Burning Residue

From Fred Vocasek, senior lab agronomist:

Occasionally, the question of just how much fertilizer value is lost due to burning the stubble comes up. It often is an issue when a fire gets out of control and someone wants to include nutrient loss as part of an insurance claim.

Here is a Crop File that can be a useful reference in these situations: Burning crop residue nutrient losses.

From the file:

Crop residue can be burned off either accidentally or deliberately as part of a controlled burn program. In
some cases, burning can replace the cost of a tillage operation when residue is extra heavy. Corn residue
is probably most susceptible to accidental burning, but wheat and soybean residues are also vulnerable.
Crop residue contains nutrients which can be recycled to replace part of the nutrients removed by grain
harvest. Nutrient loss from the burned residue is a major concern for damage assessments. After the
fire, a common question is “What went up in smoke”?

Initial amount of residue
The first step to assess nutrient loss is estimating the amount of residue that would have been present
before the fire. A yield of one to two bushels of grain typically results in about a pound of residue,
depending on the crop and weather conditions. Table 1 provides a quick way to estimate the
predicted residue weight. Multiply the yield as bushels per acre (bu/ac) by the index value.
For example, the grain sorghum index value is “60″. If the the crop yield was 70 bu/ac, the estimated residue
weight would be about 4200 pounds per acre (70 bu/ac x 60 = 4200 lb/ac). Dividing this result by
“2000″ yields the residue weight in “tons per acre (ton/ac)”.

G:FileDrawer - Technical!CropFile developmentCF04 Soil Managm


Servi-Tech Celebrates 40 years

Servi-Tech Celebrates 40th Anniversary

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Forty years ago, insects in fields were uncontrollable, vehicles did not have air conditioning and there was no way to contact a customer or another crop consultant on the road.

To say that things have changed since Servi-Tech was founded in 1975 is a massive understatement.

Servi-Tech was formed in Dodge City, Kan. by three farmer-owned cooperatives that saw a need to provide technical services for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. The group expanded into northeast Colorado in 1981, into Nebraska in 1983, and into Iowa in 2000.


An aerial shot, late 1970s, at Dodge City’s original laboratory building with crop service. When it was founded in 1975, Servi-Tech only had 13 employees. SERVI-TECH ARCHIVES

Today, Servi-Tech’s crop consultants provide independent analysis of crops and put their focus and dedication on the producer.

Servi-Tech started with 13 employees. Now, the company employs more than 170 people in five states, including three laboratories in Dodge City, Kan.; Amarillo, Texas; and Hastings, Neb.

“During the next 40 years, we will continue to add new technologies and enhance our service offering – Servi-Tech will continue to set the bar for agronomy service providers,” said Greg Ruehle, Servi-Tech President and CEO.

Jeff Kugler, CEO of Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services, or STEPS, just celebrated his 39th year with the company. STEPS, LLC, focuses on special projects such as remote moisture sensing and irrigation water management through the use of TheProfiler.

“In 1976, once you left the house you had no communication with growers unless you saw them on the road,” Kugler said.

Now, cell phones, text messages and the Internet make communication easier.


Servi-Tech Agronomist Matt Mimick installs TheProfiler in some greenhouse tomatoes near Omaha, Neb. Over the past 40 years, Servi-Tech has increased its focus and dedication on new technology in agriculture. COURTESY PHOTO

Kugler said agriculture has made tremendous strides in technology over the years. Those strides have increased yields and made better use of water available to growers.

Forty years ago, all fields were treated the same way with fertilizer, planting rate and water application. Today, with Servi-Tech’s help, they have gone high tech in the areas of variable rate fertilizer, seeding and water.

“We now can identify variations in the field by the square yard and adjust inputs accordingly,” Kugler said. “Growers are getting more out of every acre because of the improvement in hybrid characteristics, and higher tech planters and fertilizer applicators.”

Corn, soybean and milo yields have improved 20%-40% compared to the yields in the ‘70s. Kugler attributes the increase in yields to better hybrids, biotech traits and other technologies to boost yields.

Center pivots today include high-tech sprinkler packages to more efficiently deliver water to crops. Buried drip tape and calibrated drip hoses help improve the efficiency of delivering water to crops by 15 to 20 percent over traditional nozzles. These efficiencies help growers improve their irrigation practices, even in cases where water restrictions have been implemented.

“Farm equipment today is loaded with features driven by computers, computer software and equipment location monitored with GPS. We can capture and analyze all types of data,” Kugler said. “Forty years ago, little data was captured except final yield. It is still all about the final grain yield, but today the grower is more efficient with cropping inputs while increasing the output, the yield.”

Working towards its purpose of “Making the Planet More Productive,” Servi-Tech continually invests for the future. Utilizing technology such as precision farming and data management, Servi-Tech continues to be on the leading edge of technology, science, and agriculture.

Over the past 40 years, Servi-Tech has set the mark for offering independent agronomic and laboratory services to its customers. “One thing that will never change is our focus on making the customer more efficient and profitable – our contribution to ‘making the planet more productive,” Ruehle said.

About Servi-Tech

Servi-Tech, the country’s largest agronomic firm, was organized in 1975 by three farmer-owned cooperatives to provide technical service for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. Today, Servi-Tech provides consulting to approximately 2,000 farmers across seven states and over 1 million acres. Servi-Tech Laboratories has agricultural customers in all 50 states and over six countries.



From Fred Vocasek, Senior Lab Agronomist:

We are getting lab questions about a particular Soil Quality Enhancement to qualify for NRCS payments under the CSP program. It is “SQL15 – Utilize soil health nutrient tool soil nutrient pools”. This refers to what is commonly called the “Haney” test, more properly the “H3A soil extraction method.”

Several labs are offering Soil Health tests, from $50 to $75 each. (Not grid-sample friendly.) This is a package that is claimed to be an “integrated” way “to mimic nature’s approach to soil nutrient availability.” It includes a series of tests that are supposed to measure microbial respiration and carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratios for the Soil Health Calculation (SHC) score.

What do the test numbers mean? Right now, we don’t know. The soil health experts will honestly state that these tests are not correlated either to yield or to productivity. An SHC score above “10” is considered to represent a “healthy” soil, but that number has no apparent relationship to yield or input costs.

Soil health tests are another attempt to account for the microbial contribution to soil fertility. The NRCS materials state that, “Studies show less than 50 percent of the nitrogen in harvested plant parts can be attributed to added fertilizers.” Some farmers are coming away from certain NRCS meetings assuming they can cut their fertilizer rates by half or eliminate fertilizer altogether.

The H3A soil test package does include NO3, P, and K tests. Nitrate is determined using the same method as any other lab, including Servi-Tech. The H3A phosphorus and potassium results are said to be highly correlated with Mehlich results. The labs that offer the test do not make nutrient recommendations from the H3A analysis, but use the current, proven test methods. Dr. Haney offers recommendations, but they are based only on crop removal, which can easily over- or underestimate the phosphorus response.

A test using a “SolVita” kit is promoted as a way to estimate microbial activity by capturing and measuring the carbon dioxide generated by microbial respiration. Measuring microbial activity is difficult. There have been many, many different methods proposed to predict such activity. They often work well under controlled laboratory conditions, but are intermittently successful when applied to the field. Microbes are heavily affected by daily changes in temperature and soil moisture.

Several laboratories have discontinued use of the SolVita kit due to lack of consistency or to excess costs. One lab found the test results were different if the soil sample was taken at 50°, 60°, or 70° soil temperature. I attended a meeting in Nebraska where a dried and ground soil sample held in storage for over a decade had a “12” score (considered “healthy”) while the undisturbed, native grass plot only had a score of “5” thus would be ranked “not healthy.” These test results may or may not be linked to field reality, so need to be viewed with caution.

Soil health discussions refer to the C:N ratio and the role of cover crops, which are supposed to provide food for the soil microbes. Simply stated, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for soil microbes is equivalent to the energy-to-protein ratio in livestock feeding. Most soil organic matter has a C:N ratio of 10, which would be equivalent to a beef ration with 35% to 36% crude protein. When the soil C:N ratio drops to 40 or below (equivalent to about 9% crude protein), soil microbes compete with seedling plants for the limited soil nitrate supply. This situation can be remedied by adding about 20 lb N/ac before planting or possibly by including an annual legume in the cover crop mix.

Soil health or soil quality is a large-scale, national initiative to maintain and improve our soil resource. The “Haney” test is being promoted as new and innovative, but actually employs concepts and techniques that are decades old. Soil health testing may some day have a place in soil resource management. Today there is little or no research information to validate claims being made. Today the soil health test number is just a number that is needed to qualify for CSP funds. A lot more research will be needed to determine if it is a valid tool for making better recommendations or soil management decisions.


Servi-Tech Distributes Over $245,000 in Cash Patronage

Servi-Tech Distributes Over $245,000 in Cash Patronage

Servi-Tech, Inc. recently distributed more than $245,000 in cash patronage to its cooperative owners for business activity during the last crop-growing season.

“Patronage distributions make Servi-Tech a unique leader in agronomic and laboratory services,” said Servi-Tech CEO Greg Ruehle. “These distributions are based on total business activity by each Common and Preferred shareholder, and the patronage percentage is approved by the Servi-Tech Board of Directors each year.”Servi-Tech currently has 63 Common Stock and 96 Preferred Stock members. Patronage payments are determined by the amount of business each member does with Servi-Tech’s crop Services and Laboratory divisions.

Servi-Tech has increased its service offerings over the past several years, including precision ag tools, soil moisture monitoring technology, and upgrades to the three laboratories. These advancements have helped further establish Servi-Tech as the nation’s leading source of agronomic knowledge.

“Patronage creates a true partnership between Servi-Tech and our owners,” Ruehle said. “Since 1975, we have allocated $10 million of patronage dividends to members, with almost $3 million of that total in cash payments.”

Servi-Tech, the nation’s largest agronomic firm, was organized in 1975 by three farmer-owned cooperatives to provide technical service for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. Today, Servi-Tech provides consulting to approximately 2,000 farmers across seven states and over 1 million acres. Servi-Tech Laboratories has agricultural customers in all 50 states and over six countries. For more information visit http://www.servitech.com.

Congressional Visit Day

From Fred Vocasek, senior lab agronomist:

I spent Tuesday in Washington D.C. helping with the Congressional Visit Day, sponsored by the Science Policy office of the Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Science Societies. A total of 55 people made up fourteen teams who visited nearly a hundred Congressional offices. The teams were assigned to the Representatives and Senators from their own state – Kansas in my case.  We met with staff, usually a Legislative Assistant working for the Senator or Representative. Our objective was to ask the Congressional member to support funding for agricultural research in the upcoming 2016 budget negotiations.

Our team consisted of myself; Trevor Rife, whose K-State PhD research is focused on wheat genetic improvement; Katrina Larkin, a December K-State grad, farm wife, assistant agronomy manager at Mid-Kansas Coop, and who took top overall at last fall’s Australian Universities Crop Competition; and Bill Cook, Society Publications Director. During our office visits, we each explained to the Legislative Assistant how the investment in ag research funding benefitted our business and our customers.  All of them were supportive, but pointed out the reality of the budget negotiations.

The President’s budget requests  spending up to $450 million in the USDA budget for the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI).  The various House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees negotiate the final amount that will be spent, which will be $325 million in 2015.  AFRI is a program that awards grant dollars to approved research projects.  In 2013, a total of 1400 projects were approved for funding, but only 350 projects were finally funded.

AFRI grants support over 2000 students including undergrads, grad students, and researchers. As an example, Kansas State has an AFRI grant to study the wheat blast fungus, a devastating disease recently identified in Brazil. Another AFRI grant is funding a study of sorghum genetics to improve bioenergy production. AFRI has a direct impact on Servi-Tech. The grants fund many other research and Extension projects across the U.S., resulting in the technologies which we implement with our own customers. We also depend on the professors that earn degrees under AFRI projects to train our current and future crop consultants and lab staff.

1. Roberts office visit

L-R: Trevor Rife, Bill Cook, Sen. Pat Roberts, Katrina Larkin, Fred Vocasek

2. waiting for appt (1)

We often waited in the hallway outside of the Congressional office. The offices are rather small, with little seating.  There were many other groups visiting Congressional offices during this time, so we waited our turn.

3. train

We usually had to walk between the Congressional office buildings, distances of a fourth to a third of a mile.  Once we had a Congressional intern escort us by taking an underground train, restricted to Congressional members and staff.  Sen. Marco Rubio (Rep., Florida) steps off the train as we step on.

4. Pompeo office vist

Office visit with Rep. Mike Pompeo, 4th District (south central Kansas, including Wichita).

5. Jenkins visit

Office visit with Rep. Lynn Jenkins, 2nd District (eastern Kansas, including Topeka).

Ryan Meister Named Director of Technology

Ryan Meister

Ryan Meister

As technology drastically changes the agricultural landscape, Servi-Tech is reinvesting in its commitment to high-tech applications in agriculture.

It is with pleasure that Servi-Tech announces that Ryan Meister will be changing his role within Servi-Tech to Director of Technology Development. In this new role, Meister will be responsible for assisting Servi-Tech’s crop service division in technology training, creating consistent technology services throughout the company, working with our software vendors to increase usefulness, helping grow technology based revenue for crop service, and looking for and creating new technology service offerings.

“Ryan will bring consistency and expertise to this role, designed to enhance the overall level of the adoption of technology within Servi-Tech’s agronomy staff,” said Pete Kruse, Servi-Tech Director of Operations. “We are proud to have Ryan on our staff, and look forward to the changes ahead.”​

Meister has been the eastern Nebraska territory manager for the past two years, and has been with the company for 11 years.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to bring new technology to our customers,” Meister said. “The rate at which new tools are being made available will provide new opportunities in ag, and I hope to utilize these new tools along with our agronomy expertise for the benefit of our customers.”

This move will make room for a new territory manager in eastern Nebraska. Servi-Tech is currently accepting applications to fill this position.

Servi-Tech Names New CEO

Greg Ruehle

Greg Ruehle

Servi-Tech is pleased to begin a new era of making the planet more productive with their announcement of Greg Ruehle as the new president and CEO.

Ruehle will begin his position in January after the retirement of Mitch Counce, who has served as president and CEO since 1992.

“I am thrilled to be joining Servi-Tech – a company that I believe is uniquely positioned to provide leadership to agriculture now and into the future,” he said. “As an expert in agronomy, lab analyses and precision agriculture, Servi-Tech fills a growing need for unbiased data and advice.”

Ruehle was raised on a diversified, family-owned grain and livestock farm in northwestern Iowa and still provides management oversight today on behalf of the family. He is a graduate of Texas Christian University’s Ranch Management Program and has a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University.

He has more than 20 years of executive leadership experience including: Director of Private Lands, Water and Environment for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Washington DC; Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Cattlemen; and Executive Secretary of the American Shorthorn Association. He comes to Servi-Tech from the Independent Professional Seed Association where he has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2005.

“On behalf of the members and leadership of IPSA, I want to thank Greg for nearly a decade of service to IPSA,” said IPSA president Lou Buice.

Servi-Tech leadership welcomed Ruehle in a statement from the board of directors.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Greg’s caliber carry on the outstanding leadership that Mitch Counce has provided since 1992,” read the statement.

Ruehle will assume management duties at Servi-Tech mid-January.

Servi-Tech, the country’s largest agronomic firm, was organized in 1975 by three farmer-owned cooperatives to provide technical service for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. Today, Servi-Tech provides consulting to approximately 2,000 farmers across seven states and over 1 million acres. Servi-Tech Laboratories has agricultural customers in all 50 states and over six countries.