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Something Different and Back to School

It is hard to believe that summer break has come to an end already, and with that so has my internship at Edgewood Farms, LLC.  My last couple days working with the Phelps family was a little change of pace from the normal agronomy work I did the majority of the summer.  Three of my last four days at Edgewood consisted of preparing for the 2020 season.  Unfortunately, this prep consisted of brush hogging all the organic land that was not able to be planted this spring and had been over run by weeds.  My very last day I was excited about because it was something that I am very familiar with given that I come from a cow-calf farm.  My boss, Clayton and I left the farm at 5:30 AM to make the three-hour road trip to Norwich, NY to sort out and load up feeder steers that he was purchasing from an elderly heart surgeon who was selling all his animals.  When we arrived at the farm we meet with Phil Trowbridge and his intern, Liz.  The first task was to separate all the steers out of a group of over 150 for us to take back to Groveland.  After upon completion of that, we sorted out a couple animals we didn’t want and loaded all 70 steers onto a tractor trailer.  When the trailer was loaded up and on the road, we helped Phil select 25 of the best looking heifers that he had found a home for along with his bull he had sold to this retiring farmer.  Even though the last day wasn’t agronomy related it was something I truly enjoyed and the long car ride gave Clayton and me a chance to recap on the summer and talk about possible opportunities in the future.

Crop Scouting and Planting Cover Crops

The past couple weeks have been pretty routine at Edgewood.  I have spent much of my time scouting the farms corn, soybeans, and dry beans.  When I was not scouting the crops, I was likely planting oats as a cover crop in all the fields that we unable to be planted this spring due to the extremely wet conditions we experienced.

Scouting has been relatively uneventful lately however; I suppose no news is good news when you are looking for insects and diseases.  All the time I spent walking through thousands of acres of corn I found no diseases and only insect pest I found was a patch of western bean cutworm eggs.  The eggs are often found on the top side of the upper most leaves and as they hatch the larva quickly move down to the ear, where they can cause significant damage.  An infestation of one cutworm per ear of corn can result in a yield loss of roughly 4% and up to 30-40% if there are several worms per ear.  It is recommended that an insecticide be applied if ~5% of the corn plants have either eggs or larva present.  Luckily, we never reached a threshold where treatment was necessary.

In dry beans and soybeans, the most common pest found was the red-headed flea beetle.  These insects eat the leaves of the plants and the threshold for treatment is based on percent defoliation and stage of the beans.  According to North Dakota State University, the action threshold is as follows: 30% defoliation in vegetative stages, 15% in bloom to pod-fill stages, and 25% in pod-fill to maturity stages.  The flea beetles in our fields didn’t cause anywhere near this amount of damage so again, like the cutworms in corn, treatment was not needed.

Fighting a Losing Battle and Trying New Things

This past week, members of the Edgewood Farm team, along with myself, tackled the exciting job of hand pulling waterhemp from a field of snap beans.  Waterhemp is in the Amaranth family which also includes other commonly found pigweed species.  Because it is a relative of pigweed, it can often be difficult to distinguish between the different species, especially as seedlings.  As waterhemp matures it becomes a little easier to identify because mature plants tend to have glossy and elongated leaves.  You might be wondering why we had to pull it by hand.  Unfortunately, waterhemp is resistant to many of the herbicides on the market today and that surly seems to be the case here since it was unphased by last years and this year’s herbicide applications.  Left unchecked the waterhemp would quickly spread out of control because a single plant can produce upwards of one million seeds.

Soybeans intercropped into wheat before wheat harvest.

Waterhemp Plant


On a more exciting note, wheat harvest is finally under way in Western New York.  As a bit of an experiment, a field of wheat was intercropped with soybeans for the first time at Edgewood.  Instead of planting the wheat with a grain drill, as is conventionally done, they planted it with their twin-row planter.  Then in May, the same twin-row planter was used to plant soybeans in between the rows of wheat. Last Thursday, the combine headed to the field to harvest the wheat and it yielded surprisingly well considering how poor it looked earlier thus year (lots of winter kill and drowned wheat).  Even though I will be back in school when soybean harvest takes place it will be exciting to hear how they turn out.  I imagine I will see more cropping systems like this in the future from Edgewood if this goes well and on paper it looks like it will return the largest profit per acre of all their crops.

Soybeans after wheat harvest.

Technology on the Farm

Hey everyone, welcome back!  Now that all the crops are actively growing my duties at Edgewood Farms, LLC has switched from helping with field work to primarily scouting.  With about 4,000 acres to be keeping an eye on, there is no shortage of work for me to do.  This might sound like a daunting task, but luckily, I have some neat technology to help me out.  I have two apps downloaded on my phone; the first is called Encirca, and the second is called Granular.

Encirca is a part of Pioneer and is capable of many tasks, however I use it to assist me in the monitoring of field health.  Some of the fields I’m responsible for scouting are well over 100 acres.  If one of these fields are an area of poor health, I would have a slim chance of realizing it unless I walked through it all, which would take all day.  I don’t know the exact details of how Encirca works but it utilizes satellite images that are taken daily and maps the health of your field.  This is useful because instead of aimlessly walking through the fields, I can look at my phone, see where the problem spots are, and make sure to check those specific areas when out scouting.  With as wet as it was earlier this summer, many of the “low health” areas are spots that were wet or the crop simply drowned out.  The one downside of Encirca is that on cloudy days (which there have been a lot of), the satellite can’t get a clear image of the fields so you have to rely of day from previous days.

The second app, Granular is one that all the employees on the farm have and it is where we either record work that we have done, or are assigned work by someone else. I se it to record all my notes from scouting and add pictures when necessary. My boss can later review my notes and we can talk about treatment options if there is an insect or weed problem that needs addressing.  A few weeks ago, I also used Granular to assign work orders to our sprayer operator for fields that were particularly weedy and needed to be sprayed sooner than later.



Edgewood Farms, LLC Internship

Hello, my name is Bryce Schuster and I am a soon to be senior, studying agricultural science.  This summer I am completing my internship at Edgewood Farms, LLC in Groveland, New York.  Edgewood Farms is primarily a crop farm, but also operates a small feedlot, and is an authorized reseller of drainage tile, bunk covers and bags, fencing supplies and agricultural GPS systems.  The main crops grown are corn and soybeans, however they also grow wheat, green beans, kidney beans, and black beans.  The mission at Edgewood Farms, LLC is to provide quality products and service to their customers, while maintaining the integrity of the land, animals and environmental resources.  My duties this summer consist mostly of crop scouting, tissue sampling, and field agronomic problem-solving.

This spring and the beginning of summer have made farming difficult to say the least here in Western New York.  It has rained constantly and been cooler than normal until a couple of weeks ago.  When I started the internship at the end of May, corn planting was just getting under way.  This meant all hands-on deck to get fields prepped and seed in the ground.  Without any crops for me to scout this meant I also got the opportunity to assist with field work in equipment that is much larger than I am used to on my farm.

My first week on the job consisted of learning the names and location of over 200 fields, making up almost 4,000 acres, spread over 3 townships; and running a Case IH 9180 with a chisel plow to fill in ruts made by the farms sprayer that was applying pre-emerge herbicide.  Edgewood Farms has made the transition to an almost entirely strip tillage or no-till cropping system so it is rare to see conventional tillage performed, such as chisel plowing.  However, when last fall and this spring saw excessive rainfall, it is inevitable that a 35,000 lbs. sprayer with narrow tires is going to sink into the ground more than is ideal.  I also got the chance to use their 40-foot-wide roller to roll fields that are planted to beans, making the ground as flat as possible to optimize yield by allowing the combine header to be run closer to the ground without risking damage by picking up a rock.

Soil erosion on a conventionally tilled corn field.

Now that crops are finally starting to germinate and emerge, I can begin my scouting.  When the crops were still in the VE stage my main focus was on taking stand counts and checking for insect damage.  With all the moisture, one problem associated with strip or no-till cropping systems became apparent.  While the residue on the ground from last years crop is good for soil moisture retention in dry periods and weed suppression, it also creates a great environment for slugs.  I never knew slugs could do so much damage to crops and unfortunately it is not an easy problem to control.  Slug bait is extremely expensive so purchasing enough to treat every field is not practical.  The best way to end the problem is for things to dry out a little bit.  I am looking forward to how the summer progresses and what knew things I can learn!

Slug damage.

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