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The Dudley Smith research farm in Illinois is tiled and wired. Todd Gleason has more on how the University of Illinois is doing nitrogen loss research near Pana.
Farmers gathered this week for a peek at the nitrogen loss control methods installed in Christian County. It’s a farm that rolls just a bit, but is pretty typical for the area other than the pastures on a portion of it. They came to hear from Laura Christianson. She’s a University of Illinois Crop Scientist, “At the Dudley Smith farm we have a wood chip bioreactor installed. A wood chip bioreactor is a little mini water treatment plant to clean nitrate out of tile drainage. The thing that makes the Dudley Smith bioreactor different is that is has baffles inside it. So, rather than the water just running straight through the wood chips, like most bioreactors, this bioreactor has baffles in it to make the water move in more of an S shape to improve how much nitrate is taken out of the drainage water”.
Early indications are the baffle is working as hoped. Wood chip bioreactors, even without the baffles, can remove between 20 and 40 percent of the annual nitrate load from a tile line. It’s technology farmers are interested in seeing and hopefully, says Christianson, deploying, “I think farmers are interested in wood chip bioreactors because it is something they can do that doesn’t impact their production practices. It is an edge of field practice, so you can keep on in the field however you are comfortable, but this catches that nitrate at the edge of the field before it goes down stream”.
A bioreactor is pretty simple to build. Use a backhoe to make a trench near the end of the tile, put a plastic liner in the trench, fill it with wood chips, be sure to have control structures on the inlet and outlet, and cover it with dirt. The chips will need to be replaced about every 10 years.
There are just two items that make the difference between a top third farm and an average farm. This University of Illinois study was on a small set in McLean County. This was done to limit the influences of weather and a few other factors. Gary Schnitkey says he wanted to know why some farms made more than others. Turns out, the answer is pretty simple say the ag economist, “What we found were distinct cost differences between the two groups. This was a $45 per acre difference between the average group and the high return group. The $45 came primarily in two items; machinery depreciation and interest cost.”
The more profitable farms tended to have lower machinery and non-land interest cost. The two are related.
If you buy more machinery, you have more depreciation and likely more interest costs. Other differences included storage costs, with high profit farms storing less at elevators and their cost of hired labor was lower, too. Over all, these farms usually had lower costs, but these are the cost groups that stood out.
A couple of notes. The most profitable farms expanded acreage at a faster pace than those in the average group. They also had higher average yields for soybeans and did a better job of marketing soybean.
Research from the University of Illinois is helping to determine the quality of protein in wheat middlings and red dog. Both are co-products of the wheat milling process. Each can be fed to pigs and other livestock.
There is information about the digestibility of crude protein in some wheat co-products produced in Canada and China, says University of Illinois Animal Scientist Hans Stein, but only very limited information about the nutritional value of wheat middlings and red dog produced in the United States.
Stein and U of I researcher Gloria Casas fed wheat middlings from 8 different states and red dog from Iowa to growing pigs. Despite the variety in the wheat middlings sources the concentration of crude protein were generally consistent. However, they did find some variation in the digestibility of the amino acids.
The red dog contained slightly less crude protein than wheat middlings.
Stein says the results of this study provide guidance to producers who hope to incorporate wheat co-products into diets fed to pigs. The paper appears in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Animal Science. The National Pork Board provided funding for the study.