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.

J.C. Henrekin

Deer Grove, Illinois

JC Henrekin

Blog Entry #8: September 4, 2018

Greetings from NW Illinois! The big news in our area is the weather; we have been extremely dry from the last week of July to the 3rd week of August. While we have been getting good rains for a week now, (3.3" last night), I'm afraid it's a little too late to reverse the damage already done. However, with that being said, we had a phenomenal looking crop going into the dry spell, and it still looks amazing all things considered.

The past several weeks were the time for spraying the seed corn with a defoliant/desiccant to essentially shut the kernel growth down to help control seed size. While the kernels will continue to progress to full maturity, it takes all the green out of the plant within a couple of days of application. We finished spraying the last of the fields on my list just a couple of days ago. Most of the local seed companies began harvest last week and are roughly 15% finished. The early reports I've heard have been very good yields so far, with most fields coming in above the target yield. But keep in mind these are all irrigated fields as well. It's looking like seed corn in this area will have a great supply for next year's season!

Regular corn harvest is looking like it's going to start next week for some of the sandier unirrigated ground. Some of the recent hand tests are in the low 20% moisture range. Generally speaking though, I don't foresee widespread harvest for a couple of weeks yet, at the earliest.

I had the opportunity to participate in the 2nd Annual Tractor Drive in Memory of Larry Gerlach this past weekend. It has grown considerably in a year! 15 or so tractors last year, to 58 this year! It was a lot of fun and a great way to remember an old friend. He was blessed with a great family that will carry on the memorial for years to come!

 

My son and I recently attended a grain bin safety meeting/demonstration at a local grain elevator hosted by our crop insurance company. We found it to be time well spent: a great refresher course on the dangers that lurk in and around grain bins. We even got to do some of the hands-on parts of the demonstration.

 

 

Our neighbor who raises cantaloupe and watermelons "Mitchell's Melon's" loses most of his high school help this time of year, so he called up some of us veterans to help for a day or two. I would put that workout up against some of the more rigorous weight room workouts! But for as hard as the labor can be, I always look forward to helping every year. Hard work with good friends can make hard work much less difficult!

 

Our local bids as of this morning are Corn $3.04 August, $3.26 October/November and Soybeans $7.22 June and $7.43 October/November. Since last month Corn is down 27 and 20 cents respectfully; old beans are down 81 cents, and new beans are down 87 cents. With the basis in corn getting up to $.37 and Soybeans up to $1.23! COME ON YIELDS!!!!!!

On a sad note, our local pub and grub "Arnies Happy Spot" burned down due to an electrical fire on July 22nd. It had been in business for 81 years and was the ONLY place to eat in Deer Grove. Very sad for the community! There is talk of rebuilding, so we are optimistic that's their next step.

 

 

Stay Safe Out There through the Hectic Harvest Season!

Blog Entry #7: August 7, 2018

Greetings from NW Illinois! Corn denting in July! I guess I shouldn't be surprised as we continue running two weeks ahead of schedule. The past two weeks have been cooler than usual and great for working, but it's sounding like August is going to start off feeling in the triple digits. We need a rain, the crop hasn't started showing drought stress yet, but if we stay dry this upcoming heat could really start pulling off our top end yields.

The sky has been abuzz with crop duster planes over the past month. We treated every acre we can get too. I was out in the one small field that is surrounded by timber/houses/power poles that we didn't treat and it is loaded with grey leaf spot, solidifying our decision to apply Headline Amp and Priaxor. The only other spot that was left untreated was a strip in the middle of a corn field for a test for Climate Corp looking at differences being picked up by the satellite images, very curious to see the differences.

 

It's looking like the grain drier may not get used as much this year with the earlier than usual crop maturity. Also, I think it's going to be a big year for the fuller season seed numbers. Some of these 114 day hybrids may be below 18% to 20% moisture by October 1 at the rate we are going. The early yield estimates we've taken on corn are all in the mid to upper 200's range, however we are still 45+ days to harvest. Soybeans are looking very good at the moment as well. I would say the number of four-bean pods is down from last year, but pod count is pretty high at this point. Similar to last year, if we can get at least two more timely rains in August, we expect 70+ bpa, no more rain and it may end up in the 50 bpa range–come on rain!

Our local bids as of this morning are Corn $3.31 July, $3.46 October/November and Soybeans $8.03 June and $8.30 October/November.

Since last month corn is up 8 and 3 cents respectfully; old beans are down 17 cents and new beans are down 18 cents. So, hopefully the rains come especially for the soybeans, at these prices it's going to take record yields to stay in the black!

The soil moisture probe I bought earlier in the year has been a very useful tool here this month! Every irrigator in the area has been running off and on the past week. Having current moisture readings to help make the decision on when and how much to water to apply has proven to be invaluable! It sure takes the "guessing game" out of the decision! I highly recommend them to anyone that does any irrigation.

Our Trap Shooting Team's National Qualifiers made the trip to Mason Michigan to compete with over 1400 of the best shooters in the country mid-July! The top 13 shooters shot 200 out of 200 targets! So needless to say, the competition was unbelievable! Our top shooter shot 193/200 and placed 125th out of 1,400. Five of the seven kids that went all set personal best and that is all we could ask for. They all enjoyed the experience and had a great time! Until next year!

Stay Safe Out There!

Blog Entry #6: July 3, 2018

Greetings from NW Illinois! WOW! What a year it's shaping up to be! We have been very blessed in this area so far this year! We are starting to see tassels pretty regularly already, definitely the all-time earliest to see tassels in our area. Generally speaking, we are about two weeks ahead of schedule on all crops. May and June brought a lot of growing degree days, and fortunately, the rains have regularly been coming and so far, staying in moderation! Which I know is more than I can say for a lot of farmers. A good friend of mine that works in the NW part of Iowa was telling me recently they have had 17 inches of rain in a span of eight days! As can be expected, he says the crop is showing the stress! Our corn pollination will begin this weekend and continue through the next couple of weeks, so hoping for moderation of temps and rains for that. While we are a long way from having the crop in the bin; so far so good.

I finished "Y-Dropping" nitrogen last week on regular corn and only have a few of the "late planted" seed fields to go, and they should be ready next week. Like last year, we went with Sulfur in every load of Nitrogen. We've seen some great response on the lower organic matter soils like the sandy ground especially. Our Dicamba soybeans are looking awesome too! Not a weed to be found! Incredible weed control! The only minor issue we've seen locally with the beans is the Select missing an occasional volunteer corn plant here and there. Our 30" rows will be shaded over in the next five to seven days.

I went and talked to our Ag Pilot a week ago to give him a heads up on the earlier than normal timing for the Headline Amp and Priaxor applications. It proved to be time well spent; put all of our maps in order, so all we have to do is give him the green light. I have been hearing some reports of Northern Corn Leaf Blight showing up in a few fields and heard rumor of some Grey Leaf Spot beginning to show up as well, wet and hot conditions sure make for a great environment for disease! I've been a believer for years now, but for anyone that has drug their feet on using fungicides: USE IT THIS YEAR!!! Don't try "saving money by cutting out the Fungicide trip", it could be the most costly decision you make this year!

 

Now that I have told you the condition of our crops let's look at the DOWN side. Our local bids as of this morning are Corn $3.23 June, $3.43 October/November and Soybeans $8.20 June and $8.48 October/November. Since last month Corn is down 39 cents new and old; old beans are down $1.43, and new beans are down $1.50!

We have been working on cleaning out corn bins this month too. We've hauled 150,000 bushels to the local ethanol plant in the past couple of weeks. The remaining will be hauled out next month in anticipation of another big crop.

The Soil Moisture Probe I mentioned in my last blog has not been involved with any irrigation decisions as of yet! Mainly because we have been blessed with rains and haven't had to run them, yet. Stay posted. I'm guessing we will need to irrigate next month for sure!

Our Trap Shooting Team was fortunate to have eight of our 16 kids qualify for Nationals this year to be held in Michigan. We will be heading to Mason Michigan mid-July to compete with over 1,400 of the best shooters in the country! We have been continuing our practice weeks in preparation for "the big dance"! The safest and fastest growing school sport in the country!

Stay Safe Out There!

Blog Entry #5: June 4, 2018

Greetings from Northwest Illinois! I mentioned in last month's blog about the snowy and cold April we had this year, and funny how things even out! We set a record for heat for the month of May here locally as the warmest average temperatures ever recorded for the month! Also, nearly an inch of rain off the average precipitation as well! I sure hope it isn't a sign of what's to come.

I don't recall ever getting the corn in the ground as fast as it went in this year! Our Soybeans were very similar with the only real delay's coming because of waiting on our seed stock to come in from overseas for the seed beans. Seed Corn planting drug out into late May for us as well, not because of seed but more so for the staggering out the planting so it doesn't all have to be detasselled at the same time. Harvest is the other reason they stagger the planting so much, so it isn't all ready at the same time.

Post corn spraying has been underway for the past week and a half. With all the corn being planted so quickly, it has made post spraying even more intense! Especially with the incredible growing conditions, this corn is growing at an incredible rate! Glad to have the wider application window with products like Status to offer a little more time to get the acres covered. We will finish regular corn tomorrow, then switch over to soybeans for a few days, then back to seed corn for a few. By then we will be beginning y-Drop Nitrogen application in corn by mid-June! By July, I will officially be "tired of the sprayer"!

If I was to rate our crop right now, I would say it's running at 95% of its potential. It really looks great! (100% is essentially unachievable) I would give it 98%, but there was a lot of light yellowing in the area on the corn on corn ground a week ago, but since then it has rooted down and regained its dark green color.

Our local bids as of this morning are corn $3.62 June, $3.82 October/November and soybeans $9.63 June and $9.98 October/November. Since last month corn is up 3-5 cents; old beans are the same and new are up 9 cents.

I recently received my first soil moisture probe to assist with making better irrigation decisions. It is set up to monitor the soil moisture at 8-inch and 17-inch depths and remotely send the information to my phone. My plans are to use them to better determine the necessary timing of the irrigation schedule. We have had access to similar equipment in years past but none to this degree of remotely receiving the data in real time. I'm excited to learn more about it. If it saves me 1 trip around at 1/2-inch of water, it will have paid for itself!

Two weeks ago, my son (youngest) graduated high school! He will be headed to the University of Wisconsin Platteville this fall majoring in Soil Science. Started working for Advanced Crop Care scouting fields prior to graduation scouting fields learning his weeds/insects/diseases on his first internship.

My wife and I started our Prophetstown Trap Shooting team last year are now on our second year. We got back yesterday from the State Competition in Bunker Hill IL. We took all 16 shooters, and other than a short rain delay and some gusty winds, the kids did great! Out of 26 teams we ended up in tenth place overall. My son got third in our conference and sixteenth overall in the state. One of our girls took second place overall in the JV level as well! Last year the league consisted of 12 teams and 230 shooters in the state, this year there was 26 teams and 538 shooters! The safest and fastest growing school sport in the country!

Blog Entry #4: April 30, 2018

What an interesting spring it has been here as well as most of the Corn Belt! Winter just did not want to give up, with snows coming at least once a week for the first three weeks of April. At times, it was looking like we were not going to be getting all our Anhydrous on this spring and there were a lot of guys talking about switching their Nitrogen plan to 32% instead. However, like most years, Mother Nature did give us a narrow window to finish up the anhydrous … thankfully! Similar story on the planting, the temperatures were slow to get the soil warmed up to 40 degrees, let alone 50! Last year we started planting corn April 18, this year we started April 23rd. Since we got rolling everything has gone very smooth so far. If the forecast holds true, we could be finished planting corn by May 1! Way ahead of last year. The majority of our seed corn fields are in the "late" planting dates, so hopefully, we will be able to get all or most of our soybeans in before we switch back for the Seed fields.

 

 

This morning while fueling up our tillage tractor and changing some sweeps on our field cultivator, I could not believe the number of "remanence from the past" that was caught on the points of the shovels! It's typical to pick up 1 or 2 chain links, or rings from a horse harness, etc., but these were all picked up after two days of tilling around 700 acres.

Our "new to us" Hagie sprayer has been working great, other than me learning the new monitor and getting used to the different guidance, it has worked flawlessly! I will spend a lot of time in it over the season, so I'm optimistic the newer "creature features" will make it even better than the last.

Our local bids as of this morning are Corn $3.59 April, $3.77 October/November and Soybeans $9.63 April and $9.89 October/November. Since last month Corn is up 8-9 cents; old beans are up 13 cents and new are up 2 cents.

On April 19, I was lucky enough to bag my first ever turkey with my bow and arrow. It was one of the most unique turkey hunts I have ever had. We had a covering of snow, on April 19, in Deer Grove, Illinois! First time ever wearing snow camo to hunt turkey!

 

 

On a personal note, I attended my niece's wedding near Bozeman Montana April 21. What a beautiful area to live! If they could raise corn and soybeans there, I would consider moving there! Besides the country, the bride was even more beautiful, so happy for her and her husband as they start their life together.

On a very sad note, we lost a great friend a couple of weeks ago to an "on-farm" accident. He managed a local grain elevator and had climbed a grain bin to grease the augers/conveyors and on his climb back down the bin he lost his footing and fell to his death. Fifty-one years young … A very sad reminder to all of us about the dangers that lurk around every corner of the farm! Please take your time and be safe!

Blog Entry #3: April 2, 2018

March has been a "smoky" month so far! Between burning prairie grass on a couple Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) plots and Anhydrous applications ramping up, makes me appreciate "fresh air". Anhydrous applications recently stopped about as fast as they got started in North Western Illinois. The week of March 18 started the Spring Anhydrous push and then abruptly stopped on Friday of that week due to 6 inches of snow! Over the past weekend, fortunately we have lost 90% of the snow. However, rain is in the forecast for three of the next five days so it may be a while before we are able to finish up the spring anhydrous. I had an anhydrous coupler break on me while applying the other day, other than losing 20 ac worth of NH3, no harm done. A friendly reminder of how dangerous it can be to work with.

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The CRP grass burns went really good, but without a small disk behind the tractor it would have been a long day. I will never burn CRP ground again without having the disc close by! One six-foot disc is equivalent to a small army with shovels! Our local fire department had several calls that week with fires getting out of hand with the (at that time) dry conditions. Fortunately, we never had to make "that call".

 

Except for some last-minute adjustments, all of the equipment has been gone through and ready to hit the fields. We attended a Precision Planter meeting this past week for a quick refresher on the planter monitor and it was time well spent. Often times there are software updates that can be taken care of then as well, so hopefully leading to less/no down time once we get planting.

Our local bids as of this morning are Corn $3.50 for March, $3.69 October/November and Soybeans $9.50 March and $9.87 October/November. Since last month, corn is up 2-5 cents; old beans are down 31 cents and new are off 1 cent.

This past weekend, myself and two other instructors, hosted our 14th Hunter Safety Education class. We had a great group of kids and young adults attend, and happy to report they all passed the 50-question test with flying colors!

On a personal note, our family spent a few days skiing in Colorado Mid-March and had an incredible time. Not only was the skiing good but got to spend time with family that lives there. Great action packed trip and no broken bones!

My daughter and her boyfriend got engaged while we were out there as well! Very happy for them, but still in a little disbelief my daughters that old already!

Blog Entry #2: March 5, 2018

Spring is in the air today in North Western Illinois; geese having been headed north in mass numbers this past week! Mid 50's and wet! Roads were posted a couple of weeks ago and rightfully so. With several inches of rain this past week, combined with 10 to 12 inches of quick snow melt, it has been very soft and sloppy lately.

The rains and snow melt made for an interesting week along the Rock River! Ice jams developed between Prophetstown and Erie creating a backup with the water nowhere to go but OUT. Thousands of acres of farm ground were flooded in a very short amount of time, a true flash flood. Some folks living along and near the river had to be rescued with boats. We were not affected, but the cleanup will no doubt take a lot of man power, time and money.

 

Meetings have continued through February, getting all the "plans" for the upcoming year in line and ready to implement. One of the next steps for us will be to revise the planting prescriptions for each field depending on the hybrid and soil type. This year we don't have any major changes to the planter, so it will require only the basic greasing/checking/adjusting that it gets every year.

Our Micronutrient plan is getting closer to being decided. We have met with a couple of Agronomist that have helped us refine our list of products and soil type targets. We are planning on continuing using sulfur, but will be adding more boron, iron, zinc and manganese, and we are also going to try a biostimulant fertilizer on a test basis.

As I write this blog, our local bids are Corn $3.45 February, $3.67 October/November and Soybeans $9.81 February and $9.88 October/November. Since last month, corn is up slightly (5-8 cents) but soybeans are up quite a bit, with February up 42 cents and 20 cents for October/November.

Prior to the rains, I did manage to get a couple of drainage ditches brush cut and cleaned up. Brush cutting is no fun at all, but last year I bought a cutter for my skid steer sure makes it A LOT EASIER! Still some chain saw work for the big trees and hard to reach spots, but a whole lot less than before!

 

On a personal note, our kitchen remodel will be completely finished this week. We will all be taking a big sigh of relief! Lastly, our shooting team has been meeting getting ready for season and looking like we will have 17 shooters, 15 boys and 2 girls. Stay safe out there!

Blog Entry #1: February 5, 2018

Greetings from Northwester Illinois!

Holidays are over, diets are almost given up on, and preparation for the upcoming farming season is continuing along at a steady pace!

This winter has been like most here with a regular flow of meetings popping up on the calendar. January started off with renewing my applicators license in Peoria with what appeared to be a "lighter" number of attendees. Seed Corn contracts were signed mid-January and the general consensus among the seed companies is a reduction in acres this year, primarily due to a bumper seed crop this past fall.

The local dicamba meetings have been well attended. While 95% of the meeting seems to be review, they are time well spent so we can continue to utilize this technology without further restrictions. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the "resistance" issue is going to linger around longer than we would like, and as we found out in 2017 this technology works really well to combat it!

As I write this blog, our local bids are Corn $3.38 February, $3.62 October/November and Soybeans $9.39 February and $9.68 October/November. While they are better prices than I expected to see at this time, they sure bring out a lot of pencil sharpeners!

Outside of updating a couple pieces of equipment this past winter, we have no major changes in machinery planned in our operation this year. Product wise though, we have plans on running more experiments on micronutrients on the varying soil types, and also looking into a couple timing/multi-pass Priaxor/Headline AMP fungicide passes to push the top end.

On a personal note, our kitchen is in the middle of being remodeled, walls removed, chimney removed, etc., and if any of you have gone through that … what a pain! My hats off to my wife for preparing meals through the chaos! Hopefully by the next blog it is completed and all is good! Logan is in his final month of high school basketball and has had an amazing season so far, his Mom and I are going to be lost when season is over! Lastly, I will be coaching our High School Trap Shooting team again this year and after our first meeting, it looks like we will have around 17 or 18 kids participating with the first practices beginning in March.