Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grading Fields for Higher Yields

Harvest is growing long these days.

It’s been a good harvest.  However, there’s nothing more disheartening than watching the yield monitor register some of the best corn you’ve ever had, only to suddenly drop by 100 or more bushels an acre.

If corn is selling for approximately $4 per bushel, simple math tells us that equates to $400 an acre. 

What’s causing this loss?

Wet holes.

The flat creek bottom where we’ve raised our best corn is littered with low spots where water collects.  Even though we know corn needs water to thrive, too much, in this case, water pooled in low lying areas, stunted our corn yield by over half. 

The areas with lighter colored corn are in wet spots.  Corn standing in water or wetter soil is stunted in growth because the water fills the spaces in the soil, and the roots cannot receive oxygen.  This severely limits yields at the end of the season.
Plus, the water runs off the field haphazardly causing eroded spots as it races to the creek. 

So, hubs decided to call up his uncle who owns some dirt soil (apologies to my former soil science prof, Dr. Miles - I tried, but "soil" just doesn’t always sound right, even if, technically, it is), dirt moving equipment to grade, or level, the field.

Leveling the field requires moving a lot of soil, so obviously we had to wait until after harvest, but a lot of “trash,” or the unneeded stalks, were left behind. 
We burned the field off because the buckets, also called dirt scoops or dirt pans, cannot handle all of that corn stalk trash in their equipment. 
After the corn stalks were burned off, the dirt movers drove through the field with a pickup truck outfitted with a GPS receiver.  This tells them where the high and low spots are in the field.  This data is inputted into a computer program which will tell the dirt movers exactly how much soil to shave off or dump in certain spots in the field.  We also disked the field to help loosen the soil and to make sure it dries out and will flow through the dirt scoops better. 

At one spot in the field sits the laser, which sends the previously recorded information to receivers on the dirt scoops. 

The first pass through the field, the operator will manually decide when to scoop dirt and drop it, based on the information the laser is sending it.  On the second pass through the field, the operators let the laser do all of the talking, and it automatically picks up and drops dirt to fill in the lower spots. 
Notice the red receivers atop the dirt scoops.
Since we’ve graded these bottoms, we’ll be able to significantly raise our corn yields.  (Not that I need a longer harvest season...)  Now, instead of water pooling in low spots, the water will flow towards a rock-lined ditch serving a two-fold purpose: draining the field and slowing erosion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

To my friends that I disagree with on social media...

Hey old friend,

I miss you.  Remember the days in grade school when we made clover “jewelry” and “crowns”, played four-square, and begged our parents for sleep-overs?  Or when we spent hours outside of class making that video for our English class project? 

Those were the days.

Or maybe you’re my acquaintance.  My friend of a friend: maybe we were in a wedding together and shared a great time on the dance floor.  Maybe we shared one college class and really hit it off, but haven’t talked much since then.

I see you on Facebook, now and then.  Enjoying a fall coffee or beautiful sunset. 

Or… blowing off steam about the latest divisive issue.

Transgender, abortion, which lives matter, the range of sexuality, gun control, common core, entitlement programs, presidential candidates…

…and let’s not leave out: GMO, organic, animal welfare, factory farms, grass-fed, eat local, the environment.

Do you want to know what gets under my skin the most across these topics?  The common accompanying post that goes something like this:

“I can already see I’m going to be unfriending lots of people today.”

I HATE that.

Not because it makes me angry with you, but because it makes me sad.  The whole tenure of our relationship, we never once discussed gun control.  It has nothing to do with our “friendship.”

Plus, you know I advocate for our farm: the farm that uses GMOs and is far from “certified organic.”  You know I see your post with your Whole Foods grocery bags.  You wonder if you should “like” my status anymore, or avoid me since you "know" I must disdain you, now.

Actually, it’s just the opposite.  Because, you see, friend, I love you.  I love you beyond polarizing issues.  I loved you before polarizing issues.

More than that, I neeeeed to see that post so I can understand you better.  You’re the last person I want to “unfriend.”  Don’t you realize the people you disagree with the most are the ones you need to hear from the worst?

I hope you feel the same way.  I sincerely want to hear your voice, and I hope you want to hear mine.  It’s important to me that you know that I read those articles you post that I disagree with, and I seriously consider and weigh the information.  Rarely do you change my mind, but sometimes there is a gray area to shape, or an inch is gained toward common ground.  At the least, I see your perspective.  That’s SO important. 

That doesn’t mean I won’t respond.  If I see that debunked GMO tumorous rat study on your wall, I’m probably politely going to inform you that there are no published, peer-reviewed studies that point to any health concerns with GMOs.  Hear it this way: “Hey friend!  I see what you’re saying there.  Did ya realize…”

Even if we continue to disagree, I still care about you.  I still want to see the pictures from your baby brothers’ graduation, and your parents’ anniversary party.  I still want to see the funny memes you post because you have the greatest sense of humor.  As badly as I want you to see my side of the issue, I want you to know you’re more to me than the issue.  It would hurt to not be able to see your beaming smile in your wedding photos, or celebrate your career with you.

So please, let’s stop with the “I’m unfriending any who says ______.”  We both need the conversation.  We need each other to challenge the other’s ideas in a safe place.  We need to remind each other of the humanity of those on the flip side of the issue.  Since I knew your heart before I knew your stance, I know you aren’t the evil on the other side.  You’re the genuine-hearted, concerned person, just trying to advocate for what troubles you.  Me, too.  Sometimes we have different information, sometimes we hold different values that just aren't going to change.  However, from what I've seen, we’re both motivated because we care.

So, no awkward feelings: debate GMOs with me today and comment heart emojis galore on my sweet babies’ photos tomorrow.  We’re that big.  We can handle it.  We need it.