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Side Dressing the Test Plot


 Since I have started at Helena Chemical this summer I have probably driven over five hundred miles every week.  Although I love driving through the countryside of New England, I often times find myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 91.  Anytime I drive on I-91 through the city of Springfield around quitting time, the traffic is bunched tighter together than the draft at a NASCAR race.  Needless to say, I always cringe a little when I look at my load tickets and see that I am driving through such high-traffic areas.   At least I can take solace in the fact that if traffic comes to a grinding halt I am getting paid by the hour.


Knifing in UAN 32 and Hydra-Hume

Due to the unusually warm spring, things have been slowing down lately.  That means I spend less time on the road and more time at the office doing odds and ends for the salesman.  One day, that meant trading in the truck for a tractor and side dressing the company’s corn test plot.  Besides herbicides, pesticides, and liquid fertilizers, Helena also sells a variety of different corn seeds.  In half of the test plot, different varieties are planted to see which ones grow the best and provide the highest yields.  The other side tests different mixes of fertilizer in an effort to see the effects on yield.  This kind of information allows Helena to better serve its clients by providing them with the best possible knowledge and products.

A mixture of UAN 32 and Hydra-Hume was knifed into the test plot.  Hydra-Hume aids in the uptake of nitrogen by stabilizing the nitrate from the UAN 32.  It essentially acts as liquid humus that can be sprayed or knifed into the soil.  It coats particles of the soil and helps to retain nitrate molecules much like organic matter.  It is applied at a rate of ¼ to 1 gallon an acre and it is recommended that no more than 3 gallons are applied to an acre in a single application.  Hydra-Hume also contains 1.00% soluble potash.  Here is a link for the Hydra-Hume label:

At a later date the plot may be top dressed using Helena’s CoRoN 25-0-0 Controlled Release Nitrogen Fertilizer.  CoRoN gradually releases nitrogen to plants rather than making it all available at once.  This helps to reduce burn out.  CoRoN can be

The test plot...and the eyesore of a housing development that borders it.

applied to corn at a rate of 3 to 5 gallons an acre between the V-6 and V-8 stages of growth.  It can also be sprayed as a foliar application from one to three gallons an acre as a nitrogen supplement during pre-tassel or at a rate of one to two gallons an acre between the pre-tassel and silk stages to help with ear fill.  Three gallons of CoRoN on a one acre plot like the Helena test plot will replace 37.5 pounds of nitrogen in the soil. Besides corn, CoRoN can be used in a wide variety of other field crops as well as on vegetable crops, ornamentals, and fruits.  Here’s a link to the label for CoRoN 25-0-0:

Helena sells CoRoN in either 2 by 2.5 gallon cases or in 250 gallon totes.  I had to unload an entire tanker of CoRoN into twenty totes one day.  That turned out to be quite a cluster when the driver showed up with a leaky hose to unload the product with and no air to blow out the line, but that is a different story.  Helena also has two trucks with 2,000 gallon tanks that can deliver pre-mixed sprays to a grower to fit their specific needs and applications.  The truck pumps the mix into the customer’s sprayer or nurse truck.  All the farmer has to do is sign off on the load ticket and then get to work spraying or side dressing.  I wish I had that kind of support when I was side dressing, but I guess you have to put in your time and start somewhere.

Full Tote of CoRoN

Test plot early in the year










Blue Grass Lane Annual Flower Trials – Take 1

Hello! My name is Missy Call and I have chosen to blog about my experiences at Blue Grass Lane Annual Flower Trials. So I decided my first post would be about my first couple of weeks of work at Ken Post Laboratory and Blue Grass Lane. For starters, it is definitely the place for you if you enjoy working in greenhouses and gardening. The internship is a lot of hard work and keeps me in shape! There is a lot of planting, weeding, mulching, and watering, among many other things. The job atmosphere is really laid back, which is excellent for the summer, and requires a variety of different tasks so you aren’t doing the same thing every day.

As a brief overview, my job, along with two other interns, is to plant, maintain, and evaluate new cultivars of annual flowers. We receive these cultivars from various breeding companies such as Syngenta, Classic Caladiums, Ball FloraPlant, Ball Ingenuity, Burpee Home and Garden, Keift, PanAmerican Seed, and Proven Winners. Once the beds are finished, we begin to evaluate each plant and score it on how well it is growing in its new environment, here in zone 5. These evaluations are sent back to the breeding companies and reviewed by the researchers and marketers.


Another project we help take care of is the perennial beds, located right next to the annuals. There are six large beds that have already been planted and established, so we spend a lot of our time weeding and mulching these beds.

In the greenhouse we help Professor Bill Miller collect data for research on Lilies and Dahlias. This includes measuring stem and leaf size, time of flowering, and taking photos of the plants. It is always a nice perk to be able to bring the flowers home with us after all of the data has been collected.


Scouting for Armyworm and Fusarium Head Blight in Wheat

Me scouting wheat for signs of pest and disease damage.

Armyworm, armyworm, armyworm! The past few weeks nothing has been a larger concern to wheat and field crop growers than the army worm infestation in Western New York. Several farmers have been plagued by this relentless pest, and concerns are on the rise as to what the economic damage has been to growers this year. The armyworm is primarily a pest of grasses, small grain crops and corn. The insect will also attack alfalfa, beans, clover, flax, millet, and sugar beets. Feeding and movement occur at night or on cloudy days. During the daytime, armyworms hide under vegetation, loose soil or in soil cracks. Caterpillars consume more and more vegetation as they grow. Since they feed at night and hide during the daytime, armyworms often cause considerable damage before being discovered making them a dangerous pest for growers.

Here army worms are feeding on the head of wheat plants.


To the left you can see the damage that armyworms can do to the wheat plants. If you look closely the leafs have been stripped from the plants and the damage is now being done to the heads of the wheat.

The next major concern is the possibility of another generation of armyworm growing during the growing season. The life cycle of the army worm is now at the pupate stage. The larvae move under litter and soil clods, or burrow 2 to 3 inches into the soil, where they make small cells in the soil and pupate. About two weeks later, moths emerge from pupal cases, mate, and lay eggs for the next generation.  A great deal of concern is on the rise as to weather there will be a second plague if these pest or not, only time will tell.

I have been visiting several farms in the Western New York region not only scouting for armyworm, but for wheat disease as well, focusing mainly on  Fusarium Head Blight and Rust. Fusarium head blight or head scab is caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. The disease causes tremendous losses by reducing grain yield and quality and is a growing concern for wheat producers in Western New York. Symptomology of head blight in wheat  is any part or all of the head may appear bleached. The partly white and partly green heads are diagnostic for the disease in wheat.

Here is an example of head bleaching due to Fusarium Head Blight.

The fungus also may infect the stem  immediately below the head, causing a brown – purplish discoloration of the stem tissue. Additional indications of head blight infection are pink to salmon-orange spore masses of the fungus often seen on the infected spikelets and glumes during prolonged wet weather.

There is no simple cure for Fusarium Head Blight in producers fields so a combination of treatments is suggested. Seed treatment and the use of high-quality seed will help reduce seedling blight due to infected seed but will not protect against subsequent head blight.  The main precautions for growers to consider while aiming to prevent against head blight are seed treatment, tillage, crop rotation, planting date, and resistance.

Here you can see the salmon colored fungal spores associated with Fusarium Head Blight.

Although there is no wheat variety that has true resistance to the head blight, there are certain varieties that show moderate resistance to the blight that are recommended for growers use.

With wheat reaching the date of harvest, my scouting skills will be relocated to the soybean fields of Western New York! Stay tuned for my next scouting adventure!



Crop Scouting with Western New York Crop Management Association

The corn scouting season is in full swing here in WNY. This summer I’m working for Western New York Crop Management Association. The organization offers crop scouting, nutrient management, and CAFO (confined animal feedlot operations) planning as well as other services.  I’ve been assigned crop scouting responsibilities on 12 farms in the southern tier of western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. My boss at WNY CMA is Nick Youngers. Nick is a Certified Crop Advisor and manages over 12000 acres of field crops. He also supervises a technician and another scout besides me; he is a very busy guy.

My new wheels for the first half of the summer!

In the last couple weeks I’ve scouted corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass-legume hay fields. I enjoy working with field crops and I’ve gotten plenty of opportunities to spend time in many local farmers’ fields. In the field I stage crops, take populations, and evaluate the weed, insect, and disease pressure. The early season corn scouting is the most intense and time consuming scouting we do. Corn is very susceptible to the various pests, especially when it’s young, so we put in the hours during this time of year.  We have all worked 70+ hours, six days a week since mid-May. The scouting thus far has really sharpened my weed seedling identification skills. I’ve found plenty of all “the usual suspects” such as lambsquarter’s, pigweed, ragweed, quackgrass and annual grass weeds.  We have also seen plenty of armyworm infestations in grass hay fields and corn. The little fellas defoliate the corn and often just leave a whorl of leaves. Many fields had cutworm infestations and these insects “cut down” the corn seedlings. These stand out because the cut down corn plants take on a bluish wilted appearance.

Corn plant damaged by cutworm

For all of these pests we use a variety of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts, but for the scout the primary concern is if the pest is above or below threshold. The weeds, and insects, and disease pests have differing ways which we evaluate if they are above or below threshold. Though we try to promote farmers to use IPM to save money, reduce resistance, and reduce potential environmental issues, some farmers view their reports and treat their infested fields immediately, regardless of pest density. After a field has been treated, I return to the fields after the reentry period has been met to verify the pests have been controlled.
The scouting process is repetitive, but this repetition has given me the opportunity to really get good at identifying common pests and has also given me time to build rapport with the farmers and find out what their common pests are on their particular place. All of the farmers I work with have been very friendly and supportive during this learning process that is the early season scouting.  As the growing season progresses, I look forward to doing different tasks in the various crops and learning as much as I can. It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over already, summer and the growing season are flying by!

Wild mustard in corn

Summer at Cornell: Soil, Soybeans and Subsurfers

While many students choose to take a break from Cornell and get a change in scenery from Ithaca for the summer, I decided to accept an internship at Cornell and experience the few calm months that Cornell has each year. I am interning in the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) which is run by Dr. Quirine Ketterings in the Animal Science department at Cornell.  One of NMSPs main goals is to make sure the New York farms remain sustainable and they do this through extension programs, on-field and laboratory based research, and general exchange of knowledge among individuals.  Tools for planning and decision making on field crop nutrient management is readily available to anyone who needs it.  Through this program, recommendations can be made to farmers about what to apply to their fields to increase yields of their crops but also keeping in mind the environment.

Over the summer, I will be working on several different projects that the NMSP is running  as well as getting my own special project in which I will create an Agronomy Fact Sheet from the data collected.  Some of my responsibilities include setting up field trials at various farms and experimental stations across New York state, soil sampling, soil fertility and crop monitoring, sample processing and lab analyses.  I will also get a lot of experience working with extension and crop consulting agencies as well as a better idea of how to run your own research experiment.

Prior to starting my internship over four weeks ago now, I had no idea what to expect to be doing each day and even after four weeks I still don’t know what each day will bring.  I knew I would be working with soil but that was about it.  My first week on the job really gave me a taste of what my summer would include.  The first day I ended up washing and separating root and shoot samples from a cover crop study.  The next day I was in the truck headed to a farm in Western New York to set up plots and spread fertilizer in an alfalfa field.  The next day I was grinding plant samples followed by a day of computer work.  The last day of my first week was spent at the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora taking soil samples from a multi-year corn/alfalfa rotation study that has been going on for awhile now.  I felt like I was going in a hundred different directions but I loved having a new challenge every day I came into work.

Musgrave Research Farm

I have learned how to do several laboratory tests including ISNT, LOI and Morgan Extractions.  ISNT stands for Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test and it measures the amount of Nitrogen in soil that is available for plant use.  This helps determine if addition of Nitrogen fertilizer will be beneficial to crop yields.  LOI stands for Loss of Ignition and measures the amount of organic matter in a soil.  Morgan Extractions measure the amounts of micro and macro nutrients in a soil sample.  There are still several lab tests that I will be learning in the coming weeks including a Corn Stalk Nitrate Test.

A few weeks ago, I was also given my special project from which I will create an Agronomy Fact sheet which will be published on the NMSP website.  My project is looking at soil pH in soybean fields in Delaware County.  The goal of this experiment is to see whether or not applying lime to fields with low pHs will increase soybean yield.  To prepare for the fact sheet, I am completing a Lime Management learning module located on the NMSP website as well as a lot of reading about soybeans.  There will be a lot more to come in future blogs on this project!

While I am working on a lot of different projects, I have found one that will most likely be my favorite.  At the Musgrave Research Farm, we have a sub-surfer manure injector that we are testing out.  It sounds strange but the main goal of this project is to break the machine which to me is kind of exciting.  This spreader is for no-till surface and sub-surface conditions in pastures and fields that will inject dry poultry litter and cow manure into the soil.  The company we received the prototype from wants to know what is wrong with it so they can make adjustments before releasing it to the general public.  We are just getting started with this and I can’t wait to see how we break this thing!


Subsurfer Prototype


Getting Started! Scouting and CCE Tours in Western New York.

What a fun and hectic few weeks I have had and I am only getting started! I have been busy learning the lay of the land here in Western New York and getting  just a taste of what will be in store for me during these next few summer months.  My terrain will include Ontario, Wayne, Yates, Livingston, Wyoming, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, and Monroe counties.  I will be, and have been working with  the  North Western New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops teams in a variety of scouting expeditions and programs throughout the summer season.

One of my first days on the job I helped to set up the Soybean TAg Team portfolios  for participating farmers in Ontario and Genesee counties. The soybean TAg team project is a tactile agriculture soybean management and education program for producers in New York. The goal of this program is to increase the producer knowledge of agronomic and economic aspects of soybean production with an emphasis on the identification, biology, and management of critical pests, including diseases, weeds and insects. The program also teaches the producers the value of scouting their fields for pest to determine if pesticide applications are warranted and economically justified.  By the end of the program we are hoping that the growers will have an increased knowledge of Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Crop Management as well as improved growing practices.

I also spent a day with the Nancy Glazier touring farms and establishments for the Beef Quality Assurance program for beef producers in the Wyoming County area.  The BQA in a day Workshop was held the 16th of June with twenty or so participants. The training took place on a small family farm in Hermitage New York where participants had the opportunity to revive  basic certification for beef handling and production from the Beef Quality Assurance program. Also that day in Wyoming County I had the opportunity to tour the new possible location for the Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. The building is an old ware house in need of renovation, but if the plans go through will  house the state offices for the county along with the Cooperative Extension offices and the counties 4-H program, very exciting news for the Wyoming County team.

My next adventure was with Jackson Wright the Dairy Management Specialist from the NWNY livestock team. That day I tagged along with a group of dairy farmers from Ontario County and toured an organic dairy operation as well as a conventional dairy operation who converted to a group calf housing system. The purpose of adopting the group calving system is to improve calf herd health. The group claving system is being put into use along with an automated feeding system.  Contrary to conventional thinking, the group calving system has not led to an increase in disease. Rather, the automated feeding system has freed up the herdsmen to spend more quality time with the calves, catching and preventing disease from occurring in the first place. And perhaps best of all, when reared in groups and allowed to express their natural behavior, the calves are thriving at a significantly higher rate than in the previously used system of individual calf hutch housing.

Until next time, off for more adventures!

Two happy calves at the organic group housing system.

Automated Feeding System

Adventures in the North Country: Calf Pools, Grants and Agritourism

Greetings everyone! What a hectic two weeks it has been. Leek moth scouting has continued almost daily, as well as looking for cutworms and armyworms. I’ve been attempting to make a deeper connection to the region, and in this process came across a great documentary called Small Farm Rising. It profiles how three first-generation farms in the area work towards defending small-scale, sustainable agriculture. After watching this film and then meeting one of the featured farmers, it’s evident how much these farms have come to represent the agriculture industry in the North.

Aside from all the leek moth scouting I’ve been doing, I’ve also had the opportunity over the past two weeks to attend three different meetings that I’m excited to discuss here. The first was a presentation given to local beef producers entitled ‘Feeder Cattle Marketing’. I was especially excited by this talk for two reasons: my family raised beef until I was about twelve years old, and the professor who delivered the presentation, Dr. Phil Osborne, was from WVU, my home state. The presentation was unique in that it was given via Adobe Connect and the farmers in New York were able to ask Dr. Osborne questions via a microphone. He spoke about how calf pools benefit small-time producers by assuring quality and value. The idea is being thrown around here currently, though there may be issues with a central infrastructure, how calves would be graded and how to assess willingness to participate.

I also attended two other workshops last week. The first was an introduction to grant writing for extension staff given by Carol Hegeman of Hegeman Consulting. Though I personally take a greater interest in the actual execution of research, I cannot deny how crucial it is to be able to write a grant in order to fund research. Hegeman was able to make this process engaging and interactive, and she introduced possible ethical dilemmas that we might deal with throughout the process. For instance, is it better to collaborate with another office when applying for a grant or is it dangerous to alert them to the opportunity? The second workshop I attended was an Agritourism meeting hosted at Rulf’s Orchard. Members of the council discussed different ways of showing people how much there is to do right in their own backyard. Rulf’s is hosting a Strawberry Festival.

Strawberries from Rulf's Orchard

The Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau is recruiting booths for the Clinton County Fair. There are also wine tours, U-picks, etc. One idea thrown out that I found particularly interesting was a “Bucket List” to give to people with things to check off by the end of the summer. It reminded me of the 161 List that so many students strive to complete before their senior year. I even know of an app that tracks your progress! If your town had a “Bucket List”, would you attempt to complete it?

Until next time!

Helena Chemical: First Week on the Job

Me calling a customer to figure out where to meet.

Last week I started my summer internship working for the Hatfield, Massachusetts branch of the Helena Chemical Company.  Helena started as a small distributor of agricultural chemicals in the town of Helena, Arkansas in 1957.  It has since expanded and does business in all 48 continental states.  Helena believes that the company’s success “revolves around People…Products…Knowledge…” “Our People provide the correct combination of Products based on our Knowledge of our customers’ business and our interest in helping extend and sustain their success.”  The Hatfield branch is the farthest north of all the branches and has accounts in all New England states as well as many in Eastern New York.  The Hatfield branch sells seed to farmers all over the Northeast, does custom spraying applications for growers, and delivers bulk tanks and individual cases of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides to clients.

During my internship I am doing a wide variety of things to better help me learn about both the agricultural business in the Northeast and the business that Helena conducts.  At some point, I plan on riding along with a salesman to different customers.  Later in the summer, I will be conducting tissue and soil samples for clients to help them better manage their crops and achieve desired yields.  Currently, I am driving around the Northeast delivering orders of chemicals to growers.  In the one week I have been on the job so far, I have driven through every state in New England except Maine.  I have been on busy throughways, toured county roads, and have found myself lost on old dirt roads barely fit to be a horse path.  Most importantly, though, I have learned that the Northeast is a very prosperous and diverse agricultural region.

Unloading product at Cohen Farms in Connecticut

Many of the places I have made deliveries to are not what I would classify as “traditional” operations.  When I think of agriculture, I think of dairy farming and cornfields.  While I have driven by many dairy farms, I have not delivered to any.  Instead, I have discovered a diverse agricultural industry that I did not think existed in New England.  I have stopped at many apple orchards of various sizes all over Vermont and New Hampshire.  I always knew there were orchards in New England, but I did not imagine them to exist at the level I witnessed.  In Central and Eastern Massachusetts I stopped at few greenhouse operations.  While most were small roadside operations that had a greenhouse or two, I stopped at one so big a security guard had to check all outgoing vehicles to make sure no one was stealing products!  I had a hard time just getting into the place.  There were workers zooming around in golf carts and little Kubota tractors scooted about everywhere towing racks of potted plants from one greenhouse to another.  Sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  In Rhode Island, I stopped at one vegetable farm where I was given a warm loaf of bread by a couple of older men who were very hospitable and would not let me leave.  Thirty minutes later, I was given a cold stare down by a turf farmer that had an office that looked like it should have been Donald Trump’s.  Not only are the operations of New England diverse, but I guess the people are too.

Some equipment from the turf farm.

Besides agricultural clients, Helena offers a wide variety of products for both landscaping and ornamental plants.  I had stops at many lawn and garden centers as well as a handful of tree service operations.  The highlight of these stops, though, was taking an order of about ten cases to the grounds crew of Mohegan Sun.  I ended up sitting in the bus lot for an hour waiting with a guy who is connected to the Farm Aid concerts while I was able to sit and eat lunch.  Good thing I am not 21 or I probably would have lost the keys to the delivery truck at the Roulette Wheel.

Mohegan Sun.

I’m still trying to learn the ins and outs of the job.  For now I am preoccupied with battling traffic jams and uncooperative GPS systems.  As time goes on, I plan on chatting more with growers to learn about their operations and on learning more about the different applications of all the cases of chemicals I’m hauling all around New England.  For now, though, I am just going to take in all the different types of agriculture that New England has to offer while praying that my GPS does not send me down any more horse paths.


Adventures in the North Country: Adirondack Pride and Moth Hunting

Greetings from the North Country! I am currently in Plattsburgh, New York as an intern at the Clinton County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Over the next two months, I will be learning just what it means to work in extension. This will include conducting research on both leek moth dispersion across northern New York and farmer awareness of soil health and issues. I will also be performing miscellaneous jobs with all the agents in the office so that I may become exposed to multiple viewpoints.

I’m half-way through my third day on the job and one thing I already love is the camaraderie among the people who live in the “North Country”. Within the Adirondacks, you can immediately feel the connection between the people and the scenery (which I might add is absolutely stunning). There is also a pride in the work that is done here, and it shows in how they market themselves. For example, I was discussing a program called Adirondack Harvest with my supervisor, Amy Ivy. She told me how much thought in detail was put into the logo, which includes an apple tree, a tilled field, the Adirondack Mountains, a lake and most notably, the classic Adirondack chair. Displaying highlights of the region has allowed the “Northern Country” to create their own regional brand.

My view from the Lake Clear Lodge

Yesterday, I joined my supervisor Amy and the livestock agent, Peter Hagar, in attending the Northern New York Agricultural Summit. Around 25 individuals involved with extension in Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Essex and Jefferson counties gathered at the Lake Clear Lodge to discuss issues and opportunities across the region. This ranged from economic development strategies, optimizing the regional brand of the Adirondacks and various ways to increase productivity within the office. One of the most interesting portions for me personally was when Margaret Smith of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and Dave Smith of the CALS Northern NY Agricultural Development Program spoke about a grant received worth $500,000. They called on the staff present at the Summit for ideas for priority areas needing research. They encouraged the agents to find a researcher with whom they could collaborate, strengthening the ties between Cornell and the Cooperative Extension program. They also had hoped that these funds would be allotted to projects that could impact as many of the six “North Country” counties as possible. I was really inspired by both the desire to work together as a region as well as the opportunity that receives such a large grant permits. Different agents volunteered a few ideas, such as researching the needs of agricultural labor or creating jobs for different specialists in dairy or crops. Each individual was also encouraged to think within their own office and submit ideas in the coming fall.

Leek Moth Damage in Clinton County

In my first few days, I’ve already had the opportunity to be a part of research. Considering the research aspect is the most fascinating part for me personally, I was beyond excited that I started in my very first day. Leek moth, which was actually first spotted in United States in Plattsburgh, is a serious pest to members of the Allium family. The pupae feed on the crops, which stunts growth. I started out by researching the basics and then proceeded to do farm visits to learn about how they are being monitored. Currently, traps are being set up in areas where leek moth is known to have been. These traps have a pheromone that attracts and then holds the moth within them. On Friday, after setting up at three different farms in Clinton county, my supervisor actually received an email about leek moth being spotted for the first in Essex county! Sure enough, after examining onions this morning and finding twelve different pupae, it was confirmed that they are now present in Essex. Considering how far south this little moth would have had to travel, the new question to look into is how did these moths end up there?

I’m scheduled to do my first solo farm visit this afternoon and will be travelling across the state in hunt of more leek moths later in the week. Until next time!

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