Innovations in the Field

Sponsored by BASF

This yearlong endeavor looks at how four farmers are evaluating technology and agronomic information that can boost the productivity of their operations.

Carmen Hawk

Shelbyville, IN

Carmen Hawk

Blog Entry #10: November 22, 2016

Looking Back

I have really enjoyed writing this monthly blog. It has given me the chance to look back each month and see the progress that we have made in the last thirty days. A month ago we were deep in the middle of harvest. We had close to record yields for our farm this year. We dried very little corn and had very few setbacks. We shelled the last ear of corn on Election Day in the misting rain, and things since have not slowed a bit!

We were blessed with a very warm November. As a result, I was able to spray a fall burndown and preemergent herbicide on all of our corn stalks and bean stubble except for 220 acres of corn stalks. I had planned to spray Priaxor on all but a small area of our wheat ground; however, a hydraulic oil leak on the sprayer put me out of commission for a day, and it was too windy the last nice day we had before the weather turned too cold.

I have also been very busy cleaning and winterizing equipment. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, but using the air hose and pressure washer are my least favorite jobs! I have come home several days looking like I have been rolling around with the 4-H pigs. The next several weeks include Thanksgiving, meeting with landlords, having seed corn delivered, and cleaning up the last few pieces of equipment.

I want to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas!

Blog Entry #9: October 19, 2016

A Rabbit's Tale

We have come a long way in the last month. A month ago we were getting close to starting harvest on our farm. Since then the weather has cooperated, and tomorrow we should finish up with bean harvest. Next week we will be able to concentrate solely on shelling corn. We have also planted 70 acres of wheat for next year and have seeded 100 of 175 acres that we plan to plant of cereal rye/radish cover crop mixture.

I have been in the combine almost every day this fall. During that time I've had a lot of time to sit and think about what to write about for this month's blog. One day I had the chance to watch two rabbits escape what they probably thought was a ferocious bunny eating predator that was hot on their tails. These two rabbits were pretty smart. It didn't take them long to find the area of beans that I had already cut, and then they scampered away into an adjoining corn field.

However, as we all know, there are never just two rabbits….two rabbits soon turned into three, and then four, and finally five. Rabbit 3 wasn't quite as smart as his predecessors. He ran in front of the combine until he found a sprayer track, and he continued down the track for several hundred feet until he made it to the end of the row. Rabbit 4 was more directionally challenged. He never found a sprayer track, and he wasted a lot of time and energy running from side to side of the soybean head. However, in the end he barely survived and made it to the end of the row. Rabbit 5 wasn't quite so lucky. He eventually met his demise because he couldn't make up his mind on which way to go, and he couldn't find his way out of the row. He ran out of time and energy and met a deadly fate.

These rabbits made me think. What kind of rabbits are we as farmers? Are we like the first two rabbits that quickly adapt and try new things to survive and stay ahead of everyone else? Are we like rabbit #3 who finds a straight and safe path and continues to survive by following the road already laid out for us? Are we rabbit 4 that jumps here and there not really having a plan, but barely makes it by the skin of our teeth? Or are you rabbit #5 who succumbs because you can't adapt and you waste so much energy trying to just continue farming one more year. There are many universities and ag-related companies like BASF that are here to help us be like rabbits 1 and 2. What we choose to do with what they give us is up to us!

Have a safe and productive harvest!

Blog Entry #8: September 15, 2016

Where were you?

Where were you 15 years ago on 9–11? Fifty years from now I hope that my grandkids ask me what I remember from that day. That day is etched in my mind, like I'm sure it's engrained in yours. I was a sophomore at Purdue University, and I had a 9:30 am entomology class that morning. I just happened to turn on the news while I was getting ready. The first plane had hit the first tower, and as I sat there watching, the second plane hit. I immediately woke one of my roommates. She was from New Jersey, and her dad sometimes went into New York City for work. She tried calling home right away, but her calls wouldn't go through. We sat and watched together in horror of the events that unfolded. I wanted to stay and watch with the rest of the world, but I went to class, and the walk was eerie. I could tell who knew what was unfolding by their solemn demeanor, as those who had no clue were joking and laughing with their friends.

In the past we have gotten into the field as early as about Labor Day, but this year harvest is just starting in central Indiana. As I was driving today I got behind my first combine of the season. On our farm, we are still about a week away from pulling into the field. The first field of soybeans that we planted in mid–April have looked great all year. I wish that all of our beans could have been planted then! The corn is still a few weeks away as we are currently in the dent stage.

Is this year's crop going to be a memorable one for you? Every year is different, and this year has definitely had its challenges, but it's nothing like 2012 or 1988. I'm guessing we are going to have an average to a bit–above–average yield in both corn and soybeans this year. Based on "average" how can we make this a memorable year? Ten or 15 years from now will we look back and say, "I remember 2016 because…."

Carmen Hawk

Carmen Hawk

Carmen Hawk

This year's memories may not have to do anything with yield or the weather. We may have to make other farming memories. Maybe it will be the memories of the entire family squeezing into the combine cab and sharing supper in the now tiny space that keeps shrinking more and more every year? Or will it be the year that you had 3 kids under 3 years old riding in the combine with you? Maybe it will be the sight of the trophy buck that everyone keeps talking about (but can't get a picture of), and no one can ever seem to get when hunting season rolls around? Or maybe it will be the last year that grandpa is able to climb up and ride in the combine with you? Whatever your 2016 memory is, make sure to share it with others so that one day they can ask, "Where were you?"

Blog Entry #7: August 17, 2016

Count Your Blessings

My husband says farmers are never happy. It's either too dry, or it won't stop raining. The yields are too low, or the prices aren't high enough. It's a vicious cycle, but when your livelihood depends on things you can't control, you want to grumble and complain.

Last week, we were getting a little worried about the lack of rain the last several weeks. Areas all around us seemed to be getting showers, but we only got a few "10–inch" rains. (It's a term we use to describe a sprinkle that falls every 10 inches and isn't enough to wet the sidewalk.) The soybeans were starting to die in the gravelly ground and on the hills, and the corn was firing at the bottom.

Starting late last week, however, the faucet turned on and hasn't stopped. We have gotten more than 5 inches of rain in a five–day period.

I'm not going to complain and be unhappy about the rain. We are very blessed we have gotten what we have. In fact, we are blessed more than we know. Last Friday, a family in our community had its mother and two teenagers perish in a plane crash that killed six. The father had passed away 17 months ago. They leave behind a son they were going to visit at the Virginia Military Academy and another son, age 15. I can't begin to imagine what those boys and their extended family are going through.

As I sit here writing this blog, my little guy keeps trying to push the keys on the computer. Any minute now, my two oldest kids will get off the school bus and come running up the driveway arguing about what they are going to have for a snack. Yes, these little things get on my nerves, but they, and things like too much or too little rain, seem trivial compared to the trials that others face.

Give your loved ones an extra squeeze tonight and thank the Lord for all the blessings that He has given you.

Blog Entry #6: July 25, 2016

Milestones Are Important

One of the things that I really like about writing this blog is that I can easily look back and see where we were and what we were doing a month ago at this time. When you see your crops everyday it's as if they have always been that way…kind of like when someone comes up to you and says, "Wow! Your baby has grown!" To me, he hasn't grown, but to them, he seems huge!

A month ago we were getting ready to start wheat harvest. Over all we had a pretty successful harvest! We haven't sold all of our wheat yet, so we don't know the exact yields, but according to the yield monitor we are close to that 100–bushel–acre average that we were shooting for! I was able to complete several fungicide trials from the fall–applied Priaxor. We got the double–crop beans planted in a timely manner, and they emerged within a week.

I finished spraying Priaxor on the soybeans yesterday. We received almost 1.5 inches of rain on Monday and another 1/2 inch of rain yesterday afternoon. I had had to add a little herbicide where weeds started to pop through. I have sprayed everything except for the double–crop beans.

The corn has also made a big jump in the last month. Most fields are starting to tassel, and we are looking to make that aerial application of fungicide on disease–susceptible hybrids. Overall, the corn looks pretty good; however, we are currently having several days of upper 90s with high humidity. Hopefully with recent rains the corn won't be too stressed during pollination.

A few of the things we will be looking forward to around here the next few weeks … We have our local town festival the last weekend in July. It's called Derby Days, and boys from the local Cub Scout troop get to race their soapbox derby cars down US 52. My oldest son will be a veteran in the race this year. School will be starting for my oldest two kids on August 2, I'll have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?? We will also be attending the Rushville Steam Engine show…I've went to this tractor and steam engine show for as long as I can remember. We had to miss it last year because Graham was born on the first day of the show. We also have the Indiana State Fair coming up the first of August. It will be another busy month!

Blog Entry #5: June 20, 2016

A Shout Out to Fathers and 4–H

We have come a long way in the last month since my last video blog. We had not started planting corn, and we had only planted a few acres of beans. I am happy to say that we have everything planted…the first time and some the second. The corn was starting to stress, but we received a little over 3 inches of rain this week in a two–day period…We may be looking at a third–time planting for some crops.

This past week we were able to get away for a few days and attend a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. It is amazing to see the vast difference in the progression of the crops between here and there. In Kentucky we saw corn tasseling, and double–crop beans up. Whereas, our corn is just covering the row, beans are starting to bloom, and the wheat is getting close to harvest.

I was also a busy little beaver in the sprayer this week, and I am happy to report that everything except our late corn has been sprayed. Many local farmers are busy side–dressing anhydrous or 28 and spraying.

The wheat seems to be running a little ahead of schedule for central Indiana. It is turning, and I am anxious to see if there are any yield differences in the treated versus untreated Priaxor fungicide trials we started last fall. I will have yield results to share with you in next month's blog. We are usually in the field over the 4th of July holiday, and we are anticipating being in the field next week.

We should have wheat harvest done by 4th of July. This leaves the week open for our family to be at the fair most of the week. My son is a first– year 4–Her, and he has been busy working on his projects. We are hoping that his barrow adds a few pounds the next couple of weeks! I cannot believe that it's been 25 years since I was a first–year 4–Her. I still have many friends that I stay in contact with from those days. My husband is a "city boy," and when we first met I made him guess what the four H's stood for. He was three for four, replacing harvesting for health. It wasn't a bad guess. I'm sure he'll learn a thing or two the next 20 years or so while our kids are involved. Good luck to all of the 4–Hers this year!

Happy Father's Day to all of those dads out there, and a very happy Father's Day to my dad, papaw and husband!

Until next month!

Blog Entry #4: May 17, 2016

Crop Planting Update

Carmen Hawk reports that the wheat crop on her family's central Indiana farm, near Fountaintown, is progressing well. The crop shows little to no disease pressure and started to head late last week.

Aerial Wheat
Hawk Wheat

Blog Entry #3: April 15, 2016

What's in a Name?

Farming has been a little slow in central Indiana the last few weeks. The weather has not cooperated much. We just get dry enough to get out in the field and work, and then it rains again. I was, however, able to get out and get both sprayings of nitrogen on the wheat and also the combination application of fungicide, herbicide and insecticide. My brother has also gotten about three–fourths of the corn acres strip–tilled. Many farmers in our area have not been in the field much at all.

Now onto something that comes to mind:

Eight months ago we welcomed to the world our third child. While expecting all three of our children, we did not find out the gender until the day they were born. People would ask, "Do you know what you are having?" My husband, with his unique sense of humor, would say, "a baby." When we told them we were waiting until the baby was born, many could not believe it. Why would we want to wait? We told them that this was one of the last big surprises we would have in life, and we enjoyed the anticipation of not knowing until the doctor said, "it's a …." We also did not want the surprise of the ultrasound being wrong! (This happened to my cousin a couple of years ago!)

Another thing we made everyone wait for was the name we had chosen. For our third child we had not decided on a name until about 8 hours after he was born. We were throwing around a couple of ideas, but nothing was set in stone. However, it did not take us long to agree on a name when the nurse at the hospital said we could not leave until we had a name for the birth certificate!

We finally decided on Graham Keaton Hawk. My mom says he is the only kid with three last names. Graham means "grain." Keaton is my maternal great grandmother's maiden name and means "place of hawks." (I thought this was very fitting with our last name. ) Everyone in our family is named after someone by their middle name. One reason we named the kids after one of their ancestors is because I want them to ask about their forefathers and who they are named after.

Earlier this week I was reading the Meet the 2016 Farmers

Under my Profile it says, "Hawk Farms at a Glance." I know that it is only a name, and nothing against my husband's family, but even if I or our children are the only ones running the farm in the future, our farm will never be Hawk Farms. It will always be Nigh Farms. I am the sixth generation of the Nigh family to live and work on the farm, and I take a lot of pride in what our family has accomplished. There are a lot of stories and practices that have been handed down from generation to generation, and this is something that I am proud of and want to continue to pass on to the next generation…Nigh or Hawk.

Editor's Note: At Carmen 's request, we have changed her farm name to Nigh/Hawk Farms at a Glance.

Blog Entry #2: March 18, 2016

A Kid in the Candy Store

The first day I am able to get into the field, I feel like a kid in a candy store. The equipment is spotless; everything works like it is "supposed to," and the promise of a new growing season awaits. Mother Nature has brought us some unusually warm weather this week, and this first "field day" has come about three weeks earlier this year than last. As a result, I picked up several loads of rocks from where we tiled the fields this winter, cleaned out some fencerows, and top–dressed our 110 acres of wheat.

Each year I work with the local co–op to best utilize the nitrogen application on the wheat. The February issue of Progressive Farmer said I planned to keep our 2016 nitrogen program the same as in 2015, but we are changing up a few things. Last year I used Instinct II stabilizer to split–apply 28 percent nitrogen during the first week of April. I did so at 25 gallons per acre (gpa). The second application of 28 percent at 20 gpa came four weeks later, and I followed up with Priaxor fungicide at 4 ounces per acre immediately after the second Instinct II application.

One change made to the nitrogen program this year includes cutting the first rate of 28 percent nitrogen by more than half, to 11 gpa. This reduction promotes tillering and head size. The second topdressing will include 27 gpa with Instinct around the Feekes 6 stage. The purpose of this change is to have more nitrogen available to the plant when it most needs that important growth element. We felt that many of our plants did not fully utilize that first nitrogen application last year; hence, we made the change. We will not know the full effects of our changes until harvest, and like with every crop, it all depends on the weather.

Now that I have a little mud on the tires and the winter bugs are out of the sprayer, I will have to wait a few more weeks until the next candy store opens its doors.

Have a productive and safe spring season!

Blog Entry #1: February 17, 2016

Blessed with Opportunity

We've all heard the saying, "You don't know what you have until it's gone." In life, in relationships, and even in farming, that expression holds great truth. Like my dad, both of my grandfathers, and five generations before me, I had always wanted to be a farmer. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" my mom would always ask on the first day of school. Year after year I would answer that question by writing "farmer" in my "School Days" journal book. Between junior high and high school, however, I lost some of that love of farming.

Then, college, marriage, a couple of kids—you know, life—happened. My husband's (Andrew) job took us away from the farm, but I always stayed connected with agriculture. For five years I worked in agricultural retail, and I came back to the family farm whenever time allowed. Working on the farm just was not the same, though. I wasn't involved with the daily activities of the farm, and my heart still seemed so detached and far away from the "culture" that is so much a part of agriCULTURE. It's hard to explain, but I didn't know what I had until it was gone.

Two years ago, Andrew had the opportunity to transfer his job closer to our family's homestead outside Indianapolis. I now had the chance to return and help run the family farm. My dad, brother and I have now formed a cooperative partnership, and over the next several years, Dad will slowly let more and more of the operational reigns go to the next generation.

Not many individuals are blessed with the opportunity to be able to come back to their family's farm but I was, and I am going to work as hard as I can to help our family business succeed. Agriculture is forever changing, and we, as the future of the industry and its culture, need to change with it.

I am looking forward to working with Progressive Farmer, BASF and the local co–op in trying a few new ideas and practices this growing season. I plan to share with you the successes and failures, and it is my hope that you will be able to integrate something new and exciting into your farming operation as well.