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Podcast Ep. 130: Land Lab, Year 3

5 Nov 2020  •  Tony Kramer

Jake and Tony are back to talk about the Land Lab at North Dakota State College of Science.

Now, in year 3, the Land Lab is meant to help connect agriculture education to agriculture practices. RDO Equipment Co. is involved by providing the equipment and expertise needed, as well as implementing field trials to test new technology and provide the college and students with real data.

What were the biggest takeaways for this unique partnership in Year #3? Tune in to find out.

Missed an episode? Get caught up by visiting the Episode Archive.


Each month, we share the latest in agriculture technology. Don’t miss an episode by subscribing to our podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Have a story idea or a precision ag topic we should highlight? Connect with us on social media:  Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter and connect with podcast host, Tony Kramer on Twitter at: @RDOTonyK.


Catch the full transcript here:

Tony: Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 130. Today, we are back with Jake and Tony Talk. We are going to be talking about Land Lab year three. Yes, it is that time of the year again to recap what we did down at the North Dakota State College of Science Kosel Family Land Lab. Of course, this year it's happening a little bit sooner than we would normally recap, and that will all come to light as we talk about it here in this episode. Before we dive into the show, please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already.

With that, let's dive into the show, Jake. Year three Land Lab. Again, a little sooner recap than we would normally do, but that is due to the crop that was raised out there and really what we did for work. Diving into that, this was a unique year.

Jake: Yes, it was.

Tony: This was not a normal plant the crop, protect the crop, and harvest the crop. Now we did that on half of the field, but the other half there was a decision made between the school and their advisory board for the Land Lab, and in conjunction with us here at RDO, we had made the decision to focus on water management. Our goal was to get out there, do some surface ditching, some surface drainage. Now, this land is not tiled, so we do not have any subsurface drainage, but we were going out there to do some ditching, some scraping, whatever it may be.

Before we get too deep into that, Jake, why don't you just recap of what went on at the Land Lab out there, what happened, and then we can dive a little bit deeper on each one specific.

Jake: Really thinking about it, what we did at the Land Lab is not unlike what we saw through, really, the vast majority of our entire footprint here in the Red River Valley. If we think about it, as we turn the calendar over, maybe around the time you were listening to the recap of year two of the Land Lab, only about 40% to 50% of the corn crop had been harvested in the Red River Valley. There is a lot of fallow ground, a lot of cover crops, a lot of a ditch work, a lot of surface drainage, a lot of things that were done. Even though a person could look at the field and said, "Wow. You had almost perfect growing conditions.

You got what would've been extremely timely rains, and it was not a mudhole around the time when you would've been put in the crop in the ground,’’ I actually say, "Well, that was the case for hundreds if not thousands of people in this area, where they were all facing the exact same thing, where they literally had last year's crop still sitting in the field, or they had last year's residue that had not yet been sized, and they weren't going to plant a crop.’’ The north half of that field was fallow, south half of the field where we were doing the no-till trial.

I think that this was a great year to see what that no-till trial did because some of those alternative practices, not saying go all in no-till, but not saying it's not worth trying in a few places. This was a project that we needed to continue because of its importance in understanding what those differences and practices really do. This was the third year, so this would've been the second full season crop that would've been grown on no-till ground, on this piece. I tell you, we learned a lot, and we'll talk a little bit about that when we get to the wheat in a minute.

What we did was we grew wheat on the south half of the field, and on the north patch where typically we would've had Jake's acres, we would have the lake beds out there in the middle of the streams or whatever you want to call it. We did some surface drainage. We got to run a raw a lot of really cool tools. We did an agronomic demonstration using three True-Set tools and had various guests come out there. We learned a lot from that. We learned some of the best practices of setting those tools, getting the most out of True-Set. We had some gas from John Deere and high propane tiller out there.

We got to know our Exact Apply sprayer even better because we got to learn about nozzle selection and a wide variety of different situations. Even in a down year, what could be looked at as a down year for many people, I like to think that a lot of growers in this area took this as an opportunity to breathe, for one. For two, to maybe try some of these things we haven't had before because you're not always and have a piece of fallow ground. If so, it's not usually a good situation, it's too wet. In a lot of cases, we had a lot of really good acres that were sitting fallow this season, and we've seen a lot of creativity as a result. The Land Lab, it served its purpose, it lived up to its name in that regard for 2020.

Tony: Absolutely. Let's touch on just a little bit the south field. We had wheat planted there, not as much went on in the wheat field because we had a crop there. Working with the no-till versus conventional till we put weed out there. We harvested the wheat. One of the things that stood out to me and it has over the past couple years is the ability for or the ability of the no-till ground to suppress weeds. That has been an eye-opener to me. Now I know that it's a lot of-- What is talked about with no-till is weed suppression, things like that, and I know cover crop plays a big part in that as well.

I still am very impressed with what that no-till or no-till cover crop can do when it comes to weed suppression, compared to conventional. Now the other thing that really stood out to me this year having wheat on it, so first year we replanted wheat, then we planted soybeans, then we went back to wheat just because of the situation we were in. The ability for that no-till, or cover crop no-till, whatever it may be to take away some moisture per se. The moisture difference, now we combine that field all at one time, all in one shot. I say that field, it's only a couple what? 30 acres, I believe, and which I shouldn't say that's a small field.

There are a lot of places in the country that some listeners may be at that 30 acres is a normal size field. It really surprised me how the moisture content of that wheat changed drastically when we were in the no-till, and then we combine into the conventional till. Now some people that are more familiar with no-till, conventional till, minimum till, or whatever it may be might already know this. The no-till was substantially drier in moisture content than the conventional till. That was eye-opening to me. I've never had the opportunity to see that side-by-side in a 30-acre patch. That was some of the takeaways that I had from the wheat this year and then also years past with that weed suppression.

Jake: Take it from a kid from Kansas who literally grew up around this for his entire life, it was something I took very much for granted. Truth be told, I was always the agronomist. I was never the combine operator or the actual grower. This is my first time cutting wheat. It was a blast. I literally recorded a video of myself with a John Denver song, a certain John Denver song which you probably can about imagine which one playing in the background. It probably reminds you of a couple of pretty comical movies from the '90s. Certainly, a crawl character might come to mind. I was like a kid in a candy store. It was the greatest thing, it really was.

It's been really fun to watch that. We all got something different out of that wheat. We did some in-season

sprayer trials because we had standing wheat. We had a wheat crop so we did some fungicide trials just for coverage. We weren't actually spraying live chemistry. We're just wanting to look at coverage of different nozzles things like that, but that wheat's been really great. If you are a grower who has not done any of these type of small strip trials or small in season just small field experiments no-till is not going to be a perfect fit across an entire operation. Just like all the positives that a person can look at from this wheat crop and say, “Wow, it was a fast dry down. It was great weed suppression.’’

There are a lot of nuances that a lot of no-till guys will obviously tell you that the ground will mellow out really well especially by year five. You'll start seeing some really big changes in the field, but then likewise for some of those guys that have been no-till for a number of years they're starting to get the itch to potentially find some iron that's going to lightly scratch the ground and help with some of that weed suppression. It will ebb and flow and obviously the more resistant weeds that we have, the worst those types of things are going to be. It was a great opportunity. I'm really glad that we were able to be a part of the project especially because I think we both got a lot out of seeing that piece of ground.

Tony: I completely agree. We all get our own takeaways and we all have our own unique learning experiences with that. That’s our field, it's been very beneficial. We've learned a lot of things. I think we might've talked about this in year one or two but there's a major salt area, a saline issue on that south field that we've had to deal with which is been its own unique battles as well. Now we talk about the north half. That’s our larger field. That’s where we’ve done a lot more of our in-depth agronomic trials or agronomic demonstrations. This year like you said Jake, it wasn't an uncommon situation in this part in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota. A lot of PP ground, a lot of fallowed ground that was not able to be planted.

We were in that same scenario same situation. We did not get it tilled last fall. We took the opportunity to till it this summer, I guess you could say. We didn't even till until spring so it was middle of the summer. We took advantage of the situation. Last year we had that crazy corn trial out there. We had 35,000 pop, and then we also had 50,000 pop. We had 30-inch rows, we had 15-inch rows. We had the variation in residue that was out there Jake, was unreal because we were also combining our 30-inch head was a chopping head. Our 15-inch head was a non-chopping head. The variation in residue was crazy which was really cool getting this opportunity to run different tillage tools. Now we had the 2660VT.

We had the new 2680H compact or high-speed disc. Then we had the traditional 2730 ripper. Three very different tools, three very unique tools in what they do. That to me was a very unique from a dealership perspective. Now there may be some of you listeners out there, whether it be you yourself or dad or grandpa or mom or whoever it may be, they may have seen a lot of different effects of all of these different tools over time. I myself, this was my first experience getting to see this many different tools, side by side in the same atmosphere, the same setting. To see how drastic a ripped field, a 2730 combination ripper, to see that next to something like a 2680H or a compact disc, whatever you want to call that type of a tool, to see that side by side was very eye opening.

I know a lot of these tools are designed for specific uses or specific seasons but we got to play around with different speeds, different depths, different settings with it. When it comes that 2660VT when he had depth we got to play with. We had gang angle we got to play with, we had finishing attachment pressures, all of that. You had said we had some special guests some John Deere guests, visit us out there. One of them was Sam Paulson, while we were doing this tillage trial. Sam was great. He came up from Southern Minnesota, came up to where we were, and helped us out. Helped us get those settings set correctly, optimize those tools, give us some feedback.

The other thing we did that I completely forgot about until right now, we also double passed some of those tillage passes. We put a 2680H and then we came back with a 2660VT, or we did a 2730 ripper and then we topped it with a 2660VT, lots of different scenarios there. We did double pass 2680H. It was really a cool opportunity just doing that itself with the tillage.

Jake: When you think about it, tillage is most definitely, believe it or not even as a dealer agronomist, tillage is probably my weakest link in the entire thing. It's something that I still fumble around trying to understand the differences between pieces, but I tell you what, you put those pieces in the field. I've seen the limb can Rubin 12 out there. I've seen the John Deere 2230 floating hitch field cultivator. I've seen the 2660VT. I've seen the 2680H and the 2730 ripper. I will never forget what each of those pieces look like and what they did. It was one of those see it, feel it, touch it, smell it moments.

That I will always be grateful to Indie SES and the Land Lab, the Kosel family for giving us the ability to partner on the project like that because that made a humongous difference in my career in understanding a piece of the entire operation, and a piece of the agronomic picture that I really did not understand or could not explain. To be able to see that was really cool. That trial that was very much Tony's baby. That was his project him and Sam Paulson did a lot of cool stuff. They really helped out, and we had Bryson Caleb out there, and they spent a lot of time getting like you said getting that 2660 VT set right.

Learning things that they hadn't seen or known before about those machines just because there are things that you don't know that the guys from the factory or the representatives are going to know a little bit more than you, a little bit better than you. That was awesome. It was a great learning experience. I really appreciated it. I'm glad that you found that to be just as valuable of an experience as it was for me.

Tony: That wasn't even all we did out there on that north field. We had touched on we wanted to focus on water management. We wanted to do some "plumbing" out there. We did not go as far as doing any subsurface tile or subsurface drainage but we did get the opportunity to go out and ditch. Up here for anybody that is familiar with the Red River Valley, the I-29 corridor in Minnesota, North Dakota, it's very flat. It is very, very flat. I think some people say it in other parts of the world too, but you can watch your dog run away from home for a couple of days, for how far you can see in these parts.

What we did is we got a Rotary Ditcher out there, a Crary Revolution Rotary Ditcher and we paired that up with T3RRA Ditch which is a product that comes from Precision Terrain Solutions. We coupled that and this is probably one of my favorite parts. We coupled that with the all new 8RX370. That was killer, I think it was a 370 correct. That was awesome getting to run that 8RX, getting to play with it, getting to learn that tractor, but then doing the ditching at the same time. It was a very awesome learning experience. The T3RRA Ditch component of it is a new product to us,

a new product to the John Deere Network.

It is a water management solution that is taking the place of Surface Water Pro™ Plus. Surface Water Pro™ Plus is not moving to the Gen 4 platform. What John Deere did was partnered, I guess you could say with Precision Terrain Solutions and they came up with a solution of T3RRA Ditch. Some people may know the product, T3RRA Cutta. T3RRA Cutta is that suite of products, so T3RRA Cutta can do way more than just surface drainage or ditching. T3RRA Ditch has just a basic version of T3RRA Cutta you could say. That was another really fun thing or really cool thing we got to do out at the Land Lab this year, was brush off some cobwebs and reintroduce ourselves to ditching.

We don't get to do a lot of it every season, so if we get a wet fall, there's not a lot of ditching that happens. Last year it got really cold and froze really quick. Didn't get to do very much ditching, so ditching comes and goes. You get it done when you can and the ditching season or ditching opportunities go by fast. I don't know, what did you take away from the ditching Jake?

Jake: The thing is we led off with it. It very much paints a picture of what was going on in this area anyway. A lot of guys were taking this opportunity because this was a great-- you could look at it as a total wipe out of a year. You could really write this entire year off. A lot of people can say that anyway. Really, you look at what you could do by the potential impact it could have on your farming operation to be able to take care of some of these water drainage issues. This was an awesome thing. I feel like of all the things that we did out at the Land Lab, I'm almost the most proud that this one got accomplished because I feel like this is going to have a long-lasting impact.

You can take grain to the elevator or you could give them checks or you could give-- people could give all kinds of donations, but this piece of ground sets up the school, I think for the next five years, for the next extension of their lease that they have. I think that's the thing that I'm most proud of that we were able to check those things off the box, but we also did it by including our teammates. We had our teammates from South Dakota there. We actually had a customer come out and demo T3RRA while we were running out there.

I think that was really a cool way to send off 2020 and say, “Yes, if we do nothing more than just run this ditcher out here at the end of the year that was a cool way to finish it off." A lot of people got to be engaged and involved in the process and the tractor's awesome.

Tony: I would agree that those 8RXs are pretty wicked tractors. Now, before we cap off this episode, Jake one of the other things in between that I jumped right to ditching, one of the other things that you got to be a part of in-between the tillage and the ditching was a special sprayer project with John Deere. Why don't we just briefly touch on that?

Jake: Sure. There's two projects so we were in the middle of, one of them was a spot spray project, which was you didn't hear this from us kind of thing in the beginning. Now it's very much being shouted from the rooftop so you can do individual nozzle prescription on-off not rate, but on-off prescriptions. This was the year that we were able to execute it. We were able to see what it actually looks like, see what it does. I tell you if you're ever going to demo that, do it at night, it's the coolest damn thing you'll ever see. I'm going to be as blunt as I can be. If you're going to do it, do it at night. It is the most impactful there.

If you want to see what that machine really does and it's a suitable condition. Obviously, you're not going to do this with [unintelligible 00:24:21] or any others where you have to follow it, obviously follow the label but it's really, really cool. Do that at night, you can really see the impact that you're having by having that prescription. You can really see how much of that boom is and isn't off at any given time. Documentation on that was awesome. You know me as being a big proponent of data and documenting those passes, one of the coolest data layers we ever collected. The other project that we had, really proud.

I get to be a part of a lot of different groups and the sprayer group is a true pride and joy of mine to be a part of sprayer projects. We are blessed to have Rex Guthland and Nick Fleitz of Hypro Pentair come to me and say, "Hey, we want to do some nozzle studies with you this year." It's like, "Okay, cool." We've tried to figure out how to make things work, not everything worked, but we made more than the best out of it by spending a good couple days together. We were out at the Land Lab, ran through all kinds of nozzle trials, ran through all kinds of different scenarios, and really got to know the nozzles.

Dave Mulder who you probably heard him on the John Deere podcast where he's talked about Exact-Apply. He had a three-episode series on Exact-Apply for you John Deere dealers. He's also in charge of the marketing for the sprayer line. It was cool to have those guys out there to learn from them, to learn more about our machines, just like you had with Sam and the tillage tools. To have guys like that out there who are right there in the middle of it, seeing the machine but now we have to machine out in the element. It's not in the factory and we're not talking about nozzles in a lab. We're talking about them on the machine, actually doing an application.

I got a lot out of that. I learned a lot. There's going to be some great documentation for those of you who may be in the market for nozzles, have Exact-Apply sprayers or sprayers with PWM systems on them. Deere is going to release a whole different set of documents that go along with that to help you make some choices here in the future. A lot of fun. Like I said, that was a great project. It's very easy to skip around. We did a lot of things out there this year.

Tony: Not only this year but this 2020 technically caps off a three-year agreement that we had with NDSCS and working with the Land Lab. Really, we don't know what the future holds for us out there. We're hoping to continue working with the school, but Jake, I know, I can say that I am forever thankful to North Dakota State College of Science, the Kosel family and donating that land, or allowing the school to utilize that land. I am forever thankful just at the stuff we got to learn. I know you had some stats on the amount of equipment we had out there, things like that. It was fun. The last three years have been very fun, very beneficial for myself, for RDO equipment and everything we have had the capability of doing out there.

The three-year agreement or three-year commitment that we had with the school like I said comes to an end here, but there is a hopeful possibility that we will continue to work with the school. I am very thankful. We are very fortunate to be a part of that project for the last three years.

Jake: Most definitely. We gathered over 7 million data points out there with all of our machines. We brought nearly 40 machines out there, everything from high horsepower, the 9620 RX four-wheel drive tractors. We had the 8RX out there. We had Exact-Apply sprayers, carbon fiber booms. We had Exact-Emerge planners, True-Set, everything we had an IMETOS weather station. We also had a field connect system out there as well. It was cool. It really was. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I can definitely say that if nothing else, you and I, we got as much out of that Land Lab, as you could possibly get out of it.

We really soaked it up like a sponge. I feel like I'm a better agronomist, a better agribusiness man for it, and like you said I can never thank them enough for the opportunity we had.

Tony: That's how we want to end this episode, just giving a huge shout out to North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota, allowing RDO to be a part of that project, allowing us to play around with our equipment. As a John Deere dealership, we can better learn our equipment. We can do some of the agronomic stuff that we wanted to learn, but also share that with the students being able to allow them to learn more about equipment,

and the agronomic effects of some of the equipment and how it's used. Big thank you to NDSCS. Big thank you to the Kosel family.

Yes. On behalf of Jake, myself, RDO Equipment Company, again thank you for allowing us to be a part of that. There it is. Year three, the Land Lab. We'll see what the future has in store for us with the NDSCS Land Lab, but for now, this is where we'll leave it.

Jake: That's a good place to leave it. We look forward to seeing what 2021 holds for everyone and everything in future products, in future projects, in future cooperators and partners. It'll be a lot of fun.

Tony: Absolutely. Well, thanks again, Jake. Thank you to the listeners for sitting down and listening to another episode. We will catch you on the next one.

Jake: Thank you.

Tony: Thanks again for tuning in to another episode. If you have questions about the technology and products discussed or have ideas about future episodes, please leave them in the comments below. You can also subscribe to RDO's YouTube channel and be in the know about each episode, or tune in on any streaming service. Thanks again.

Tony Kramer

Tony Kramer is the Product Manager of Planting Technology and a Certified Crop Advisor at RDO Equipment Co. He is also the host of the Agriculture Technology podcast. If you have any questions for Tony or would like to be a guest on the podcast, you can find him on X at @RDOTonyK.

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