January 30, 2017

Picture This

Here at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, we want to know what inspires you. As we reflect on our first 40 years of business, we consider those thing that inspire us; our passion for science, the commitment to our customers, our dedication to agriculture and our small but important role in feeding the world.

Photo Submitted by Adam Farmer

We know that you are inspired to go the extra mile, to work the extra hours, to give a little more for that greater purpose. We would like for you to share a glimpse of that inspiration. We are asking you to share a photo that captures that inspiration. Some of the photos collected will be featured in the 2018 ALGL calendar, on our website, and in other materials. Each person that submits a photo will be entered one time into a drawing for some great prizes, sold and serviced by companies that are driven to be the best, not necessarily the biggest.

The prizes include an Ithaca Gun Company 12ga Shotgun, SK Tools, Ruby Jewelry, A&L Great Lakes apparel, and more to be announced. Full contest details can be found on our website at www.algreatlakes.com.

Follow us on Facebook to see the submitted photos and developments in the contest throughout the summer, and please keep the pictures coming in!
January 30, 2017

Soil Fertility Workshops – A Legacy of Being Your Trusted Advisor

Since A&L Great Lakes Laboratories was established forty years ago, providing educational opportunities to our customers and the agricultural industry has been a service that we have been proud to offer. The goal of our workshops is simple: we provide a general overview of fundamental agronomic principles and current university research so our attendees are better able to make nutrient management decisions for their customers or for their own operations. Today’s producers are inundated with information regarding crop inputs and practices. By applying the fundamental principles of agronomy to these inputs and practices, a consultant, agricultural retailer, or producer can evaluate and decide which of those are most applicable for achieving both the short-term and long-term goals of a specific operation.

The workshops are developed and presented by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories’ Agronomy Staff comprised of Certified Crop Advisers, Certified Professional Agronomists, and Certified Professional Soil Scientists whom have a wide range of experience in the agricultural industry.

We will be presenting six workshops in February in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. For a complete list of dates and locations,  please visit our website.
January 30, 2017

2016 Soil Test Data Summaries Now Available!

The 2016 Soil Test Data Summaries for the Great Lakes region are now available on our website. The summaries are compiled for the Great Lakes region as a whole, as well as broken down by state and into geographic quadrants within each state.

The Soil Test Summaries are valuable tools that provide the average soil test levels for a given region, as well as the distribution of soils by rating. This data can be used by growers and advisors alike to identify regions where soil test levels tend to be low or high for a given nutrient, and can allow them to better focus their soil sampling and nutrient management priorities.

A&L Great Lakes has been providing soil test summaries since 1996, and the information provided has been used by countless agricultural professionals ever since.

November 22, 2016

Soil Sampling Lubricants

Fall weather is generally full of ups and downs. As the weather turns cooler and the wind picks up, many of you are rushing to complete last-minute soil sampling before the ground freezes. Cold and wet weather can complicate the sampling process, and can cause great frustration when samples begin to stick in the probe. However, using a lubricant can help to reduce the sticking of samples in the probe and make the process work a bit easier on the sampler.

A number of different lubricants have been evaluated over the years for their effectiveness as a sampling aid and their impact on the analysis results. Two of the most commonly recommended lubricants are either WD-40, or aerosol cooking sprays such as Pam. Either of these products act as a water dispersant, effectively creating a film on the metal that repels water and limits the sticking within the tube. From anecdotal evidence, WD-40 tends to be a bit more persistent on the probe than does cooking spray, and therefore tends to require less frequent application.

The effect of either material generally has a negligible effect on measured levels of macronutrients. There is some evidence that suggests micronutrient levels may be affected somewhat, but the effect is generally pretty minor. WD-40 tends to affect micronutrient levels less than cooking spray, so it is recommended when micronutrients are to be analyzed. This may be more significant in soils that are naturally low in micronutrients because the slight variation in levels will be a larger percentage of the total levels. However, if the use of lubricants results in better quality sample collection, the benefits of using a lubricant should greatly outweigh any potential for contamination from the lubricant itself.

November 22, 2016

Agronomists in the Classroom

People are often compelled to give back, especially when their lives have been enriched by a life impacting experience. This is very true for Jamie Bultemeier, the Corporate Sales Director at A&L Great Lakes. His exposure to agronomy at Purdue University sparked more than a career path; it lit a passion for agriculture. As a way of giving back, Jamie partnered with a former college classmate Jeff Bradford to teach a four-week precision ag module during Dr. Lee Schweitzer’s Agronomy 598, a senior capstone class for agronomy students. The four-week module included about 20 hours of instruction on GIS fundamentals, GIS software, GPS equipment, and evaluation of GPS based agronomic data such as variable rate seeding and fertilization.

Dr. Schweitzer has been teaching and facilitating a key set of agronomy fundamental courses since 1980 that focus as much on preparing the student for their career as teaching agronomic facts. Industry involvement in the educational process is key for agronomy undergraduate students, helping students to make those first networking contacts and get a real world perspective of the agronomy industry that they are about to enter.

Jamie is just one of the many leaders in the agronomy industry that can trace their career success back to being a student in Dr. Schweitzer’s classes. Jamie noted, “As a young FFA member I participated in the Agronomy Contests, several held at Purdue and hosted by Purdue faculty, including Dr. Schweitzer, and it was through those events that I realized I had a knack for agronomy. I was good at it, and Purdue University Agronomy Department was where I wanted to study. I hope that through the opportunity to share my nearly 20 years of experience in the precision agronomy industry, I might inspire another student to push themselves farther than even they thought they could go.” Spend just a few hours with Jamie, and you will soon realize that his passion for agriculture and agronomy that was fostered at Purdue is evident in everything that he does, from his work at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories to his own farming operation.

November 22, 2016

A Few More Blessings to Count

As they often do during the Thanksgiving holiday season, our thoughts turn to those things in our lives that we are thankful for.  It is fairly easy to come up with a basic list such as food, family and other obvious items.  However, this year I wanted to offer a different take on Thankfulness, a departure from the norm.  Is it possible to be thankful for those things that we might not normally think about during this time? 

How much more might our lives be enriched if we were thankful:

  • When the answers are elusive ... for it gives us the opportunity to learn.
  • For tough times in our lives ... during those times we can grow.
  • When we make a mistake ... it may teach us a valuable lesson.
  • For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means we have enough to eat.
  • For sore, aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means we have been capable of working hard.
  • For problems and challenges... they can build strength and character.
  • For the taxes that we pay, because it means that we are gainfully employed.
  • For people who sing off key, because it means that we can hear.
  • When we're tired and weary ... because it means we've given our all.


When I think back over this past year, I am grateful to lead a great team of scientists, agronomists and laboratory staff who are dedicated to providing you, our customer, with the highest quality data and customer service in the industry.  We have encountered many challenges and have learned from them.  Our processes are constantly being evaluated to improve quality.  We have learned, grown, built our strength and character, and experienced weariness from giving our all this busy season.

But mostly I’m thankful to you, our customers, who partner with us and without whom we would cease to exist.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM EVERYONE AT A&L GREAT LAKES LABORATORIES!

 

Greg Neyman, Vice-President/COO

October 31, 2016

Fertilizer Analysis Monitoring

When fertilizer is applied to a field its nutrient analysis should  match what is claimed on the fertilizer product label (ex. 28% nitrogen).  This means that the buyer gets what they want and pay for, and the supplier is paid for what they delivered.  This is almost always the case, but there are situations where there is a discrepancy.

When a fertilizer is offered for sale at any point in the supply chain (manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer) the seller and buyer need to be confident of the fertilizer analysis.  Samples are often collected and either immediately analyzed or retained in case a question arises.

We recommend each incoming load of fertilizer be sampled.  If the material is different from previous shipments (ex. color) it should be communicated to the supplier and a sample immediately sent for analysis.  Retain samples of normal-appearing materials in case a future question arises.  The length of sample retention is unique to each situation, but likely should be at least until the current crop is harvested.

Collection of fertilizer samples can be challenging, especially with bulk deliveries.  The state’s fertilizer inspector can provide procedures for sampling of various fertilizers:  liquid, granular, bulk, bagged, etc.  When your facility is being inspected it is a good practice to ask the inspector to provide you with a sample collected at the same time as the one they will have analyzed.  Should their sample show the fertilizer does not match the label the retained sample can be analyzed to independently confirm the analysis.

Retained fertilizer samples should be stored in air-tight containers to prevent moisture entry and spills.  Small 4-8 ounce plastic bottles work well for liquid fertilizers.  Solid fertilizers can be stored in zip-lock bags – compress the bag to remove air and then place in another bag.  Keep retained samples in a controlled temperature area.

October 31, 2016

Soil Testing in a Tough Ag Economy

Anyone who has worked in the agricultural industry in the last few years has heard someone say, “the days of $7 corn and $17 beans are gone.” You may have even seen “In memory of…” decals on truck windows commemorating those commodity prices. The truth is prices are down and most agricultural economists predict that lower prices are going to be the norm for several more years. In these tight times, producers must critically evaluate every crop input from seed selection to herbicide program to fertility program. However, these decisions cannot be made with a short-sighted mentality of getting though the current season and hoping for better prices next year. These decisions have to be made with consideration of how it will impact their operation for the next three, five, or even ten years, especially if commodity prices remain low.

When selecting which seed to plant, it can be tempting to simply go with the highest yielding variety from the previous year’s variety trials. Yield is obviously important, but be sure to purchase a variety appropriate for your operation. For example, do not pay extra for traits to protect against diseases or pests that are not an issue in your region. On the other hand, when selecting an herbicide program, glyphosate alone has a very attractive price tag, but it is necessary to utilize herbicides with other modes of action occasionally to prevent glyphosate resistant weeds from taking over. It may cost a few more dollars per acre at the time, but will certainly be worth it in future years when glyphosate is still an affordable option for most of your weed control.

 

Soil fertility inputs can represent one of the highest costs in row crop production. In addition to the cost of the fertilizers, there are additional costs for soil sample collection, laboratory analysis, soil mapping and prescription software, and variable rate application. To help reduce costs, some producers may choose to reduce the intensity of soil sampling by using larger grids, fewer management zones, or only collecting a single composite sample from each field. Others may choose to reduce the frequency of sampling or completely abandon sampling all together. While these decisions will initially reduce input costs, how will they impact the productivity and profitability of the operation in the future?

The goal of any fertility program should be produce the greatest yield with the least amount of fertilizer. The most effective way to reduce fertilizer inputs is to identify the areas that require additional inputs and those that do not need any. Soil fertility levels and soil pH can vary greatly in a single field whether it is from natural soil variation or past fertility practices. Collecting a single sample from a field and making a flat rate application of fertilizer or lime based on that single sample is likely to result in an over application in some areas and under application in others. The smaller the area that a soil sample represents, the more confident you can be that the laboratory results accurately represent the area. Maintaining an intensive sampling program, whether grid or zone, is essential to assure the greatest return on your fertilizer investment. 

Too often soil test results are used to make a fertilizer prescription and then discarded. There is a lot to be learned from reviewing previous soil test results. By evaluating the impact of a fertilizer or lime application on the soil test levels, future application rates and timing can be adjusted to better suit your soil type. For example, lime applications are intended to last for three to four years, but on some soils a lime application may only last one to two years and others soils it may last six or seven years. Soils that do not respond to fertilizer or lime applications as expected can only be identified with routine sampling frequency. It takes at least three sampling cycles to begin to identify trends such as this. If a field is sampled on a 4-year cycle, it will take eight years before any adjustments to the soil fertility program can be made with any confidence. By sampling more frequently, every two or three years, these trends can be more quickly identified and addressed.

Managing a successful farming operation means minimizing risk whenever possible. Maintaining a routine intensive soil sampling program is the best option for minimizing the possibility of excessive fertilizer application or losing yield from under application.

October 31, 2016

Partnership – It’s a Sustainable Thing!

A&L Great Lakes Laboratories takes great pride in helping out our Fort Wayne community.  One of the organizations for which we raise charitable funds for during the year is the Fort Wayne Community Urban Farmers.  They provide fresh vegetables to many local agencies that prepare meals for the underserved population of homeless individuals, low-income senior citizens and children.  Agencies like soup kitchens, group homes, residential treatment programs and homeless shelters all benefit from the Urban Farmers program.

In addition, they have been working to establish an Urban 4-H program in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of Fort Wayne to teach young people the importance of self-sufficiency through gardening.

Below is an article that recently ran in the local Fort Wayne News Sentinel about the program:

http://www.news-sentinel.com/news/local/Urban-farming-group-teaches-sustainability

September 30, 2016

OABA Honors Tim Bailey

On August 17th, retired A&L Great Lakes agronomist Tim Bailey was honored at the Ohio Agribusiness Association’s 2016 Educational Trust golf outing.  Tim has been a dependable presence at OABA events and is well deserving of the honor.  Tim has a passion for learning the science of agronomy as well as teaching and helping those around him.  Tim also has another reason to celebrate.  He and his wife Kathy have recently become grandparents to a baby girl - Grace Elizabeth Shawn Bailey.  We at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories offer Tim our congratulations and best wishes!  To read more, check out the OABA Scholarship Golf Outing flyer.

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