After harvest our machinery gets cleaned and inspected with a list of what needs to be done to ready it for the next crop year. This list gets prioritized into winter and summer projects. This winter seemed to be busier than usual. Not only did we spend way too much time moving snow but the pre-spring project list was longer than usual.
Every fall the air conditioner condenser, on our semi tractor that actually has a working AC, fills up with bees wing from all the corn chaff flying around. As you can see in these images, it’s rather nasty and in a very difficult area to see. This means blindly cleaning and using a phone to take these photos to monitor the progress.
The 2018-2019 winter started out rather slow but once the snow started in mid January, it was never ending along with the winds. We burned through more tractor fuel than we ever have trying to keep up. Not only did we have two yards to clear, we also had to blow portions of the road to travel between farm sites. I am thankful for the snow blower because if we were piling with a loader we would have run out of space to push the snow especially between my garage and barn.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
On May 3, as the fields start to dry out from our extended winter, we were able to do some leveling of the tile lines we installed last fall. We borrowed a modified disc from our neighbor to accomplish this task. This worked much better than what we’ve done in the past using our Sunflower brand chisel. Planting has not started yet but we will do our first tillage for planting tomorrow.