It’s all coming together. Sort of.

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Work, out of town family, weeds, insects, etc. etc. etc. Let’s catch up and recap, shall we?

June 19th Soybeans:

June 19th corn:

July 2nd corn and soybeans:

July 22nd soybeans and corn:

Uh, what? Yep. That’s me. Standing up. What a difference a month and 12 inches of rain makes. Yeah, I’m only 5’8″ but that puts the soybeans at five feet tall and the corn around nine feet. Two ears per stalk. It’s pretty crazy to see in person. The deer haven’t really caught on to what they have yet so the lack of pressure has let the soybeans grow with little browse. This means a heavy load of bean pods are on the way. They soybeans started to bloom this week.

I’ve never seen soybean flowers in person, but they are unimpressive and tiny. In fact, I almost missed them. But when I started looking closely, there are large numbers of flowers on each plant from the top to the bottom. The bean numbers should be huge.

I will take this opportunity to squeeze some bad news and a lesson learned in to the post. All the corn in the garden pasture grew tall and set two or three ears per stalk. Everything looked great. The corn dried down two weeks ago. Now it’s all eaten or ruined. An insect infestation has devastated the entire crop. There is less than 10% of the ears undamaged and those will be gone in the next week. I started to notice something very unusual and frankly, gross, starting to appear on the top of some of the ears last week. By this week, it was on almost every ear.

This is the top of an ear

Weird and nasty. Those are couple of words that come to mind. I have a question out to some experts on QDMA’s message board to identify the problem but I think I have a pretty good idea of the culprit – weevils. Although I’ve never heard of weevils causing this kind of reaction to corn, there are small black weevil-like insects moving throughout the kernels when you peel away the white….stuff. So, here is the lesson: I spent hours and hours researching fertilizer, pH levels in the soil, seed selection and planting dates but really never moved on to pest control. By the time I even thought about doing something to slow the damage it was too late. 1,000+ ears of corn were wiped out in one week. Research will be focused on pest control this winter.

Back to good news. Sunflowers. It was an awesome sight to look over seven acres of large yellow flowers.

For anyone who wants to grow peredovik sunflowers, here’s a valuable little piece of information – peredovik sunflowers are 90 day sunflowers. This means from planting date to mature, dried down seed heads is ninety days. I received mixed opinions ranging from 90-110 days. They were mature in 90 days. This is an important fact. I planted them on April 15th. This turned out to be about 20 days too early. It not going to be a big problem but it’s good to know for future planting.

About June 25th, we started to get very regular rain storms. This was needed because the fields had not had rain in over a month. But 10 days after the rain began the weed free sunflowers looked like this.

This is a problem. No matter how many sunflowers and seeds you have on a field, without a clean, weed free area for the dove to land they will not use the field. So I had to make a decision. By July 9th, the weeds were taller than the sunflowers and the sunflowers were starting to dry down and the seeds were fully formed. I decided to be a little unorthodox and spray the whole group of sunflowers with 41% glyphosate. This would kill the weeds but it would also kill the sunflowers. It was an educated guess but still a little scary to speed up dry down on seven acres of sunflowers I have spent 100+ hours working on. If it didn’t work, the dove hunts were off. I returned today and was relieved to see it had worked.

Sunflowers become very sturdy as they dry down. The grass and weeds lay down, the sunflowers stay standing. Problem solved. Well, half the problem. Now the competition is dead but it’s covering the ground still preventing the birds from landing in most areas.

So another decision has to be made. Option one is to bushhog strips through the sunflowers and lightly rake the residue in small piles, leaving loose seed exposed on the ground. This isn’t a bad option and we might utilize it in some areas. But today I tested another possible option – fire. Over the last year I have come to learn fire is a very valuable tool. But like most tools, it needs to handled with caution. Burning in mid summer in Alabama is a dangerous proposition. The timing and conditions need to be perfect and the manpower and experience level needs to be high. My main concern was the fire would burn through the stalks and topple all the sunflowers to the ground leaving no cover for the hunters. That and a raging wildfire that burns half of Chilton county. I lit a small test burn in a couple of areas around 3pm when the temperature was 95° and the dew point was low – the worst case scenario for burning. If the fire didn’t burn up the sunflowers and stayed cool and slow moving we can use this option. The fire moved slowly through the area and burned very low to the ground, leaving bare dirt and standing sunflowes. We will most likely use this method for as much of the field as time will allow.

The burning of the sunflowers is a prime example of why I started this blog. I spent two weeks asking everyone I could find if this was a viable option. Foresters, farmers and wildlife managers. No one had ever burned standing sunflowers and no one knew if it would work. Now I know. And so do you.

Even with all the grass, there are still some open spots on the field with bare dirt. And the dove have found it. When the temperature dropped and the sun began to fall behind the trees this afternoon, birds began pouring on the field. Groups of 5-20 birds moved in and out of the sunflowers and were still coming in when I left at 6:45pm.

I’ll leave you dove hunters with your favorite sight. 43 Days.

Review of Day6 PlotWatcher Time Lapse Scouting Camera

I love toys. Anyone who has spent any time with me will tell you I love toys. I also love hunting. So when you combine hunting with toys, well, that’s just plain fantastic. I got a new toy this week. It is made by a company out of Columbus, Georgia – Day6. Plot Watcher really hit the scene in 2010 and I was very interested in it because it fills a need most hunters have when scouting: trying to find exact entry and exit routes around feeding areas and time patterning deer movement. The cool part about this camera is it lets you scout a huge field of view. It is not motion-sensor activated. It takes a picture every 5 or 10 seconds (depending on your settings). It also has an option for midday shutoff (4 hours after sunrise it turns off for four hours). It runs on four AA batteries and it they are supposed to last for about a week on the 10 second option. But here is the cool part – it stores the high definition pictures ona USB jump drive and plays them through their software in the form of a time lapse video. Each day’s video takes 12-15 minutes if you watch the whole thing. But it gets even better. The software has a very good motion search option so it will take you straight to the first movement on the field. You can even tell the software what part of the screen to watch for motion. The original version costs about $139. The new version costs $249. I don’t know what improvements are on the newer version but the original version does what I bought it to do.

Now, the key to this camera is not to expect ultra high resolution video or extended battery life. It is designed for general scouting. Basically, it’s like distance scouting – you can tell the difference in bucks and does, but you aren’t going to be able to count the points on the antlers from the other side of the field. If you use it in an area you plan on hunting soon, having it out the week before the hunt should help you zero in where to be and when to be there. I’m not an avid turkey hunter but I could see where this would come in handy in the spring as well.

Anyway, enough talking. More watching. I put the camera out at 5:30pm and grabbed the jump drive about 2:30pm the next day. Here’s a sample of what I got in less than 24 hours on one field. The glare is a little bad on the turkey video but the footage is more activity than I expected and the quality is good for what I want to use it for.

Work is done. On to the fun.

Whew! Seed planted, fertilizer out, herbicide sprayed. The corn, soybeans and sunflowers are up and growing. My work is done. The weather needs to cooperate a little more, but basically, all that’s left to do on the fields is wait and watch. And watching is pretty fun right now.

I applied 33-0-0 to the corn on Friday about an hour before we got 1″ of rain. Timing couldn’t have been better and we needed the rain. May26th was the last rain (22 days). Somehow the corn survived and the sunflowers and beans seemed to thrive in the hot dry weather. Due to time constraints I broadcasted the fertilizer on one corn plot and laid bands of fertilizer between the rows on another. It will be interesting to see if there is a difference in ear production because of the difference of applications. Banding the fertilizer took much less fertilizer but was much harder to apply. I used a very complicated tool to drop the fertilizer in the rows – a 2.5 gallon jug with a 7/8″ hole cut in the bottom. I walked down the rows and dropped the fertilizer out of the jug as I walked.

So now the fun begins! Game cameras go out next week. I will be interested in seeing what the bucks look like so far. And the does should be showing if they are pregnant so we can see what the fawn count will be. If the beans are any indication, we should have a pretty strong deer count right now.

Notice the pattern of where the deer feed. The damage is bad near the tree lines. The deer are staying close to the edges. As the corn gets taller, hopefully they will get more comfortable and spread the pressure on the field out over the whole plot.

Many people spend so much time and money on seed but do not use enough fertilizer or lime their soil correctly. Sometimes this is due to the misconception you will “burn” your plants if you over fertilize. Over fertilizing growing plants will not burn the plants. But is fair to say this sunflower probably absorbed to much phosphorus and potassium (the parts of fertilizer plants use for flower and seed production).

This coming weekend we will be adding a new tool to our scouting – PlotWatcher. This camera is really cool. It basically takes a picture every 10 seconds during daylight hours, creating a time-lapse video with 7 days of footage. Because it is not triggered by a motion sensor, you can capture activity on a whole field rather than one small part of the field. This will help me keep track of the pressure on the fields the rest of the summer. But its most valuable use will come right before bow season. This camera allows you to catch where the deer are entering and leaving the field, helping you set up exactly where you need to be for a clean close shot. Here is the website for Plot-Watcher.

I sprayed the rest of the corn and beans with glyphosate (Round-up) Friday so we will look at it next weekend and show why Round-Up ready crops are worth the money. Until next week, I’ll leave you with a few more pictures, all compliments of my wife.

Peek a boo……

Sometimes you start to wonder if all your work is worth it and if it is ever going to payoff. And then you see this.

Memorial Day Update

This update is a little after Memorial Day. The growth of the sunflowers is amazing! They are proof of what lime and fertilizer can do. What fertilizer? This fertlizer:

By the way, you can click on any picture and look at it full size.

I applied the fertilizer on May 20th and received about 1″ of rain on May 26th. The total amount put out on the sunflowers was about 1400 pounds. This was made up of a per acre application of 150# of 33-0-0, 100# of 0-46-0 and 100# of 0-0-60. This results in about 50# of P,N and K per acre. Here is a picture of the amount of fertilizer I used on each 2 acre strip:

So what was the result of the fertilizer and timely rain? Well, on May21st the sunflowers were 24″ tall. On May30th they were 36″ tall. By June 3rd, they were 48″ tall. One foot of growth in four days? Yep. Sunflowers are basically a weed. When they are fertilized and in good soil they grow like a weed.

I did not have my camera with me at the farm today, but imagine the sunflowers at the logo of my shirt. That is where they are today.

Here’s the somewhat bad news -about 20% have started to create buds. There are little yellow discs covered by green leaves on the tops of some of the plants. This means we will start seeing blooms in the next 10 days and the field will be in full bloom by the end of June. That’s a little earlier than I had hoped but it won’t affect the attraction to the doves. I will just let the seed sit on the stalk until the second week in August and begin bushhogging strips as I had already planned to do. Next time we might wait until May 1st to plant instead of April 15th.

By the way, rabbits love sunflowers. I was putting all the blame on the deer for the damage. Then I saw this.

Notice how the head of the plant is good but all the lower leaves are gone. This is because the plants are too tall for the rabbits to reach the new growth. If this was deer damage, it would look like this:

There are very few plants completely destroyed like the one above. But the strip below the terrace has been badly damaged. About half of the plants have been damaged beyond recovery.

I don’t have enough left in the budget for an electric fence. So I had to get creative.

$30.00 in Cabelas bargain cave. It’s been out about two weeks and seems to have helped with the deer and rabbit pressure.

On to the the corn and soybeans. Corn? Doing well.

The corn has already had 100# of Nitrogen applied (300# of 33-0-0) and will get another application at the end of June. It’s holding up well to the heat and dry weather and growing fast in the hot weather. I sprayed this corn with Glyphosate right after I took the pictures. This should kill all weeds. The corn should not be affected. I applied 1oz. per gallon of water of Eraser. I like Eraser because it is the exact same as Round Up pro but only cost about $49 per 2.5 gallons. You can make well over 100 gallons of spray with that amount. I will post pictures after the herbicide takes affect. The other field of corn had to be replanted and was about 1/2″ tall May 30th. Now it’s about 2″ tall. It looks great. I will get pictures of it next weekend.

The soybeans have been of the a slow start.

The cool nights in May slowed them down but they are picking up now. They have had 100# of Phosphorus and 100# Potassium applied per acre (200# of 0-46-0 and 200# of 0-0-60). They have grow several inches in the last five days and are starting to add leaves and fill out better. There are some signs of deer on the edges but for the most part, they have not hammered them yet.

So, there you go. Everything’s in and fertilized once. Some of it is sprayed. I don’t have much to do now except wait and keep my head glued to http://www.weather.com. I don’t know how farmers do it for a living. Waiting on rain is stressful.

I’ll leave you with a few more pics of the sunflowers. They have been my favorite to grow this spring by far.

Comin’ Along

The sunflowers are up and in full swing with the growth stage. Between the tornadoes and vacation I’ve gotten a little off schedule. I was able to cultivate between the rows and remove most of the weeds with the exception of some carolina nightshade.

Carolina nightshade is a nasty weed tolerant of most herbicides and resistant to cultivation due to the extensive root systems. Hopefully the sunflowers will just out grow it in midsummer but we might lose that section of the strip. That’s why we plant plenty.

Here is the other reason why we plant plenty of sunflowers:

Deer have finally found the sunflowers. And they like them. They bite the tops out of the plant basically ending the chance for the plant to recover. They took out about 20 plants the first night they found them. I put out some stakes with t-shirts and perfume. Hopefully that will slow them down until this weekend when I can come up with something better. And hopefully the soybeans will take some pressure off the sunflowers.

Speaking of soybeans……

These soybeans were ten days after planting when I took the pictures. They look good but they need some rain and fertilizer. Hopefully they will be getting both this weekend. Same for the corn. Looks good. Needs rain and some 33-0-0.

The crows got one of the plots of corn and it will have to be replanted this weekend.

So lots to do this weekend but overall everything looks better than expected. Next post we will go over the fertilizer applications and some herbicide applications.

Popping up in rows!

So, its been a while since my last post. It’s hard to find the time to actually do the work and write about it too. But the sunflower field is in. And it looks good. Better than expected and those of you who know me know I keep my expectations at an unreasonable level.

This field was planted on April 14th so it is eleven days in the ground. We had a strong 2.5 inches of rain the day after planting and have had temperatures in the mid 80′s all last week so the weather has been very cooperative. I sprayed the whole field with glyphosate two days after planting. It did a great job of killing most all of the weeds with the exception of the nutsedge (green mats in the middle of the strip). Unfortunately, I will just have to deal with it and hope the sunflowers shade it out. It is a low growing form of grass so it won’t compete for sun, but it will use up some of the fertilizer.

I put the trifluralin in the ground two weeks before I planted and it has done a great job of keeping weeds from sprouting from seed. It to is ineffective on nutsedge. The only week that seems to be germinating is sicklepod. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case but we will have to cultivate to remove it. Other than those two plants, everything else is pretty much out of the way.

The crows ate a few seedlings the first couple of days of germination but the plants are big enough to not be any use to the crows anymore. So now we are down to insects and deer. And weather. The insects and deer worry me more than the weather. Sunflowers are very drought tolerant.

The planter worked very well. The row spacing is good and the planter held its depth for the seeds no matter what the ground was like. And the big surprise was the efficiency at dropping the seed. The seedlings are spaced perfectly and I used only half the amount of seed I expected to use. Too bad I already purchased the seed. I hope I didn’t order too many soybeans. That would be an expensive mistake.

I will be fertilizing the sunflower field this weekend and we will cultivate it and spray it with Arrow (grass herbicide) in a few weeks. Then I will stare it obsessively for 90 more days until opening day of dove season. Here are a few more pics of the field and the plants.

The soybeans and corn are going in the ground this weekend. I decided not to break the ground up before planting the corn and soybeans. This no-till method keeps the soil from being disturbed which helps with erosion and keeps weed seed from germinating.  I haven’t taken any pictures of the soybean/corn fields but I was lucky enough to capture them on a game camera.

Before/During Spraying on March 19th:

After Spraying on April 2nd:

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