Innovations in the Field

Sponsored by BASF

Welcome to the 2018 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic practices to enhance their return on investment and profit potential. Check back each week for new blogs and videos from the farmers as they share their experiences and crop management decisions throughout the growing season. Here is a brief overview of our four participants.

Rick Hargrave

Sarona, Wisconsin

Rick Hargrave

Blog Entry #11: December 24, 2018

Carla found out this morning she had won the National Corn Growers Yield Contest for Wisconsin in the irrigated no-till/strip-till class with a yield of 273 bushels per acre. State winners are usually given a free trip along with their spouse to the Commodity Classic convention and trade show by their seed company. We are excited it is in Orlando this February! All yields for the contest in Wisconsin seemed to be 10-15 bushels lower this year. The cloudy and rainy September was the difference. I really enjoy the Commodity Classic. It is the premier Ag convention for the grain farmers. I have learned a lot at the conference that can be taken back to our farming operation. It is always helpful to be around other farmers who are striving to learn and implement practices to increase yield and improve profitability.

As we plan for 2019, we will continue to plant corn on corn along with some alfalfa acres. At this point, we have no major changes to our management of the crops for next year. I just received our prepay fertilizer prices from our local co-op. Everything went up 15-20%: potash $349, DAP $479, 32% $239, urea $ 369. Our local corn bids at the ethanol plant are December corn $3.66 and new crop 2019 October November December at $3.66.

Winter in Wisconsin gets long and cold. One of the bonuses to the cold is ice fishing with family and friends. My daughter Hattie pulled a 24" walleye through the ice last weekend, and our friend Byron caught a 30" northern!



As the calendar approaches Dec 25th let us love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul and mind for He is the greatest gift of all for those who believe and obey Him. We are thankful for all our blessings!

It is the end to my blogging career! I would like to thank my wife Carla for helping me, and DTN, Progressive Farmer and Wade Oehmichen for giving us the opportunity to share our farming operation. Have a great Christmas.


Blog Entry #10: November 26, 2018

It's November 19, our last day harvesting corn. This Fall was a carbon copy of the Spring, wet! We only lost sight of the grain cart once in a wet area. Seeing where and how it went down, and digging it out really opened my eyes to grain cart compaction. I am going to do some studying this winter on grain cart options such as tires, tracks and bushel size. My grain cart man is my dad Larry who is going strong at 78 years old!!!

Father Larry driving grain cart


My main combine driver is my bother Lon, with my wife Carla as the backup driver. Carla was called to a more important job of mothering our three young children, so Lon has taken over the reins and is doing a great job. The best days of harvest is when Carla is running the combine, I'm in the grain cart, and the kids are all riding with us. Our two main part-time semi drivers are Vince Heiman (Carla's brother, a full-time organic farmer) and our friend Randy (full-time preacher). We are very blessed with great help in our farming operation.

Semi drivers Vince and Randy


Brother Lon combining


Carla and daughter Holly combining


Corn yields this year are normal for our area. I had planted 80% of our acres to one variety, which is not following the textbook recommendations, but after harvesting the other 20%, it solidified that my decision was correct. DeKalb 5438 has consistently been my best variety over the past five years, so I increased my percent of acres planted to it each year. I just looked at variety test plot results in our region and DeKalb 5438 was number one in all but one test plot. For the National Corn Growers Contest, it yielded 273 bushels per acre this year, and last year it yielded 289 bushels. So, 2019 variety selection will look similar to this past year. We struggled to find fields with moisture under 20% this year to harvest. A few reasons why: wet Spring that delayed our planting, wet Fall and very little drying occurred, fungicide application at tassel, and we plant a longer day maturity for our area. We usually plant a longer day maturity to set ourselves up for higher yields if we get an optimal season of heat here in Wisconsin.

Blog Entry #9: October 22, 2018

Wet, wet, wet! As of October 15, the combines are still sitting in the sheds. No corn or beans have been taken off in our area. In the past four weeks we received about 15&345;18 inches of rain with no drying weather. We even had a few snowflakes in the air. We were ex-pecting dryer corn this fall due to all the heat this summer, but it looks like its going to be a nor-mal year. The dryers will be running this Fall. It was challenging for farmers to get corn silage off due to all the rain.

Applications of fungicide look like they will be yielding big dividends due to plant health and standability. The only thing getting harvested in Wisconsin is cranberries and bear. We are look-ing forward to harvesting and seeing where our yields end up at. There is some concern of storage for new crop corn that is unpriced. We will be filling our bins with unpriced corn this Fall.



Our farm avoided the tar spot outbreak in Southern Wisconsin. We talked to our BASF In-novation Specialist Wade Oehmichen about tar spot. Tar spot was first found in Indiana in 2015. It has now spread into Wisconsin. It looks like glossy, black paint spots on the leaves. The fields that were affected early in Southern Wisconsin had incomplete pollination, immature cobs and early death of the plant. It is unsure if the tar spot is causing the yield loss or the secondary diseases that enter the plant because of the initial infection of tar spot. Little is known about the disease and how to treat for it. All we know is it is very variety sensitive. So, we will be doing ex-tra homework this year before selecting hybrids for next year.




Blog Entry #8: September 24, 2018

This last week I walked every field of corn. It looks like a great crop coming. We have had a deluge of moisture in September with 10 to 15 inches of rain. South of our farm towards Madison, Wisconsin, had received a lot more rain. Most of the rivers overflowed their banks.

I noticed dead corn plants scattered throughout the fields on our higher organic soil fields. They had recently died and looked like a frost had killed them, but that was not the case. We had this happen in 2015, which was also a very wet late Summer/Fall. The 2015 crop was a more severe case. In my wife's contest field, she pushed the population. The field looked great, and we were expecting to hit or exceed 300 bushels for the National Corn Growers Contest. We were so excited, but it went downhill fast when we received heavy rains for an extended period of time in September. The dead plants had a good ear on it but had small immature kernels. After talking with my BASF specialist Wade Oehmichen and from prior experience I went directly to the root crown and cut the plants open from the crown to the tassel. Root rot had set in and killed the plants. Wade explained a disease most likely had entered the plant through a damaged root. It could be caused by uneven emergence, double plants, drought or saturated soil conditions. All of which cause stress. Another reason could be the effects of refuge in the bag, which can cause maturity differences or insect feeding (root worm). This makes sense to me because of the sporadically dead plants.



Keeping that plant healthy late into the growing season is key to high yields especially in Wisconsin because of our shorter growing season. I have seen fields that have been planted at the optimal time and stayed green late into the Fall consistently have higher yields. Using a longer lasting fungicide like Priaxor combined with all season nutrition to the plant gives that plant the ability to obtain higher yields.

My last picture represents the three stalks under irrigation vs. three plants missed by the pivot in a corner of the field. All the NPK cannot make up for water. Thank God for high capacity wells and center pivots!


Blog Entry #7: August 27, 2018

The crops are progressing two weeks ahead of normal here in Wisconsin. Looks like a normal to above average yield for corn. Some parts of the state have been hurt by a hot and dry spell the last two weeks on the lighter soils.

I am going to look into 360 yield gathering chains to capture kernel loss off the corn head. I think we will be harvesting dryer corn this year. The dryer might sit empty this year. Most of our corn that is forward contracted will go from the combine to the semi to the elevator or the ethanol plant. I will be happy to pay for a couple of pints of moisture and handle it only once. Corn that is unpriced will be binned or sold to a local dairy.

Our local elevator new crop corn bids are at $3.34 with a 45 cents basis on new crop. The ethanol plant is bidding $3.41 with a 38 cents basis. The basis is larger than usual here.



The two pictures are from corn on an irrigated field. This was planted at 36,000 and sprayed with Priaxor at full silk stage. I like the look of the healthy plant at this time of year. Kernel counts are looking like a great yield. James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father. Most of the American corn and bean growers are being blessed this year with great yields, and we give Him thanks!

We are leaving tomorrow for North Dakota to see my son who ranches North West of Bismarck. We will be doing a lot of windshield scouting.

On a side note, we had a great time exhibiting at our county fair. It was our daughter Hattie's 1st year showing animals. She got Grand Champion Market Lamb and Grand Champion Ewe. The best part was seeing her determination and big smile.


Blog Entry #6: July 23, 2018

We just got back from a 1200 mile road trip. Carla, our three kids and I started in Northwest Wisconsin where we live, 270 miles later we stopped at Carla's parents farm near Madison, WI and stayed overnight. The next morning we headed down to Peoria, IL to help Carla's sister and her family move. We had a lot of windshield scouting time. We saw good looking corn and soybeans the whole way. Southern WI could use some more rain. The farm was very dry, but the corn was looking good considering the lack of rain in our area. The majority of the corn will be tasseling this week. We have been running pivots only at night and on the weekends because the electricity is cheaper, but it looks like we will be running them 24 hours a day if we do not get rain soon. We finished fertigation today with 32% and thiosulfate mix (92% of 32 and 8% thiosulfate). We can see a big visual difference on the corners where the water and fertigation from the pivot do not hit. The corners are only side dressed with nitrogen.


Holding the two corn plants is my brother Lon who is a tremendous help on the farm. The taller plant is from a field that was Fall disked and then vertical tilled in the Spring. The smaller plant was from the field that was Spring zone tilled. There is an 8-'day planting spread between the two fields. Both fields were corn on corn. I am surprised there is that much of a height difference. The fields that received Fall tillage sure helped us get into the cold, wet soils earlier this year.


Second crop and the Spring seeded alfalfa were harvested two weeks ago. The new seeding did not yield well. I did not put any nitrogen or sulfur down at planting this year and paid for it due to the large amount of corn residue from last years corn crop. A mistake that will not be made again.

This coming week will be spent getting Hattie and Holly ready for our county fair. These lambs sure have tested our patience but have created great memories. Lots of family fun!

The most memorable moment for our family was our son Chet getting his prosthetic foot on July 2nd. Nothing is stopping him now.


Blog Entry #5: June 25, 2018

Our corn planting did not start until the middle of May due to a very wet spring. Fighting wet and cold soils, and lots of corn residue was a challenge. The twenty-five percent of our land did not receive Fall tillage was the most difficult to deal with. By the last week in May I was even thinking about switching to beans which we have not planted in 10 years!

Two area producers that I know have really liked the job a Dawn Pluribus Zone Till has done for them so I decided to try it on a field. I planted 4 hours behind the zone tiller to give the ground in the strip a chance to dry out. I was amazed how good it worked. A few of the benefits I noticed was: planting in ground without trash and root balls, the row units ran smoothly without much down force, avoiding carbon penalty form burying corn residue, and being able to get the corn in wetter soil conditions. There were some larger clumps sitting on top of the zone in some places, but by lightly running the row cleaners on the planter it cleared the clumps away and created an excellent seed bed. If the soil was dryer, the clumps would not have been a concern.



Our corn crop went in late, went in fast and came up fast due to very warm weather after planting. The corn crop looks great. We had excellent, even emergence. I just finished side dressing the drylands corn and applied our first fertigation on the irrigated fields with 32% and thiosulfate. In the last five days we have received over 4 inches of rain. Glad to be done with side-dressing. Some area farmers are struggling with getting Nitrogen applied because of the fast growth of the corn.


1st crop alfalfa came off and yielded 1.8 DM tons/acre on last year's seeding and 1.5 DM tons/acre on 4-year-old stands. That is down 15% from the last couple years yields.

Rick Hargrave

Blog Entry #4: May 21, 2018

It has been a slow start for farmers here in Wisconsin. I got some alfalfa planted one day on some lighter ground. Very few acres planted here due to it continually raining. It is May 14 and still no corn in the ground! Usually, I am finishing up by now. If we have one more big rain this week, I will be switching some corn acres to soybeans. I have not planted any soybeans in 10 years. The planter better be ready to go! I am running dry fertilizer and 3 gallons of 10-34-0 with a growth stimulator in-furrow. Last year I welded up brackets to mount tanks on the planter frame of my Kinze planter. I used a ground driven piston pump and red balls for distribution. It worked great last year.

With all the rain, I have been hauling corn into our local ethanol plant that is located only 20 miles from the home farm. They use 50,000 bushels per day. It has really helped our market here. They are bidding: $3.61 May delivery, $3.68 June with a 28-cent basis, $3.82 October/November new crop with a 32-cent basis. Not bad prices for Wisconsin.

The days have ticked away this month with no corn planted. Just a good reminder that God is in control. In Galatians 5:22, one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. Now I have to live it!

Six inches of rain this week. Time to haul corn.


Custom brackets made for pop up tank.


Pump attached for pop up.


Blog Entry #3: April 23, 2018


It'¬s been an unusually long winter in Wisconsin. It is April 14 with another winter storm bearing down on us giving us another foot of snow. There still is 4 feet of ice on the lake! Our hobby, before going back to the farm to plant alfalfa and corn, is to tap maple trees and cook sap into maple syrup. This year I wonder why I'm doing this! I'm trudging 5-gallon pails of sap through 3 feet of snow. It is all worth it when you taste the finished product!



Planting will be set back a couple weeks this year. As I talked to Wade, our BASF Innovation Specialist, this morning, he had brought up some management practices for this predicted late planting season. One thought was to address our herbicide program. When the weather turns good, there is a chance for a fast warm up and a fast growth of weeds. A two-pass program on corn acres will help with preventing weeds from getting too big too fast. On acres with a waterhemp problem, a pre-emergence application of Verdict followed by a post application of Amazon Pro will be used.

In the past couple of weeks, I have sat down and analyzed our VRT program. Our first round of VRT was 5 years ago on a 5-acre grid. Last fall we soil sampled at 2.5-acre grid. I have layered soil type, soil P & K results, past yield, future crop removal and planned VRT application for P & K maps. VRT seems to be the correct management practice, but I question if are we holding yield back in some areas of the field and spending too much money on other areas. Why am I questioning this? In 2012, our contest field (90-acre field) I broadcasted preplant 200 pounds DAP and 200 pounds Potash. Our yield was 278 bushels per acre for the National Corn Growers Contest. After harvest, I had the field soil sampled for VRT application that would happen in the Spring of 2013. In the 2013 crop, I noticed a drop in yield where less fertilizer was applied based on the VRT prescription. Our honey hole in the field received less fertilizer (due to high soil tests) and yielded less than the areas that received a higher amount of fertilizer. Keep in mind this field is irrigated, water is not a limiting factor. Why am I trying to even out the soil test levels in the field if it is hurting my yield? Am I saving any money by using VRT? Something to think about. This next year I'm going to recheck the yield maps vs. the VRT application maps to see if there is a difference again.

As we go into this planting season our family will pray for good weather and safety to the American Farmers.

Blog Entry #2: March 26, 2018

We had the opportunity to start raising alfalfa for a local dairy. We started with 95 acres three years ago. For this growing season, we will total 300 acres for Trillium Hill Dairy in Berlin, WI. Alfalfa has been a perfect fit in our continuous corn rotation. Two benefits of growing alfalfa for them is all the harvesting is done by the dairy and the stand stays for 4 to 5 years relieving pressure during planting.

Ben Jones, Mike Jones and Rick


We have planted Roundup Ready alfalfa in the spring at 18-20 pounds per acre on our land prone to soil erosion without a cover crop. Roundup is sprayed over the new seedlings when weeds are 3-4 inches tall. Fertilization of alfalfa usually receives: 375 pounds potassium, 90 pounds phosphorous, 40 pounds sulfer, 14 pounds boron. Half is applied after 1st cutting and the other half after third cutting in a four-cut season with a 28-day cutting interval. First cutting usually starts in the 4th week of May. With this schedule the plant will have enough time to regrow before winter sets in. There is a desire to take a 5th crop but a seasoned local grower, Bob Trampf, always said "for every pound of dry matter left in the field after September 1, you will gain 2 pounds the next year."

Priaxor is applied at 6 inches of growth on the first and second cutting. First crop is always applied by airplane. Insecticide is usually applied on second and third cutting at 4 to 6 inches in height.

The alfalfa variety we plant has a fast regrowth after cutting and has good quality with a 28-day cutting schedule. This year a new variety with the HarvXtra trait will be planted on 15% of the new seeded land this spring. The HarvXtra trait reduces the amount of lignin in the plant compared to conventional alfalfa at the same stage of maturity. Quality is not suffered when delayed harvest happens because of weather. The trait will be evaluated for the next few years before increasing acreage.

Out two daughters in our alfalfa field.


Typical yields under the irrigation pivot have been 2 to 3 tons of dry matter on the seeded year and 6.5 to 7 tons of dry matter for the following years. All alfalfa is sold by the ton of dry matter. All semi loads are weighed over a scale at the dairy farm. It has been a profitable alternative to corn.

We also purchase liquid dairy manure in the Fall from the dairy. The manure is a great source of nutrients but compaction from the semi application is a concern.

Working with Mike and Ben Jones from Trillium Hill Dairy has been a very positive business and personal relationship. Both sides are willing to change and adjust due to market and weather changes. All decisions are done verbally, sealed with a handshake. We will all give an account to God for everything we do so that should make our dealings with each other transparent and honest.

Mike Jones and Rick


Blog Entry #1: February 26, 2018

Winter in Wisconsin means deep snow and -20 degree temperatures. It's a great time to sit back and reflect on last year and plan for the new growing season. Our BASF Innovation Specialist had a winter seminar on fungicide and late application of nitrogen on corn. He had found out for the 2017 growing season, when the two were used together yields were 30+ bushels higher. Due to wet and colder than normal growing conditions up to September, it was looking like an average or below average yield for our area. September became the yield maker and the late application of N and fungicide gave us a good bump in yield.

Because of our wet growing season and the loss of N through leaching, we decided to apply more late nitrogen applications through the pivots and utilize our local aerial applicator to fly urea and AMS over our dry-land corn. God's gracious warm September paid big dividends on our farm. When we finished harvest it was our highest yielding year ever. 2017 is a good reminder of the importance of N management throughout the growing season. You have to be willing to adjust on the go and be flexible as conditions change.

Typically, we attend the Commodity Classic at the end of February each year to learn about new technology, products and practices, but this year we were not able to attend because of our trip to China for the adoption of our son Chet. God has called us to care for orphans and we feel blessed to be able to provide a home. We were also in China five years ago for the adoption our daughter Holly. The society has changed significantly in a short time. China is a huge player in agriculture and the world market. We thought we would share our experience and thoughts and how it will impact us in the future.

Why is China important? China has 1.4 billion people (U.S. 326 million). The cities are huge. For instance, Beijing's population is 21 million, compared to Chicago at 2.7 million. Flying out of Beijing, as far as you can see was sky scraper. The biggest change we saw was the change in diet. Five years ago, a pork stir fry consisted of cabbage and piece of pork hide. There was no beef, very little pork, and some chicken. Now the Whopper triple burgers were flowing out the door of Burger King. It was easy to find beef, pork and chicken. The Chinese have a taste for meat now. That is good news for farmers! If the trend continues for increased meat consumption, how will China keep up with the demand?

Currently the Chinese government owns all the land and buildings, and the people have long-term leases (40 to 70 years). Each area or province may have differences. From an outsider looking in, one of the obstacles China has in production agriculture is how the land has been allocated.

The land is divided into approximately 200 million households, with an average land allocation of 1.6 acres. We toured the countryside outside of Nanning, China. The land was divided into small plots that were farmed using all hand tools, and an occasional water buffalo. In the northern part of the country, the government has been consolidating small parcels into larger ones that can be farmed using modern machinery. We met a gentleman who is a plant manufacture manager for John Deere in China. He said the demand for equipment is increasing in horsepower from 25 to 50hp to 50 to 75hp. It still seems small for us, but for them it is a huge jump. He stated the consolidated land tracts will be open up to the private sector.

In the past few years with the down turn in commodity prices, there has been a lot of gloom and doom. With a population of 1.4 billion people and their changed diet, I can't see China being able to be self-sufficient in supplying their own food. I can see China being a bigger purchaser in the world grain market in the future. As U.S. farmers, we should be thankful for our country and the ability to produce and expand without strict limitations of our government. We need to look at the glass as half full and not half empty!

Rick and his newly-adopted son Chet in front of a farm field in China. The fields in the area are divided into roughly 1/2- to 1-acre sections.