It’s unusual to get field work done in the middle of winter in Minnesota. January of 2019 was the exception for us. We are farming a field that has never been grid sampled for fertility. From our past experiences of using this practice since the mid 1980s, we know that grid sampling is the only way to know what is going on in the field on a smaller scale. The field is broken down into 440′ x 440′ grids that are each sampled independently. A map is then generated that shows what each grid needs for fertilizer. Some findings are interesting and show how past farming practices still are visible today.
A couple discoveries of note in this field: 1. The 160 acres was farmed by two different owners for many years. This shows up most dramatically in the pH and zinc levels. The south 80 has extremely low pH in a large number of the grids. The north 80 has extremely low zinc levels in a large number of the grids 2. You can use the Phosphorous levels as an indicator of where the farm site was located and where they hauled the manure. The P levels are much higher in these areas even decades later.
We visited with the coop about our spring fertilizer needs in early January and asked them if lime was ever applied in the winter. They said that usually it could be done in March if conditions allow. A day later they called to say that the applicator was able to do the lime right now if we had an area that they could access to pile the lime without getting stuck in snow drifts. We took the snow blower to the field and cleared a path. They hauled lime in on Saturday, January 11 and spread it on Monday.
It was a slow started to our 2018 soybean harvest. After nearly filling our first corn bin, the weather finally cooperated for beans.
We combined our seed beans first. These need to be done in the most ideal conditions to insure top quality for Pioneer and bring our farm the maximum premiums. Premiums are paid based on moisture content, clean-out and foreign matter in the bean sample. There was a prolonged rainy spell right before combining that caused some of the soybean pods to split open and drop beans on the ground.
We were pleasantly surprised at the soybean yields. After a summer of endless rain and large areas drowned out, most fields yielded at or above our average. Numerous areas of 70 plus bushel beans made up for the areas with no beans.
We harvested some or our corn prior to harvesting any soybeans in 2018. This is unusual but has happened in the past. Corn stalks were becoming brittle and the grain moisture was in the 22-23% range. After a long summer of nothing but rain, more rain and large drowned out areas we braced for the worst. We we very surprised at that corn yields!
Our test plot was harvested early in the season. I don’t like to wait for the plot corn to dry too much. I want to see how the varieties vary in their abilities to dry down. This extra knowledge helps us plan varieties for the following crop year. We were able to situate the location of the plot to avoid areas of the field prone to becoming water logged.
Our first year of growing sweet corn presented us with new challenges. With planting scheduled for the middle of June, we thought we would seed the field with oats to help with weed control. Our wet spring delayed the seeding and we ended up not getting any benefit from the oats. Chemical was applied to take out the oats and emerged weeds around June 1. With ongoing rains, the window to plant came down to a Sunday morning. The field was planted and the rains came late in the day and closed the planting window for others once again. We were pleasantly surprised with the yield and only two acres were lost to drowning out.
The corn bin construction was completed prior to harvest but we had to wait until mid-harvest to get the downspout installed, from the grain leg, that allowed us to fill the bin. It took two tries to install the spout. The first time that the crane lifted it the box in the center, that slows the corn down on the way through, bent. The installer ordered a heavier box from the company and was successful on the second attempt.
Post flooding, the beans that are left are looking great! Scouting for aphids is next on the list. After a couple of times out, it was determined that spraying would pay off in 2018. Normally scouting is much more prolonged but the aphids were coming hard and fast with exploding populations!
After years of struggling through harvest with limited corn storage, we took the leap this year to construct a second corn bin. When the original bin was constructed in the min 1980s, corn yields were far below what they are today. With the increase in yield, as well as expansion of acres, we were spending more time than we liked hauling corn to the elevator during harvest to make room for what was still standing in the fields. In years where time is short, this can cause major disruptions in getting the crop out of the fields in a timely manner. Lacking storage also takes away marketing opportunities and forces sales when the prices are usually at their worst.
To prepare the site we had to remove the black down to clay. Power lines had to be worked around carefully. An excavator and dump truck were used to remove the dirt. After that, pack-able fill was hauled in, spread on the pad site in layers and packed with a rented, remote controlled, packer.
Spring 2018 brought plenty of water for our area of Minnesota. June alone brought us about 8″ of rain. We were handling the frequent rains ok until the July 3 rain hit. We received 4-5 inches of rain overnight. This was followed by another 1.5″ of rain over the noon hour on July 3. Needless to say, it was over for any chance of crops doing well in low lying areas. Fields were so full that water was flowing across roads to the neighboring field. Crossing through flowing water was quite risky because you never know if the water washed the road away. Drainage ditches overflowed and water remained across some roads for weeks.
Best laid plans….. This was the year for us to try something new in our corn fields. We have been experiencing root and stalk issues the past few years and feel that the cultivator is the culprit. Our plan was to do different trials consisting of 1) no cultivation 2) early cultivation but not ridging and 3) early cultivation followed by ridging. We managed to get the first cultivation in in a timely manner while the plants were still small. We left the cut away discs down to be as aggressive as possible with our weed control. On our ridging pass, the plan was to raise the cut aways and just use the sweep with ridging wings. This plan was thwarted by the onslaught of rains that followed. By the time things let up, the corn was tasseling. So much for trial 3.