Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, science, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: climate, Corn, drought, dry soil, farm, harvest, history, Minnesota, nature, Planting, rain, science, Soybeans, spring, weather
There has been a bit of talk lately of what this last years crop year was and what next years will be like. What is past is always a bit easier to know.
A month ago we started work on a new barn. Part of the process was to dig a rather large hole 4 feet deep. The clay under the top soil was dry. It made for some very easy digging. What does that have to do with next year and what does that say about this years crop.
Back in May a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talked to me about the prospects for the future with an early planting and a future of a very large crop. You can read that story here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/05/24/corn-crop-outlook/> When he asked me what I thought of the USDA prediction of a large crop, I laughed and said they were guessing. A few months later he came back to talk to me and the talk was not about a record crop and depressed prices, but of a short crop and prices at historically high levels for months now. That story is here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/15/business/2012-minnesota-crop-report/>
So much changed just weeks after the May interview and so much can change now. Historically we have only a 5% chance of a drought this next year, yet the least expected option often happens. So how do we get from dust to a banner crop? Rain.
We will get rain. If it is enough is not in our hands. I was blessed to be raised in a part of the country that has small chance of a drought, but much has changed in my lifetime. Centuries of man’s wanton waste of the energy resources of our earth have tipped us into new territory. I hesitate to try to predict the unpredictable.
In the meantime I will plan and prepare. The soil is here, I will protect it. The rain will fall, I will use what is given to me. The sun will shine and plants will use it. God willing there will be a harvest again next year.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, rain, tillage, weather | Tags: environment, erosion, farm, Minnesota, Planting, rain, science, spring, weather
Our area of southwestern Minnesota has been in a drought since last July. We have gone months since we had a “normal” rainfall amount. That has changed. In the last few days we have nearly erased the moisture shortage, and it has caused another problem, erosion. In just a few days we had almost 6 inches of rainfall, one event had over 2 inches fall in one hour time. This is something that tilled farmland cannot handle.
Many fields have water standing in them. This water ponding came about because the soil could not absorb water in such vast amounts falling so fast. Even grassland will have water run-off when huge amounts of water fall. This water then ponds in lower areas to slowly filter into the earth. Some of this water will go directly into streams and lakes, but most of the water never gets there. It is held to either recharge the soil water table, or evaporates back into the air.
When you get this much water it will move exposed soil. In the case of the picture above the soil moved only a few feet. Most soil erosion is deposited near to where it erodes from. High areas are torn down and low areas built up. Areas that erode near streams and lakes will be deposited into the water, but most soil does not move that far.
In some cases the erosion can be both wide and deep, it can tear out even mature crops, a newly planted crop has no chance. Most areas that are prone to this type of erosion have been converted into grass by farmers. When there are long periods of light rain and no erosion farm folks start to forget what happens in a large rain. When these events happen, they remember again, and grassed water ways are planted. Unfortunately periods of drought tend to cause more erosion, since soil that is dry is easier to move than wet soil.
Roads also suffer when rain falls in large amounts. Here water could not get through the culverts under the road fast enough and it topped the road and removed the gravel.
Roadway culverts do help to meter out the water. They will hold it back so only the largest rainfall events cause problems. The ponded water behind a roadway gives soil a chance to settle out and not make it to a stream or lake.
We can still use more rain to keep our crops growing, we just need it to fall slowly and in smaller amounts until our crops are bigger.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, fertilizer, planting, rain, spring, tillage, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, corn planters, corn rows, farm, machines, Planting, rain, spring, weather, Weed control
After the dry fall and winter we are finally getting some rain, and it could not come at a better time, most of our corn is now planted. This morning found half an inch of water in the gauge to add to the 2.5 inches of rain we had earlier in the month. Things are really looking good for corn planting.
I had commented to our pastor on Sunday that if the weather held the dust would be flying on Tuesday. By Tuesday morning the corn planters were indeed rolling, and a few ambitious pieces of tillage equipment had made it to the field on Monday. The ground was so dry after winter that it takes a lot of rain to make it too wet to work the fields. So, when it got dry enough, the planting started.
This has been my primary view from Tuesday to Friday, looking down the hood of the tractor to keep the planter centered on the marker. I have not yet embraced the computer assisted steering that draws information from space to keep me gong straight. My planter is not big enough to make the switch, and will probably never be. I just do not have enough acres. Still there is a pride in the straight line of corn rows after planting.
The above picture is from later in the week when we got to some of the corn on corn ground. For several years now we have been in a corn-corn-soybean rotation on most of our acres, one rental farm has been in a corn-soybean rotation. The market has been paying better for corn than for soybeans, and I need to respond to the financial cues of the market.
When we grow crops, the left over plant material in the fall needs to be kept in place so it can break down and help feed the next years crop. Until the advent of modern machines farmers would try to bury as much of the “trash” as possible. We have learned that the ”trash” is needed to help hold the soil by reducing wind and water erosion. Keeping it on the top also helps to slow weed growth and moisture evaporation. Fields such as I planted this week were considered sloppy farming only 20 years ago. Now I look at the rough surface with all of its clumps of crop residue as a sign of long-term health.
This is how our fields look after I plant corn into last years soybean stubble. This is strip till. Last fall, fertilizer was injected into the ground in narrow strips under where I planned to plant corn. This keeps a maximum amount of cover on the soil, while providing the corn plant all that it needs close by. The soybean residue helps to control wind and water erosion and holds what moisture we have. This can really help in a dry year.
This is a side view of how our planter is set up. When we drive through the field, fingers on the “trash whippers” push plant material, small rocks and clumps of dirt to the side to help make a good seed bed, then the disk openers make a slot in the soil for the seed to fall into. The larger wheels under the planter help to control the depth of planting. We want the seed deep enough to reach moisture, but not too deep so it cannot get out. Finally the smaller wheels in the back pack the dirt tight around the seed to promote good soil to seed contact so the seed will germinate.
The larger yellow bin holds the corn seed we are planting. This planter uses a vacuum meter system to make sure that seeds are delivered one at a time and in the right number. The smaller yellow bins at the back could be used for insecticide or herbicide, but are just used to hold parts and tools. The white tank that you can see part of at the top of the picture is for fertilizer. We do not use these in strip till, but do use them in more conventional tillage. They help to get a small bit of fertilizer right where the corn plant needs it to get a good start.
This little loop of metal, most likely a bit of metal from an antique piece of farm equipment, caused a lot of trouble. Somehow it got caught on the disk openers and stopped them from turning. I had left about a half a mile of seed sitting on the surface in that row before I discovered it. It is amazing how one little piece of material can ruin a lot of work.
This is an old monitor system, but it does all we need it to do. The computer takes information from each row on the planter and speed traveled cues from space to tell me how many seeds per acre I am planting in each row. If there is trouble, a beep from the monitor will alert me to check on it. With the price of seed corn, we try to use each seed to its maximum. Tools like this monitor help to make planting less stressful.
Our planter still uses a mechanical marker. The disk leaves a slot in the soil for me to follow on the next pass. Those with larger planters have gone to GPS systems that use technology created by our military to find your position on the globe as guidance systems. The technology is still evolving, but is getting better each year.
It’s hard to tell that this field has been planted, and that is the way I like it. If you look across the road you can see the next field I will plant. It has not been worked yet to level off the surface from last falls tillage. Both fields still have plenty of “trash” on them.
Now I will be waiting for the next few dry days so I can finish corn planting. With only 80 acres left to plant I should be able to finish that in an afternoon. So far I feel that our planting is right on time. Those who planted corn earlier have not gained on me, since cold weather has kept their corn from emerging. The addition of about 3 inches of rain will give our seeds a good start. The conditions are looking a lot better than they did only a month ago. It has all the beginnings of a good growing year.
Filed under: cold, Corn, Farm, Minnesota, planting, rain, spring, weather | Tags: cold, Corn, farm, Minnesota, Planting, rain, spring, weather
It seems that the weather has flipped. Today we are having March weather, and in March we had April weather.
The calendar is coming around to the time that we will begin planting corn here in Southwestern Minnesota no matter what the weather. Cold will not stop us, because when the warmer weather gets here, we want the corn in the ground. With daytime temps not breaking 50 it is going to be hard for the corn to get going, but we will have to take our chances. The calendar says it is time.
The University of Minnesota says that we should be starting to plant corn in our area about April 23. I have had many years when that was not possible. The last recommended date to plant corn is May 20, with a April 25 to May 10 optimal window.
This year has been crazy since we could have had our corn planted and up by now, some do, and now the weather turns cold. The risk of planting before now was too much for me. Although most of the blooms and leaves in this area seem to have weathered the 16 to 20 degree weather we had last week, some plants did not. We even had some snow just a few days ago, so the cold is far from past.
I was out in the field yesterday checking on soil conditions, and the soil is in good shape for planting. The soil is damp, but not wet, and with the dry weather we had over winter, we still will need lots of water to keep the crops growing. Unless this drizzle turns into a real rain I would expect to see farm folks in our area out planting at the first hint of sun from now on. The calendar, after all, says it is time.
Filed under: family, Farm, frost, garden, planting, spring, Trees, weather | Tags: children, Easter, farm, garden, leaf lettuce, plant potatoes, Planting, potato, potatoes, spring
Well, I’ve done it, I finally started planting my garden. Usually you are fairly safe to start planting the more hardy plants by Easter. Many a person sets Good Friday as the day to plant potatoes. With this years good weather I could have had a lot more planted, but stayed away as long as I could. The exception, some potatoes.
About a month ago I looked at the sprouting left overs from last years garden and decided to try something crazy. I dug out these old pots and put those sprouted potatoes in. The plan is to keep adding soil as they grow. I’m hoping for some early potatoes. I figured I could move the pots inside when cold weather threatened and not have to worry, so far, no worry.
I had purchased some new asperges plants and some seed potatoes and decided to put them into the ground. My garden had been getting hard, so last fall I went through it with a deep tillage disk that I use in the fields. Now this spring I can tell that it helped. I took the tiller through the garden to get the early sprouting weeds, dug out some quack grass and dandelions and got planting. While I was at it I planted radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce, spinach and peas. These are all plants that can take being a little cold.
It doesn’t look like much now, but give it a few warm days and we’ll have some fresh veggies poking up.
The weather forecast is not hopeful for the plants that are already leafed out. Monday and Tuesday low temperatures are forecast to be well below freezing. That will push off my date for the start of corn planting. It is not only the corn that I have some concerns about. If the weather is cold enough the new blooms in the yard are in danger.
Our lilacs are just beginning to open.
The flowering crab is only days from blooming. The strong winds out of the north these last few days have not kept them from trying to bloom.
We can cover the tulips to protect them, but the trees are not going to be so lucky.
Talking about trees, my grandfather said you should wait until the ash and oak leaves were as big as a squirrels ear. We don’t even have much for buds on the ash, although they are showing their flowers.
I’m not worried about the ash trees, they will make it through quite a cold snap, but many other plants will not. I’m not sure how much cold the climbing rose will take at this time, I guess I’ll find out.
One plant I am hoping to see freeze off are these dandelions.
The blooms are staying close to the ground, so perhaps they know that the cold is not yet over.
So here’s hoping your Easter garden is frost free and full of color.
Filed under: fish, garden, Minnesota, pond, spring, water garden | Tags: day lilly's, frogs, garden, iris, Koi, marsh marigolds, Minnesota, outdoors, plants, pond, sedum, spring, stone cap
It’s a beautiful April First here in Southwestern Minnesota and we are enjoying the warm before the weather turns a little more like April. I went out to check the pond and found the “flat” near the bridge was full of leopard frogs again.
We counted 12 of them before I took the picture, you should be able to see at least 8 of them in this picture. I found over 20 frogs around the pond at various times and they all have their favorite spots. If they don’t like what’s going on around them they jump into the water and head down to a hide out. So far they have been quiet and have not started “singing” to us. Most of the frogs are black with a bit of yellow-green on them, but a couple have started to shift to green.
The Koi are not easy to photograph since most of them are “black” and prefer the deeper water. These three orange one year olds are the easiest to see. There at least 12 more one year olds in “black” (several are visible as grey ellipses in the picture) and three older black ones.
The marsh marigolds are the only bits of color in the pond for now. I’m not sure if any of the other plants will come as the year goes along, but it is nice to see these yellow blooms.
Since I have had the creek running the water has cleared up a lot. It is still a bit brown due to the dead leaves in the bottom, and the brown algae on the rocks, but warmer weather should green things up a bit more.
I added rock steps to make getting into the pond easier this spring. As long as the grandchildren understand that this is a garden and not a swimming pool my plants should be safe. Since Allison and Katelyn are still too young to get to the pond without help, I should be OK for this year.
The sedum, irises and day lilly’s are really starting to green up along the “creek.” The stone cap stayed dusty green all winter long under the snow and is really spreading out over the rocks. All it needed was to have the dead plant material removed to show its color.
I spread some grass seed in a large bare patch and put the sprinkler on it today. That area of the lawn has had issues for years. So far it grows weeds best but I’m hoping with some sturdier varieties I can get it to green up properly.
Filed under: Minnesota, pond, rain, spring, water garden, weather, Wildlife | Tags: frogs, marsh marigold, marsh marigolds, Minnesota, pond, rain, spring, weather
It’s the first day of spring here in southwestern Minnesota and my springtime pond is mostly brown. I’ve cleaned up the dead plant material from around the pond and even cleaned most of the stuff that blew in over the winter off of the bottom. At this time last year we had snow on the ground and frozen water, not so this year.
We’ve broken records for both daytime highs, and high minimum temperatures this week so all of our plants seem to be getting an early start. This year the frogs came off of the bottom to warm in the sunshine of our record warm days. They’ve even found some insects to eat.
Most of the time the frogs dive in when I come into view, but sometimes one that thinks itself hidden better will sit around to be photographed. If one frog dives in there are sure to be many others taking the plunge. They are very dark so far this spring. I’m hoping we’ll see our usual green leopard frogs when the area greens up.
The surprise of the pond today was to see the first blooms on the Marsh Marigolds. This is my first year with these plants so I had not realized that they were such early bloomers. I remember them being in bloom until freeze-up, so I’m expecting a long season of sunny yellow flowers. I do hope they are not so early that they will freeze off before we get into our normal spring-time season.
The rain of the last few days has helped a lot, although we have not gotten much rain, just a few tenths. Right now we are about six inches behind in rainfall and it will take a major shift in the weather patterns to get us back to normal. One thing is for sure, it is hard to be gloomy when the weather is this nice.
Filed under: fish, Minnesota, pond, spring, water garden | Tags: garden, Koi, Minnesota, plants, pond, sedum, spring, warm temperatures, water garden, water plants
It’s March, we should not be having weather this nice, but my pond is greening up so it’s time to get cleaning.
After this mornings fog burned off the weather turned really warm. Temperatures approaching 80 degrees were found in our area. This is unusual for March here in southwestern Minnesota. I was hauling beans in to town, but an oil leak in the engine compartment of the truck meant I needed to add 1 gallon of oil to the truck motor. The truck is now in the shop getting fixed. What to do?
My visits to the pond revealed not only awakening frogs, but new leaves on many of the plants in or near the pond. It’s time for a pond Spring cleaning.
These pond side plants are sending out green shoots. These plants have been here at the waters edge all winter. I started seeing some green here before the ice was completely out of the pond. This is much earlier than would have been possible the last two years.
If you look in the water near the center of the picture you can see one orange baby koi and a few little circles in the water indicating more just under the surface. Last years hatch of koi are checking out the water’s surface for food. I counted three larger koi and at least 19 first years. Too bad that most of them are dark colors.
The plants that normally would grow just under the waters surface had their pots moved to deeper water for the winter. Now they are sending leaves up to the surface. You can see the two pots as green leaves near the center of the picture. Today I moved them to their platforms so they could grow in the place they should. It meant putting on the chest waders so I could go into that COLD water.
Part of the spring pond cleaning is to remove some of the dead plant material from the bottom of the pond. Leaves that blew in last fall started to rot on the bottom of the pond and they make some really good compost. They do tend to take some of the oxygen from the water when they rot so air needs to get mixed into the water either with a bubbler or by pumping water down a “creek” when there is ice on the pond. Not all of the material should be removed from the pond bottom since frogs and turtles need that as a place to hide. You can see the water plant on its shelf in the middle of the pond.
Shore line plant material needs to be removed to keep it from entering the water as they break up. Removing the plant material revealed these sedum starting to come up. There were several other perennial plants starting to green up. There will be more to do if the weather stays warm. As with any garden, this one takes work to keep it nice. Spring is coming!