Minnesota Farmer

Blowing away

I spent part of the day scouting fields for weeds and wet spots.  We lost some corn when the rains of two weeks ago drowned it out.  The areas are not big, but they will need to be replanted, but not today.  Today’s winds of over 40 miles per hour are just not making life easy for us, and since I do not have any large fields left to plant, I’ll tend to other things.

You can see that this low area has no corn growing in it.  Corn plants that spend too much time under water die.  These plants didn’t have a chance since they had not yet emerged and died before they broke the surface.  I’ll be out adding seed to areas like this soon.  We did not lose much to the water, but we do like to see something growing in all areas of our fields.

The winds today have brought to light another problem, blowing soil.  They are creating some real problems in some areas.  The heavy rain of two weeks ago packed some fields so that grains of dust can start to move.  Areas in the field that are still uneven don’t allow the wind to move soil.  Soil without protective cover and that are smooth can blow.

These poor corn plants don’t have a chance.  With temperatures of over 80 degrees and 40 mile per hour winds kicking up soil, they are really having a hard time.

This farmer has used a rotary hoe to break up the soil surface in strips in his field.   The whole field does not have to be hoed, just enough to keep the soil in place.

The rotary hoe can break up surface crusting that will allow soil to blow.  It has the advantage that it is quick and low horsepower.  It makes the soil just rough enough to keep the wind from getting a grip.

This is the way I want to see a field after planting soybeans.  Dirt clumps, root balls and some of last years corn stalks are there to keep the soil from blowing or washing away.  I have seen fields like this take large amounts of rain and not move any soil.  Unfortunately some of my neighbors like to see a field like this.

This is a field after it has been rolled.  Some farmers are using large land rollers to smooth the soil surface after planting.  It is a practice that I do not agree with.

Why do they use them?  The rational is that they make harvest easier by packing down clumps of dirt and root balls, and bury rocks to make harvest easier.  To me it is a waste of time.  University tests have shown no benefit to the grower in harvested yield to pay for the purchase or rent of these pieces of equipment.  If you have rocks in the field, they should be picked up.  A smooth soil surface opens the field up to wind and water erosion.  The soil erosion that occurs has a definite downside that I do not want to chance for a possible ease of harvest.  The argument of ease of harvest is mostly a subjective one.  Since I do not consider that I have any harvest problems that can be solved with a roller, I see no need to use one.

Land rollers do have a purpose in some crops.  Using them with some small seeded, shallowly planted, crops like alfalfa or sugar beets, helps promote emergence.  Manufacturers of these machines found a new purpose that they could promote to sell some new iron.  I’m just not one of those who will throw away my money on some new fad that I do not need.

We’re due for a few more windy days here in Southwestern Minnesota and even a chance of rain.  A bit of rain would be welcome.  Meanwhile, there is still work to be done.



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