Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University
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.
University of Illinois
[Originally published March 14, 2016]
Here in Illinois, we are all fairly familiar with the big farm machinery in the fields during spring and fall, but have you ever wondered what kind of financial investment a farmer undertakes?
It’s mid-March, the weather is getting more pleasant, and all farmers seem to have one thing on their mind: planting.
The first field of corn was planted near Pearl, Illinois last Tuesday and it is expected that many farmers from all over the state will soon be following suit to start the long process of getting food to your dinner table. However, for farmers to get the food from farm to table, they need machinery to do it, and machinery costs money. Lots of it. But what exactly is the financial investment a farmer undertakes when it comes to their machinery?
Chad Braden, President and Chief Operating Officer of Arends Hogan Walker (AHW), one of the largest John Deere dealerships on the continent, says that the image created by the media about the cost of farm equipment is a negative one, but in reality, it is a necessary part of the production cycle. In order “to sustain a long-term farm operation, you must be able to invest in, and support, a reasonable amount of equipment to maintain the farming operation.” He also suggests that the general rule of thumb should be spending “$95-$100 per acre on machinery costs. This gives a 1,000-acre farm about $100,000 of cash flow to cover annual machinery payments and maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc. Only $70 per acre of this is direct machinery costs.“ Braden closes by adding, “$70 per acre is about 10% of the total costs of production in 2016 for an acre of corn.”
So, it costs $95-$100 per acre for machinery costs, but what about the expense of the actual machinery itself? John Spangler, my uncle, as well as a grain and livestock farmer from Western Illinois, states that this all depends on the size of your operation. A small farmer, who may have around 350 acres, needs nothing more than a $50,000 tractor, $20,000 planter, and a $50,000 combine. But, that is about as “minimum” as you can get. “A 1000 acre farmer is going to need a couple of tractors around $150,000, a $50,000 planter, and $100,000 combine.”
This may seem like lots of money, but Spangler mentions that it is better to keep the combine, planter, and sprayer up to date. “A lot of dollars flow through those machines and a breakdown at the wrong time can be expensive.”
If buying new isn’t something you want to do or can afford to do right now, have no fear. Leasing has become more popular in recent months. Also, there is a company called Machinery Link who connects farmers from all over the U.S. who need different types of equipment at various times. Some farmers even share equipment over two or more farm families. In reality, there are tons of other options to make machinery more affordable. “Everyone has their own philosophies on machinery,” says Spangler. “It basically comes down to what fits best in your operation.”
University of Illinois
[Originally published: February 23, 2016]
We all love our teachers, but looking back there are things we wish somebody had told us. Here are six things about agriculture that I wish were taught in school.
On TV you always see farmers portrayed as a bunch of uneducated hillbillies, but that is not the case! There is a lot more to growing food than most people realize; farming is a science. Farmers have to be masters of chemistry, agronomy, physics, mathematics, economics, and meteorology. In fact, there are over 70 colleges across the country that offer degrees in Farm Management. Who knew?
There are several different types of corn grown in the US, but the main type is field corn, also called dent corn. This corn is used for animal feed and also processed into ethanol, corn syrup, and other products like makeup and plastic. Less than 1% of the corn grown in the US is sweet corn! Check out this math lesson teachers could use to teach students about corn.
Have you ever wondered why Arizona soil is so much redder than the dark black soils we have here in central Illinois? It turns out there is much more to dirt than meets the eye. All soil is made up of a combination of three components: sand, silt, and clay. The way a soil looks, feels, and even how well crops can be grown in it can all be predicted by looking at the age of the soil (some soils are thousands of years old!), mineral composition, topography of the land, and what the native vegetation was. There are even people whose whole job is studying soil!
Everyone has seen the Chick-fil-a commercials where the black and white cows are telling you to eat more chicken, but besides being a cute marketing strategy it doesn’t actually make sense. Holsteins, like the Chick-fil-a cow, are one of hundreds of breeds of dairy cattle that are milked to make cheese and ice cream, but very rarely used for meat. A more accurate commercial would have a Black Angus because they are the most common beef breed in the US. These are the cattle that are raised for their meat to be processed into steaks, roasts, and burgers.
The media is always pointing its finger at the agriculture industry for polluting the atmosphere or causing global climate change, but farmers really do care about the environment. In fact, they are affected even more than the rest of us by global climate change. As the climate patterns change over time, new pests invade our fields that they are not equipped to handle. This in turn lowers their yield and actually costs them money!
Pyridoxine, Natamycin, and Carboxymethylcellulose, oh my! Find out what these chemicals are. Just because something has a long name doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, all food is naturally made out of chemicals called vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A chemical-free diet would mean that you couldn’t eat anything!
Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the eleventh post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
Start at the beginning!
You’ll continue to get stuck behind slow-moving vehicles on rural roads throughout November, but at least visibility at stop signs improves with the corn and beans down. That’s right, harvest is (finally) wrapping up!
This year, USDA, NASS stated that harvest was at least 97% complete at Thanksgiving. What a relief for farmers and their families! With the crops out of the field, the Stewards of the Land were able to enjoy some much-needed family time around the dinner table giving thanks for the bountiful harvest!
Membership Administrative Assistant
We’ve launched a fun new way to experience Illinois agriculture from the city, across the ocean or just around the corner.
#360Corn is a series of 360 degree videos featuring our own Illinois corn farmer, Justin Durdan. Justin lets us plant corn with him, spray for pests, fertilize those little baby corn plants, and even harvest and sell his crop – all while we can look 360 degrees around the tractor cab, the farm and even the field.
Check out the entire experience at www.watchusgrow.org/corn
Or just enjoy the latest video featuring corn harvest right here:
Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the tenth post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
Start at the beginning!
Harvest is in full swing! If you’re married to a farmer (like me), or have many farmer friends, you KNOW you won’t be seeing much of him or her this time of year. Even once they’re done cutting corn or beans, farmers are still up early and out late this month.
Enjoy this beautiful season and be thankful for all that is sown, Happy Harvest!
Here in Illinois, the harvest is in full swing. Over in western Illinois, it seems as though there isn’t much left to be harvested. Most of the corn and beans are gone, and it seems like everyone can take a small sigh of relief…for now.
However, for me, I’m sad that it’s all coming to an end. Sure, I’m glad it’s over because that means my dad gets to enjoy a less stressful Dad’s Weekend at the University of Illinois with me, but the harvest is easily one of my favorite times of the year. The picture below is one that I shot coming home from the University of Illinois a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes we can take this harvest for granted, but if you look a little closer at the photo, there’s a story to tell. So here are five things about this photo!