Importance of Nitrogen Management

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Nitrogen is one of the most widely distributed elements in nature and is one of the most important elements for corn. Nitrogen comes in a few different forms and can be applied in different ways and different times. A few of these different ways include anhydrous ammonia which is knifed into the ground in a gas form, urea which is typically applied by an airplane as a solid, or a “Y drop” application which is a liquid form. Being a farmer, there is a lot to think about before applying nitrogen as in: operation size, fertilizer price, equipment size, and the time management. Operation size could be a determining factor as to whether you apply in the fall or in the spring, or possibly even both. When driving around and talking to different farmers, I get a lot of different responses as to when people apply their nitrogen and why they apply it when they do. A fall application is less risky, especially for a bigger size operation, just because of the fact that if you wait until spring you could run into rain and be severely delayed, or may be unable to even apply. The downfall to applying in the fall is the possibility of leaching or losing nitrogen into the atmosphere. Having our own aerial application business, we have quite a few farmers applying urea by an airplane. The reason it is applied by airplane is because the corn is typically too tall for a ground rig. This is typically a little higher in pricing compared to a ground rig but when the corn is too tall sometimes you do not have a choice.

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As genetics of corn have changed dramatically over the last 10 years, the nitrogen curve on a corn plant seems to be changing. What I mean by that is 10 years ago the curve of nitrogen uptake by a corn plant showed that it needed a lot more nitrogen early on and not as much as you got closer to tasseling. We are now seeing with changes of genetics that the corn plant will start needing nitrogen very slowly early on (V4-V6) and then be in great demand of nitrogen as it reaches tasseling. V4-V6 on a corn plant means it has between 4-6 leaves, which is usually around knee high.

A system that is fairy new to the industry that farmers are now using is a system called Y drop. It is applied with a high clearance sprayer system equipped with a combination of metal and rubber hoses that delivers nitrogen directly to the soil surface. It is applied close to the base of the stem without touching the canopy. Y drop can offer more flexibility to farmers than ever before when it comes to the timing of the application.

Farmers are constantly looking for ways to save input costs whether it be through fertilizers, seed, or equipment costs. Nitrogen is not an input that a farmer wants to cheap out on. Without proper nitrogen applications, the corn crop can suffer tremendous yield losses. Improper nitrogen applications will end up causing the farmer more money in the long wrong so it’s better to do it right the first time.


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Continue reading “Importance of Nitrogen Management”


Benefits of Growing up in Agriculture

Agriculture. Many hear this word and it goes in one ear and out the other. To some, like me, it’s a word that has become a part of who I am and what I live for. Dirty boots, long hours, constant work, and no excuses were daily occurrences around the farm I grew up on. Our focus on the farm was row crops and showing/raising cattle. Agriculture has been my family and I’s way of life since I was in diapers. Growing up around agriculture taught me many things starting at a young age, things that have shaped me into a hard-working, honorable, and selfless young man. I didn’t always think it was “fair” that I couldn’t go out after the Friday night football game or sleep in late on a Saturday morning, but in agriculture, there’s no time for staying out late or enjoying a Saturday morning. Those rare instances happened when the cows were fed, stalls were cleaned, and the farm was taken care of. Fair? No. Building character. Yes. To explain this lifestyle to someone who isn’t familiar with it, is difficult, but that’s what we’re here to do, make people aware and knowledgeable of how this word, agriculture, changes all of our lives daily.
Through living a life on the farm and around agriculture, I have learned many life lessons that I will carry with me for years to come. Strong work ethic, responsibility, open-mindedness, and knowledgeable are a few of the most important life lessons I have learned. In this industry you become aware very quickly that you are not only working hard to benefit yourself, but you are responsible for benefiting people far beyond your imagination. No pressure.
Knowing this, having a strong work ethic is one of the most important lessons learned almost immediately. Being someone who has a strong work ethic means that you will not stop until the work is done, which is the essence of farmers and livestock owners around the world. Raising and showing livestock was not for the weak. You had to be disciplined, you expected your animal to be disciplined, so you had to lead by example. Responsibility plays right into having a strong work ethic. I was responsible for helping with working ground, getting equipment ready, and hauling crops to the elevator. While showing cattle, I was responsible for feeding, working, and training my show calves. These responsibilities came alongside school, extra-curricular, and just regular life responsibilities. It’s tough, but you learn to work through it and be the best you can be.
Agriculture has such a broad standing, that the new methods and equipment are always surfacing. Let’s face it, no one wanted to continue farming like we did back in the “good ol’ days.” There methods were good, but we’ve reached a whole new multitude of people to provide for. Being open-minded is an essential skill in being in this industry. Everyone will do things in their own way and have their own processes when it comes to their crops, and feeds, and equipment used, but if we all keep an open mind and listen to one another, we can learn a lot. From personal experience, I have acquired skills that have led me to have better organization, problem solving skills, and ability to be innovative. These skills go along with the saying “You have to deal with the hand you were dealt.” There are good harvests and there are not so good harvests, which means that not all of us have the newest, most high tech equipment, around, but will make do with what they have. This is how I was raised. We had what we needed and it got the job done, both on the farm and in the ring.

photo 3Photo From: Logan Johnson’s Facebook

Continuing to learn and grow is one of the most priceless life lessons I have learned. Agriculture has allowed me to have a better understanding of where, how, and why most of my food that I eat makes it to my plate. Many people try to avoid this topic of where our food comes from and how it makes it from Point A to Point B, because quite frankly, it scares people to know the truth. Now, this is another topic that I won’t dive into today but the reason I brought it up is because this is where growing up in agriculture allows a person to have a deeper understanding of raising and harvesting food that people are going eat. It lets them know why we treat animals with antibiotics to fight against illnesses and diseases. It allows them to know why we spray our crops to do the same thing as we do with animals which is fight off diseases that the plant could come in contact with. The end goal is to produce a plentiful amount of product and a very high quality product for the consumers. Yes, people have an idea of this process, but the only way to take it one step closer and really understand is to do and see what goes on.
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” Agriculture is the backbone of our nation. Many may think it’s easy, but come take a walk alongside me or another amazing farmer one day, and we could teach you a thing or two (we might even learn something from you, too)!

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My name is Logan Johnson, and I am a senior with a major in Agricultural Business with a minor in Animal Science. Before coming to Western, I spent two years at Lakeland Community College. I grew up in the small town of Heyworth, Illinois. This is where my family laid our roots and we raised and showed cattle. Along with the livestock my family farmed a few hundred acres of row crops. It’s who I am and what I live to do. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

Preach What You Practice: The Importance of Being Agriculturally Literate

So what if I told you that getting a degree and accepting a full time position wasn’t enough? Or maybe that you needed to do a little bit more than own and operate a farm, because that’s so easy, right?

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but hear me out.

Growing up, agriculture was a large part of my life. I was raised by a farmer, it was almost promised that at least one of my friends parent’s were connected to the industry,  and I went to a high school where 90% of the enrollment were members of the FFA. I have always thought of farmers as heroes, and assumed that everyone else did too.

Then I came to college. During my three years here, I have found myself struggling at understanding how unconnected some people are to agriculture. (I mean c’mon people, this town is surrounded by thousands of acres of corn and soybeans.) But as time continued, I realized that some of these people don’t know that the fields they pass are filled with crops that people build a lifestyle off of, and that those crops are then turned into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, or multiple different products that you use on a daily basis. They have never actually seen a cow, hog, or sheep. They have only seen pictures of them posted on social media accounts. And not only pictures, but pictures that misrepresent the industry that employs 17% of the nation’s population. And because of this and numerous other factors, the agriculture industry has found themselves as hot topics of controversial debates in environmental, nutritional, and welfare issues.

This May, I will be able to say that I have successfully completed a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture, but it shouldn’t stop there. Because even though it’s cool to say that I have learned how to mock design a plant breeding program, written a 10 page paper on the effects of White Mold, and preg checked a heifer carrying its calf,  that’s not going to make someone feel better about the large airplane flying over their house, spraying chemicals on the cornfield next to them, or someone worried about the presence of antibiotics in their meat. It does, however, make it easier to have these conversations, because you have more education to back you up. But as stated by Dr. Gruver, an agronomy professor who finds importance in gaining agriculture literacy, “education in an academic setting is valuable but is a very small part of one’s education (even for academics like myself who spent ~ 20 years in school!)”.

In order to educate the uneducated, and to be able to hold professional conversations with the people who are totally against us, I think there are a few things that those inside of the industry can do to help themselves become more agriculturally literate. Dr. Gruver also mentions “the foundation of agriculture literacy is curiosity… its not so much how much you know about agriculture at any one time but rather how you respond when you see an agriculture related headline, hear someone talking about agriculture, observe an unfamiliar farm implement or practice when driving down the road, notice an agriculture related post on-line, or look at a new item in the grocery store”.

Always stay in the loop

Do your best at keeping up to date with what’s going on in the industry: new technology, new innovations, current issues, etc. Read new blogs, watch more Ted talks, and take advantage of free conferences. This will not only bring more information into the type of farming you practice, but also open your mind to new possibilities and show you the new things that they may have to offer. Try to get information from both private and public sectors of the industry; this will give you the advantage of weighing your options before you commit to something new. Also find out information on what people outside of the industry are thinking. For example, a large number of society believes that there are antibiotics in our meat. However, they think this because they are not made aware of withdrawal periods. My point being, if you find out why they think the way they do, it will help you approach the situation and conversation in a much more positive manner. If you conduct the conversation using factual details, you will probably get more accomplished than just simply explaining that you farm for a living,and don’t agree with their comments.

Remain open minded

Herndon Harvest 2016

 I’ll be the first one to admit, I am pretty stuck in my ways. I would rather not be susceptible to change if I didn’t have to be. (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, am I right??) However, you’ll find that the agriculture industry now-a-days is constantly trying new things, and the practices that you’ve watched your father do, who has watched his father do, might actually be outdated. These new things could range anywhere from new seed innovations to more regulations or  precision technology to environmental practices. Because of this, agriculturalists are forced to keep an open mind to the possibilities. I challenge you to do this with outsider beliefs too. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who was raised inner city,  who doesn’t understand the process of their food getting to the grocery store shelves. From there, understand that these people believe the first thing they hear or see from the media, simply because they haven’t ever been given any other information to doubt it. With that being said, if you ever come in contact with someone like this, use that as an opportunity to change their minds! (College kids, i’m talking to you!)

Do something new 

Always try something different while in the industry. If you are focused on the agronomy side of things, try reading more articles on animal science. If you are more involved in the production of things, try to understand more of the research that goes into it. This will further your knowledge and help you understand a wider range of progressing ideas happening in the industry. This will make it apparent that you are involved in the industry, gaining respect from outsiders. Dr Gruver stated “in my opinion, agriculture literacy is NOT “familiarity with a basic set of agriculture concepts” but rather is a process of striving to better understand agriculture every day”. In order to do this, we have to step outside of our comfort zone and do something we’ve never done before.

Communicate and advocate 

Always talk about the new information you are learning. Communicate it to your agriculture friends and communicate it to your non-agriculture friends. Have conversations with multiple farmers and get their input on the topic. Always advocate the positive things happening in our industry. Don’t be afraid to address false information with factual data to back you up. Talk about your personal experiences in the agriculture industry, and how it has undoubtedly affected you positively. Invite them to agriculture places or events. Give them tours of your farm, so they can see exactly how majority of farms are operated. Use your social media outlets immensely to give accurate information to a large number of people. PETA, HSUS, and Food Babe, 3 top anti-agriculture groups, all use social media intensely as a foyer in their marketing campaigns. According to America Press Institute, 51% of Americans receive their daily news from a social media account. Do you see the problem?

In order to further educate people outside of the agricultural industry, we have to be permit the further education of our own experiences and communication tactics. With these things, I hope that maybe just a few more people are capable of successfully sharing how agriculture has shaped their life, just as it has mine.

About the Author


Hello beautiful people! My name is Jessica Herndon and I am a senior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Science and double minoring in agronomy and animal science. I have an undeniable passion for advocating agriculture, which is one reason why I serve as WIU’s Ag Vocator Team chancellor. I am an opportunist, a lover of ice cream, a ted talk enthusiast, and my dad’s best friend.

Younger Generation Drifting Away From Agriculture Careers

Only 3 percent of college graduates surveyed and 9 percent of millennials said they had thought about an Ag career or would consider it, according to a survey by Land’O’Lakes Inc. This is a HUGE problem to me. I consider this a problem because the generation of farmers is getting older and are going to need someone to take over for them shortly.

The most popular areas of study according to this survey were; health care, technology and education.


The problem of people drifting away from agriculture I believe has to do with them not knowing about agriculture. To work in an agriculture field you don’t have to be a farmer or a rancher. You can be an Agriculture Engineer, Agriculture Food Scientist, or even an Aquatic Ecologist. The possibilities in agriculture careers are endless, just if there was an easy way to get people to see that.

The survey by Land’O’Lakes also showed that 54 percent of people that responded believed that it was difficult for a college graduate to find a job in agriculture, and 76 percent either did not think or weren’t sure that Ag careers pay well. When in all truth,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that over 20,000 jobs go unfilled each year in the United States alone.

I found an article titled, “Why is There Lack of Interest in Agriculture?”, and what I read astonished me. Article below.

{   Why is there a lack of interest in agriculture?

  • Long hours
  • Low pay
  • High barriers to entry
  • Hard, dirty, sweaty labor
  • Finicky markets
  • Fickle weather
  • High and sometimes wildly variable cost of production
  • Thin margins
  • Agricultural policy that encourages less farmers

It’s not just a lack of interest, but also a lack of realistic opportunity in many places. But think about this: for a lot of history, long, dirty, sweaty and ill-rewarded hours were the best option for most people to ensure they had enough to eat. Today, in many parts of the world, you can get a consistent check working regular hours in a climate controlled environment, where even a shitty job will often pay more than farming.

Given that, I find it surprising how much interest there is in agriculture.  }

This article is an example of someone who thinks of Agriculture as only farming. When Agriculture is much more than just farming. It is technology, sales, soil science, animal science, machinery, and much more. This article itself is the main reason I believe in teaching agriculture to the younger generations.

We each need to do our part to ensure that the agriculture field doesn’t suffer in the future. Whether your part is to teach the next generation about agriculture, or being a part of the next generation of farmers, it is up to us to save the future of agriculture.


My name is Jennifer Reedy, Senior at WIU, Majoring in Agriculture Business minoring in Marketing. I grew up about 5 miles north of WIU, in the country raised on a small livestock farm.  jen79.jpg


Dicamba Damage Drifting Across the Country

Xtend Soybeans

Farmers were eager this spring to get out and get their seed in the ground as soon as possible just as they always have. This spring was a little different though for those who chose to add a little fire power to their arsenal and plant the “Roundup Ready 2 Xtend” Soybean. Similar to every growing season, there always seems to be one big technological advance that has growers chomping at the bit to try out and capitalize on. This year it was the Xtend soybean’s turn to take center stage and prove why it was this years “have to have” technology on the market.

With lower than ideal grain prices, greater herbicide weed tolerance, and limited management options, growers are looking for the easiest and most efficient seed to manage. Xtend soybeans provide a breath of fresh air for farmers who have been struggling with glyphosate and other herbicide resistant weeds. The curveball Xtend soybeans throw into the mix are their resistance to Dicamba. With weeds such as waterhemp, marestail, and so many others becoming harder to kill each year, any chance a farmer can challenge it with a new product seems like a smart management decision. The growers that didn’t jump on the band wagon felt the unsuspecting wrath of the Dicamba being sprayed all around them.

Dicamba Damage

Dicamba has been approved and applied on corn acres for years, and damage was minimal when off-target application or drift damage was observed. This past summer the side effects weren’t able to slip by as they had in years past because of the thousands of acres that looked like the picture above. Dicamba is an extremely volatile product and had been recorded to pick up and move nearly 11 miles after a week of application. For the grower who did not plant Dicamba resistant soybeans, you can imagine the frustration after observing the damage to your field. For the farmers who went all in on year one of this new soybean technology, it slightly paid off and didn’t have hardly any repercussions. Those who waited to go all in or even try these soybeans were left with an incurable headache on those acres damaged.

Companies like BASF and Monsanto were quick to respond on social media and defend the product. Farmers were outraged at the damage they observed but there was still an unanswerable question left on the table, “Would the Dicamba damage actually cause yield loss?” Ultimately this is what farmers were after and wanted compensated for what had been done. The only problem was that there was no way to tell or even really measure how much damage had been caused to the end product.

Under Review

You can type in “Dicamba Damage” on an internet search engine and find numerous websites that will help you file a lawsuit for the damage inflicted upon your crop. The problem underlying this whole situation is that there is no way to measure the actual yield loss based on only observing the cupping and wrinkling of new growth. After harvest, a lot of research will be put forth to prove the guilt/innocence of the companies that promoted and created this product. For fields with severe damage but show little to no yield loss come harvest time will have a hard time pointing fingers and being compensated for the fact that their fields didn’t look as green as usual.

It will be interesting to see how farmers to decide to buy seed next year if Dicamba does not get banned. Some farmers will plant Xtend soybeans but not necessarily spray Dicamba, more so they will use it as a preventative measure from drift and off-target application from neighboring farmers. It is also possible though that farmers will completely quit using Xtend beans because of the headache it caused all going season. Listening to neighbors complain about how you damaged their crop isn’t exactly the most ideal way to spend the growing season. Only time will tell when those planters hit the ground and do it all over again.

About the Author

300.4650.008Hello everyone! My name is Carson Isley. I am a senior here at Western Illinois University majoring in agricultural business with a minor in agronomy. I have been a hired hand for about 5 years now and just concluded a sales internship with Burrus Seed this past summer. During this internship I had to talk to farmers daily and many of them expressed their concern with Dicamba and the damage they saw. I love getting to help solve problems with growers and thought this was a great topic to talk about.

90th National FFA Convention

If you have been anywhere near Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or RFD TV you would know that the 90th Annual National FFA Convention took place this past week. A record attendance of 67,006 included FFA members, advisors, supporters and guests. Indianapolis, Indiana was blistering with blue jackets and big potential. Being an FFA Alumna, I can tell you there is nothing quite like the National FFA Convention. Whether you were in a blue corduroy jacket, sporting your advisor credentials, or rocking your company logo, I think we can all agree that conventions makes you proud to be a part of the agriculture industry. There is something inspirational about being among great minds, rock solid leadership, and core shaking moments.  My experiences from this past week have impacted myself as a future educator and agriculturist.

I had the honor of volunteering at the Living to Serve booth while being at convention. Our team was comprised of past state officers, agriculture teachers, and outstanding National FFA Staff. The Living to Serve booth was a place that convention goers could come and gather information about how to better their communities. Visitors learned about how to Investigate, Plan, Serve, and Evaluate. There was an obstacle course, planning stations where visitors gained ideas to serve their communities, and a service activity. Each day members from our team would be at a different station. I was stationed at the service activity on Thursday.

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By Friday it was estimated that over 5,000 letters have been written.

The service activity that visitors participated in was to write letters to deployed troops, new recruits, or veterans. Each letter would be included in care packages sent out through the Operation Gratitude organization. Operation Gratitude sends care packages to service men and woman throughout the year.  Every visitor young and old would say how much they loved this activity. Some told me stories of their own loved ones and some would tell me of their experiences serving our country. That was a humbling experience, but nothing quite shook me to my core like counting how many letters were written. As we were sitting on the floor of the booth I was consumed with what visitors included in the letters. Messages of hope, encouragement, thanks, and overwhelming gratitude. After the second day a total of 4,000 letters had been written. 4,000; and it was only the second day of convention. My heart was overflowing, and I was in amazement how many lives would be touched by this. Seeing the determination to do good in all the visitors eyes was a huge indicator to me. It indicated that not only do FFA members and all who visited saw a need, but they want to do something about it. This is the exact mentality that our industry needs and its the youth of the America who will rally together to get things done.

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National FFA Advisor Dr. Steve Brown


Lastly, being an FFA member comes with high expectations. As soon as you put on that blue corduroy you take the challenge, any challenge that is thrown your way. Every visitor that traveled through our booth saw a need in their communities and accepted that challenge. Within agriculture, we are faced with challenges from every corner. I believe that a new era of agriculture is among. The theme of convention was “I can, We will!” , with this saying in the back of our minds we will succeed in any endeavor we encounter. I believe that within agriculture the time is now to let this need lead us into the next era. Wake up every day with that attitude,  embody the message in the saying and allow it to help you face every challenge head on. It will be this generation that will be meeting the needs of this growing world. I believe that at this convention the bar has been set high, and I have no worry that it’ll be the youth of American taking charge.I can, We will!”

Check out the National FFA Website for more information about this organization or to watch sessions from this previous week.


IMG_1116Author Bio:

Hello! My name is Lindsey O’Hara from Claypool Indiana. I am currently a Junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Education. I have previously served as an Indiana FFA State Officer. I come from a largely influenced club lamb back ground (Leininger Southdowns and Slack Club Lambs)  and have a passion for everything agriculture. I am actively advocating for this great industry and excited to be in the classroom teaching the next great minds of this country.

Being a Woman in Agriculture.

Being a woman in agriculture is hard.

I have been involved in the agriculture industry my whole life and over the years I’ve noticed an increase in women being involved but it still doesn’t mean that we get treated the same as men or looked upon the same. While in my working career I have detasseled for eight years and have had two internships for different agriculture companies. While spending those many summers working alongside the opposite sex it became blatantly obvious that women do not get the same respect as men.

I would consider myself a strong and a very hard worker (I wouldn’t say the same for my school work though) and I pride myself because of it. Most of the time I am the person that works the hardest out of everyone else and I am usually the first person to work and the last one to leave. I have even been complimented for working so hard. Even though when I work that hard to prove that a woman can work in the same industry as a man I still don’t get treated like “one of the guys”.  I remember one time during one of my internships we were loading seed into a planter and the seed that we were using was special and very expensive because that seed was going to eventually produce the seed that farmers use, and I was walking over to pick up a bag from the truck and my supervisor stopped me and told me to let the guys do it because the seed was too expensive and he didn’t want me to drop it. Of course, I did what I was told but in my head, all I could think of was that I have been filling planter bins since I was 10. I knew how heavy the bags were and I knew how to do it and the only reason why he told me to stop was because I was a female and he thought that because of that I was unable to do the same work or have the same quality of work that they were doing. By the end of the summer, I got to prove to my supervisor how hard of a worker I was by showing him that I was responsible and could do the same kind of work that the other people were doing, and he eventually started treating me like “one of the guys.” There have been other instances like that that has happened to me throughout the years but I will never forget that one.


Photo from: Evelyn Powers’ Instagram

There are many strong and powerful women within the agriculture industry (24,265 in Illinois, according to the USDA) right now that are making a difference, but I hope that one day we won’t be looked down upon like we have been for so many years. When females and males are treated equally and given equal opportunity in the agriculture industry but currently that is not the case. I know many girls who I go to WIU with that are more talented and smarter than most of the guys and it hurts my heart to think that they will have to work twice as hard to get just as far as them, I know that that is how it has been for me. So the thought that I want to leave with you is why in the world that we live in today do women within agriculture still get less respect or offered fewer opportunities than men?


14141536_10201921524555121_7476589775825289912_nI am Evelyn Powers. I am a senior at Western Illinois University. In May I will be graduating with an Agriculture Science Degree with a minor in Ag Economics and Plant Breeding. I have worked 10 summers doing jobs related to seed production and after I graduate that is what I like to continue doing.

Thank you for reading!

Photo taken by Sawyer Steidler .