Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, fertilizer, Minnesota, tillage, Uncategorized | Tags: Corn, farm, grandchildren, machines, Minnesota, tillage, weather, Weed control
The harvest may be done, but there is plenty more to do.
I’ve been spending most of my days lately in this rig. The tractor is a JD 4650 rated at about 180 horse power. It’s pulling a 14 foot Wishek deep tillage disk. With the dry conditions it has been turning over some really hard chunks of earth. The last two years were wetter and did not allow me to till as deep as I would like to. Now with drier conditions we’re sinking the Wishek in and really doing a good job.
On the left you see the corn stalks before they are disked, and on the right is the after. I like the Wishek because it can go through the standing stalks without any other preparation. It leaves a good amount of plant material on or near the surface to help control erosion without leaving too smooth of a surface. The rough surface creates ponding areas to hold water on the surface and let it go into the soil not run off. The old plant material and rough surface will also help keep down wind erosion. I have one field that I only worked part of the field. Those areas that were too steep or too sandy I left untouched. That will protect them during the harsh winds of winter.
This field will be corn again next year so we broadcast most of the fertilizer next years crop will need and work that into the top 8 inches of soil profile. Next spring we’ll smooth this off a bit and plant it. I like to keep at least 30% cover after planting to reduce erosion and promote water infiltration.
I also spent some time burning off the grass in a road ditch that is too steep to mow. Burning removes the stems that could catch winter snow and keep it on the road. It also helps to keep down weeds that are unwanted. Burning tends to promote the growth of grasses over things like trees and broad leaf plants. It also allowed me to spend some time reshaping part of the ditch so that I can get my mower down into it.
I also want to spend some time with these two young ladies. Being a grandfather is such hard work you know.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans, time, weather, wind | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather, wind
When harvest time comes, farm folks seem to be in such a rush, why is that? We walk a fine line at harvest time in many parts of agriculture. Our crop is not ready, and then it is too late. The time between is sometimes very short.
The main crops in my part of Minnesota are dent corn and soybeans. Both are row crops that in some ways complement each other, and usually do not have to be either planted or harvested on the same day. Both however can go from not ready to too late quite fast.
Soybeans, because they grow within a thin shelled pod are affected by weather the most. Once the pod dries it can drop the bean out of the pod at the least provocation. We try to harvest soybeans at 16% moisture or less. The problem is that they can be 16% in the morning and 11% by nightfall. This sharp drop in moisture level means that you may have to wait for the morning dew to dry off of them before you can start, and then risk an unacceptable amount of shatter loss by sundown.
When soybeans are harvested the whole plant is cut off and sent through the combine. Dry beans can drop out of the pod when the plant is shaken by the cutting process or just the tap of the reel that make sure they do not fall the wrong way. I get used to seeing those buff colored seeds sitting behind the cutter bar not moving into the machine. As the day progresses you can hear the snap as soybeans that are shaken out hit the windshield of the combine. There can be beans flying everywhere when the pods get really dry. The beans that do not make it into the machine are considered “harvest loss” and we try to keep their number to a minimum. A hailstorm at harvest time can drop the entire crop on the ground.
Although we try to choose varieties of beans the are easier to harvest, we do not want them to fall off of the plant too easily. It is just a fact of life, some beans will be lost. Certain machine changes keep the loss to a minimum, but some beans always escape. You could also harvest soybeans at a higher moisture percentage if you harvested them earlier and have less shatter loss, but then you have to mechanically dry them. By drying them with heat you risk losing some of their value. The harvest changes have to be economically acceptable.
Corn is easier to harvest at a higher moisture. The value saved when harvesting corn at 20% moisture will more than pay for the fuel and machinery to dry it for storage. Some years we must harvest corn at an even higher moisture content, leaving corn out all winter is too great of a risk.
The chance of header loss is less for corn than for soybeans, it has to do with the way the crop is harvested. The whole corn plant never enters the combine, only the ear. With corn, the stalk is pulled down sharply until the ear hits the stripper plates where the ear snaps off and goes into the combine. At wetter harvest moistures, the ear is usually still covered by the husk, which helps to keep kernels trapped until they get into the machine, the kernels are also more tightly held to the cob. At dryer harvest moistures the husk rarely stays on the ear. When dry corn hits the stripper plates, kernels of corn can go flying everywhere, as in soybeans, some go the wrong direction.
This year the corn also dried down too fast. By the time we got to the corn our moisture levels were below 15%. At that moisture kernels pop off of the cob when the harvest machinery takes it in. There are also a few ears that drop off, and some stalks that have fallen over that cannot be picked up. A strong wind can both knock down stalks and shake ears of corn off of the stalk.
Dryer corn does however separate from the cob inside the combine easier. This means we can harvest faster with less damage to the kernels of corn. Wetter corn will grind inside the combine, dryer corn will crack. It all becomes a trade off. You trade one cost for another. Most farmers around here prefer to harvest corn a bit wetter than we did this year.
Avoiding harvest loss is the reason for the fall rush. Farmers are trying to get the maximum amount of crop out of the field in the least amount of time. Buying bigger machinery would help speed the process, but add to the cost of harvest. The balance point between getting the crop out fast, and not having too much money invested in harvest machinery must be found. Most farmers err on the side of too big machinery.
This years ideal harvest weather with no rain meant a speedy harvest. A wet year, or an early snow storm, can change all of that. The rush to get the crop into protective storage means we balance many factors. We cannot control time or weather, so we do the best we can to guarantee the swift completion of harvest with the least harvest loss and shatter possible.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, seasons, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather
So, for us the 2011 harvest is in the books, and it was a good one.
The crop year in our area of Minnesota started out bad with rains and flooded fields that kept us out of the fields for the usual April 22 start of planting date. We did get started on May 1, a date that is considered late, but not exceptionally so. Our corn was all planted by May 10 and we started planting soybeans almost a week later due to more rain. Our crops were all planted in the optimal time frame according to the U of MN. Many others in the region were not so lucky and continued to struggle to plant until the end of June.
The spring and early summer continued wet and cold. It was a challenge just to get the work done. When the change came it was dramatic. First came the heat, as steamy day after steamy day gave us tropical conditions. We even had days that were more hot and humid than those experienced in rain forests. Then the rains stopped.
They called it a flash drought. One day it was hot and humid, the next it was hot and dry, and it stayed that way. In a time period when our crops needed one inch of rain per week, we were getting none. If we did get rain it came in very small amounts. August rain fall totaled under one quarter of an inch, and September was less than half of an inch. The ground became hard and cracked. It was amazing that the crops looked so good.
When harvest came, it came with a rush. One day the crops were not ready, the next everything was ready. Usually we get to harvest our soybeans and then begin harvest on corn that is 20% to 25% moisture. This year not only the soybeans were harvested at under 15% moisture, most of the corn was also. We not only started harvest earlier than normal, we finished in record time.
Corn coming out of the field at those moisture levels is something I have never experienced before. Yes, I have put a lot of corn straight into the bin, but usually I do that at 18% to 20% moisture and air dry it. More likely, I would spend time and money drying the corn to get it to a salable moisture level. We prefer to harvest corn at about 25% moisture to reduce harvest losses. The higher harvested amount helps to cover the drying costs.
So how did this years harvest turn out. On a field by field average, we had soybean yields of between 28 and 40 bushels per acre, nothing spectacular, but yields I have come to expect for our fields. Corn was a bit better with yields of 145 to 183 bushels per acre. I know that the lower yields were on fields that had sandy areas and ponding water, both things that will hinder good yields. The early wet and late dry really cut yields in some areas. Our best fields had no areas of either sand, or areas where water stayed for any period of time.
So what was my impression of the crop yields this year. I found the soybeans yields to be disappointing. It is obvious that the weather did reduce our soybean harvest. Harvest losses from harvesting the crop at too low of a moisture level will indeed be part of the problem, but not all of it.
Corn yields went from expected to very good. I was not surprised to get corn yields in the 145 to 160 area, but to have two fields that topped 180 bushels per acre was totally unexpected. Add to that the bonus of not having to dry the grain to store it and I am very happy with those two fields. I would estimate our harvest losses at about 5 bushels per acre, an amount that is not welcome, but well within expectations when you harvest corn that dry.
So we have finished harvest in a very challenging year. With all of the weather extremes it is a wonder we got any crop harvested at all. I can remember years in the past where we did not face as many challenges, and had much worse yields. It is indeed a testament to the newer varieties and farming methods that we did get so much.
So now we start work on the next years crop. There is one thing that is for sure of future crop years, none of them will be exactly like this year.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, fertilizer, harvest, Minnesota, nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, seasons, tillage, weather | Tags: Corn, fall, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, weather
Harvest is over, but farm work is not. Many seem to feel that when a farmer finishes his harvest, the year is over for him, in a way it is, but it is not. When we finish harvest, we start getting ready for the next year. This is especially true here in Minnesota where the cold sets in and stops all cropping activity. I can usually plan on the ground freezing solid the first week in December, the most common date, December 5th. We will not get enough warm weather to melt snow and start field work until April. If we can get into the field by April 20, we are happy, this year rains kept us out of the field until May 1. It is possible for us to get some warm weather that may start field work early, but that is rare. We had one year where some farmers were able to plant oats and wheat in January, but that is the exception. So, contrary to popular myth we do not have 6 months of winter here in Minnesota, with 6 months of tough sledding, we have only 4 months of winter, and March can, at times, be very nice.
So what are we doing to prepare for the next crop? For most farmers this includes some type of tillage to help bury the residue of the last crop. This not only makes it easier for the next crop to grow, it buries the plant material so it will not blow away over the winter, and allows plant material to start to break down so it will provide nutrients for the next crop. This tillage can include chopping, disking and moldboard plowing in the extreme of one end, to just letting it lie on the other. We are somewhere in between, where corn was planted in the spring we use a heavy disk to turn over the top few inches of soil, yet leave much of the plant material near or on the surface. In soybean stubble we use a strip till rig to place fertilizer for the next crop and leave most of the ground undisturbed.
Fertilizing for the next crop is a big part of our planning for the next year. Phosphorus and potassium, plus a few micro nutrients, can be expected to stay put in the soil, so we will place most of those nutrients in the soil now. They tie to plant and soil particles and don’t move until a plant uses them. Nitrogen can be a bit of a different story.
I like to place a little nitrogen down in the fall, and the rest in two extra doses in the growing season. Nitrogen is only somewhat stable in the soil. Cold weather helps to keep it from going off into the air or water. When you have a very wet spring like this last one, much of your nitrogen can leach out into the ground water. Most years this is not a problem, so many farmers take the chance and put down their nitrogen in the fall when it is less expensive. For me, I have found that I can use less nitrogen and get a better yield by applying it later, even though it will cost me more. This year that approach payed off, but that is not always the case.
Livestock farmers have extra chores to take care of after harvest. These chores include cleaning barns and spreading the manure and used bedding, and harvesting some of the left over plant materials for winter bedding. Manure tends to break down slowly, and will act like a slow release fertilizer. It is rarely possible to spread livestock waste on standing crops, thus the extra spring and fall rush for livestock owners.
We also have some cleaning to do of our machinery before storage, and a few repairs that could not be, or were not, done during the harvest. Cleaning out the dust and litter from a machine helps to keep out mice who want to have a warm winter bed (and who chew on wires and hoses), and also helps you to identify possible repairs before they get worse. Having harvest end early really assists in the cleaning and proper storage of our machinery.
So today I’ll have an easy Sunday. I’ll do a little yard and garden work, then I start getting ready for the harvest of 2012. It is only 11 months until the next harvest after all.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, fertilizer, grain storage, harvest, Minnesota, rain, tillage | Tags: auger, Corn, farm, graincart, harvest, machines, rain, striptill, tillage, weather
We finished work tonight under a very bright harvest moon. Full moon will be Wed. the 12th. It was really easy to walk out in the field it was so bright.
We did get a little rain today, but it did not slow us down much. We took a break for lunch and when the rain quit, we were back at it.
Another day of harvest, another bin full. We’ve moved over to my place to harvest the corn there. I don’t have much storage here so most of it will be trucked to my dad’s place. Since the corn is so dry we are putting it right into the bin. The process goes something like this.
The ears of corn are stripped from the stalks and processed inside our IH 2166. The kernels of corn are separated from the cob and husk. The cob and husk go out the back to become mulch for next years crop, the kernels go into the hopper for later transport.
The corn is transferred to the grain cart where it is moved to the next step. Since the grain cart is pulled through the field with a tractor, it can go places that a truck has trouble. In this dry year, we just use it to speed up harvest. The combine never stops. It harvests and unloads at the same time. The tractor and grain cart take the corn to a waiting truck or wagon.
Since we are so close to the field, we just park a gravity wagon by the auger in the yard and dump into that. This only works with fields near the bins. It really speeds up harvest. The gravity wagon meters the corn out into the auger while the driver heads out to get another load. When he gets back the load is already in the bin. In this case we are putting the corn into a Harvestor silo that has been converted for dry corn storage.
Here’s the view of the process from the top of the silo. We only have one auger that can make it to the top of the silo. It has to be extended to its full height to make it.
You can see the field we are harvesting from the top of the silo. It’s just the other side of those trees. In this picture the field is about half done.
I’ve been really pleased with the yield on this field. It beats the next best field harvested so far by 20 bushels. The fact that this field has no sandy spots and no spots where water could sit did help it out. It is also a field that was soybeans last year, so we used a planting and fertilizing method called strip till. In strip till you put most of the fertilizer in a narrow band under where you plan to plant the corn crop. The rest of the field is left undisturbed. That means that all of the plant material from the last crop is on top of the soil to protect it from rain, wind and heat. We did harvest part of another strip till field but that has sandy soil in several places. It also had some wet spots that didn’t dry well.
Well, it’s getting late. Early alarm clock tomorrow again. Best get some sleep.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, spring, summer, weather, wind | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, spring, summer, weather, wind
It’s harvest time here in southwestern Minnesota and all farmers are busy. We’ve had no rain to speak of in over two months. The wind blows everything around. I’m not getting enough sleep. Hmmm….. must be why I missed a few days of postings.
So this is what I’ve been looking at for the last several days, except for when I switch off with dad to unload a few loads, or stop for a meal, or to get a few hours of sleep, if it’s daylight we’re harvesting.
So sometimes we dump into the grain cart when is not moving, and sometimes we dump into it when we are both moving. It’s a way to get a lot done if you have enough people. Since there are only two of us, we don’t dump on the go that often. The grain cart does make a good way to keep one truck on the road. The combine dumps into the grain cart when it gets full, and when the truck gets back you refill the truck. It helps keep everyone busy.
So when both the combine and grain cart are dumping into the truck at the same time, you can really fill it up fast.
So when I’m not looking where I’m going, I will glance at the monitor to see how much crop I’m harvesting and what the moisture level of that crop is. Now this is OLD tech, it must be almost 10 years old by now, I cannot even imagine what the new machines do. Still it’s pretty cool to this old guy to be able to get an idea of how much you are harvesting before you haul it into town.
It’s really interesting to see the areas where the corn didn’t grow so well, the weeds just take over. Is shows how critical early weed control is. Once the crop is up and shading the ground the weeds don’t get growing. Let a little sunshine in, and instant weed patch.
Sometimes the wind knocks down the corn before we get to it. In a year like this, when the corn dried out so quickly, it can happen much more than we would like. If you can get the snouts of the combine under it, maybe you can get it into the combine. Many times though, the ear will drop off, or the stalk will break off, and you get nothing. It’s a long slow process in down corn.
So this years planting started out late, we had a lot of rain for the first months of the growing season, and it was cold. Then in a flash, it all changed to dry and hot. Amazingly the plants still held on and managed to produce an average, to better than average crop. Not only did a late, cold, planting season turn to hot and dry, all that heat made our harvest season early for us. We are harvesting a dry crop and putting it right into the bin, which is very rare in my lifetime. What a year.
So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m finishing harvest.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather, wind | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather, wind
So now we have switched from soybean to corn harvest. As with the beans the corn has dried down much more than we expected. In fact I cannot remember ever starting harvest with the corn moisture so low. Our first load into town was below 15% moisture. There will be no drying costs this year.
There is an added challenge with dry corn. The ears do not like to hang onto the stalk when it gets dry. Now we will be trying to get what is on the stalk into the combine and then the bins. We do not need high winds now to rattle around the corn stalks and shake the ears of corn off. Unfortunately that is the forecast, several days of winds over 25 mph. It’s always one challenge or another.
The yields so far look good, perhaps even better than last year, we shall see how this all shakes out. It really makes for a speeded up harvest.
Since most of the field we were in yesterday was going onto town, we shut down a bit early. I’m used to working well into the night with the combine, but since POET closed it’s doors at 7:30 we stopped hauling loads early, filled the trucks and called it a night.
Well, sun’s coming up, I’m off.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans | Tags: farm, harvest, ice water, machines, Minnesota, repairs, sandwiches, Soybeans, tomatoes, wind
For my dad and I the 2011 soybean harvest is finished. I spent most of the last 5 days looking down the rows of soybeans. Dad spent the last few days driving and unloading trucks.
Actually I rarely looked this high, my eyes were usually down where the action was, down on the sickle making sure the beans were feeding into the machine properly. Then if something went wrong it had to be fixed.
Yeah, I did this a few times. Once in a while something would get into the sickle that could not be cut. Something would have to give, and it was usually the bolts that held a sickle section on the bar. Then it’s get out and replace it. Hammer out the old bolts, insert a new section, tighten the bolts, put away the tools and off we go again.
Keeping windows clean enough to see out of was a job. The dust from the plants stuck to everything. The windows got washed down at least twice a day. Dust covered everything unless the wind was blowing enough to move it off. Blowing dust at times can make it hard to see what you are doing, especially just before sundown. I’m glad I have A/C in the cab, but dust still got in somehow.
I didn’t stop for much once I got going. My lunch bag was there beside me. Every morning I put in two sandwiches, some small yellow tomatoes, two quarts of ice water and some fruit. There was already a can of peanuts in the cab. That kept me going until I decided to quit for the day.
For us, this years harvest was only average. The bean plants were dry so they threshed out well, and the soybeans themselves were a little on the dry side.
So tomorrow it’s clean up the combine and get ready for the corn harvest. Still plenty to do.
Filed under: church, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, weather, wind | Tags: farm, fire, harvest, machines, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, wind
I finished combining soybean field number three today, that leaves one to go. If everything hangs together we will be finished on Wednesday.
It has been quite a harvest. We started harvest on Thursday due to the unexpected arrival of our local tree service. I had called him earlier about some trees that were in the wrong place. He removed branches that were hanging over buildings and several dying trees that I did not want to tackle because of their location, trees dropped on houses and other buildings are not appreciated. We most likely got a two day late start on soybean harvest because of his arrival.
Thursday was a VERY windy day. We had sustained winds of over 30 mph with gusts exceeding 50 mph. As I am working I see what seem to be fires both east and west of me. When I checked my facebook page that night I find that two of my fb friends had fires in their fields. One fire was most likely started by spark from a combine, the other was sparked when the combine caught fire. There were so many fires in the area that all fire crews were out several times Thursday. It was not a day to fight a fire. The winds made the fire move fast, and gave plenty of air to really make for some big fires.
The newer diesel engines have extremely hot exhaust systems. They heat the exhaust up to make sure that all of the pollutants are fully burned. Unfortunately when the wind blows dry plant material onto exhaust systems that are over 1000 degrees a fire can start instantly. To see pictures of new combines turned to junk is very upsetting. These new machines can cost over $400,000. That is a very significant loss of money and harvest time.
Luckily my problems this week were smaller. That twisted piece of metal in the picture above is the divider that should keep the soybeans from messing up the end of the sickle on my combine. A 2X2 channel iron broke off right at the hinge and twisted the remaining pieces that were still holding on to the combine head. That meant that the first order of business after church this morning was to straighten and weld the pieces. By 3 we had the iron all put back into almost perfect order and could finish the field we had started Saturday.
Soybean yields have so far been better than expected. We’ll see if that translates over to the corn as well.
Tomorrow morning I make a trip to pick up parts, little things that keep breaking but do not significantly affect the performance of the combine, then we get the machine ready for the last field of soybeans. Fingers crossed, here we go.