Ever think about trying some of the gadgets related to no-till or crop management, but find yourself not wanting to invest what it takes to buy the gadget? You might be surprised what you can find to either rent or borrow at both Extension offices all across Indiana.
Here are some examples. Tippecanoe County just purchased a soil penetrometer, used to test for soil compaction in the ground. As you push the steel rod into the soil, a gauge indicates the relative amount of pressure it takes to push the rod. The more pressure it takes, the higher the reading. That indicates you may have hit a compacted layer.
Often, if a layer is compacted, you will soon push through it and then the reading will drop. Some models use colors instead of numbers on the dial to indicate relative ability to push the rod into the soil. The color red universally represents danger- in this case- that you have hard, compacted soil.
Phillips hasn't said yet whether he's letting his new penetrometer out of his sight- you may get him along with it- for free, of course. He intends to put it to use helping farmers determine if past practices have caused soil compaction or not in various fields.
In Morgan County and in may others, you can borrow a forage testing tube to take samples of forages. Chris Parker, the ag educator there, says this is a prime year to test forages. Your goal ought to be finding out nutrient content, and then matching the forage with what the livestock are doing, whether it's just in maintenance phase or late in pregnancy or lactation. Save the best hay for the most important stages of the animal's life, he says.
The testing tube goes on a drill, sometimes a brace and bit. You drill into the hay, get a core, then drill several more spots to get a representative sample. Then you can send the sample to a lab for analysis.
Other offices have measuring wheels; one even has a soil pH kit. Maybe they're not all available for loan, but educators are usually willing to use these tools to help you figure out what's going on out on your farm.
Stop by and see what's in your Extension educator's closet!