Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Heat

Summer heat?  If that means there is the possibility of turning the furnace on at night to keep the house warm, then yes there's some summer heat on the Hi-Line.
I was floating the Yellowstone River last week with family (by the way, if you haven't floated the Yellowstone in Paradise Valley, then you need to add it to your bucket list!).  On the way back to the farm, I kept an eye on the thermometer.  It was 90 degrees for most of the 500-some miles home...but only 72 once I reached the Hi-Line.
Folks, it's the end of July.  We're supposed to be melting under the hot summer sun every day.  And it's only 72 degrees at 4 o'clock in the afternoon?  Amazing.  Twice this week it's been down to the low 40s at night.  Truly amazing!
All of this cool weather has been great for the crops.  There has not been much moisture in my part of the Hi-Line for the last month, but the cool weather is helping the wheat while the heads are filling.  There is a beautiful stand in the fields because of the great moisture this spring.  If those heads fill...and if we avoid hail for the next six could be a nice harvest.
Not everyone has been as lucky.  I was at a farm auction yesterday and talked to a farmer from the Circle MT area.  His neighbors were hailed out two weeks ago, and then his crops were totaled in a storm five days ago.  I could hear the frustration in his voice and see it on his face.  Last year his crops succumbed to drought and this year to hail.  As I drove home, I thanked the Big Guy for the opportunity to be a farmer and asked Him to look out for my friend from Circle.  Now that I really know how much work goes into producing a crop, I wouldn't wish two straight years of crop failure on anyone.
No, there's not much heat this summer on the Hi-Line...and I'm extremely grateful for what we've been given.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Check Your Pulse

Do you have a pulse?
I do.  I have CDC Maxim red lentils growing this year and they are looking better and better as we've gotten some sunshine after all the spring rain.  But I'll be honest with you, I really don't know much about lentils or any other pulse crop.  None of them were grown around the Hi-Line when I was a kid.
So this week, I went to a Pulse Plot Tour hosted by the local university extension agent.  I really enjoy these ag seminar events because I always learn a lot and each one seems to reinforce the discussions held at previous events.  At this event, there were some great topics of discussion.
1.  Pulse Fertilizer Requirements.  A Montana State University soil fertility specialist reviewed soil conditions necessary for a pulse crop to fix nitrogen into the soil.  The discussion centered mostly on application of phosphorus.  Potassium and sulfur were covered as well, but the soil composition in this part of the world doesn't lend itself to needing those applied when seeding pulses.
Dissipation of Soil Samples in Water
2.  Herbicide Rotations.  A Syngenta representative discussed herbicide resistant weeds and had some great pictures of local examples of resistant wild oats, kochia, and pigeon grass.  I had seen her presentation before, but it was great to hear it again to reinforce the need to develop a sound chemical plan, paying attention to different herbicide groups and classes to diversify the modes of action.
Water Infiltration into No-Till (left) and Fallow (right) Soils
3.  Soil Health.  A National Resources Conservation Service agent gave a great presentation on building up carbon matter in soil.  Soil is a complex environment and the main ingredient is carbon.  He gave a couple of great demonstrations of what happens when rain falls on various soil compositions.

4.  Pulse Research Update.  A Montana State University pulse specialist discussed the various ongoing research projects being conducted on the Hi-Line.  He has done a lot of great work over the last 8 years up here and it was interesting to hear him talk.  He took a lot of feedback from the local farmers about ideas for future research.
Touring the Research Plots
5.  Plot Tour.  The pulse specialist took us out to the research plots and let us walk around to view the various varieties.  Aye Carumba!  There were a lot of varieties!  I've lost my spreadsheet, but I would guess he had 150 varieties of peas, 100 lentils, and 50 chickpeas.  Honestly, after a while, they all started to look the same to me.
As always, the conversations with various specialists and farmers were the most interesting for me.  In separate conversations with the Syngenta rep, the pulse specialist, a Montana Ag Department official, and the farmer who owned the plot land, I learned a lot.
It was a great day for me and well worth the time spent under the hot sun.
How about you?  Have you checked your pulse?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Canada Farm Progress Show

My neighbors to the north know how to put on a farm show!
SaskPower's Farm Safety Display
A couple weeks ago I ventured up for a day trip to Regina Saskatchewan for the Canada Farm Progress Show.  I've been to the National Farm Show in Louisville Kentucky a couple times and had fun looking and talking.  While it's a great show, it's primarily catered to the corn & soybean industries.  Because of its location, the Canada Farm Progress Show had a lot more information and equipment dealing with small grains and pulse crops.
One of the most interesting displays was by SaskPower and focused on farm safety.  They showed various things that could happen if you were to come into contact with a high-voltage power line.  It was very informative and well done (literally!).
SeedHawk 1300bu Seed Cart
Of course there was plenty of new and bigger equipment as well.  SeedHawk had a very large display area to show off their newest air seeder innovations.  I was particularly amazed at the 4-hopper seed cart capable of holding up to 1,300 bushels.  I can't imagine pulling that behind the drill!
And I don't know why, but this 115-foot long auger amazed me.  I guess it was because it seemed like more of an architectural phenomenon than it did a piece of farm equipment.  With augers this big, no wonder SaskPower had their display!
115' Grain Auger
As usual, the best learning happened while talking with other farmers at any one of the display booths.  I always get more ideas and thoughts from those conversations than I do from any of the vendors.
Great hospitality, great displays, and a great venue.  If you ever get the chance, check it out!