Minnesota Farmer


Mid July, 2012

The grass in our yard is dry and brown except in the small areas where we are trying to save it.  There are large cracks in lawns and fields.  The earth is hard and resists efforts to dig in it.  Yep, we’re in a drought again.

This years dry period started almost a month before last years did.  In 2011 we saw our last significant rain in mid July.  In 2012 we are already dry.  An area from Kansas to Ohio is so short of moisture that farmers there may not even get a crop, over 60% of our countries crop growing area is in a drought and the area seems to be expanding daily.  Here in Southwestern Minnesota we are doing OK, but how long can we hold on.  I took some pictures to show you what our crops currently look like.

Our corn fields look pretty good.  Yes, there are some areas on sandy soil that are already gone, but most of our fields are still finding water.  When the temperatures are near 100 and the hot wind blows the corn will get grey as it shuts down a little to protect itself, but usually in the morning it looks good.

I was surprised to see two ears on many of our corn stalks.  The early moisture seems to have encouraged the growth of that extra ear.  We had decent temperatures during pollination so there is hope for lots of kernels on each ear, but how big those kernels will be is yet to be determined.

The GMO varieties that we now plant are able to produce much more corn with less water.  They have stronger roots and are resistant to insect predation.  These all mean that we have a much better chance of getting a crop than I would have expected only a few years ago.

Our low ground had a bit too much water early in the year so we have areas with little or no corn.  A few weeds have taken advantage of the sunlight and are producing well.

A small amount of rain or some fog, and a corn plant will collect that moisture on its leaves and funnel it down to the ground.  This wet spot is after only 0.04 of an inch of rain.  Corn also will send its roots down deep.  We still have some moisture deep. if you dig down 4 or 5 feet, you will get water in your hole.  I find it interesting that corn that grew in what were once wet areas is showing moisture stress, this is most likely because the roots did not develop deep enough, soon enough.

This picture is of some soybeans on some of our sandier ground.  These 15 inch rows are not quite touching here, but where the beans got a bit more water they are covering the dirt.  A green canopy of leaves will help soybeans hold moisture in the ground.  When it rains, or there is dew or fog, the plants will take advantage of every drop they can gather.

Soybeans will abort pods in dry weather.  They will only produce what they can support.  If it stays dry, I do not expect a lot of pods on the plants, nor will I expect to see any large seeds.

Large rains in June eroded some of our ground.  The rains came when the ground had the least protection, and the rain came fast and hard.

I’ve been cultivating the soybeans that are in 30 inch rows.  When the soybeans do not cover the area between rows, it gives more weeds a chance to grow.  These beans are for the production for next years seed and the productions reps want to be able to walk the fields easily.  Since they pay us very well, I don’t complain about the wider rows.

I’ve also noticed that some of our weeds are developing resistance to the herbicides we use.  There is no weed yet that had developed a resistance to the steel in a row crop cultivator.

The third cutting of alfalfa looks like it will be short.  This first year alfalfa gave us two good crops already, but needs lots of rain to produce more.  We should see blossoms soon which will mean it’s time to cut,  the current cutting looks like it will be about one-third of the first two cuttings.  This alfalfa was planted just before the last rains of 2011 and only got about 6 inches tall last year.  When the rains came, it really developed well.

So there you have it.  Our area of Minnesota looks good, but will need rain.  I expect we will get a crop of some kind, but how much will we get.  Will it be enough to cover expenses?  Time will tell, until then we pray for rain.

Michael

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