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Professional Aviation Services Since 1949


NAAA Annual Meeting

November 22, 2019

Show Floor, Thrush 510P Aircraft

Last week, we attended the National Agricultural Aviation Expo, the national ag association's annual meeting. It was held in Orlando, Florida.

The meeting is the largest aerial application gathering in the world, and hosts many suppliers, including airframe manufacturers, as well as many educational opportunities.

We were reminded that aerial application began in the southeast of the United States, on cotton production, in 1921. This means that we are less than two years away from the 100th anniversary of the aerial application industry.

We attended an optional meeting concerning a new, emergent segment of the industry: Remotely Piloted Aerial Application Systems (RPAAS). Today, RPAAS is small group which is trying to advance this new technology, and make it mainstream. Additionally, they want to help the FAA devise regulations for these aerial systems which will not have humans on board while applying pesticides.

Most of the current RPAAS systems are UAVs--multi-rotor drones--but there is at least one fixed wing version, the Pyka. It's worth a look: click here.

RPAAS faces several technical hurdles, which are being solved fairly quickly, but also significant regulatory ones. Aerial application in the US is controlled by FAR 137, and that regulatory framework has not been modified to allow remotely piloted operations for aircraft over 55 pounds gross weight. Like most Federal agencies, the FAA is not known for rapid adoption of new regulations, so this is still a major hurdle for RPAAS technology.

Other subjects which we attended included spray pattern analysis, turbine engine maintenance, new pesticides which are not yet labeled, and old pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, which are approaching their required 15 year re-certification process with the EPA.

We also heard speakers concerning global agricultural market trends, including the changing diet preferences of the millennial generation, which is trending toward organic and plant based--not animal-based--products.

Finally, we heard from a firm which is deploying new aerial imaging technology for crops. The new imaging systems have very high resolution: 0.2 mm per pixel, which is high enough to actually see insects on the leaves, and those insects are are discovered by, and highlighted in the photos, by AI technology.

We left convinced that even though there are clearly challenges ahead, the aerial application industry enters its second century with a promising future, at least for those willing to embrace change.

Fighting Fires With the Thrush

November 10, 2019

Blackhawk Parked, Thrush Fighting Fires

On Saturday, November 9, 2019, the opening day of pheasant season, plumes of white smoke began to fill the skies around Saint Francis, Kansas. Initially, it looked like proscribed burns, but as the number of fires increased, it became obvious that something else was going on. The number of fires was reported, unofficially, as 21 in total.

As the fires began, the wind was light, but within an hour, it was gusting to 25 knots from the south-southwest, and fire personnel from multiple areas began arriving, rumored to be 14 jurisdictions in all. (As this is written, we only have second-hand information, and we will update the story when we get the final numbers.)

The Kansas Forest Service became involved, and requested a Grumman S2F Tracker air tanker, which arrived later in the day--see photos. The tanker was an interesting, if older, aircraft: It has two Wright 1820 radial engines, and a gross weight of 29,000 pounds. Surprisingly, the Grumman Tracker only carried 800 gallons of water. For comparison, our single engine turboprop Thrush will haul 500 gallons of water maximum and 400 gallons is a comfortable working load in the windy, turbulent conditions of fire fighting.

Grace Flying Service launched their Thrush ag airplane immediately and applied 2,000 gallons of water, using the emergency dump gate, over 5 or 6 flights. Rick Rogers, a local pilot, served as spotter and reconnaissance, and directed the Thrush's loads. John "Dusty" Dowd also flew another Thrush aircraft up from Syracuse, Kansas, to aid in the battle.

From the air, there was smoke in all directions, and it looked like the entire county was on fire. If the winds had been stronger, or lasted longer, it could have been a much worse situation.

Fires in Cheyenne County, Grumman Tracker Air Tanker

The next day, Sunday, two Blackhawk helicopters arrived, along with a transport load of Jet A to fuel them. The Blackhawks were planning to use flexible buckets, lowered into local ponds, to apply to the remaining fire hot-spots.

We have no estimates of damage, but in addition to extensive pasture and CRP damage, at least some standing corn was also destroyed. Many road signs are laying on the ground, their supporting posts burn away, and there is damage to a lot of fence posts. It is too early to know if the trees that were affected will suffer permanent damage.

The dominant theory on the cause of the fires is a truck which was spewing sparks over many miles, and which ignited the numerous fires. The theory is plausible because all of the fires were adjacent to, and downwind of, the highway from Haigler, NE, to Wheeler, Kansas, and then south for a few miles.

Again, more details will be here when we get definitive answers.

Noxious Weed Control

September 17, 2019

Fall Thistle Postcard

We are gearing up for the annual Musk and Canada Thistle fall applications. Our reminder postcard has been sent, and will arrive soon. Here is what it says:

Postcard Text Follows:

Fall is the best time to treat pasture thistles.

We need your order and maps soon, so that we can plan the application schedule. Remember, the window of opportunity can be very short in the fall, and the small acreages often require combining customer loads.

Our deadline for taking thistle orders is Monday, Oct 14, 2019.

Musk and bull thistle can be treated until the ground freezes, but Canada thistle needs sprayed before a killing frost.

We think the best chemical choice is GrazonNext HL, which is a pre-mix of Milestone and 2,4-D.

The Cheyenne County Weed Department cost-shares 25% of the chemical cost on approved applications, and we will handle the paperwork for you. Contact us or the Weed Department if you have questions.

Farm Bill Meeting

September 1, 2019

Farm Bill 2018

We attended a meeting on the new Farm Bill on August 27 at the Goodland Elks Lodge. There was a big crowd, more than 200 people, and the seating was nearly all utilized.

The new 2018 Farm Bill replaces 2014 Farm Bill. Mykel Taylor, KSU Associate Professor, explained that the Farm Bill spends 77% of the budgeted money on nutrition (SNAP), and 7% on conservation. The remaining 16% is what farmers actually consider, with 7% going to commodities and 9% to crop insurance.

The crop insurance portion is mostly unchanged per requests from farmers to their legislators, so the bulk of the meeting is about the 7% which affects commodities. Before you read any further, we should note that KSU has a comprehensive website called, and you might want to go the Farm Bill portion of that site by clicking here.

The choices for farmers are generally the same as last time: PLC versus ARC-CO. The PLC choice is based upon prices only, while ARC-CO is based upon total revenue: prices and the yields in the county where the land is located. The good news here is that while the 2014 Farm Bill required producers to choose for the entire five year period, the choice now is only valid until 2021, at which time a farmer can choose between PLC or ARC-CO every year.

The first sign-up date is September 3, 2019, and the deadline for the October, 2020, payment is March 15, 2020. The recommendations were to wait until January or February, in order to get all harvest data for 2019 available, then sign up well before the March rush.

This Farm Bill has a payment cap of $125,000 and an AGI limit of $900,000. Also, the FSA loans now max out at $600,000, up from $300,000.

The presenters all believed that visiting your FSA office in person would be helpful: the has a lot of information, but every farm has specific differences, and it is a very complicated decision: Specific county yields vary by region, different crops have different moving averages of previous prices, and the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) is only available in the PLC program.

Other speakers included Monte Vandeveer, KSU Extension Ag Economist; Jeanne Falk Jones, KSU Multi-County specialist; and Robin Reid, KSU Extension Associate. The speakers were all informative, but the discussion is too detailed for us to chronicle here.

We think that you should check out the website,then visit your FSA office(s) early next year. You might want to take your crystal ball in order to determine future commodity pricing, too.

Land Auction in Bird City

August 15, 2019

Auction Flyer

On August 13, 2019, a land auction in Bird sold 630 acres of crop land and CRP. The CRP totaled 141 acres, leaving 489 acres of farm ground.

We couldn't attend, because we were flying over corn crops, but we later talked with a knowledgeable attendee who thought that the sale was well attended with generally spirited bidding.

According to the Farm & Ranch Realty, Inc. website, the land sold in four tracts (see the image of the flyer), and the final prices were these: Tract 1: $1,650/ac, Tract 2: $1,125/ac, Tract 3: $1,300/ac, Tract 4: $1,275/ac. We did the math, and that is a average is $1,337 per acre.

For more information, please check out the Farm & Ranch Realty, Inc. website here.

Wheat Variety Test Results

August 9, 2019

We reported here on the June 12, 2019, K-State Wheat Variety Demonstration Plots sponsored by Sunny Crest Farm, Jeanne Falk-Jones, and Kansas State University.

The final results for 2019 are now published, and we are posting them here for easy reference. There are results for several counties, and both irrigated and dryland in some counties. Please click on the links below to see the PDF files for each result.

Click here: Cheyenne County, Sunny Crest Farm; <> Sherman County; <> Colby, KS, dryland; <> Colby, KS, irrigated; <> Burlington, Colorado; <> Tribune, Kansas; <> Wallace County.

Corn Insect Update

July 21, 2019

Corn Insect Postcard

We recently mailed a corn insect postcard to our customers. The postcard notes that three common corn insects now are rootworm beetles, Western Bean Cutworm, and spider mites.

Beetle control will stop silk clipping, and reduce egg laying for rootworm control next spring. For beetles and WBC, the two main options are bifenthrin (generic Capture) and Steward. Steward is about $7/acre more, but it does not damage beneficial insects, which reduces mite flaring. Reduced mite pressure could save money in later mite control, and might decrease yield loss from mite pressure.

Spider mite options include Portal, Onager, and Comite. All three products control eggs via early application, and have good residual in the field, with Portal possibly having a slightly shorter control period.

New aggressive pricing of Onager makes it price competitive. Both Portal and Onager have a 12 hour REI. Comite is still a good product, but has a very long REI--13 days--which can negatively affect sprinkler repair options.

These applications can be tank mixed with both CoRoN and tebuconazole. The CoRoN is a foliar feed, valuable if you need a nitrogen boost.

Tebuconazole controls gray leaf spot (GLS) and various rusts, and may boost yield by slowing the ripening process. Tebuconazole is inexpensive--a little more than $3/acre--and can provide big benefits.

Wheat Harvest Winds Down

July 19, 2019

Wheat Harvest North of Saint Francis

Wheat harvest in the tri-state area arrived late this year, but hot, dry weather during the harvest season allowed for a fast cutting period. Despite the late start, the harvest is nearly complete.

The growing season was nearly perfect for wheat, with a cool spring with adequate moisture, which allowed for a long, slow kernel filling period. In addition, there was minimal hail damage, which was a nice change from the last two seasons.

Accordingly, many of the yields were excellent, with several fields reported at over 100 bushels/acre. Years from now, wheat farmers will remember the 2019 season with admiration and longing.

Wheat Variety Test Plots 2019

June 18, 2019

The annual K-State Wheat Variety Demonstration Plots gathering was held June 12, 2019, at the traditional location, five miles south of Wheeler, Kansas. It was lovely weather, and there was a good turnout of perhaps 45 people. The event is sponsored by Sunny Crest Farm, Jeanne Falk-Jones, and Kansas State University. Attending again this year were two wheat specialists, Dr. Erick De Wolf and Dr. Lucas Haag.

Wheat Field Day 2019

The wheat condition was excellent, and there were predictions of high yields, possibly better than those in eastern Kansas. It was agreed that the wheat harvest will be later than normal, and Dr. Haag said he thought it could be delayed by as much as ten days.

Dr. De Wolf talked about wheat rust, since much of the area wheat has been treated for that disease. De Wolf said that several varieties that were resistant last year are now more susceptible, and that K-State will update their disease ratings on wheat varieties later this year. He also said that while leaf and stripe rust are still the most likely manifestations, he is seeing more stem rust in the wheat.

Stem rust is worrisome, De Wolf added, because it comes at a different time in the season, which makes the timing of the fungicide application more difficult to determine. It is possible that fungicide will have to be applied slightly earlier if stem rust becomes an issue.

As always, there was a lot of information presented, including a detailed pamphlet with a lot of information on the plots. The 2018 results for Thomas county are here.

When the 2019 results are published, we will post them here on the website. Our thanks to Sunny Crest Farm, K-State and Jeanne for their combined efforts to provide a lot of valuable information about wheat varieties. It is a great program!

We've Got Help!

May 27, 2019

Wheat rust spraying is in full swing, and Paul Soulek, Ascend Ag Aviation, Spearfish, SD, has his fine Air Tractor 502 XP here to help us ensure a quick response for our customers. Paul arrived Sunday night after a difficult flight in turbulent spring weather, and he sprayed a lot of acres today. We appreciate his efforts!

Ascend Ag's Air Tractor 502 XP

We are flying every minute that the weather will allow us to do so. Our goal is get our customers treated as soon as possible. It has been a trying spring, because we are not only battling the wind, but also a lot of low-visibility foggy mornings. But when all three airplanes are in the air, we are covering acres quickly.

As this is written, the rust pressure is still light, but treatment early is the best course, both for protection from the disease and the possible yield boost from plant health effects.

The bottom line is that we are going full-speed ahead to get the acres covered.

Wheat Rust Postcard

May 16, 2019

We recently sent a customer postcard with the image shown.

Conducive Weather Conditions

As the photo shows, our area has suffered weather conditions conducive to both stripe and leaf rust in wheat. Additionally, KSU is reporting that several wheat varieties previously considered resistant are more susceptible than last year.

Worth noting, in Hamilton County, Kansas, the wheat has widespread rust and treatment operations are full speed ahead.

However, as this is written, there is no rust reported in our area, and the wheat is now in the early flag-leaf stage. Flag leaf is the ideal time to treat. As always, it is a complex situation.

Rust treatment with tebuconazole is effective and economical, despite the low wheat prices. If your disease pressure is light, you should target treatments to susceptible varieties and high yield potentials.

For most fields, we think that careful and continued scouting is the best course of action. The rust could still arrive, but in many cases treatment is not yet indicated.

Here are some links from K-State agronomy, if you'd like to read more:

For images of rust, and some scouting tips, please click here.

For a PDF from K-State listing the susceptible varieties from 2018, please click here.

To read Erick DeWolf's latest summary and which wheat varieties are more susceptible this year than in the past, please please click here.

Honor Students Recognized

May 7, 2019

Honor Students 2019

Grace Flying Service is happy to announce the 2019 Honor Students from the Cheylin, Idalia, and Saint Francis High Schools.

A complete list of Honor Students--more than 400 names in all--beginning in 2005, are listed here or by clicking on the image.

Every May, we provide a letter of commendation and a small momento to the top five students in the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior classes at the three local high schools: Cheylin, Idalia, and Saint Francis.

The Honor Student Program is free to the schools and is our way of saying "thank you!" to those students who strive for academic excellence. It's a great group of young adults: you can read more about the program here.

Wheat Rust? Well, Maybe...

May 1, 2019

Jeanne Falk-Jones, K-State Multi-County Agronomist, sent out an email update on wheat rust on April 23, 2019.

Kansas Wheat Rust, April 22, 2019

Jeanne says that reports from the south of us--in Texas and Oklahoma--are relevant because the spores move northward on the wind. She says that, "Leaf rust and stripe rust were found in low incidence last week in south-central Kansas by a UDSA plant pathologist and wheat breeder as they were checking research plots in Reno County... So far, it appears to be leaf rust that is most active but stripe rust is also present. The disease is still at low levels and restricted to the low and mid canopy."

Jeanne adds that rust diseases were only found in susceptible varieties, and generally at low incidences--less than 1%. Jeanne has been scouting for rust in our area, and has found no leaf or stripe rust. (See the rust map image.)

The reports from Texas were spotty, and in Oklahoma, the report from OSU said, "...rust (is) beginning to increase in severity in southwest Oklahoma. This is primarily leaf rust that is being reported and it is quickly approaching a time for the growers in southwest Oklahoma to make a decision about treating with a fungicide."

Jeanne concludes by saying, "For northwest Kansas, there is no need for you to make management decisions based on these reports right now. The timing for fungicide applications is when there are flag leaves emerging and rust present on leaves just below the flag leaf."

We agree: It is too early to predict the need for fungicides in wheat in our area.

Republican River Restoration Meeting

April 28, 2019

Map of South Fork Republican River

Back on March 20th, we attended the South Fork Republican River Restoration Coalition meeting that we announced here. The meeting was postponed a few days due to weather concerns. It's a complicated issue, but here is a brief summary:

The meeting was held in the Idalia school, a very nice building with an excellent meeting room. There were at least forty people in the room, with six people at the head table, and several large photos on the walls for inspection. This was the third meeting of the coalition, but our first attendance.

Robin Wiley, Yuma County Commissioner, acted as moderator. There were many constituencies represented, including the Nature Conservancy, the Colorado State Water Conservation Board, Colorado Agricultural Preservation Association, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, some irrigation interests, and a representative of state Senator Gardner.

The main thrust of the meeting was a technical discussion by an engineering firm who discussed the issues of competing interests, the history of the geography, including prior to the building of Bonny Dam, during its existence, and since it has been drained. These discussions included the topography, the vegetation patterns, hydrology, the riparian forest, and animal species and habitats affected. Since dam drainage, there has been an increase in undesirable plant species, including salt cedar, Russian Olive trees, cattail and kochia. The gradient of the river has changed, and is now too shallow, and the large amount of sandy sediment that has accrued is a major issue. The existing dam structure also impedes flow and causes problems.

Possible solutions include straightening the river channel, increasing the gradient with large-scale soil movement, or using underground piping to move the water past the existing dam. In addition, there may need to be much vegetative removal of (at least) non-native species, and some consideration is being given to creating small ponds for wild life benefits. The Water Compact--the agreement between the states of Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas defining the sharing of the river's water--mandates moving the water downstream. This is a conflict because Colorado irrigators would prefer to utilize the water for crops, and those who represent wildlife inerests want to keep the water for that purpose, neither moving it downstream nor allowing irrigation. Finally, the hunting interests have a slightly different objective from all of the above groups.

Essentially, the only thing that everyone in the room actually agrees upon is that the present situation needs changed. But the desired outcome is seen very differently by the various groups. And even if all of the interests could agree on a final outcome, the project will certainly be very expensive, although no one seems to have exact cost estimates. And no one at the meeting mentioned any possible funding sources.

We wish them luck: we agree that improving the old Bonny Dam area would be a wonderful addition to the area.

If you'd like to read more, here is the website of the South Fork Republican Restoration Coalition.

Wheat Rust Outlook 2019

April 2, 2019

Texas Soil Moisture Predicting Wheat Rust

While most area farmers are likely more worried about treating mustard and other summer annual weeds in their wheat right now than about stripe rust (see our postcard article below), K-State is working on predicting the severity of stripe rust later in the season.

A recent K-State Extension Agronomy eUpdate article predicts a moderate risk of treatable stripe rust in Great Plains wheat this spring. Previous year's predictions using soil moisture data in Texas have proven reasonably reliable (see figure), but it is too early to be sure if local farmers will have to treat for rust.

The article says, " conditions in Texas appear to play a critical role in the development of regional outbreaks of the disease. Stripe rust often survives the winter in southern Texas, and wet conditions in this region increase the risk of stripe rust problems throughout the Great Plains. Moreover, dry conditions in this region often suppress the risk of outbreaks. The research documents how the timing of this moisture is also important with moisture levels the preceding fall (primarily October to December) and early spring (February) being most influential. Maps of soil moisture conditions in November when the crop is being established throughout the southern Great Plains can help illustrate these findings. The map for 2019 indicates a moderate risk of severe stripe this season."

The article also says that "...observations from Dr. Amir Ibrahim and Dr. Clark Neely, researchers from Texas A&M University, who reported active stripe rust and leaf rust in Texas this year. The last report indicated that stripe rust was slowing some with lesions caused by the fungus “drying up” in research plots just west of San Antonio. They noted that leaf rust was still very active at this same location."

We will keep you posted as more information about this year's stripe rust becomes available.

Wheat Postcard Sent

March 31, 2019

GFS Postcard Photo

Grace Flying Service recently mailed its first customer postcard of 2019. The text is below:

After a late spring, wheat stands are greening up and appear to have good yield potential. It is time to consider herbicide and fertilizer options.

If you have mustard (see photo) or you simply want to keep your field cleaner during this growing season, treating now with Ally (metsulfuron), dicamba, and 2,4-D is still a good choice. Early treatment--before the kochia grows out of its dicamba-susceptible stage--is important.

If you prefer to wait and assess weed pressure, emerged kochia and other summer annuals can be treated with Colt+Salvo (Starane and 2,4-D) and Ally for about $3.50/acre more. Treat before flag leaf stage.

Because mineral-laden hard water can reduce pesticide effectiveness, we apply with soft water to ensure maximum performance. Remember, we do all the required paperwork for you, and keep it for three years.

We stock CoRoN, and we've converted to the new CoRoN Metra, which includes Helena's ENC plant health package. You can add CoRon to your applications for a foliar boost.

Contact us if you have questions.

Land Auction In Bird City

March 13, 2019

Bird City Land Sale

The Bird City Legion Hall hosted a small land sale on March 13, 2019. The heirs of Ada and Bob Connett sold 360 acres of property, of which 122 acres was dryland farm ground and the balance was pasture.

The weather was cloudy and threatening rain, with high winds in the immediate forecast.

The parcel is located 8 miles north and 2 west of Bird City, KS, and has one windmill and at least a mile of new fence which is co-owned with the neighboring land owner. The 2018 property taxes were $1,024.

There is an oil lease on the land, and the mineral rights went to the buyer. The legal description included portions in sections 21-2-38 and 22-2-38 in Cheyenne County.

There were about 30-35 people in the room, and probably less bidders locally than the reported six "internet bidders". An intitial bid of $425 started the sale, and the price soon went to $675, when the auctioneers--Farm and Ranch Realty--took a short break.

After the break, the selling price reached $725 per acre and the land was sold.

Bonny Dam Restoration Meeting Scheduled

March 8, 2019

The Coyote Gulch blog reports that a public meeting will be held concerning the partial restoration of Bonny Dam on March 14, 2019, at the Idalia, Colorado, school at 5 PM MT. This meeting is the latest in an ongoing series of meetings.

Bonny Dam Before Draining

The meeting is co-hosted by the South Fork Republican River Restoration Coalition and the Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association. The article says that Yuma County Commissioner Robin Wiley believes that the group is making headway and that Wiley stressed that plans do include necessarily refilling the lake, but restoring the stream flow and possibly establishing some non-water and small water recreational activities in and around the old lake bed. All interested individuals are invited to attend the public meeting.

The Coalition is working with several different groups and it secured a $99,000 grant in January, 2018, from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, along with The Nature Conservancy giving a cash match.

The dam was drained seven years ago in response to a 2003 Supreme Court decision concerning intra-state water usage. The Court ruled that both Colorado and Nebraska had not honored the Republican River Compact, that both those states had shorted the state of Kansas of billions of gallons of water allocations.

The draining of the dam was controversial, as it represented the loss of a valuable recreation opportunity and the associated revenues from park fees and the associated businesses. You can read more in this Denver Post article, and this one in the Burlington Record.

A Better Way to Water

February 19, 2019

We recently attended two meetings, one in Burlington, CO, and one in Goodland, KS, which discussed the use of technology to monitor and control center pivots to both increase yields and conserve water.

Variable Rate Irrigation

We realize that statement might sound too good to be true, but it isn't. The data is real, and it makes sense when you understand the mechanics of the process.

The Burlington meeting was sponsored by CropMetrics, a company which has been using soil probes and data analysis for many years. The Goodland meeting was sponsored by ServiTech, a well-known crop-scouting service now announcing their entry into the precision irrigation market.

At the risk of over-simplifying this complex subject, the basic premise is that a 4 foot-long soil probe is inserted into a carefully selected spot in the field, and this probe has connection to the internet. Probe location is based upon a map of the soil in the pivot--more below.

This soil probe allows the pivot operator to "see" the actual moisture amounts at several levels in the soil, down to 48 inches. This knowledge is very valuable, and results in the ability to use water and fertilizer more efficiently.

This soil moisture data is available in near real-time, and armed with the knowledge of the corn's root depth, the operator can more accurately control watering to allow the plant to maximize the irrigation water usage. Water which moves below the plant's roots is essentially wasted water. But without a soil probe, this waste is frankly inevitable, because of the fear of "getting behind" in the irrigation process and damaging the crop due a lack of water.

We all know that a 2-inch rain that comes in twenty minutes will have an entirely different soil profile than one that comes over two days. With a soil probe, the farmer can "see" the actual results of the rain in the soil. No guessing, no digging. Wait for an hour and pull out your cell phone to know exactly what just happened, and use that same phone to turn off the pivot. More importantly, the cell phone allows you to turn the pivot back on at exactly the right time: not too soon and not too late. The same logic applies to the normal irrigation process.

Similarly, fertigation can be applied so that it is fully utilized by the plant and not leached too deeply. An extra inch of water can lose 4 pounds/acre of nitrogen: enough money to pay for the probe. Fertilizer that is applied with too much water is not only an expensive waste, it can be a danger to the aquifer, a well-known, long standing issue.

A further refinement of the system--called VRI--utilizes the above-mentioned map of the field's various soil types. This granular soil map is used to micro-manage the pivot's speed--and therefore the application rate--in a manner which better utilizes the water and/or fertilizer by varying the watering rate in many pie-shaped wedges in the field. Those wedges are visible in the image above.

The data is solid, based upon many seasons of usage. The system works: you can grow better yields for less money and with less water, because you can precisely target the root zone with both water and fertilizer. The probe allows you to target vertically, and VRI provides (with admittedly limited precision) lateral precision based upon the varying soil types in the field.

CropMetrics has been using this system for many years, and we've personally used their system for half a decade. We endorse the concept, and think that every pivot operator should at least try it for a season or two. ServiTech's entry into the market reinforces our belief that this is an irrigation technique which is here to stay.

The link to the ServiTech system is here, and CropMetrics is here.

Cover Your Acres Conference 2019

January 21, 2019

The annual Cover Your Acres conference was held at the Oberlin, KS, Gateway Civic Center on January 15-16, 2019. As usual, it had some excellent content. Based upon the number of vehicles parked outside and the crowd in the exhibit hall, it was a well-attended event.

Cover Your Acres 2019 Show Floor

You can read a summary of the program with the speakers' names and credentials by clicking here.

Even better, the event's full proceedings are available here. Spending 45 minutes reading this document is probably time well spent if you are actively farming.

Below is a very abbreviated summary of several presentations, based upon our attendance of some of the sessions or from the written proceedings (link above).

Strahinja Stepanovic discussed strategies for irrigated soybeans. Based upon 2018 tests in southwest Nebraska, he argues for early soybean planting--before corn planting--and lower seeding rates of 120,000 seeds per acre. He also argues that late season chemigation of nitrogen is not worthwhile.

Jordan Steele analyzed the financial status of northwest Kansas farms. Unsurprisingly, the overall situation is worse than it was three years ago, when commodity prices were much higher. However, he has one complex graph which shows that within those realities, some farms are quite profitable, while others are hemorrhaging cash. Interestingly, profitability is not well correlated to farm size: there both large and small farms that are doing well. Or not. It depends upon cost of production per bushel harvested.

Marshal Hay and Dallas Peterson discuss methods to effectively use paraquat, a herbicide which is enjoying a renassiance because of its ability to control resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth and kochia. Paraquat can be tricky: if you apply it, reviewing the basic techniques is a good idea.

We attended Mykel Taylor's excellent talk which analyzed land values and rental rates. The data is there for you to see, but we especially liked her discussion of relationships between tenants and landlords. She noted the typical age and gender differences between the two, and noted shortcomings in the way some younger male tenants interact with older female landlords. It is important to treat landlords well, and her advice--based upon interviews with landlords--seemed accurate to us.

More and more insects are developing resistance to Bt traits in corn seed. These include corn rootworm, western bean cutworm, and corn borer. So buying the correct traits for your fields is important. Here is a chart which summarizes the issue for a large number of traits, along with their trade names.

Dr. Merle Vigil's discussion of using manure on eroded, high pH soils is only available in the printed summary, Even though Vigil reportedly wanted to attend, his superiors in Akron, Colorado, prohibited from doing so at risk of a $10,000 penalty and possibly jail time. This dire threat was based upon the decision to strictly abide by the Federal government shut-down in place at the time. His six year-long study analyzes manure rates and incorporation techniques.

Jeanne Falk Jones discussed three missteps to avoid in wheat production. She advises timely fungicide application, good weed control, and proper usage of nitrogen. It all makes sense to us, and we wished we'd been there instead of just reading the summary.

The above is the briefest of summaries, and doesn't do justice to the full presentations. Reading them by clicking here would be more useful.

K-State Dryland Cropping Meeting

December 21, 2018

We attended the K-State Dryland Cropping Systems Update meeting held at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds 4-H building, on December 19, 2018. The meeting was well attended: there were about 60 people in the room.

K-State Dryland Cropping Systems

There were four speakers: Alan Schlegel, Tribune SW Research Center; Dallas Petersen, Extension Weed Specialist KSU; Monty Vandeveer, Department of Ag Economics KSU; and Lucas Haag, NW Kansas Research Extension, KSU Colby.

The speakers delivered a lot of information, and we've uploaded their powerpoint presentations in the links below: click and read them.

Alan Schlegel began by talking about their work with wheat-sorgum-fallow and wheat-corn-fallow rotations. He said that in Tribune, they find that sorghum works better, but he noted that similar results occur with corn and that corn might be better in this area. His research centered upon comparing conventional tillage, reduced tillage, and no-till with these rotations.

Schlegel said that wheat yields don't vary as much with each of the different systems, but that sorghum yields in no-till can be much higher--2.5 times!--than conventional, and that reduced till is better than conventional, too. He added that if you need one conventional tillage in a no-till system for a specific purpose, that the yields and expenses are not affected much.

Schlagel also had data that showed that during wheat harvest, leaving the stubble higher increased corn yields: he said 16 inch-tall stubble would yield 8 bu/acre more corn that wheat stubble cut at 8 inches at harvest. You can read his entire presentation by clicking here for a PDF and scrolling down a few pages.

Dallas Petersen gave a detailed talk about weed control for three problem weeds: kochia, palmer amaranth, and tumble windmillgrass. He explained weed biology, and talked about the need for careful herbicide selection. There is a lot of detail, and you can read it by clicking here .

Monte Vandeveer comparted the economics of the various tillage systems: do the increased yields result in improved profits, once the cost of the various systems are calculated? In short, the answer is "yes", you can make more money with reduced and no-till, but cautioned that your results will vary with the costs that you personally allocate toward your tillage operations.

He added that when commodity prices are quite low (lower than today's prices), reduced tillage might make more sense than full no-till. There are a lot of numbers, and they can be read by clicking here.

Finally, Lucas Haag discussed the choices for dryland seed corn, comparing planting dates, yields, and seed maturities. He used historical data going back many years, and has begun an experiment to validate the data, but he only has one season's actual data. You can read all of it by clicking here for a PDF.

You can also find out more by contacting Jeanne Falk Jones, Multi-County Specialist.

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