## Planter Analysis

One of my own personal projects for the summer includes doing planter analyses and sharing my results with farmers. When I say “planter analyses,” what I mean is calculating data in the field in order to reduce planter performance effects on corn yield. This post may be for the more agricultural machinery/agronomic savvy folks, but I still encourage all to read along! My apologies for the excessive length! 🙂

Farmers ask a lot out of their planter, and even minor planter wear can cause seed depth and distance placement variability to increase; potentially impacting yield (1).

By counting space between corn plants in a row, we can determine how consistent the planter is at placing a seed into the ground. Knowing this, we can determine plant population and how many bushels may be lost in each row due to inconsistent seed placement. Of course, it is much easier said than done.

Going out to the field and gathering the data to get started can often end up being quite an investigation. When you get to the field, first you have to determine which direction the farmer was planting in order to accurately determine which row in the field corresponds with the specific row unit on the planter. To do this you, must look for clues like tire tracks (which can be tricky when there are multiple tracks through the field; like from a sprayer). Often where the rows meet the headlands, you can tell when the farmer pulled the planter unit up and sat it back down. Usually the planter gets put down slightly earlier on the way into the field than out.

Next, it is important to get to a spot in the field that will generally be a sufficient sample of the entire field. Some university studies recommend gathering data from two different locations in the field to get a good sample, but we have found that generally one sample is good enough if you are not picking the best or worst-looking-spot in the field.

By measuring the space between 20 plants in each row of the planter, (which yes, this means a lot more work when the farmer has a 32 row planter rather than a 12 row planter) we can calculate standard deviation, plant population, average plant spacing, and bushels lost. Studies have determined that two standard deviations from the mean is the best a farmer can expect to get. This often has to do with the fact that germination rate is never going to be 100 percent, but rather 90-95 percent. So if the average plant spacing is 7 inches, any plant spacing of 5 to 9 inches means that we can account for zero bushels lost. When you go over two standard deviations, studies show between 2.5 and 4.5 bushels lost for every additional inch. We calculate 4 bushels lost for every additional inch over two standard deviations.

After entering all the data into a spreadsheet, each producer can see which rows on their planter have the most variance in plant spacing and how many bushels it may be costing them. If a certain row is significantly high, resulting in a high yield loss, it may be necessary to go back to the field and check again. If upon a second examination of the row, the specific row on the planter may need to be looked at for mechanical error. Not only does the producer get to see the results of their planter, but the farmer can compare them to the results of other anonymous producers’ planters done throughout previous years. Planters are also organized by make, for easy comparison between brands. If you are a John Deer person, you would be happy to know those are the planters that have generally been our top performers.

We do planter analyses generally for new seed customers, clients with new planters, or for those who might be considering buying a new one, and also prospective clients. Every farmer I have shown our results to enjoys seeing how they compare to others, and is grateful that we do this, because after all, MaxYield prides itself on being a solutions provider, not just a provider of stuff. If you are interested, I’ve also attached a couple of links to university articles dealing with the subject.

## A little late as this year’s alfalfa

Almost everyone around me seemed to have a rebirth after completing their last final. Summer comes as people are enthusiastically striving to materialize their ambition. The summer should be used wisely. You can either experience sunshine, beach, and beer; or trade it for intellectual challenges in a meaningful internship–one of the most important differences is that in the former, you will have to pay the bill; and in the latter, you become more intelligent.

My name is Chang Lian, a transfer student originally from China Agricultural University. I am a rising senior at Cornell, majoring in Agricultural Sciences. After reading a couple of articles from others, I think it would be a better start by sharing how I got my internship, and my suggestions for getting a position. Later, I will share fun things about my experiences in the last month, like how a “once-city-boy” got scared to death by a herd of cows!

Internships do not come along without effort. You get what you sow. Though there are many methods of obtaining a position from the Internet, word of mouth still proves effective.

I got my internship by asking our dearest major director, Toni, if he knew anyone doing soil science research who was recruiting undergrads. This is how I started working with the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program, with Assoc. Prof. Quirine Ketterings. I simply sent her a couple of emails confirming an appointment, and went to her office. It was as simple as visiting a friend. I believe that such academic internships, especially on campus, are more easily accessible than commercial ones, which can require rather strict recruiting procedures, and sometimes a face to face interview (for students, skipping classes for an interview might be a considerable cost). For those of you interested in working in academia, your instructor and major director are a great starting point.

This post came a little late, as it is now the first cut for alfalfa. My research tasks involve not only lab and greenhouse work, but field work as well. We have collaborated with two commercial farms for the research of potassium management for alfalfa. Our harvest schedule depends on the farmers. One to three days before their large scale harvest, we visit our research plot and harvest.

I hope that if you’re an incoming Cornell student this fall, you can enjoy our stories in the summer internship blog and, if possible, please comment!

## Syngenta Crop Protection

Hi all, I recently got added to the interns blog so I have a lot of catching up to do.  First off, my name is John Orlowski.  I am going to be senior this year double majoring in Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.  This summer I am a research intern with Syngenta Crop Protection.  Syngenta is the largest pure agriculture company in the world.  They deal with agricultural chemicals, seed and crop traits like many of the other large companies.

So how did I get this internship, you might ask?  Well, I asked for it.  Funny huh?  I was in the AgSci Seminar (AGSCI 4010) one day and Toni briefly mentioned that he had an internship request for Syngenta.  So after the seminar, I went up to his office and looked at the posting.  It said Syngenta was looking for a long term (9-12 month) intern.  That is a little bit too long for a summer position.  A lot of people would have gave up on it at this point.  BUT DON’T GIVE UP, really.  I just e-mailed the contact for the position and told him that I was qualified, but I could only work three months during the summer.  He asked me to send my resume, which I did.  They liked it, so we set up an interview at the Glenwood Pines (best eats in Ithaca) and then a couple of weeks later, they offered me the job.  I am not tooting my own horn here.  I just want others to know that it usually doesn’t hurt to ask….SO ASK.  Also here are some tidbits I learned from the interview:

• Most of the time an employer is going to care more about what kind of person you are and what work ethic you have, compared to classes or previous jobs.
• Include those little summer jobs like baby sitting or working at a summer camp with kids- they can really show a lot about you.
• Make sure that you list your volunteer and other activities, again what kind of person are you?
• The best way to be able to write a good resume is to actually be the kind of person that would have a good resume.  Being at Cornell, you are one of the brightest and most blessed people in this country/world.  Make sure that you give to people who are less fortunate than you, and care more about other people than yourself.  I know it can be easy to get caught up in “my life is so hard” but when that happens, take everything into perspective and you will realize that you really have it good.

Well that is all for now.  I’ll write a bunch more to get you caught up on some more lessons learned.  Take care.

## Who is MaxYield Cooperative?

Yes, I have landed a summer internship with MaxYield Cooperative this summer… what, you are not from northern Iowa and do not know who MaxYield is? Well before I start blogging for the summer, let’s get you caught up on who MaxYield is, what they do, and where I fit into the mix.

Agricultural cooperatives were first formed because the founders understood that the power and strength of many producers doing business together was greater than doing business alone. MaxYield is an Agricultural Cooperative, headquartered in West Bend, Iowa (See Google Map Here!), and has 18 total facilities located across north central Iowa.

MaxYield’s vision is: We see more in your fields.

What this means is that MaxYield Cooperative prides itself on being more than just a provider of stuff; rather MaxYield is a solutions provider. They provide solutions for many different agricultural areas including grain, agronomy, energy, and feed.

My mentor for the summer is Greg Sweeney, East Area Seed Solutions Specialist. My seed & agronomy internship falls within the agronomy aspects of MaxYield Cooperative; which includes, but is in no way limited to, crop scouting, selling seed, seed treatment, and seed plots. Of course, hopefully by the end of the summer I get to dip my hand into every aspect of MaxYield’s business. More on all of this to come!

## Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

I’m quickly learning that the renewable energy scene in New York is quite a muddle. Individual organizations and people are approaching the issue from every possible angle, but there isn’t much communication going on between all the different efforts. No one seems to know what the big picture is. For New York, this state of affairs means that often people are reinventing the wheel instead of improving upon previous efforts. For me, it’s difficult to find needed information.

Problem: lack of communication makes finding information difficult. Solution: network! Perhaps nobody knows the big picture, but many people know about energy initiatives in their areas. The most successful strategy I’ve tried so far was to send an email to all the county Small Farms Educators asking about farms they know of that are using renewable energy. We only need to schedule 3-4 field days, but I’m also creating a database of all the responses. I’ve gotten leads not only on small farms, but also on renewable energy technology companies and energy education/training programs. I’m sure that I won’t learn about all the renewable energy initiatives in the state, but the database will be a good start. It’ll be accessible for the Small Farms Energy Work Team to use and grow after I leave, too!

Through the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), organic farms now have access to grant money through Organic EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program). NRCS staff and organic representatives met yesterday to develop a working relationship. As the official note-taker, I was in the ultimate fly-on-the-wall position.

This meeting was a great example of what I’d like to see happening in regards to renewable energy in New York. A gap – or should I say, an opportunity for improved communication and collaboration was identified… and people got together to take advantage of it!   …

In addition to these observations, I came away with some questions of my own. I was stunned by the amount and specificity of the information required from a farm to become certified organic and to maintain certification. Fay Benson, my Organic Dairy Initiative supervisor and a host of the NRCS meeting, assured me that the paperwork required is far above and beyond that required for conventional farms. I’m used to thinking of farmers as independent; why would an increasing number of farmers voluntarily submit to this kind of oversight? How much of the consumer food dollar goes to the organic certifiers? Perhaps it’s this kind of regulation that some consumers are looking for. Consumers have been increasingly separated from the food production process since World War II and it seems that many have lost trust as well as touch when it comes to food producers. I’m not sure that farmers deserve the brunt of this sentiment (food processors have certainly affected the system at all points), but if consumers are reassured by stringent organic regulations I can certainly understand the appeal. There’s much musing, discussing, and studying to be done here!

## Gearing Up

Welcome! I’m a student in Cornell’s Agricultural Science major, getting ready to graduate in December. This summer, I’m working for – and blogging about – the Small Farms Program and the Organic Dairy Initiative. As an intern, I have the opportunity to learn these programs inside and out by:

• organizing renewable energy field days and organic dairy field days;
• profiling the renewable energy strategies of farms;
• assisting with a field trial to test the incorporation of brassicas into pasture;
• profiling small dairies;
• assisting with editing the Small Farms Quarterly;
• updating relevant websites

The list may change, of course; one of the qualifications for the job is “willingness to learn quickly and work in a flexible environment.”

I’ll be keeping my own blog and publishing excerpts here. Check out Small Farms Program Intern for more!