May 26, 2017

Nitrogen Management with Replant or Thin Corn Stands

While talking to agronomists from all over the Great Lakes Region, we have heard questions focused on nitrogen loss, population counts, and how late various corn maturities can be planted, but might we be missing the key questions to maximizing profitability of the 2017 corn crop. It is time to take a hard look at our nitrogen plans and adjust them for reality.

The target corn yield of 200+ bu/acre of April may not be a realistic yield goal with the delayed planting. One positive thing about reduced yield goals because of late planting, replanting, or reduced stand populations is that the nitrogen required to achieve this adjusted lower yield goal is likely also reduced. Early spring preplant and starter nitrogen has likely been subject to loss due to the wet conditions, but has the loss of nitrogen exceeded the loss of yield potential? Most likely no, and if you have plans to side-dress, be certain to adjust your nitrogen rates for you new yield goals.

With pre-plant nitrogen, utilize soil nitrate and ammonium tests to monitor fields that might be at risk. One benefit to late planted corn is that side dress nitrogen applications will also be delayed, usually into a period with weather conditions that have a lower risk of nitrogen loss, thus leading to potentially greater nitrogen use efficiency. Help from your Regional A&L Great Lakes Agronomist is only a phone call away!

April 27, 2017

Gearing Up for PSNT

Nitrogen is the most elusive nutrient to manage and, when deficient, will significantly limit yield potential to a point that profits are lost. Having the right amount of nitrogen available at the right time is essential to achieving profitability.

A corn plant uses around 10% of the nitrogen it needs during the first three weeks of growth. Then, during the next five weeks (V4 to V18), it needs to take up 65% of its total seasonal nitrogen requirement. If nitrogen supply is limited during this period, yield and profits will suffer. Taking a pre-sidedress nitrate test (PSNT) at the V4-V5 stage indicates how much nitrogen is available in the soil from cover crops, legumes, applied manure and other organic sources.

Timing is very important; samples should be taken five to ten days before sidedressing to allow time to collect the sample, have it analyzed and receive the results. Samples taken too early will not be as accurate because nitrogen is continually released (mineralized) in the spring as the soil warms.

A&L Great Lakes analyzes PSNT samples and reports results the next business day after receipt. PSNT soil samples should represent no more than 20 acres. The sampled area should be consistent for past crop, soil types and manure applications. Sample the soil 12 inches deep, taking 15 to 20 cores per field. Avoid probing through the starter band. If fields have significantly differing soil types or drainage patterns, sample these areas separately. In addition, it is generally not recommended that these samples be analyzed as a part of a basic soil test, because of the differences in recommended sampling depth.

More information on the PSNT, including information on sampling and sample handling, is outlined in our PSNT Fact Sheet, which is available from our website.

April 27, 2017

A Breath of Fresh Air

What is the most effective and dramatic way to clean up an area?  Renovate, replace and redecorate.  Keeping our instrumentation and computer equipment on the cutting edge has always been a priority at A & L Great Lakes Laboratories, but our work areas often get left behind.

The old office furniture, installed more than 25 years ago, served us well, but had outlived its useful life, and was badly in need of repair and refreshment. We began by removing the old furniture, flooring, and ceiling tiles.

 

A fresh coat of paint, new flooring, and replacing the ceiling tiles made everything look a lot better!

The project was finished off with new, modern office furniture to better meet the needs of our staff to ensure that they are better able to serve our customers.

We invite you to check these spaces out the next time you are at the laboratory.  The completed project has been rewarding as many employees were not afraid to get their hands dirty and assisted with demolition and painting.  Great pride and ownership has been taken of these areas and will serve our employees and guests well for many years to come.

April 27, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Meet Patti Knuth

Patti has been with us for almost 30 years of combined service (she took a short 4 year break 12 years ago). She is the voice of our company-- chances are if you have called us, you have talked to her.

She started in the lab, analyzing plants, feeds, and manures. Now she answers customer questions and helps with issues. She loves our customers. When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she said pleasing customers. What a great ambassador to have in our customer service role!

In her spare time, she likes to ride her bike on the Fort Wayne Trails and you can often catch her at the Trek The Trails events on Tuesday nights throughout the summer.

March 31, 2017

Spring Sampling Considerations

We frequently get the question at the lab; “When is the best time to take a soil sample?”  Soil fertility is not static.  Soil test levels fluctuate naturally through the year as nutrients are taken up by growing plants and returned from residue.  Application of fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources increases the amount of crop nutrients, causing soil test levels to increase immediately after application.  During the growing season, soil test levels will decline as nutrients are taken up by plants.  Overall, if the application rate approximates crop needs there will be a minimal effect after nutrients in crop residues or cover crop are returned to the soil through decomposition. To minimize the effects of these processes on soil test levels, it is recommended that soil samples be collected at approximately the same time of year each time a field is sampled to reduce variability introduced by the normal crop growing cycle.

While the results of a single soil test can provide information needed to define the fertility program for a given area for the coming set number of years, the real value comes from looking at the data collected from several sampling events, taken at a similar point during the growing cycle, and identifying the trends in the soil test values.  For example, if a soil sample is collected and the resulting data shows a lower than desired fertility level, we may need to apply more fertilizer for the next crop.  If soil test values increase toward a target level over sampling cycles, it indicates the fertility program is working as intended.  The fertility program would need to be adjusted if soil test levels are trending lower or higher than intended.

Traditionally, fall has been the most popular time within this region to soil sample, with nutrient application made soon after.  Fall soil sampling and fertilizer application requires several steps:

  • Field is harvested
  • Service provider contacted about sampling the field
  • Service provider coordinates soil sample collection
  • Samples are collected
  • Samples sent/delivered to the lab
  • Samples processed and analyzed by the lab
  • Soil test results sent to the service provider
  • Soil test results used to generate fertility recommendations
  • Fertilizer ordered and tendered to the field
  • Fertilizer is spread
  • Fertilizer incorporated if tilled

With many steps condensed into a short time period and with often less than ideal weather forecasts, things must happen quickly.  The soil fertility program is a critical investment that has a major impact on a grower's bottom line, and making decisions related to the program should be done with great care.  It is hard to optimize a rushed management decision.  

More are switching to spring soil sampling to reduce this time crunch.  Samples can be collected throughout the spring, even in the planted crop.  Soil test data can be processed so that fertilizer and lime applications can occur immediately after harvest or the following spring.  Crop conditions and weather during the growing season can be also evaluated to further refine soil fertility programs. There is considerable value to sampling well ahead of the fertilizer application season, providing time and flexibility to make better fertilizer management and purchasing decisions.
March 31, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Meet Alexis Gutierrez

Lexi is a lab technician in the fertilizer department. In this role, she tests different fertilizers for various elements and creates reports so that our clients can make better decisions about their fertilizer usage. She also does quality analysis for fertilizer companies.

She earned her Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from Manchester University. She has been full time with us since April 2016. She enjoys working with test tubes and beakers, and really likes the color changes that occur through the different tests she administers. She also likes the family-feel of the culture here.

In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her son who is just shy of 2 years old.

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

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.

Relationships. They’re the most important things we help grow.

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