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.

Del & Lance Unger

Carlisle, Indiana

Del & Lance Unger

Blog Entry #8: September 11, 2018

Harvest season is upon us! We have started shelling corn and have been pleasantly surprised at results thus far. We have to attribute the strong performance to today's genetics as well as Headline Amp mitigating the heat stress that we had this summer. The dryers are running, but moisture levels are coming down rapidly. Our ideal moisture levels to shell corn is at 20-22%, but with the planting capacity we all have any more we can plant a crop so much faster than we can harvest it, so it will outrun us on moisture loss, and we'll be picking dry corn the last one-third of harvest.

Beans are a week or so away, and they look exceptional. We are anxious to get into them as we have had really high hopes for them all summer. Everyone else must have as well as the market has a record crop built into it as of this writing. I am actually sitting at my desk trying to figure out what to do with all those extra bushels, looking at some temporary storage rings or bags to find a place to go with this great crop. These are the kind of problems I can deal with.

Fall soil sampling will get started soon as fields get uncovered. Full herbicide applications are being planned as they are essential in any good program.

Blog Entry #7: August 13, 2018

It's August and harvest is just around the corner. We are busy in preparation. Combines and heads are virtually ready with some minor grain handling maintenance to finish up. We will be running in the fields by Labor Day. Crops are pretty good as corn appears to be about average with soybeans above average. Fungicide has been a huge benefit this summer as usual. Disease pressure has been moderate, but the stress mitigation has been a monumental plus.

Heat was abundant and rains were hard to find this summer. We seemed to just get enough to get by, but never get soaked up. County fair was not enough to bring us a big rain like it usually does. Even without the rain county fair is always a good time to see everyone. This year the next generation started showing at open shows.

 

 

 

 

We are building a new hoop building for machinery storage and possibly flat storage for corn. Irrigation is winding down as the moisture profile in the soil has almost enough to finish the crop to maturity. We always begin the assessment process of every facet of our production practices as we begin to harvest and get results. Dicamba beans have been wonderful for season-long control of tough weeds that up until this new technology have had escapes later in the season.

 

Blog Entry #6: July 9, 2018

Whew!! I don't know where the time goes. I look at the calendar and realize we are 50 to 60 days away from harvest. We have had the year of extremes: April cool and wet, May hot and dry with June following the May pattern. Normally we get 19 days a summer of 90-degree high temperatures. As of July 2, we have already had 19 days of 90+ degree days.

All the corn has been sprayed with Headline Amp. We have seen some disease pressure but feel the Headline Amp helps with respiration and stress relief and felt we really needed that this year. We should finish pollination in a week or so. The early corn is just roasting ear stage and appears to have pollinated pretty good considering all the heat and limited moisture.

The soybeans look great and have come thru the stress amazingly well. We should finish Priaxor - Topaz application in the next couple of days. Our herbicide plans changed as we went 6 weeks with no rain and didn't get Zidua activated. Technology is a wonderful thing as Engenia cleaned escapes up with ease.

Every year has its set of challenges and 2018 has had more than average.

Blog Entry #5: June 11, 2018

This spring has been one for the record books; with the month of April being one of the coldest on record then transitioning to May being one of the hottest. Then the rain decided to stop and forgot how to give us any help for longer than we would have liked it too. With the added heat and no rain, we saw issues that were challenging. We had issues with anhydrous burn, starter burn, and lack of moisture to get even stands, which made us plant deeper than we would have liked. All of our problems came from lack of moisture and led us to have a little bit of replant and start irrigations sooner than we would have liked.

We got good stands considering the dry weather. Our beans are off to a good start, but our corn was stressing more than we have ever seen it at V6 stage. With side dressing and spreading fertilizer over the top, it was remarkable the difference between the irrigated and non-irrigated. The rain this week was a blessing and can give us a little breathing room, as we have used up all of our reserve moisture and will be dependent upon rain to help us out. We can make all the correct decisions and do everything humanly possible to grow record crops, but without help from Mother Nature it's not enough.

 

 

 

 

We have already been talking about changes we can make for the future to try to eliminate some of the challenges we faced this year. Every year is different, but every year is a learning experience and should be used to make you and your farm better. With this short break, we are using it to readjust some plans and try to figure out what we can do to give our crop every chance to succeed.

Blog Entry #4: May 7, 2018

Spring and planting season have finally arrived in southwestern Indiana. It is a little later than we would like, but the forecast looks good for the start of May. We had a good start on planting and got all of our strip-till done. With the late start and wet weather, our fall chemistry program has really paid off big for us. We were able to start with clean fields that dried out quickly and saved us time from not having to fight big weeds. So far everything has planted really well, which we hope leads to great stands and start. Getting our crops off to the best start possible instead of getting nervous about the calendar is our number one focus.

 

 

For our farm, we have been tested on our patience this spring so far. Our sand ground around home usually dries out about a week before our other soils to help us spread out our spring work. This year the river did not allow that. With one of the latest starts for our farm ever, we chose to wait instead of causing more trouble with one wrong pass that we can't fix all year. We keep in mind that every year is different, but we make sure to learn from the previous years. From last year, we saw that waiting a couple of days for the right time than rushing to run sooner paid off huge.

 

We look forward to a busy few months coming up with planting, spraying, side dressing and spreading. Even in the most ideal years doing it right and not quick pays off. You add in some stress, and that's when spoon feeding and managing your crop to give it every opportunity takes you from a red number to a black number. From our farm to yours we wish you a safe spring and great growing season.

Blog Entry #3: April 9, 2018

Spring has arrived–haha. At least the calendar says so. The conditions outside are anything but spring! We had 2 to 3 inches of snow earlier this week, and it stayed around for a day or two, so that tells me the ground temperature is really cold.

No one has done any type of spraying as temps are just too cold. We strip-tilled some NH3 a couple of weeks ago just to get started, but have had 6 to 8 inches of rain since then with no sunshine and nights below freezing. We are usually always starting to plant corn and soybeans by now, but it will be at least 10 to 14 days if the weather pattern changes.

 

 

We are finishing up some shop work and hauling lots of corn. The one bright spot has been the grain markets, as they have rallied to at least slightly above breakeven levels for the 2018 crops. As we push the planting window later the season gets more compressed and late July and August weather becomes paramount to maintaining trend line yields. Later planted crops are more susceptible to adverse weather, and as such, markets more volatile. We will manage through this difficult spring weather as we have before. We just want to be patient and make sure we get it done right when we get our window. We can all screw up more with the wrong planter pass than we can fix the rest of the year.

Blog Entry #2: March 12, 2018

As we see spring just around the corner, things are greening up here in Southwest Indiana. Wheat and rye have broke dormancy and are really green. It's really easy to tell the fields without a fall application of herbicide as the henbit and chickweed are rolling as well. We were really dry in February but have had 6 to 8 inches of rain in the last two weeks and are wet now. We were glad to get the moisture back in the profile, as we don't want to go into summer without the subsoil recharged. With tile running water again we feel more confident heading into spring. Weather models show us having a drier spring and summer, so getting the crop off to a good start is going to be extremely important.

We have all the machinery ready (we think) and have been moving a lot of grain. With drier weather in mind, and sunny days, we have started getting irrigation systems ready; another risk management tool we have to try to help us mitigate our risk. The markets have had a nice bullish run and we have rewarded it with additional sales. Corn ($4.00+) and soybeans ($10.40) are both above breakeven, and we have removed some risk for the 2018 production to be prudent.

 

 

Calving season is under way and we are getting along good. The sand has been helpful in fighting the wet weather and keeping the calves healthy. Just like our crops we need them to get off to the best start possible.

 

Blog Entry #1: February 12, 2018

As the 2018 planting season approaches we here at Unger Farms are busy getting ready for spring. The planters are in the shop and being inspected and prepared for the all-important season. The planter is most important piece of equipment we own as this initial pass can limit more to top end yield than we can mitigate the rest of the growing season. For us this pass has to be near perfect to achieve our goals. On Lance's 1770 JD planter, we are adding a second opener for 2x2 starter on both sides of the row. Tests have shown a nice bump in yield from the dual side application. We are firm believers in starter fertilizer as we run 10 gallon blend of 10-34-0 and 28% with ATS in 2x2 as well as a 3 gallon low salt 9-18-8 in furrow with Xanthion.

 

 

 

 

Stand establishment and early season growth are paramount to high yield potential being maintained. The Xanthion in furrow sure helps on germination and even emergence as we feel a 2,000 to 3,000 stand advantage in plants up as well as protection from seedling blights. In ideal conditions any system can work but when the weather turns less than perfect these details prove essential in that uniform–even, picket fence stand with additional early growth of 1 to 2 collars. We use 20-20s and precision equipment for accurate seed placement, depth and seed-to-soil contact. Hopefully spring weather cooperates and we get off to an early, fast start to 2018.