrate our system, and that this same calibration worked to accurately detect chlorophyll concentration in 15 different leaf species without having to recalibrate the app,” Ozcan said. “This will allow a scientist to get readings walking from plant to plant in a field of crops, or look at many different plants in a drought-plagued area and accumulate plant health data very quickly.”

The Google Glass app and illuminator unit could replace relatively costly and bulky laboratory instruments. Ozcan said that the convenience, speed and cost-effectiveness of the new system could aid scientists studying the effects of droughts and climate change in remote areas.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chemo Week

Every 21 days I get another round of chemo.  Besides going to the same clinic 40 miles away, it is a hard week to manage.  Nausea is the main problem so it's the only week I take nausea pills.

Monday is the long day.  We see the oncologist first, they pull a blood sample and see if you are strong enough to take another dose.  We talk a bit and he tries to reassure you and answer any questions.  I have to take my notes and questions and still forget to ask things.

Then they give me, through "infusion" through my port, a bag of sterile water, a bag of nausea medicine like I take in the pill form and then the chemo.  My chemo is used for patients for lung cancer although I don't have it.

Tuesday and Wednesday is the same thing but a smaller dose.  By Tuesday or Wednesday I am so sick it is uncomfortable to ride that far and I wish it was in Wilmington, not Cincinnati.  Thursday is a trip down for Neulasta to try and keep my platelet counts up.  It takes longer to get there than it does to get vitals and get the shot.  They give it to you in your fatty part of your arm under your bicep.  My biceps are about gone, I hate to even look.

That week starts again Monday.  I am not looking forward to it so I must build myself up for the end goal of getting better.  I want to get better so I don't have to go through this anymore, at least not for now.

This is Tuesday morning so I made it through the big Monday.  That's the best I've felt when I got home after getting the infusion.  I have no idea why, though we have worked hard at learning how to manage the pills and the pain and the food and the oncoming constipation.  Walking more Sunday may have helped.

That ended after dinner last night and the pain started to set in.  LuAnn asked why my stomach always gets hit first which I thought we both understood but I guess we really don't.  I took a nausea pill and it didn't get much better.  By bedtime the pain or nausea was pretty strong.  I got a pain in my left leg like I had pulled something but I don't think I did.  My whole leg hurt from my hip to my toes.  I wrestled with it for an hour and finally had to get up and come downstairs.

I tried to loosen it up and put some topical treatments on.  I gave up and took an extra pain pill and laid down and prayed, watching EWTN.  The pain went away enough I fell asleep and I just woke up at 4 AM.  I didn't sleep until 6 like I wanted to but it is below zero again and gives me time to stoke the insert again.  I feel pretty good compared to the pain I had last night.

I am not looking forward to another trip down there for another dose of "pain" but you do what you have to do.  I am not thinking bad thoughts so if I can keep the pain down until I get home it will be another successful day.  I am taking so much laxative to avoid constipation that alone could have caused some of the stomach pain.  It is really challenging to manage for me and I never had so much trouble riding in the Rendezvous as I did yesterday.  I sure hope it's better today.

I got enough protein down yesterday I hope it gets me through today, tomorrow and Thursday just for the ride.  It's miserable trying to ride to Cincinnati when you are doubled over in pain.  It comes and goes so unpredictably you wonder what is causing what.

I wrote this for my close family and friends just to keep you updated.  Yesterday overall was a good day compared to others when I almost called the infusion off I hurt so bad.  It's for all of my readers too, as I hope you never have to go through this yourself or a close loved one.

We all have our cross to bear and this is a hard one for me but I am still here.

Ed Winkle

Monday, February 23, 2015

National FFA Week and Grain Bin Safety Week

February 22 marks the beginning of National FFA Week and National Grain Bin Safety Week.  FFA week has been around as long as I have but it's only the second year for National Grain Bin Safety Week.

"Each year, FFA chapters around the country celebrate National FFA Week. The week-long tradition began in 1947 when the National FFA Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington's birthday as National FFA Week in recognition of his legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. The first National FFA Week was held in 1948. Today, FFA Week always runs Saturday to Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, Washington's birthday.

National FFA Week did not start out as a week-long event. At first it was National FFA Day. The 1933 National FFA Convention Proceedings records the beginning of FFA Day in this way: "Stewart of Montana requested the floor at this time to present a matter of general interest. He suggested the idea of having a special Future Farmer Day some time during 1934, preferably on one of the regular national FFA broadcasting days.

 It was pointed out that the various state associations could perhaps plan special state broadcasts also on that day and that chapters might plan their father and son banquets on the date specified. The idea seemed to meet with general delegate approval and after some discussion it was moved by Stewart that the Board of Trustees arrange for such a day; motion passed."  The week long tradition started in 1948.

Every chapter does something different for FFA week from breakfasts to any kind of activity you can think of.  We tried many different activities over my tenure as agricultural educator but everyone enjoys good food and good leadership.  FFA is famous for both.

Grain bin safety gained national attention with too many tragic deaths hitting the newswire every year.  Many farmers are moving grain this time of the year so this week is as good as any.  31 farmers and helpers lost their lives in grain bin accidents so safety is needed and must come first.

Ohio Country Journal had a real good quote on safety from Richard Flax in Clark County and his near death experience last month.  I have never read a story quite like his and he does a good job explaining what went wrong.

Be careful near the bins this week and every week and take time out to help your local FFA chapter celebrate National FFA Week.

They are both very worthwhile activities.

Ed Winkle

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday Of Lent

It's another Sunday but not just any Sunday, it's the first Sunday of Lent 2015.  We had a great visit with Father Mike Halloran from Wilmington Friday and we got our ashes Wednesday thanks to Rich Burwinkel.

We read the Little Black Book everyday.  It is distributed at most Catholic Churche's across the US.  This week we learned how the famous "Po Boy" sandwiches started in the Great Depression down in New Orleans.  We learned about Luke's Gospel of Compassion.  It is the longest of the Gospels, about 23,000 words.  He added the Acts of the Apostles and those two make up over one fourth of the entire New Testament.

Friday's readings were on Covenants.  Moses and his people made a covenant in blood with God.  It's been honored for centuries.  You did not break a covenant and now you can't even trust many people with their own word.  The US has the most attorneys of any country in the world.

“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”

"I am familiar with covenants, that's what marriage vows are.  I can catch the the implications of the eucharistic covenant if I picture God speaking vows to me.

"I God, take you LuAnn to be my own, to and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse(including sin), for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health...
and when you die, my Son will walk with you though death and bring you safely home to peace and joy and life... forever.

Remember, a covenant involves both parties.  We have to speak our part.

I Ed, take you God to be my own..."

Pretty powerful stuff, that's what we've been through this week.

We wish you a blessed week and hope this weather turns quickly for all of us.

The 10 day still looks like winter and I guess March could too.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Paraplow or Paratill Corn Plot 1987

Almost 30 years ago I became the Agriculture agent in Warren County.  I quickly met the county's farmers and was included in a plot with SWCD on the Spellmire Farm in Lebanon, Ohio.  I was cleaning files and found the plot results and thought it would be interesting today.

This county and a few farmers like the Spellmire's were already "sold" on no-till and were working to adapt on their farms and improve it.  I fit right into that equation since we had started no-tilling in 1976.

When I met them, they had just bought the first "paratill" implement in the area, the first one I ever saw.  Tye Company built a deep soil ripper that left the surface pretty much untouched, just a gentle rise of soil above the soil where the leg had fractured the soil below the plow layer.  Plow layers were common in 1987 and still are today.  Many Ohio and other Midwest soils have a natural fragipan layer formed when the last glacier had passed through.

They wanted to compare the effects of the major types of preparing the soil for the seed furrow so they set up this experiment they ran many times on many different fields with different types of soil and management conditions.

This plot turned out like this:

paraplow no-till 162.7

no-till 152.5

moldboard plow and disk 155.6

disk twice 149.9

chisel plow, disk 153.4

The test was replicated 4 times across the field and the results was the average of those strips.

The first thing you notice is the yields compared to today.  Those were good yields 25 years ago.  We noticed the least erosion in the paraplow no-till and the no-till.  The field had a pretty good roll to it and there was washing in any of the tillage methods.

The idea never really caught on but a few farmers still paraplow.

I hope you enjoyed this "blast from the past" today.  This kind of information has helped us slowly adapt better practices over the past 25 plus years.

Ed Winkle

Friday, February 20, 2015

Landlords Should Ask

"More farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the land are taking action to improve the health of their soil. Many farmers are actually building the soil. How? By using soil health management systems that include cover crops, diverse rotations and no-till.

And when they’re building the soil they’re doing something else – they’re also building the land’s production potential over the long-term.

But how do non-operator landowners (people who rent their land to farmers) know if their tenants are doing everything they need to do to make and keep their soil healthy? My friend and peer Barry Fisher, an Indiana farmer and nationally recognized soil health specialist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, recommends that they ask their farming partner these five questions.

1. Do you build organic matter in the soil?
Organic matter (carbon) may be the most important indicator of a farm’s productivity. The amount of soil organic matter often determines the price farmers will pay to rent or buy land. Finding a farmer who is interested in building organic matter by using practices like no-till and cover crops is like finding a bank with a better rate on a Certificate of Deposit, Fisher says.

2. Do you test the soil at least once every 4 years?
Fisher says maintaining fertility and pH levels are important to your farm’s productivity. Regular soil testing can give an indication of trends in soil fertility, pH and organic matter levels in each field. These tests will determine the amount of fertilizer each field needs. If a field has a history of manure application and very high fertility, a farmer could save money by planting cover crops to keep those nutrients in place rather than applying more nutrients that may not be needed.

3. Do you use no-till practices?
Some landowners like the look of a clean-tilled field in the springtime. That “nice look” is short lived, though. “The reality is a field that has bare soil is subject to erosion and loss of organic matter, since it no longer has the protective cover from the crop residue on the surface,” Fisher says. “No-till farming utilizes the crop residue to blanket the soil surface to protect it from the forces of intense rainfall and summer heat. This protective blanket will conserve moisture for the crop and prevent loss of soil from wind erosion, water erosion and CO2 (carbon) that could be burned off by summer heat.”

4. Do you use cover crops?
“Like no-till, cover crops provide a green, protective blanket through the winter months or fallow times. The green-growing cover is collecting solar energy, putting down roots and providing habitat when the soil would otherwise be lifeless and barren,” says Fisher.  This habitat provides food and shelter for a broad population of wildlife above ground and beneficial organisms below ground.  As the new life emerges, cover crops hold onto the nutrients left from the previous crop and in turn releases them to the next crop.  The solar rays these plants collect are powering photosynthesis, taking in CO2 from the atmosphere to produce food for the plant and the organisms living in the root zone.  This same process also releases clean oxygen to the air and builds nutrient rich organic matter in the soil.

5. What can we do together to improve soil health on my land?
To improve soil health, landowners and tenants have to think in terms of the long-term. According to Fisher, the duration of the lease agreement is perhaps the most critical matter in encouraging the adoption of these soil health management systems. “Farmers can actually build the production capacity and resiliency of their landowner’s soil, but it may take several years to realize the full benefits of doing so,” Fisher says. He suggests that landowners consider multiple-year leases that provide tenure security for the tenant. Longer tenures give both landowners and tenants more opportunities to improve soil health and realize the resulting longer-term production and profitability gains through sustainable conservation practices.

“Improving soil health can provide long-term, stable dividends for you, your family and your farming partner,” Fisher says. “Improving soil health also can decrease the effects of flooding, make food production more resilient to weather extremes, and improve the health of water and wildlife, as well,” he adds.

Pass this wise advice on to the land owners you know who might appreciate it.


Ed Winkle