Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring field work, finally

The first week of April the weather finally warmed up and we started preparing for spring planting of corn and soybeans.

First step was shredding the corn stalks from last year's crop. For many years we did not need to perform this step and left the corn residue in the fields unchopped. With the onset of biotechnology adding genes to the corn to suppress corn borers and corn rootworm beetles, two insect species that can cause major damage to our corn, the corn stalks are tougher and decompose less over the winter than they used to.

We also restarted installing more drainage tile. We could have started sooner, but had issues with availability of monitors and help. Seemed like every time we had good weather, either I or my employee needed to be gone. Then we were in the middle of changing GPS guidance systems in one tractor and that same system runs the tile plow in another tractor. I will go over this story in another post.

After two days of plowing in tile, it was time to change direction. Flexible planning is necessary when farming. Our agronomist wanted us to start spraying on our preplant herbicide ASAP, so we dropped one activity and started another.

Timing is everything this time of year. We plan on starting planting corn on April 20, followed by soybeans on May 1 or so. We spray a herbicide on all our fields to kill any weeds that grew over winter or that will germinate this spring. One of the herbicides used in the mix has to be applied 10 days before planting corn and three weeks before planting soybeans. So do the math and we started spraying weeds.

Wednesday afternoon was spent getting the sprayer on the tractor and testing out all the equipment with water. I like to do a test with only water before I start putting on herbicides. Much less mess and much safer. Then I spent the remainder of the day in the Coop getting the truck filled with fertilizer, water and lots of herbicides.

Thursday was a great day for spraying, sunny and calm. I managed to get over 250 acres sprayed with a trip to trip to town in the middle. Friday was not so nice. I did get one load sprayed off early in the morning, but then the wind showed up. Spraying with high winds is a very bad idea. First you waste money because the herbicide is not going where you want it and second you have no control over where it goes. One time killing the wife's garden will cure anyone of spraying in high winds.

Saturday I finished spraying the soybean burndown as the winds came again. Late in the day I got one load of corn burndown applied as the winds died down again.

Meanwhile my employee was spreading dry fertilizer. Each of our fields is tested every year for several nutrients. We apply just what is needed for the crop to be grown that year. Some fertilizers are cheaper as dry, some as liquid. This year our dry fertilizer mix includes phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc. We will apply nitrogen and more phosphorus and sulfur as liquid later in the year.

We are hoping the forecasters are right and that we will get rain the first part of next week. It is very dry in all of our fields and we will need some rain before we can plant anything and hope for it to germinate.

Next time I'll get you up to speed with our GPS monitors and how we use them.

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