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 all of the rain the fell during 2018 and 2019, our cattle have had the challenge of wading through a foot of mucky mud to get to and from the water fountain. We planned on filling the gap between our two concrete pads during the summer of 2018 but the weather never cooperated. 2019 presented it’s challenges as well. We prepped the area, during a short dry spell, in October, by removing mud down to solid ground but then it rained and filled the hole with a foot plus of water. We were able to pump some of the water out but managed to plug up two different pumps with the thick muddy water. Eventually enough water was removed to place a rock foundation in the bottom and cover that with gravel to prep for the cement. The weather cooperated and concrete was finally poured. I’m happy to report the the steers and the farmers appreciate the final result.
There’s nothing like a good storm to make you thankful for your current situation. With rain and wet being the theme of spring and early summer, it wasn’t a real surprise to have a severe storm pop up. What was the surprise was how small of an area was affected, the amount of damage in that area and that the tornado passed by about 1 mile to the north of us.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
I’m sitting in the office on April 14, 2018 looking at through snow covered windows at a persistent blizzard. Biggest storm of the winter for us! It started yesterday with a wintry mix of rain/ice pellets/snow pellets/snow. Through the night it became all snow. We had a lull this morning to get the steer chores done and now we wait out the storm.
I figure that this is as good of time as any to get caught up on some of our winter happenings. Winter was going so well until we hit March and April. These scenes have been all too common since.
We spent some time, in early March in the shop getting some small projects out of the way. Lawn mowers were gone through and a portable auger was refurbished with all new bearings.
On March 20 we did catch a nice break, where the yard wasn’t too soft, and pulled the planter out of the shed to get it ready for the 2018 planting season. After power washing the dust off of it, we moved it into the comfortable environment of the shop.
We did take some time to attend the 2018 Soybean Symposium at the U of M Landscape Arboretum. There were great topics and plenty of discussion that revolve around soybean quality and trade.