There was no reason to expect the 2019 corn harvest to be easy but, in hindsight, it was the worst year of farming I have ever experienced! Planting corn a month later than usual is never a good thing but coupling it with the fact that the entire summer was cool and wet made the resulting crop yield and quality a costly challenge both monetarily and mentally. Corn yields themselves were okay but, when faced with the reality of dryer gas expenses due to wetter than usual corn along with an LP shortage driving prices higher yet and elevator charges and discounts for wet corn delivered to them, this year was one for the books.
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.
It’s been a long crop year. I’m finally getting around to posting after the most trying crop year of my farming career! 2018 ended with a lot of moisture in the ground. Spring 2018 brought a lot more snow and then unending rain. We did get our crop in the ground but not in a timely manner. We did manage to get our corn test plot planted during one narrow window of opportunity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Planting was finally under way on May 5. It’s been a long wait this spring but there are areas of Minnesota and Iowa that continue to get rains with no end in sight. We have a window of opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of by covering a lot of acres in as short of a time as possible. That’s the same race that happens every spring in one form or another. It’s a race against weather, field conditions, yields etc. Every day, this late in the season, impacts our corn and soybean final yields.
OK. I know it’s now the end of January and I’m still not caught up on posting from last fall. I am finally feeling caught up, to a point, with my most important winter office work. Last year’s data has been pored over, crunched, edited, tweaked, post calibrated and used to make decisions for 2018 and forward. Time has been put into selecting seed, figuring out the best way to keep weeds at bay both chemically and physically, crunching numbers to make the current corn and soybean prices work, developing marketing plans and attending winter meetings put on by the U of M, Coop and other ag related entities. My calendar for February still has more meetings and training sessions on it.
First field of corn.
Opening up the headland.
Fan motor needed bearings.
Now where was I before going off on that tangent. Oh yeah, corn harvest. It really did happen and I have the pictures to prove it. Normally, we don’t start harvesting corn until after soybeans are done but this fall was not normal by any measure. After getting tired of the weather delay we kept having during soybean harvest, we gave in and harvested some corn. The moisture was at 22%, dry enough to get a start. The variety removed all of the headlands on a 300 acre field. Taking these off would make harvesting the remainder of that field much easier when the time came. After meticulously going through the electric motors that need to reliably get us through harvest, we still had a breakdown on day two of corn harvest. We hadn’t done the main motors that cool the large grain bin. The second one went out about 3/4 of the way through harvest as well. Oh, well. Maybe next year will be trouble free. Yes, I’m dreaming again. Continue reading →