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Local farmer uses photos to maintain fields
When you think of all the equipment a farmer uses, a camera probably is not near the top of the list. NEWS 5's Dennis Kellogg introduces us to Kearney–area farmer, though, who takes a photo of his crop every year.
Steve Mercer is always searching for that picture–perfect corn crop. And when he gets it, he will have the photo to prove it.
On about July 30th every summer for the past 14 years, Steve has been taking a photo of an ear of corn from his field.
"That has been the day, the end of July, the first day of August, right around there we try to do it every year," said Mercer.
There is no studio or expensive camera equipment involved.
"We just find a coat or something in there that has got a bright color to it and we will lay that down and lay it on there. Get it in some good sunlight and take it," said Mercer.
The reason Steve takes a photo of an ear of corn on the same date each year is to compare his current crop with crops at the same time from previous years.
"Basically, we are looking at the seed kernels themselves to see if they have started to have an indentation at the top of the crown," said Mercer.
Once that starts, Steve said you are probably three to four weeks from a mature crop which means he can start harvesting it.
"It kind of gives you some indication how long your irrigation season is going to be, going to finish out the summer and then how soon you are going to have to be geared up and ready for harvest to get after the corn while it is still standing good," Mercer said.
Steve's photo book is really a history book. Each page represents a different summer in the life of the farm.
"This was '07 and you start seeing a lot of dented kernels on it. That year we were in the field harvesting the 28th or 29th of August," said Mercer.
So just what does this year's photo say about the corn crop ahead? Well, Steve said for the most part, it is good news.
"We could be looking at a little better than average," Mercer said. "And kind of interesting that this year the kernel counts are real good but probably not as good as last year. I do not know that we will see another year for awhile like last year."
There are plenty of reports available to help farmers gauge the progress of their corn crop, but for Steve, this is a case where a picture really is worth more than words.
"When you start looking at a picture and compare them from year to year, visually it's instantaneous that you see where you're at and it really kind of perks your curiosity as to what is going to happen now in the next thirty to sixty days," said Mercer.
Steve may not frame any of his corn photos, but they certainly give him a good picture of what to expect in the coming months.
Steve took his first photos of the corn in 1986 with an old Polaroid camera. Now that he's using a newer camera, he says you can really see much more detail in the ears of corn.
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