Planting season is knocking!

Warm enough February day for the door to be open.

It happens every spring. We open the machine shed door, after clearing any remaining snow and ice from in front of it, move any equipment blocking the planter and extract the sleeping planter from it’s nest. Once the planter is outside, it receives its spring wash down. The dust that has settled on it over the past 8 months is flushed away with the power washer and the planter is ushered into the heated shop for it’s pre-planting work over. Because it worked on the day we completed planting is no reason to assume it will make it through another planting season without some refurbishing and lubrication.

Washing the dust off.

Planting weather is fickle in Minnesota. It can lull you into believing that you have all the time in the world to get the crop in and then the updated forecast puts us under the gun to get as much in before the rains or cold snap hits. We don’t want a half ready planter to come between us and the impending deadline. Continue reading

Farmfest 2015

Farmfest2015MSGA_TentWe spent parts of two days wandering Farmfest in search of the latest and greatest. The Gilfillan location is a convenient 15 minute drive for us so splitting our time across multiple days is quite easy. One of the highlights every year is working in the MN Soybean Growers tent talking to fellow members and educating potential new members about the benefits of being an MSGA member.

Some time was spent, as well, looking at strip-till equipment. Our interest was peaked at a field day this summer in Lamberton. Much needs to be learned yet and equipment is a key piece of the puzzle. What better place to look than Farmfest.

After spending a couple years looking for a replacement grain bin temperature monitoring system we finally pulled the trigger at Farmfest with the purchase of an IntelliFarms sensor system. We look forward to may years of accurate monitoring of our grain to keep in in top condition.

One final product we’re doing a test run on is from Farmers Business Network. We expect this service will help us with the arduous process of choosing corn and soybean varieties for the coming year. They’re an up and coming company that is farmer focused. No seed or chemical company is in their back pocket. All information is for the farmer’s benefit only.

Soybeans on ridges.

ridges ahead of planterOur soybeans are planted on ridges formed with a row crop cultivator in corn the previous year. The seedbed is not worked until the planter passes through the field planting soybeans. In the first image, you can see the corn stalk still firmly in the center of the ridge. Our planter is set off about 3 inches from the center of the ridge and places the soybeans beside the old corn row.planting soybeans on ridges This has proven to provide a much better seedbed than trying to plant down the center of the ridge, as we did for many years. The RTK GPS guidance makes this possible.

This year proved to be more challenging due to the extremely dry conditions. With 1 1/2 inches of dry dirt on the surface, we had to sweep away a significant amount of dirt with our Dawn brand row cleaners. This worked well to get us down to moisture but proved tricky when soil types varied from a clay loam to more peat like soils. The whole planter unit just sank through the ridge and caused way too much soil to move. We ended up using a field roller on a number of acres to press down the exposed corn root balls that could have caused problems at harvest.

Ready, set, go! Planting 2015

working corn groundWe had our earliest start ever in a planting season. April 15, 2015 was the day it all began. Some tillage was done the day ahead so we could get off to a fast start in the morning. We spent until 2pm on April 15th troubleshooting GPS issues. So much for the jump start. Man can make all the plans he wants, but God is in control.

planting corn first dayA few days of warmer and dryer than average weather gave us ideal planting conditions. Looking ahead though told us that our window of opportunity would quickly come to a close. The following week was going to be quite cold with many nights below freezing. Four days of planting and then a break. The next week saw a neighbor here and there putting some corn in the ground, but we did not want to take the chance.

sunset plantingMonday, April 27th we were off to the races again and completed corn planting on April 29th.

Just Add Water!

planter liquid fert checkAs planting nears, we need to be assured that our liquid handling systems are working well. It’s a tricky call as to when we can put water in these systems and not risk having them frozen and cracking components. Once testing is done the equipment is stored in a closed machine shed during freezing nights yet to come.

monitor checksApril 1 and 2 were the days we felt comfortable with this call. The planter handles liquid fertilizer, specifically Ammonium Thio Sulfate (ATS), that is banded as a narrow stream over the seed once the furrow is closed. The rain will then take the nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) down to the roots. We apply 8.3 gallons/acre to get a total of 24 #/Acre of S on the field. The N is just an added bonus to the S application and is subtracted from the total N we put on our fields so we don’t over apply our nitrogen. The fertilizer application is controlled by our John Deere GS3 monitor mounted in the cab. We also have a controller for insecticide application using the Smart Box system as well as a Precision Planting 20/20 monitor system tied to an iPad for precise monitoring of seed placement.

sprayer check sprayerOur Top Air sprayer handles the bulk of our chemical applications for weed control. It needs to be in top notch condition for application of herbicides soon after planting. The soybean pre-emerge herbicide has a 3 day window to be applied so it won’t damage emerging seedlings.

Mapshots Customer Conference

I started the month of February with a trip to Atlanta for the MapShots conference. Timing couldn’t have been better. The conference dates were sandwiched between the two Atlanta snow events that shut down the city.

Otto Farms has been using MapShots software for many years to do field mapping as well as data collection and analysis. MapShots has spent the past 3+ years transitioning to a new cloud based platform with many new features for our farming operation. We will be able to access most of our data from any computer connected to the interned including iPads in the field. This is very exciting for us! I have been looking forward to this happening for a few years already. MapShots has done a fantastic job of modularizing the software so customers can purchase what they need for their operation. I’m really looking forward to transitioning to the new software through the summer and using it exclusively in 2015.

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