Innovations in the Field

Sponsored by BASF

Welcome to the 2017 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.

Mike & Mitch House

Atlanta, Indiana

Mike and Mitch House

Blog Entry #7: August 3, 2017

Dog Days Of Summer

Greetings again from Indiana. We have finally made it to the dog days of summer. County fair season is in full swing and we have some free time to start checking jobs off the long to-do list around the farm.

Wheat harvest ended up being average with normal yields for our farm and good test weight. The doublecrop beans we planted after the wheat have struggled to make a stand due to, yet again, a heavy rain after planting. But we were able to get some much needed ditching completed in the wheat field. We typically plant wheat on fields that we know have drainage needs so we can get our local ditching crew out here during their summer down time. Around here, drainage is invaluable. Though it makes for a rough harvest jumping over lateral ditch lines, it’s more than worth it.

Despite the wet planting season that we have been grumbling about for the last few months, the corn stand that we have has had excellent growing conditions with lots of heat units and timely inch rains. A big decision that we had to make was if and where to apply fungicide on the corn. It’s hard to throw extra money at an uncertain crop so we chose the fields that showed the greatest yield potential and decided to leave the rest alone. We ended up spraying a few hundred acres and are waiting on a plane to spray one more field that was planted after the heavy spring rain. Other than that, ears seem to be well-pollenated and are beginning to fill out nicely. We figure they have plenty of moisture to finish to their yield potential at this point. You have to look on the bright side of a rainy spring!



Ears filling out and showing yield potential

 

Our soybean fields are beginning to explode in growth. We are in the process of applying fungicide and insecticide to our entire bean crop. Insect pressure seems minimal, but we have seen adding insecticide helps the fungicide work so it can’t hurt as an inexpensive additive. As we drive across the field, it seems the BASF Engenia dicamba application has proven its benefits thus far. Fields are clean, and the resistant weed pressure appears to be subdued. Some evidence for this showed in one of the last fields we sprayed where we left Engenia out of the tank mix. The field is adjacent to another field that was sprayed the same day with Engenia. In the field without Engenia there are a good number of weeds shooting up out of the canopy all across the field.

To follow up on our barn that fell this spring from a tornado, we have finally had time to begin some projects with the reclaimed siding and timbers. We have a stack of unique mantle-sized beams that we have started to clean and finish. Our next step is to work on marketing through our online shop at farmsteadironworks.etsy.com. It’s interesting to see this old barn come full circle as we honor its heritage through some fine reclaimed houseware products. Mitch has also been experimenting with a butcher block countertop made from 2x8 timbers ripped and planed into 1x2 pieces. It is coming together beautifully!



Stack of Reclaimed Mantles

 



Reclaimed Timber Butcher Block Detail

 

Lastly, we had a chance to put the GoPro to use in the Pacific Ocean off of British Columbia as we fished the salmon run in late July. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was a much-needed break from the farm!

 

Blog Entry #6: July 6, 2017

No Time To Rest

The month of June was one for the record books around here. During a month when the pace typically slows down a bit after planting and before wheat harvest, we didn't find much time to rest. Replanting corn and beans kept us on our toes between more heavy rains in early June…hay was fit for baling…and our winter wheat was ready earlier than usual. As we prepared for wheat harvest, weed pressure in our bean fields called for spraying as well. That's farming for you–expect the unexpected.

In general, our crops are faring well compared to a lot of the region. Rain has been the biggest obstacle this spring in central Indiana with many farmers having trouble getting water off of places it has never been before. Some of our replanted corn and beans got drowned out twice! While driving around the local counties, we can see there will be a lot of fields lucky to produce a crop. Some of our corn showed first tassels this week, and our beans seem to be healthy, as long as they can keep their feet dry.

The biggest task the past couple of weeks has been the wheat and straw harvest. If you have never been involved in a wheat harvest, it's typically frustrating to say the least. And, it ALWAYS falls around the 4th of July here in central Indiana. When our wheat showed signs of being dry and ready, we began our sequence of daily afternoon test samples, which are always wetter than anticipated (we grow wheat for seed and the plant requires moisture under 14.2%). We continue sampling until, finally, one afternoon the grain dries enough to begin cutting. This year we were able to get half of our acres cut before a rain, but then we had wet straw to deal with. This is the pattern that begins to form–cut a little wheat, bale a little straw, wait for dry weather, repeat. Then, hopefully, plant double-crop beans in a timely manner. We often find ourselves planting while we are still picking up bales.

 



Fresh straw bales

 



Mike welding broken home-made bale spears late one evening

 

Other than that, the only exciting news is that we sprayed a few bean fields that were showing early marestail pressure with BASF's dicamba product Engenia. We tank mixed the Engenia with Roundup PowerMax and some adjuvants. It's still too early to tell, but it seems the marestail are curling and drying out. We will keep you updated on the results.

Until Next time,

Grant and Nick

Blog Entry #5: June 5, 2017

Weathering The Storm

Since our last blog, we received several more inches of rain and difficult weather. Fields and waterways filled with water and after the initial 4 inches of rainfall we received another 4 inches shortly after and had extremely cold nights. This was obviously difficult for any crop to overcome. Now that it has finally dried out we were able to finish planting corn and beans, and corn for the second and third time in places.



Replanting and spraying in the same field.

 

Due to the extreme rainfall we were able to work on taking the barn down that we lost from strong winds last month and salvaging wood from it. We found that some of the siding was redwood and tried our best to keep every board. We were also able to keep most of the beams and are going to market them as Fireplace Mantles at Farmstead Ironworks on Etsy.



White oak barn beams.

 

We also were able to pick up new bin sheets and supplies from Brock Grain Bins in Milford, Indiana, and should be able to replace the bent sheets with new. We have been working to replace the barn we lost, on rainy days we have been hauling stone and preparing the building site. We're trying to get it ready to use before wheat harvest so we have room to store straw. Side-dressing is our next task on the farm, weather looks promising for that. We will keep you updated on our progress. This has been an interesting year and we are trying to make the most of it.

Blog Entry #4: May 1, 2017

Weather Disruptions

By Nick Roudebush & Grant House

Spring greetings from House Family Farms! We've had a productive and eventful couple of weeks here in Central Indiana. To summarize, we finished up our pre-plant anhydrous and burndown programs, planted almost all of our corn, and had a tornado hit the farm, followed by 4+ inches of rain on top of our freshly-planted fields. Needless to say, it has been interesting.

For our burndown program this spring, we used the BASF Zidua PRO tank mixed with 2 ,4-D and Glyphosate among other chemicals. Our bean fields for this year, which are no-till, saw a great deal of early weed pressure due to warm February and March weather. Some fields were as green as we've seen them in recent years- full of chickweed, yellow-top, and other common early weeds. The Zidua PRO seems to have smoked the weeds for now, but what we are really counting on is the residual weed control that the product offers as we typically don't start planting beans until the corn is in the ground and the ground is fit. Check out this video for a glimpse of the weed pressure we were spraying.



VIDEO: Weed Control

 

We were blessed with a nice window of warm dry weather and were able to plant nearly our entire corn crop over the last couple of weeks. We were eager to work the kinks out of our new planter and row-starter outfit (which were plentiful). One topic of interest on our farm related to the corn crop thus far is our trial of the BASF product Xanthion, which is an in-furrow fungicide and biological intended to promote early seedling vigor. Our local BASF representative has been performing some studies of the product side-by-side with a control. The results have been quite impressive so far. Early on, the group with Xanthion showed a faster germination and root development progress (see pic below). Then, upon studying emergence to date, we had a field that showed a population of 23,000 emerged plants per acre with Xanthion vs. 7,500 emerged without (see pic below). That sure says something. Getting them out of the ground can be one of the biggest struggles, especially with 4+ inches of rain on top! We look forward to seeing how this study progresses.



Xanthion on left and Control on right at germination.

 



We held our own emergence study, with blue flags marking emerged plants.

 

Lastly, we spent the last few days assessing damage from a tornado that hit our farm directly. Last Wednesday, as we were planting our last field of corn, a tornado developed right on top of us and hit portions of our farm. It was very dry that day, so the funnel cloud quickly developed into a spinning wall of dust. Mike was in the corn planter and experience the tornado first-hand (actually witnessing the eye of the storm from the tractor cab!). We experienced damage to a straw barn (total destruction), a grain bin, and lots of roofs and trees around the area. (See pics below of straw barn and grain bin damage). We are grateful that the storm wasn't worse than it was and that nobody got hurt in the area. Now, we are just dealing with the 4+ inches of rain on our freshly planted crop- we are crossing our fingers and waiting to see how emergence fares.



Our haybarn is a total loss after the tornado.

 



Our grain bins also sustained damage in the storm.

 

Blog Entry #3: April 3, 2017

March Madness

By Nick Roudebush & Grant House

Another rainy week in Indiana — just in time to watch some good basketball! This month's weather has been as unpredictable as our tournament brackets. Luckily it rained this week, because it has been hard to resist an early start on field work even though we knew it would probably be premature. This was one of those months when we spent a lot of time in the seat of a semi. Markets were up for a bit, so we had a couple of corn contracts with the local bio refinery to fulfill, and the seed companies we grow for were ready to treat our bean varieties. We are pleased to have most of beans hauled out going into planting, with some corn leftover to market this summer.

Our local BASF representative stopped by for a chat this last week and we decided it's definitely time to start spraying burn down here in Central Indiana. Dandelions are popping up in the yard and we've been seeing some 6-8" marestail around. So, as soon as it dries out we will be at full throttle.

The biggest news on the farm this month was the approval of tank-mixed dicamba chemistry. This year we are growing 100% dicamba soybeans for seed and have been anxiously awaiting this news. We received a newsletter from BASF outlining all of the acceptable Engenia tank-mix recipes. Looking at the list, it seems like most farms should still be able to use a version of their standard local spray blends with the new BASF product. We don't necessarily intend to spray every acre with Engenia, but are excited to have the tool in our back pocket if we see the same resistant weed pressure we saw last year. I think we all know that the challenges with this new chemistry will be related to drift. Testing accurate wind speed will be a must. In the next couple of weeks, we are planning to outfit our sprayer boom with new stainless steel plumbing (replacing saggy poly plumbing) in hopes of being able to clean out more effectively. New dicamba-rated sprayer nozzles are also in the works. We look forward to seeing how this all plays out.

Other than that, we have been using our free time to work on new lighting projects for Farmstead Ironworks. We recently secured a new project in a historic building in downtown Peru, Indiana. The soon-to-be office space will have exposed brick, barn wood wall treatments, farmhouse conference tables, and our rustic industrial light fixtures. It seems like the nostalgia of rural America is flooding the design world these days. We love having the opportunity to bring the farm into the city with projects like these. Hopefully we will have some seed in the ground next month!

 

Blog Entry #2: March 7, 2017

Blast from the Past

As most of you probably know, this February had some unseasonably warm days. We found ourselves itching to get out in the fields and bust up some dirt. As temperatures neared 70 degrees, we were able to get out and trim tree lines, chisel where we cleared fence rows last fall and even had a day to try out a new (used) field cultivator. We worked some chiseled end rows with it and the soil was fairly mellow and dry- it sure felt like spring weather.

Other than that things have been slow as we have been gearing up for planting. We have most of our maintenance completed, and have been receiving shipments of seed. We have hauled quite a bit of corn to Poet Biorefining in Alexandria, Indiana, as we were able to take advantage of a few days with climbs in the market.

With a slower February we thought we would feature some antique equipment that we still use on our farm. With today's large scale, fast paced farming, some days it's nice to slow down and remember how far we have come. One of the grain systems we still have in operation is a 1954 Meyer bucket elevator. The previous generations used it for storing whole ear corn for cattle feed. At some point the slats were taken off the side of the crib and were replaced with solid wood. Since we grow seed beans, there are times we need extra space for storage, and with a capacity of around 20,000 bushels, the elevator comes in handy. Here's a video of the complex unloading process for one side of the elevator.



VIDEO: The House farm's modified antique elevator unloads grain.

 



A look at the motor that runs the antique grain elevator at House Farms.

 



Grant points out where grain is loaded into the elevator.

 



These decorative lights in the loft of the antique elevator have provided inspiration for some of our Farmstead Ironworks products.

 

We also employ an old (once restored) John Deere 4010. Over the years this tractor was our work horse tending to cattle and field work. Today we still use this tractor for baling hay and straw, running the wood splitter, and hauling the occasional wagon. We recently had this tractor in the shop alongside a modern 4 wheel drive tractor. It's easy to see how far the farming world has evolved and to appreciate where we have come from.

 



This tractor was produced from 1960 to 1963 by John Deere, and we've still got it running around House Farms.

 

Blog Entry #1: February 7, 2017

Gearing Up As Winter Wanes

By Grant House & Nick Roudebush

Greetings from central Indiana! We are Grant House and Nick Roudebush with House Family Farms- a multi-generation grain farm. This is the first of many blogs from our farm as we share our journey with you through the 2017 crop season.

This winter we have been working through some new equipment, seed and chemical decisions. The last few weeks we have been outfitting our John Deere 1775 NT corn planter. We have decided to apply row starter and fungicide in the furrow. One of the bigger challenges was integrating the Xanthion (in furrow fungicide) into the system. We built a custom mounting plate and brackets for the required tanks, pumps, and metering devices. Our row starter will blend with the Xanthion after the main pump and will be distributed through a John Blue fertilizer monitoring system.

Xanthion tank mounted rear of planter
Xanthion tank mounted rear of planter

Xanthion tank and metering system
Xanthion tank and metering system

John Blue fertilizer monitoring system
John Blue fertilizer monitoring system

Another issue of discussion has been the control of waterhemp and marestail on our farm. We have decided to grow all extend soybeans for seed and are anxiously awaiting final decisions based on chemical approval.

One way that we offset our down time, especially in the winter months, is through our side business Farmstead Ironworks. We opened our online shop last January that specializes in rustic industrial light fixtures. This first year has been a wild ride; we have shipped lights to nearly every state in the country. Something we both never dreamed would happen. Keeping up with demands during planting and harvest required "burning the midnight oil" and working in our shop way before the crack of dawn. You can visit our shop at farmsteadironworks.etsy.com

Farmstead Ironworks rustic industrial chandelier
Farmstead Ironworks rustic industrial chandelier

We are looking forward to sharing our month-to-month journey with you all.

Thanks, Nick and Grant