Posts Tagged With: corn

Harvest Humor

Question.  How do you move corn from one grain bin to another?  Answer.  Not easily.

When we take corn from the field the combine harvests it,

How a harvest crew travels! {DaddysTractor.com}

the combine unloads the corn into the cart,

Harvest photograph

the cart unloads into the semi,

Harvest

and the semi unloads into the grain bins.

But moving corn from bin to bin isn’t something we’re set up to do easily.  So when we needed to move some grain around Daddy planned for a full day of unloading grain into the semis the way we do when we take it to the elevator to sell it and then putting it back into the new bin we way we would from the field.

And then they came up with this.

On your left you see the yellow stream of corn as it comes out of the bottom of the bin and a grain vac brings it up to dump into the wagon.  The wagon’s bottom is open, allowing the corn to dump right into the next auger, which transports it across the lot into the semi.  The semi’s bottom is also open, dumping corn into another auger, which then lifts the grain up into the proper bin.  The tractors are there to provide power for this little operation.  They have hook ups in the back that allows them to transfer energy from their engines to the augers.

A nicely set up operation might have a grain loop to accomplish this with much less effort.

But where’s the fun in that?!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Knee-High by the…

If you can make jello salad with marshmallows six different ways you might know what I’m talking about.  Actually if you’ve been on the internet anytime in the last 15 years you’ll definitely know what I’m talking about.  Those lists.  You know, 15 ways to tell you’re the mother of toddlers.  (Write checks with the crayons in your purse.)   8 things both college and preschool students do.  (Wear your backpack on both shoulders.) And 23 ways to know you’re from Missouri. (That’d be the marshmallow salad.)

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And while making salad from jello and marshmallows is a legitimate way to assess your geographical origins, there is always one notation on these lists that suggests knowing the corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July is a trait Midwesterners share.

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This one drives me nuts.

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It is true that corn in years past didn’t grow as tall as corn today, but I’d never claim to be old enough to tell you if this adage once held any truth at all. Just let me assure you that corn standing two foot tall at any point in July is a sure sign of trouble for today’s farmer.

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In fact our earliest planted corn has tassels and silks already. Tassels are these on top:

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And silks are the pollen tubes that will fertilize each grain of corn.

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So now you know, knee-high by the 4th of July is a rural myth. 😉 I need to start my own list: Things you know if you’re a Daddy’s Tractor follower!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

This Situation is Critical!

It’s literally the most important thing that happens on our farm and it’s happening now!  Just ask the little red hen, if you want to eat the bread, first you have to plant the seeds!

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Planting time is the most intense season on the farm.  There are an estimated 10 days that are just right for planting corn in our area.  Even if we had perfect conditions (which we won’t) and no break downs (that won’t happen either!) there is no way we could plant all our corn in 10 days.  But we try.

Planting time on the farm

Daddy has added lots of Precision Planting parts to the planter, making sure every seed counts!

During the first two days of our planting season the tractor ran around the clock.  Grandpa traded off with Daddy in the middle of the night so Daddy could get a few hours of sleep.

planting time on the farm

Anna helps Daddy check that the planter is working by digging up a row and looking at the seeds.

It’s also not just putting seeds in the ground that is so time-sensetive.  Daddy got out of bed a the usual time the next morning so Grandpa could put on fertilizer and crop protection products, which are every bit as critical.

planting time on the farm

Daddy drove away with a piece of pizza in hand– no time to stop for dinner!

Monsoon-like rains put an end to our field work late Saturday night and this morning there is snow on the ground.  Like I said, we won’t be getting ideal weather!  The weather man says we should be in the mid 60s again in two days with lots of wind as well, so the ground will dry out and we’ll be back in the fields.  While not ideal by any means, the snow shouldn’t stop the seeds from growing once the weather warms up.

Just please weather, do warm up!

Categories: Family, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Meeting with Monsanto’s President

On Thursday of this past week my husband Brian and I had the opportunity to meet Monsanto’s President and CCO, Brett Begemann, as a part of the Agriculture Leaders of Tomorrow program.  We also toured the research facility in St. Louis, MO and got to take a peek behind the scenes at the greenhouses and test chambers.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Mr. Begemann talked with us for a while about Monsanto’s acquisition of 20/20, the company that make the precision planting equipment you’ve seen us use on the blog.

If you are a regular follower I’d like to explain now that this post will take on a bit of a different flavor.  Usually I post information suitable for children—this might be information you as an adult read, then teach to the children in your life as you see fit.

Secondly, I’m writing this article to inform you.  You are free to believe anything you like.  If you disagree with me we don’t have to stop being friends.

AND I’m not being paid by anyone or any of that.  Soooo, let’s begin!

Thursday afternoon we toured the Monsanto research facility in St. Louis, MO.  In less than two hours we were briefed on the most advanced technology in the world.  It was amazing.  And yes, some of it was overwhelming.

It started with a basic understanding of DNA.  We’ve probably all seen pictures of the double helix strand.

My meeting with Monsanto President

All the information in a cell is recorded here in a code of ATs and GCs.   Its actually a lot like the binary system of 0s and 1s your computer understands.

In 2003 Scientists completed the Human Genome Project, which was a massive effort to read all these codes, record them, and share the information with the private sector.  This created a map of the ATs and GCs in human DNA.  The order of these codes determine what proteins are produced.  Each protein does a specific job, such as determining your eye color or hair texture.  Read this sort-of basic explanation of genetics from Wikipedia if you’d like more in-depth information!

Scientists have similarly mapped the DNA of some plants.  They have identified certain proteins and the jobs they do within the plant.  At the research facility we watched a presentation that explained the arrangement of proteins as a neighborhood.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

Each strand is a street and on each street are houses for the proteins.  Not every lot has a protein house, however.  Scientists used to think these were empty spaces and filled with “junk” but now they understand how much they don’t understand because the data in these empty lots seems to be very important to turning the proteins on and off.  For example, your DNA is the same in every cell.  But only the DNA that causes your eyes to be blue is actually “on” in your eyes.  Your skin is not blue, neither is your hair.  But that information is still in every skin cell, its just “off.”

So scientists know some proteins’ job is to control the yield of a plant.  If they can place this protein next to the correct empty house the yield of the plant increases!

The thing that struck me here was that DNA is different in every plant, just like it is in every person.  We all have a different combination of proteins that make us the different people we are.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and you create an albino person.  At some point the DNA randomly goes together and my dark-haired husband and I have a red-haired son.  At some point the DNA can form a plant that yields like crazy.  But you really just have to get lucky.

Modifying the plant on purpose allows you to put proteins where you want them instead of waiting and hoping they will arrange themselves on accident.  

The odds of nature creating a seed with the exact combination you want are infinitesimal.  Just my opinion, but genetic modification doesn’t seem so scary when I realized it could have happened.   Not would have, but could have.  But I view this as learning from God’s design and using it to be better stewards of the land, better stewards of our money, and better human beings to the millions of starving people in this world.  But more on that later…

So some of our corn, soybeans, beets, etc., are modified for better yield, for stronger stalks that don’t fall down in a storm, for drought tolerance, and some are modified for herbicide tolerance.  That’s Round-Up.

My Meeting with Monsanto President

So here again our guide helped me understand what was really going on in a Round Up ready soybean.

The goal is to kill all plants in a field expect soybeans (or whatever you planted).  How do you kill a plant?  Well, Brett and I did an experiment on that back in our Plant Thematic Unit.  Plants need air, water, nutrients, and sunlight.  And while you can’t really control those in a field, sunlight is actually used for the process of photosynthesis which involves, you guessed it, proteins.  The chemicals in Round Up are so specifically designed that they can target the exact protein needed for photosynthesis.  (Actually its the messenger.  It kills the messenger.  I find this funny.  But irrelevant.  Right.)  The Round Up ready plant genes are relocated to new housing to protect their photosynthesis process.  Now farmers can plant more food in less space because instead of needing to drive equipment into the field to till the weeds under, they can spray Round Up.  Plus sensitive plants like corn produce lots more without the competition weeds provided.  And unless you have photosynthesizing genes in your DNA, Round Up isn’t a human problem.*

Furthermore, it is this amazing information about proteins that is being used to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, cancer, Asperger’s, so much more.  I find it interesting that we cheer these projects, yet decry GMOs.

Maybe it is because the effects of cancer are felt here, in our own backyard.  Hunger isn’t an issue we deal with in the US.  At least, it isn’t today.  Currently our own hunger needs stem more from a lack of money than a lack of food.  It just isn’t true everywhere you go.

But maybe we’ll be singing a different tune in another 30-40 years, because today’s population of 7 billion is expected to reach 9 billion in that short of a time frame.  In the next few decades farmers will need to produce more food than ever before.  They will do this with less land than we farm now and probably less water.  They will do this or we will be hungry.

 

 

**I welcome all comments, but please be courteous to all.  I will remove any rude or hurtful replies.  Also, this is a blog for children, so please keep it clean.

*I will be posting more about our meeting soon, but please understand there is SO MUCH to say about GMOs and Monsanto I could not possibly cover it all, especially in one post.   🙂

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Farm to Table– Where Your Food Comes From

How many of us really know where our food comes from?  Sure, it grows on the farm.  Sure, you may go to the farmer’s market and purchase your veggies or visit a U-Pick to get the whole apple orchard experience.  But there is so much more to food than even farmer’s think about each time they sit down to the table!

Sure, farmers planted seeds, but where did the seeds come from?  Yes, farmers grew the wheat, but who baked that bread?

So here’s a look at a small piece of the big food picture; these are pictures of what we do with the corn after it has been harvested.

Hauling Grain (15)

Daddy drives the semi and trailer to the grain elevator. This elevator, part of a company called Ingredion, is in Kansas City. Ingredion is a smaller elevator than others, but it has some neat technology others don’t. The huge, concrete cylinders store grain. Imagine how much grain they can hold and then remember this elevator is small!

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Depending on the day, Daddy and Anna must wait in line for their turn to unload. Some days they wait for several hours.

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This is a scanning system. Our truck has a card on the dashboard with all our farm’s information. As you drive across this computer scans the card so the elevator knows who the grain is coming from.

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These trucks are waiting in line just in front of the probe. This machine takes samples of the grain to be tested for moisture, foreign material, to see if it is the correct kind of corn (waxy), and for a fungus called aflatoxin.

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This shows the probe sampling our corn.

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The machine will take samples from a couple of places in the trailer, often once in the front and once in the back.

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Then its into the office to await the results of the tests.

Inside the office Brett watches an employee test for foreign matter.

Inside the office Brett watches an employee test for foreign matter.

Here they check for alfatoxin.

Here they check for alfatoxin.

This screen displays information about the automated grain leg system.  The grain leg moves the corn from the shed where farmers unload to the concrete silos, which you'll see soon in another photo!

This screen displays information about the automated grain leg system. The grain leg moves the corn from the shed where farmers unload to the concrete silos, which you’ll see soon in another photo!

And now the appropriate thing to do would be to play in the semi truck while waiting yet again for your turn to unload.

And now the appropriate thing to do would be to play in the semi truck while waiting yet again for your turn to unload.

If test results are fine the next stop is this green shed.  Grain is unloaded from the bottom of the trailer and goes under the floor.  Then the yellow grain leg, using a belt and buckets, hauls the corn up and over to the storage silos.

If test results are fine the next stop is this green shed. Grain is unloaded from the bottom of the trailer and goes under the floor. Then the yellow grain leg, using a belt and buckets, hauls the corn up and over to the storage silos.

Daddy cranks open the hoppers on the bottom of the trailer and corn flows out!  This, I might add, is about the best part and the whole reason to sit for hours in a semi truck!

Daddy cranks open the hoppers on the bottom of the trailer and corn flows out! This, I might add, is about the best part and the whole reason to sit for hours in a semi truck!

Here Brett sweeps up each and every kernel, making sure it falls into the grate.  You might also see that the truck is parked on a plate of metal.  This is the scale which weighs the truck before unloading and after.  The difference is the amount of corn the elevator will pay him for.

Here Brett sweeps up each and every kernel, making sure it falls into the grate. You might also see that the truck is parked on a plate of metal. This is the scale which weighs the truck before unloading and after. The difference is the amount of corn the elevator will pay Daddy for.

And this is the last of the corn, trickling out of the hopper bottom.  All that is left of the trip is to close the doors and grab a ticket from the scale house telling us how much the truck weighed.  And then its back to the farm to pick up another load and do it all over again!

And this is the last of the corn, trickling out of the hopper bottom. All that is left of the trip is to close the doors and grab a ticket from the scale house telling us how much the truck weighed. And then its back to the farm to pick up another load and do it all over again!

Categories: Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Harvest Photographs

Harvest photograph

Harvest Photographs

Harvest Photographs

Harvest Photographs

Harvest photograph

These are a few of my favorite pics I snapped during harvest season this year.  l.eave me a message and tell me which is your favorite!

 

 

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5 Steps to Combining Corn

Harvest is in full swing on Marshall farms!  Ride along with us to learn the 5 steps to combining corn!

For more videos from Marshall Farms, click here!

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Harvesting during the Drought

Harvest has officially started.  And we, like nearly everyone else, are leaving long strips of corn in the fields.

Harvesting during a drought

What is this all about?  Well, most farmers purchase crop insurance each spring.  Just like someone might buy insurance in case of a car accident or home fire, farmers insure crops in case of a Mother Nature disaster.  People hired by the insurance companies come out to look at the crops and see how bad the damages are.  Leaving strips in the middle of the field allows a farmer to get on with harvest while leaving a sample for testing by the companies.

Have you seen strips like this left in fields near you?

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Law of Supply and Demand Lesson Plan

harvesting wheat

Despite the wind and rain that kept us out of the wheat field in June, we have finished harvesting our crop!

harvesting wheat

But what happens after the combine cuts the wheat?  Great question  😉

The picture above show the combine unloading onto the cart.  We use the tractor and cart because of those huge wheels you see.  A semi drives on roads, but wheels on the tractor and cart can drive through fields  much better.  After the cart is full the tractor pulls it out to the road and unloads on the semi.  Then the semi drives back to the grain bins and unloads the grain into the bins.

And then what?

So glad you ask!  Then we sell the grain.  Have you ever clipped coupons or watched for sales on your favorite foods?  Have you ever purchased lots of something because it was a good price?  Well, grain prices change almost EVERY day and farmers are always watching for a good price!  Is it too cold in the states where wheat is growing?  Prices might go up because buyers believe the wheat will not grow well.  There will be less wheat and they want to be sure to get some!  If they really, REALLY want that wheat they will pay more to make sure they have it.

Is it sunny, warm, and just perfect in the states where wheat is growing?  Prices might go down.  People believe there will be lots of wheat.  Everyone will have wheat to sell and you can get wheat whenever you want it.  There is no need to pay a lot.

We call this the Law of Supply and Demand.  The amount of wheat we have is our “supply” of wheat.  “Demand” means how many people want it.  Lots of supply can mean low prices and not enough demand can do the same thing.  High prices come when there is a low supply and lots of demand.  American farmers help feed the world, so right now demand is pretty high.  Wheat prices often depend on weather– how well did wheat grow?  What is the supply?

When we can, farmers like to sell grain at high prices.  But we can’t always do this.  Sometimes prices stay low for long periods of time and farmers need money.  They have to sell their wheat for whatever price they can to pay for seeds for next year, diesel for the tractor, or to buy groceries for their families!

Sometimes farmers make choices to sell, thinking prices are good, but then prices go up the next day, week, or month.  It can be very difficult to predict the future!

Try this activity to see what its like to buy and sell grain like a farmer!  This website has a simple table so you can see what corn is selling for at three hog farms.  http://www.psfarms.com/missouri_corn_bids.asp  Pretend you have corn to sell.  Choose a time frame, such as two weeks, and check the website everyday to see what prices are.  Write them down in a notebook.  At some point during the two weeks pretend to sell your corn.  Make sure to continue recording until your time frame has ended.  Now, how did you do?  Did you sell at the best price?  Was it good?  Bad?  Did the Law of Supply and Demand affect prices?  Do you think this year’s drought will make prices go up or down?

*Note: you can also try this activity using produce from your gorcery store.  Take your notebook with you and jot down prices.  Do they go up or down?  What factors affect price?

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Ride in Daddy’s Tractor

You’ve heard lots about farm life, but you haven’t been able to ride in Daddy’s tractor just yet!  Well hop on board as we plant field corn right in our own front yard!

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