Minnesota Farmer


July 16
July 16, 2018, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Corn, Farm, nitrogen, weather

Who would have believed it.  Here it is July 16 and the corn is almost fully tasseled.  We went through a terrible spring, wet ground and late planting made us believe the whole year would be late, and now the corn is tasseling on time, this is great!

Now not every field looks this good.  There are drowned out spots, but they do not really take up all that much area.  Of more concern are really late planted corn, replanted corn and areas of compaction or nitrogen shortage, all of those can amount to many more acres and much more yield loss than the drowned out will effect.  When you look across a field and you see areas where the corn looks a bit yellow and is short, that could be from any of those problems.  They will cause a shortage of mature corn at harvest and a reduced yield.

So I’m giving thanks for the places where the corn looks great, but I’m a bit worried for the areas where it does not.

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What a spring!
June 26, 2018, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Corn, Farm, farm life, planting, rain, Soybeans, weather

This has been a wild spring!  First we had lots of snow that didn’t go away, then we had rain that would not quit.

Normally we want to start planting corn about April 23, but it was still cold and wet then.  I did finally get started planting on the 7th of May, but I only got 1 acre planted that day.  It wasn’t until the 18th of May that I finally got finished planting corn, a full 8 days later than our usual end of planting date.

I got right at it and started planting soybeans on the 20th of May, but then the skies opened up. The field I started to plant got over 4 inch of rainfall that night, and since it is near a creek, all of our neighbors water ran across that field.  It was not until the 5th of June before I could get back into that field.

Several times I tried to get soybean planting going again, but it was not until June first that I finally got another field planted.  The first week of June stayed mostly dry and I got all of the soybeans planted, about two weeks later than I wanted, but planted.

Between June 6 and June 11 we got 1.3 inches of rain, then 4 days in a row of no rain.  I started to get ready to kill some weeds.  Then the skies opened.  Between June 16 and June 21 we got 6.8 inches of rain, and we had flooded fields.

It is now June 26,  we still have water everywhere.  This is north of my dad’s buildings where about 3 feet of water is not going away.  We’ll lose crop here.  There’s a low spot in this bean field southeast of my house, and two ponds in view along my dad’s west fence line.  This spot was so wet last fall we could not get it harvested, it still has water in it today.  I’m actually amazed that the soybeans look good here since this field got two showers of over 4 inches.

My farm has gotten 9.6 inches of rain so far this month and more is forecast in a day or two.  This is definitely a spring for the record books.



Not this year!
April 22, 2018, 1:53 pm
Filed under: agriculture, cold, Corn, Farm, farm life, Minnesota, planting, Trees, weather, winter

April 15 was the first day crop insurance covered newly planted corn here in Southwestern Minnesota.  Has anyone here started planting corn yet?  Not this year!  This year we had just received 7 inches of snow on April 14.  In years past some of my neighbors would have planted some of their corn before April 15, not this year!

April 22 is the first day that the University of Minnesota recommends planting corn here in Southwestern Minnesota.  Will we be planting corn on Monday?  Not this year!

This year we still have snow in the fields.

This year a field like this where the snow is mostly melted is hard to find in my neighborhood.

This year a field tree line has a lot of snow on the down wind side where snow piled up when the north winds blew the snow around.

This year groves of trees have 4 feet or more of snow piled up in them which will melt into the fields for a long time yet.

So when do I hope to start planting corn?  Who knows.  It will not be this month.  My hope is to start planting by the normal last day of planting on May 10.  If I have to wait to plant corn after May 20 we’ll have to change the varieties of corn I plant.  This year may yet go down in the books as the latest I have planted corn, but I do not know the answer to when I will start planting yet, all I can say is not yet.



Minnesota Shrimp

On Monday, I attended our local Corn and Soybean growers meeting.  The guest speaker was from a company called Tru-Shrimp.  The goal of Tru-Shrimp is to help the U.S. grow more of the shrimp currently eaten here.  Currently 80% of the shrimp eaten in the U.S. is grown overseas in lagoons and bays near the ocean.  Because of a variety of problems, these shrimp production areas can have a mortality rate of over 60%, a number that no U.S. farmer would allow in their flocks and herds.

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Tru_Shrimp has developed an indoor pond system for shrimp production in Balaton, MN. Thats about as far away from salt water as you can get in the lower 48.  This pond system is set to be put into full scale production in an indoor ocean near Luverne, MN in about a year.  The plan is to eventually have 12 of these large scale shrimp production sites in the area.

Now why would the corn and soybean growers be interested in shrimp production?  The food source for the shrimp will be locally sourced corn and soybeans.  In ocean side shrimp farms the shrimp are fed fish meal.  Taking fish and fish by-products for shrimp production may be part of the reason for the 60% mortality rate.  Using corn and soybeans in a totally enclosed system where water is filtered and reused has gotten the mortality rate to nearer 10%, a truly ground breaking shift.

So keep your eyes open for Tru-Shrimp.  Once those Minnesota shrimp farms are up and running you’ll be able to buy and eat some really fresh shrimp, all brought to you by folks here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and your Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers.

 



Minnesota farmers visit South African farm

One of the requests we had made on a previous visit was to spend time with a farmer from South Africa.  Some of it is curiosity on our part on how agriculture is done in a larger scale, and the other reason is to get a baseline for what agriculture could be in the Ondini Circuit.

Understand, that this is dryland/irrigated farming on a scale not familiar to us here in southwestern Minnesota.  Everywhere we travel in South Africa agriculture is so different.  Timber, sugar cane and pineapple are foreign to us.  Corn, cattle, hogs, soybeans, barley, wheat and oats we understand.

Our South African farmer host also farms on a different scale than we do.  While many in our area farm with only family labor, he has a considerable labor force employed.  He, his daughter and son-in-law make up the management team.  They have 9 full-time employees and 6 part-time employees.  The operation produces white corn, soybeans for seed, black oats for cover crop, pasture and hay, wheat, pumpkins and squash for seed, and cattle to make use of land which can not otherwise be farmed.

Our host grew up speaking German, his daughters married English speakers, and his grandchildren speak Zulu with their friends and in school.  Most of his employees are native Zulu speakers.

Keeping employees is one of his hardest tasks.  To keep good employees he pays them above normal wages and builds a house for them in town.  Employee loyalty is rewarded by advancement as space opens up or need requires.

The 8 row, row crop planter he had in the shed has all of the latest attachments for no-til planting, fertilizing and spraying under GPS guidance.  While the size of planter was small by our standards, the availability of labor to keep that planter on the move made it just right for his farm.

The nearly new John Deere tractor in his shed complemented the other smaller and older tractors that populated the farm.

The John Deere combine and sprayer also looked familiar to us.

The truck configuration was different to what we use.  We saw very few hopper bottom trucks in our travels, but double trailer and straight truck with a trailer combinations, with steel rather than aluminum frames were everywhere.  Road conditions and local road laws are the most likely reason for this difference.

Land does not sit idle in this area of South Africa.  When one crop is harvested, the planter is already in the field to plant the next.  Irrigated oats keeps cattle graze in peak condition although they do have to add some dried hay to keep the cattle on green grass from getting diarrhea.

Irrigation water for this farm comes from reservoirs sourced in the Drakensberg Mountains.  Our host farmer serves on the local water board to help manage that crucial water.

Corn stalks are also used to graze stock cattle when available.

During the summer, when all of the irrigated land is planted to other crops, native grass pastures are used to keep the cattle growing. A feed lot is also on the farm, but it is presently only used for part of the year.  That is one place he hopes to make more use of.  Right now he only has cattle in the feed lot to meet the Christmas market when local prices are highest.

Most of the cattle he has on hand have bells on them.  Although all cattle must be branded to prove ownership, there is the potential for theft.  The bells are to help the night guards keep track of cattle movements.

One of our South African church hosts was along for the trip, and was very impressed with all of the science that was needed to farm.  That one fact is something that few who do not live on the farm understand.  If we are to raise food for the world we must use every bit of science at our disposal.  Margins on the farm are razor-thin, to make a profit so we can feed our families and pay our employees is not easy in today’s price environment.  That fact is true in South Africa as well as Minnesota.



Topsy-Turvy weather
April 29, 2017, 5:59 pm
Filed under: cold, Corn, Farm, forecast, Minnesota, planting, snow, spring

The warm weather earlier this spring convinced me that spring was here to stay.  I went to work refilling my stack of wood and settled in for the warm weather we expect in spring.100_3113

Unfortunately I did not keep access to some of the dryer wood.  Now the weather has turned cold, with freezing temperatures in the morning and a forecast of snow for Sunday.  That has left me scavenging burnables and searching for dry wood in tree lines. All of this in a time the calendar says I should be planting corn.

Many of my neighbors used the previous warm weather to plant corn.  I looked at the weather forecast, checked soil temperatures, looked for barn swallows and tree leaves and decided to wait.  I’m not sure how much damage is happening out there in that cold wet ground, but I was not going to chance it.  I was not the only one, with many a planter sidelined waiting for needed warmth.

Now the forecast is for snow and two more days of cold.  Then the weather reports says spring will be here.  If the warm comes as predicted, it looks like I’ll be starting planting this Thursday of Friday, two weeks after those early go getters started putting their corn in the ground.  If it will make any difference I do not know.  I just know I am happier for having waited.



New appreciation
October 23, 2016, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Corn, Farm, snow | Tags: , ,

So the other day when I said harvest was complete, it wasn’t quite accurate.  I still had some corn to hand pick.  Now that is done.

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You see, I left a little corn out at the hog barn site to use as a snow fence.  It’s not a lot of corn, an area of about 15 feet by 200 feet.  Still it had corn in it and rather than let it hang out there until spring I decided to hand pick it.

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For all of that, it is a bit of work.  I used muscles that I do not usually use.  It gives me new appreciation for those old timers who used to pick all of their corn my hand.  Mom was quick to point out that they usually were at it all winter.  Now I know that their corn was nothing like ours.  It did not have all of the genetics to stand tall and strong so I’m sure some of it was on the ground and some stalks were broken over.  My few rows will still be standing there after a winter of blowing snow.

So there it is, finally complete.  Let winter come, the snow fence of standing corn, minus the ears, will be there to keep most of the snow away from the barn.  Now I have to go take some aspirin.