Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Capital Press Sun, 20 Aug 2017 19:28:03 -0400 en Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Tucking in grass seed, hazelnuts for winter Thu, 6 Oct 2016 10:58:08 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Grass seed growers, like most farmers, know a successful crop has a lot to do with what happens directly after harvest. Several things are taken into consideration when putting a grass seed field to bed for the winter.

First, there’s cleaning up the post-harvest mess, said David McCready, senior agronomist at Wilco in Harrisburg, Ore.

“Grass seed straw and residue is removed by baling and/or flailing and redistributed to even things out,” McCready said. “If irrigation’s available, especially on dry, low water-holding soils, people often irrigate post-harvest, either to keep plants alive or for overall crop health.”

A soil-residual herbicide is usually applied to prevent or eliminate germinated seedlings.

“The biggest single thing are volunteers from the crop we just harvested,” he said. “The most efficient harvest operations can easily have 200-500 pounds of seed that didn’t get in the tank.”

Slugs and voles are perennial pests but grass seed crops rarely have problems with insects.

Growers will apply fall fertilizers as needed, based on soil testing and experience or use a balanced fertilizer. From the advent of GPS — global positioning systems — and a desire to manage field inconsistencies and use sustainable practices, the industry developed new variable-rate technology that creates application maps for individual nutrients. With variable rate, soil only gets what it needs.

Lime is commonly applied to balance pH and calcium levels as well.

“Our typical tall fescue farmer has to put a 1-ton application of top dress lime about the third year on a five-harvest rotation,” McCready said.

Potash is necessary to offset its removal with the straw. In quoting an Oregon State Extension Service article, McCready said a ton of tall fescue straw contains about 30 pounds of potassium.

“It takes 50 pounds of muriate of potash to replace what is removed,” McCready said, adding that straw yields run 2.5 to 4 tons per acre.

“We used to hardly remove any potash, especially when we burned fields, and now the majority of it seems to be baled,” McCready said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much is removed in the straw. We’ve just kind of mined the soil and suddenly we wake up to the stark reality that where we used to have good soil tests (and) now we don’t.”

Management of weeds, water, pests and soil are a perennial concern to most farmers, and each crop and location requires a different regime.

“With permanent crops like trees it’s crucial they get off to a good start,” McCready said. “Wilco puts a lot of time into year-round management of hazelnut orchards and the product Optimus looks promising in the establishment of hazelnut orchards.

“We’ve done side-by-side treatments and the difference in the size of a 5-year-old tree that got the full meal deal and one that got the standard stuff is pretty dramatic,” McCready said. “You don’t have to get your caliper out to see that they’re bigger — like half-again bigger trees.

“There are all kinds of secret sauces but those things won’t matter if the poor tree’s all stressed and hungry,” he said. “Understanding all the nuances of these things is impossible; understanding a lot of the nuances of these things is what separates the average grower from the exceptional ones.”

How to maintain ag equipment tires Thu, 6 Oct 2016 11:03:17 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Maintaining the proper inflation pressure is the most important thing you can do to maximize tire performance. Doing that can more than double the life of an agricultural tire that can cost thousands of dollars to replace.

Too much air decreases the flexing of the casing and results in a smaller footprint, increased compaction and a rougher ride. Too little air stresses the tire casing and leads to rapid wear. Either extreme hurts performance and can ruin a tire, the experts say.

“With all the different types of farms and agriculture, types of tires and air pressure recommendations depend on the type of equipment and its individual challenges,” said Joe LeBlanc, manager of Les Schwab Tire Co. in Albany, Ore. “In harvest season a farmer may go from swathing to combining to harvest into plowing, disking and sometimes planting and many pieces of farm equipment serve more than one purpose.”

After the dust has settled, it’s time for a thorough inspection of a farm vehicle’s tires and suspension.

“We just want to make sure the tires are prepped for winter,” LeBlanc said. “Is there any checking on the tire? With older tires the rubber gets brittle. How’s the tread wear? Is the ballast where it should be? We look for lug issues and maintaining the all-important tire pressure level which, even on the same tires, varies with the things it is used for.”

That includes road travel, an extremely demanding chore for most farm machines. Adding a little more pressure may be called for to help prevent irregular wear.

Many farmers have learned to make their own such calculations, be it with tire charts and load tables or the use of online tools that help determine the ideal pressure based on tractor weight, what’s being pulled and the speed traveled.

“A lot of farmers are really well educated on this and anymore there are programs, such as through the ag show,” LeBlanc said. “Some farmers will check it every day and everything has got to be exactly right.”

Les Schwab’s service program includes specialized route people who often work with the same farmers for years.

“There are farms with an incredible amount of rolling stock,” LeBlanc said. “Some may need a tire expert out there once or twice a week.”

LeBlanc said most, if not all, tire manufacturers offer warranties that can make all the difference if a tire unexpectedly fails.

“Tires are a major factor to have correct, especially with what it can cost in time in the field, field usage and overall quality of operations,” LeBlanc said. “Some of these implements have extremely heavy, hard pulls.”

Taking care of travelers keeps water coming Thu, 6 Oct 2016 11:00:54 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Travelers are an irrigation tool known for their flexibility and precision. They are also long-lived machines as long as they are properly cared for throughout the year.

Irrigation service technician Chris Ohler at Ernst Irrigation in St. Paul, Ore., works primarily with such systems.

“Ninety percent of my repairs happen on travelers,” Ohler said. “They’re basically giant winches that bring in the hose and the gun that waters the field from up to a quarter mile away.”

Travelers can be used on any crop and may be pointed into a corner of a field where no pivots or linears can go. They are frequently used at dairies to empty lagoons and distribute manure over fields.

“I’ve got farmers that have 15 machines and farmers that have one,” Ohler said, “and they all rely on that machine to apply water. We want it turnkey when early spring hits and not be out there doing drastic repairs at the last minute.

“It’s like a car; you get in and the check engine light comes on and you keep driving it and you notice that it’s steering funny and then all of a sudden it doesn’t stop as good as it used to,” Ohler said. “Everything has to work together right down to the nozzle and sprinkler at the end of the hose.”

Ernst Irrigation provides complete weatherization service in late fall and winter with periodic incentives.

“We grease the ring and pinion gears, oil the chains, change the engine oil and flush the radiator fluid,” Ohler said. “We drain the water out of the booster pump; if you leave water in there it’s going to crack. …And you want to blow all the water out of the hose, too, because it can rupture if it freezes.”

Throughout the year it’s important to pay attention to your machine, including keeping an eye on the oil, radiator fluid and the purity of its gasoline. Keep the filters clean and the chains tight.

“If you see a bearing starting to seize up or sound funny, call us to get it swapped out,” Ohler said.

Being proactive will prevent problems that can spell expensive downtimes and repairs.

“When a problem occurs, there is a lot of diagnosing and looking at evidence to see what caused it,” Ohler said. “For example, if your chain keeps jumping off on its way in you can just keep putting it back on or you can look and find a way to figure out why, which can be challenging because there may be 15 ways to go about fixing one problem and you’ve got to figure out which way to go.”

Repairing these machines also entails a good deal of fabrication work: cutting, grinding and welding.

“It’s amazing what one little set screw will do to a machine; it’ll completely stop it,” Ohler said, “But for the most part they’re pretty basic machines and can usually be fixed.”

ATVs need TLC as they take on more jobs Thu, 6 Oct 2016 10:59:47 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Since their introduction in the 1970s, all-terrain vehicles have become a valuable tool in agriculture.

“Like most pieces of ag machinery, when something happens — say the animals get out — you need it up and going,” Ed Stritzke, manager at Linn-Benton Tractor Co. in Silverton, Ore.

“Probably the most important thing is working with a dealer or repair shop that is in tune with an ATV’s agricultural functions,” he said. “A motorcycle shop in downtown Portland is not going to understand that it is a tool and a real workhorse.”

Once harvest is done and the fields are disked and replanted, ATVs should be winterized alongside other vehicles. Unlike most other farm vehicles, ATVs tend to be used throughout the year, which makes them easier to leave out of the end-of-season lineup for winter services.

“This is when I want to get that machine checked out,” Stritzke said. “We want to get it serviced: Dump that old oil that has accumulated acid and other impurities and get it away from the connecting rod and bearings.”

Any farm machine’s fate also depends on its care in the thick of the season when tires, filters and fluids need constant monitoring.

Once the dust settles, service includes preparing it for the challenge of doing nothing the rest of the year.

“It’s actually harder on equipment to sit idle than to be used,” Stritzke said. “It’s sort of like people. If you sit on the couch a lot you start to go downhill.”

The use of these versatile machines continues to expand across the ag spectrum, but perhaps nowhere as markedly as among Eastern Oregon’s livestock producers, who are starting to use ATVs for activities traditionally done on horseback.

“Typically a lot are still going to use horses,” Stritzke said. “Cows recognize horses as superior and they don’t spook the cattle. Four-wheelers make a different noise that can spook the animals. Another benefit of using horses is you’re sitting up higher and can see farther.”

There is no limit in sight for the ATV’s usefulness, bolstered by a continual stream of new accessories and technologies.

“Their uses and capabilities have exploded over the past 30-35 years,” Stritzke said. “Cab enclosures, winches, mapping out fields with GPS, soil sampling. ... Some can haul 1,500 pounds up to a ton and are being used as tractors. We had a Kubota ATV that was fitted with an orchard sprayer for hazelnut orchards. This unit will literally take the place of a tractor or laborer and has an electronic eye on it that knows when it gets to the tree.

“ATVs are smaller machines we often take for granted even though we rely on them the entire year,” Stritzke said. “It’s kind of like having our own children on the farm and then all of a sudden they’re gone and we have to find other teenagers to replace them.”

Trust offers incentives for farm improvements Thu, 6 Oct 2016 10:56:20 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Last year the Oregon Energy Trust assisted agricultural customers with more than 430 irrigation and greenhouse projects, distributing about $1.3 million in incentives.

Energy Trust offers rebates to farmers who acquire more energy-efficient equipment and lighting. Purchases don’t usually require pre-approval and may be made directly from vendors. Energy Trust also helps customers find qualified and knowledgeable vendors and contractors.

Similar energy-efficiency programs are available in other Western states through electric or natural gas utilities or state and federal government programs. Farmers and ranchers should check with their local soil and water conservation district, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service or their local utilities.

Energy Trust of Oregon works with Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, Cascade Natural Gas and Northwest Natural Gas and, as of Jan. 1, will serve Oregon Avista gas customers.

“The two main areas where we offer incentives are irrigation systems and greenhouses,” Energy Trust of Oregon Agriculture Program Manager Doug Heredos said. “Irrigation upgrades are primarily electrical; in greenhouses you’re saving natural gas.”

Irrigation incentives include the repair or replacement of components including worn sprinklers, nozzles, gaskets, mainlines and handlines. Reimbursements include $4 a sprinkler, $2.75 per gasket and $10 for a section of handline.

Certain projects such as converting from overhead to drip irrigation require pre-approval but may result in energy savings of up to 40 percent. Energy Trust can put farmers in touch with vendors that can provide estimates for such larger undertakings.

Among other arguments for drip irrigation is that its increasing popularity is bringing prices down and overall labor costs along with them.

“There is definitely less labor with many of these improvements; you don’t have to go out to the field to change the valve; many of the controls may be done by phone,” said Susan Jowaiszas, commercial-industrial marketing manager with Oregon Trust. “It really adds up.”

Heredos said a lot of farmers don’t take advantage of these resources.

“They don’t know how easy it is to apply or they think there are strings attached,” he said. “Irrigation is one of the top energy expenses for those farmers; it’s important to reduce that cost.”

The other main thrust of Energy Trust’s work is in greenhouse improvements that save natural gas.

“We offer incentives for replacing heaters with more efficient models or using a boiler under the plants and for installing controllers and replacing the material the greenhouse is made of,” Jowaiszas said. “In addition to saving energy costs, good controls and efficient running tend to make the grower a little less anxious during climate extremes.”

Energy Trust can also provide cash incentives for a range of renewable energy systems, including solar and hydropower. Many farms and wineries have installed solar panels in recent years.

“We deliver programs for every type of rate payer, whether residential, industrial, agricultural; whether you’re a commercial business or multi-family dwelling,” Jowaiszas said. “We encourage people to invest in energy efficiency and we support that by offering cash incentives and technical support.

“Investing in energy efficiency lowers everyone’s bill and reduces the need to build new energy resources,” Jowaiszas said. “It is less expensive to save a kilowatt-hour or a therm than it is to deliver it.”