Winter Shop Projects

Air Seeder

We started out our winter shop season with an overhaul of a John Deere CCS air seeder we purchased mid summer. It only has about 5000 acres on it but needed some attention. We dismantled each row unit to install new disk openers, as the old ones were worn down to the point where they would not work as well as we’d like. We also made sure everything else worked on the row units and took grease as well.

Air seeders use a ground drive system to turn the meters. They have a section control system that allows 1/2 of the width to be shut off for narrower areas and to prevent too much seed waste on point rows. We decided to take things up a level and installed the Inetllidrive system. It allows us to control every 30″ section individually thus minimizing overlap with already seeded areas. Electric motors drive each 30″ section and can independently control the feed rate of each section. The company claims that they will save 10-12% on seed costs per acre. That adds up fast when seed beans cost $50/unit plus and we’re using 1.15 units/acre. At a savings of $6/acre this unit will pay for itself in 3 years!

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Soybean Harvest 2019

2019 presented us with challenges in timeliness and quality for soybean and corn harvesting. Harvest was much later than usual, which meant that we didn’t have the normal, dry weather we need for soybeans to come out of the field at less than 13% moisture. This is a problem in a couple of ways. First the elevators will discount the soybeans brought in over 13% by 1% for every 1/2% they are over 13%. As the moisture climbs higher, the discount percent increases more yet. The second challenge is presented because we raise seed beans for Pioneer. They don’t want our soybeans for seed if they are over 14%. We waited through two days of sun and slight warmth to get to that point and still ended up with a bin of seed that tested higher than 14%.

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Weed Control and Fertilization

With the late planting start, we were unable to achieve good weed control with our vertical till machine on some fields. The weeds were larger than 3″ and they just slipped through without being fully uprooted. On a couple of fields we had to use a pass with chemical to know out the weeds to give the soybeans a good start without competition.

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Soybean Harvest 2018

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.

Aphid Spraying

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!

Flooding!!!

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.

University of MN Bean Plot

Water flowing from right to left.

Ponding across the road.

Soybean Planting 2018

Planting soybeans on ridges.

Ridges after planting soybeans.

It took until May 16 to get rolling in soybeans. A couple of weeks later than ideal but there are places south and east of us that are continuing to struggle with water issues preventing them from planting corn. This year is a little different than what we’ve done for seedbed preparation prior to soybean planting. Most of our planting is still on ridges but we do have one field that is following corn that wasn’t ridged in 2017. To prepare that seedbed we did a fall pass and a spring pass with our Excelerator vertical till machine. The results were beyond expectations! We couldn’t have asked for a better seedbed.

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Beck’s Plant Tour

On March 30, Dennis and I had the privilege of touring the Beck’s headquarters in Atlanta, IN (just north of Indianapolis). Beck’s has not had a presence in Minnesota before 2018.

Last fall we go our first Practical Farm Research book from them in the mail. I was quite impressed with the effort they put into helping farmers make decisions that affect their bottom line. A couple of Beck’s billboards also appeared on the south edge of Redwood Falls. I didn’t know much more than this for a couple of months. I get to know Jacob Tintes, one of the people on the ground in MN working hard to set up a dealer network. In visiting with him, I was informed that there could be an opportunity to tour the headquarters and through some questions at one of the top guys there. When Jacob called me to offer the opportunity to get on a jet in New Ulm and take a day trip to Indiana, Dennis and I jumped at the opportunity.

The trip left quite an impression. I have never had such an in depth education on a seed company as I had on that day. My confidence in them has been boosted to a very high level. Since we have our seed purchased made for 2018, we will not be doing any large scale planting of Beck’s hybrids but we will definitely be looking at them in our test plot this spring.

 

 

On a side note, we had a crazy realization coming home. We were flying above the snow line from the last winter storm. The south side of the plane had snow and the north side was basically snow free.

Soybean harvest and rain delays 2017

Soybean harvest weather started out so well. But then the BIG rain hit. Waiting for the soils to dry out allowed us to do some, much needed, tree trimming that we had been trying to get at all summer. For the most part, the soils handled the rain event well. Fields dried out and firmed up in about 10 days. We didn’t have to go around  any standing water or mud. The money spent on drainage tile pays off in many ways.

 

A neighboring field after 5″ + of rain.

Neighboring field with ducks at sunset.

Burning tree branches after a couple days of trimming.

Grain handling prep for harvest 2017

Our grain handling system is a key piece in the harvest process. It needs to run efficiently, with as few break downs as possible, to get through corn harvest in a timely manner. Even a small thing can bring harvest to a halt. Every seven years we change the bearings in all the electric motors of our grain system that put high hours on annually. 2017 was the year to do this again. We take all the the smaller motors off but leave the larger ones in place and remove the internal rotor that the bearings are mounted on. The largest motor, a 20hp 3ph motor on the top our our 120′ grain leg, is always a challenge. This year, we were able to do all the work on top of the grain leg thanks to a powerful 20V DeWalt impact wrench that helped remove the bearings from the shaft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also need to test fire the grain dryer to make sure that the flame control system is working properly. One of the burners wouldn’t fire. Upon investigation, a wire wast found to be chewed in half by some critter.

 

Our seed beans are handled in a gentle manner. This means using a belt conveyor to load them from the truck to the bins. We also unload the combine tank at half throttle to limit damage to the seed from the augers.