I NEVER PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO CORN

Last night I took the long familiar drive home with added company in my car. I had fellow Corn Intern, Kylie, and her roommate in the car with me and we were making casual conversation about our days at work. The three of us are friends outside of work but come from various backgrounds that all led us to the University of Illinois agriculture program.

As we drove, the conversation began to lull and from the back-seat Kylie offered, “You know, I never really paid much attention to corn until I started my internship.” The sentence took me a bit off guard before she continued, “Of course we had some corn, but it was just there.” I understood what she meant, but to me, corn had never “just been there.”

Continued reflection on the topic had me curious how one could just assume corn was nothing more than passing scenery on the interstate. It was so much more than that to everyone I knew growing up and I have never known anything different. Corn was never “just there”, it was seed selected carefully, planting done late into the night praying the rain held off, then praying for rain a few weeks later. Corn was your classmate or teacher missing an afternoon because the field really needed to be picked and someone had to get it done. No, corn wasn’t “just there”.

I then thought about how the office had reacted the recent rain we had got. It was easy to tell who had been raised with farmers and whose family farm was in what parts of the state. Some were quick to groan at the thought of more water in their already sodden fields while many rejoiced at the chance for their plants to get a drink. All of the meaning was lost on Kylie, she had never paid much attention to corn. She didn’t know what the year of the drought was like. To her, the corn was still “just there”.

After having slept on the subject, I have reached a new mentality. Most people will never pay attention to the corn along the side of the roads. They will not see the food, fuel, and fiber that keeps the country turning, the backbone of the American economy, the pride of Illinois, they will see corn. That’s okay. It would be impossible to ask Kylie to appreciate corn in ways that I do, she wasn’t raised with corn as her nearest neighbor. Rather than be annoyed, upset, or frustrated, I am inspired. The fact that others think corn is “just there” means that I get to be corn’s voice. Those in agriculture have a passion that can’t be squelched. Share that passion. Spread the word. Others don’t have to pay attention to corn as long as you do.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn Intern

CAUTION WHEN DRIVING!

It’s getting to that time of the year where the corn is growing a mile per minute. With advancements in technology, corn is growing quicker and taller sooner than ever before. With these advancements, we wanted to caution drivers who are cruising the countryside to be very aware of their surroundings.

  1. Drive the Speed Limit

People tend to think that their vehicle magically becomes a racecar when going down a country road. With corn growing there becomes a huge visibility issue and it’s harder to see other drivers on different roads. Go the speed limit because you have no idea what might or how fast things down other roads can be going.

  1. Slow down at every corner, even if there is no stop sign

Like I just said, when corn is growing there becomes a huge visibility issue. Even if there is not a stop sign at every corner decrease your speed or even stop. Many people feel the need to roll through stop signs in the country, even when the corn is high. Be the proactive person and ensure everyone’s safety and slow down at every corner and intersection you can.

  1. Use caution & double check when you see equipment coming down the road

Though it is not the time for harvest right now, it will be soon. Ground Rigs are still able to get into the fields and before we know it harvesting equipment will be roaming the country roads more. Lots of this equipment takes up space that fills up the whole road. Most of this equipment is also designed to go a lot slower than your average vehicle. Most farmers try to be courteous to others not in equipment and allow them to pass when it’s safe for both of them. Before passing the equipment ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK to see if there is anything coming. Sometimes farmers are just getting over to let oncoming traffic through.

Though you should always be cautious while driving anywhere, please be extra cautious during this, and any other corn-growing season!

Abby Jacobs
Illinois State University

APPLICATION IS IN THE AIR

It’s that time of the year where we are going to start seeing those yellow (not always seen as yellow) airplanes flying around from field to field from sun-up to sun-down. What was once known as crop dusting is now referred to as Aerial Application and they for sure have a great importance to boost plant and field health. Here are 5 fast facts about the agricultural aviation industry that you should know!

  1. Airplanes weren’t the first mode of aerial application

A hot air balloon with mobile tethers, flown by John Chaytor in 1906 in Wairoa, New Zealand is the first recorded aerial application flight. It was said that John flew over a swamped valley floor and spread seed over it.

  1. Ag Pilots are in high demand but require a lot of aviation training

Those pilots in those airplanes are not the same ones that take you to your favorite vacation spot. Though both require extensive amounts of training, agriculture pilots have to go through specific agriculture training that not most commercial pilots have. To become an ag pilot you have to get your private pilot license, a commercial rating, a tail-wheel airplane endorsement, and more agriculture training. They also go through extensive pesticide and entomology training use as well.

  1. Hefty price tag

Those airplanes that buzzing around aren’t just something that can be cheaply replaced. Planes used for aerial application can range in price from $100,000 to $1.5 million. Many of these pilots that fly them on average have over 20 years of experience and over 94% of them own their own business.

  1. Pilots are pretty tech savvy

There are not just a steering council and paper maps in those airplanes. Plenty of high-tech GPS, GSI, flow controls, and well-calibrated spraying equipment is in them. Lots of time and training goes into knowing what and where controls are.

  1. There are two main products being applied

Though all aerial application planes can be used to spray water on wildfires and etc., the ones you see here in Illinois are usually applying insecticides and fungicides. Insecticides are used to control insects in the fields and fungicides are used to kill and/or control fungi or fungal spores.  Without spraying for these things fields can get out of control and produce a lower quality product and a lower yield.

Though those yellow planes are super fun to watch fly low onto the fields, please always remain cautious and not get too close to those fields being treated. To all the Ag pilots out there, have a safe and happy application season!

Abby Jacobs
Illinois State University

KNEE HIGH BY THE 4TH OF JULY

If you took a drive down a country road, you would probably see corn and a lot of it. That is my drive to work every morning. It is a part of life in central Illinois and a scene as familiar as the leaves turning in the fall. Without a doubt, those who have grown up in this region have also heard the phrase “knee-high by the 4th of July.” Let me tell you, I could get lost in a corn field more easily than find one that meets only my knee.

Once the standard for a good corn crop was that it should be as tall at the farmer’s knee by early July. This no longer applies to a modern crop for a variety of reasons ranging from a change in planting date, a change in seed genetics, fertilizer, and increased technology. A central Illinois cornfield in early July can completely conceal my head from view. Head high just doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.

Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden

With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden kernels but a taller crop that is definitely not just knee high. More recently, the traits can be combined with others such as drought and bug resistance in a genetically modified crop that is much hardier and can feed more than ever before.Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.

Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrate the 4th of July, watch the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you won’t be able to see over those big green leaves.

Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrated the 4th of July, I hope you watched the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you wouldn’t be able to see over those big green leaves.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn

#TBT: RAIN CAN BE A HUGE PAIN

[Originally published June 29, 2015]

We love this parody by Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins.  Rain IS a big pain all over the Midwest.

On Friday, after leaving IL Corn’s rained out golf outing, I took this quick video (below). You can see clearly see the damaged caused to this corn by standing water and inadequate drainage. The dark spots are higher ground where the corn wasn’t trying to grow in standing water. The lighter green spots are lower ground where the corn is struggling to survive.

Here’s a photo I took today on my way back to the office after lunch. See how the corn is lighter colored where it’s excessively wet?

wet field

This damage is everywhere. Farmers are starting to get nervous. THIS is one of the reasons why farming is such a risky business.

Mitchell_Lindsay
Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

SOIL LOSS: A CASE FOR REDUCED TILLAGE

Agriculture is a large portion of the economy in Illinois.  Every farmer in Illinois has their own method of planting and raising their crop.  Every farmer must make decisions on what is the best way to raise their crop with the conditions and location they have.  Tillage, which is when farmers dig into the soil and mix it, is one decision that farmers make every year.  Three types of tillage exist conventional tillage, reduced tillage, and no tillage.  This blog is going to focus on why farmers are utilizing reduced tillage.

Reduced tillage is sometimes referred to as conservation tillage and is just what it sounds like, less tillage than conventional tillage, but more tillage than no tillage.  Farmers may choose to utilize reduced tillage for a variety of reasons including prevention of soil loss, reduced soil compaction, improved soil’s organic matter, and decrease in labor cost.

Soil loss is a growing problem today. The soil is vital for agriculture, and we are losing our soil faster than our earth can make it.  It takes the earth 500 to 1000 years to create an inch of topsoil.  When we are losing an inch of topsoil every 20 years.  With the reduced tillage practice, we can reduce the soil erosion because of the crop residue and the roots. Think about weeding a garden, when you pull a weed usually soil will come up with the weed.  This is because the roots hold the soil.  With reduced tillage, the previous crops roots are still buried beneath the ground and are still able to anchor the soil in place to prevent loose particles from running off through water or the wind.

There are three sizes of soil particles, listed from largest to smallest, sand, silt, and clay.  Over time these particles can squish tighter together.  This causes a problem for the crops because the crops need air spaces in the soil to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil.  Heavy machinery such as tractors can compact the soil over time, and because reduced tillage requires less preparation for planting the soil is not driven over as much, and results in a decrease in soil compaction.  Look at this triangle showing the different steps and machinery needed for the different styles of tillage.  (Insert Tractor triangle photo)

Reduced tillage can increase organic matter because the decomposition process is slower when the residue is left on the top of the soil and will cause an increase in nutrients on the top layers of the soil, and overall increase soil health over time.

Less labor is another great advantage of reduced tillage.  Because there contains less steps in the process for reduced tillage less time will need to be invested as well as less money will be needed for equipment or labor cost.

Reduced tillage is a great option to help reduce soil erosion, reduce soil compaction, increase organic matter, and reduce time and labor. If you are interested in learning more about different soil tillage management systems, please review this document linked here: Soil Management and Tillage.

Mary Marsh
University of Illinois