Between the Rows-March 25, 2011

“We installed about 40 acres of tile last fall and we bladed down those tile lines this morning when there was a little frost. The ground is in pretty good shape. It isn’t fit to work or anything like that, but it worked very well on top of those tile lines. We think that a week form now we could be chiseling some other ground that we tiled. All of our soybeans are no-tilled and we no-till about half of our corn. We have very heavy clay soils and we’re big on installing some tile every year.

“The earliest I ever planted corn was April 6 and it was the best corn we had that year. The second earliest was April 10 and it was our worst corn that year. Every year is different. We had a late spring in 1998 and we had some of the best crops we ever had. “We go back and forth with corn and soybeans. We plant whatever fields get fit first.  We run two units, a 16-row planter on corn and a 40-foot grain drill on soybeans. We’ve got a lot of our land tiled and we don’t mind putting soybeans in early.

“I was looking at a field of wheat we have. It was dry last fall and we didn’t get the stand we were hoping for. I may destroy that field of wheat and plant corn. The rest of the farm is about 50-50 corn and soybeans. Generally we don’t plant wheat and this year there is too big of an incentive for corn to leave it in wheat.

“We usually try to be ready for everything by April 10. You only get around 40 chances to plant a crop and harvest a crop. At 62 years old, I’ve burnt up quite a few already.”

“Things have dried out enough that there are people out doing some spring chiseling. We got everything done last fall. We had a fair amount of snow and there was standing water a few weeks ago, but everything has dried up a good bit since then. Hopefully we don’t get too terribly much rain until after planting season.

“It looks like it will be a couple of weeks before we get a warm front in. We start planting both corn and soybeans at the same time. We try not to start much before April 12, whether it is fit or not. We try to keep ourselves out of the field by getting equipment ready the week or two before that.

“As long as it is dry here for the start of April, we’ll start doing the burndown on our corn stalks. Mainly we use a 50-50 rotation of corn and soybeans. We try to keep it the same, though we are doing a couple hundred acres of corn after corn on our best ground. It just seems like corn is more profitable in this area. We usually use a full tillage system with a disk rip. Last year we tried no-till corn after corn and it actually worked out, though I don’t think it would work every year. We strip-till around a quarter or half of our corn acres every year, depending on if it is fit in the fall to do it. We got a lot of strip-till done last fall. If it is a little bit too wet, we do not attempt it.

“We use RTK for guidance. We’ve been doing that for about four years now. Auto steer is definitely the way to go for strip-till.”

“We’re tearing out trees in a fencerow today. It froze up a little last night and that’s the reason we’re out here. We picked up some new rental ground and we’re just trying to get it cleaned up so we can farm it right. When we get some new ground, we do a soil test first. Then we apply the fertilizer that’s necessary and if there is a fencerow or something we try to clean that up this time of year.”

Though the temperatures are not cooperating, the ground seems to be coming out of winter in good shape. “It is firming up a little bit but there are still some wet holes out here. We’ve got a couple things to do yet to get ready for planting yet, but we’re getting close. We’re going to be looking at pre-plant anhydrous first and then we’ll probably roll right into planting if the conditions are right. Our pre-plant corn herbicide has to go down too, probably in the latter part of April. We have around 100 acres or so where we need to get a little tillage done.”

Once the soils are ready, corn will be first on the priority list. “We go after corn when it’s early. When it gets close to May, though, we’re doing both corn and beans. I usually just stick to my rotation unless it gets really late. I’d love to get started planting at least the third week of April. Some years require me to wait and some years require that we get everything ready earlier. We shoot for the middle of April to have everything ready to go.”

“Field conditions have dried out pretty well. We’re working on getting quite a bit of our dairy manure hauled out this week. The fields are dry enough for that so we won’t be causing too much compaction. That will give the straw-based manure some time to start breaking down before doing the strip-till and field work.

“This is earlier than we have spread manure the last couple of years, but we weren’t able to haul back in December or January. We’re trying to get to it here as soon as we can. Last week there were still a few heavy spots in the fields so we didn’t think we could do it.

“We use the Knight Side Slinger spreaders to spread it on top of the ground going at a fairly decent speed to not get it very thick. We can leave it on top and let the residue break down before we run the AerWay before beans or strip-till before corn. We’ve added row cleaners for the corn planter that do a great job of pushing that trash out of the way.

“The wheat has turned out pretty nice. There are a few fields that got flooded a little bit, but other than that it has greened up well and is looking good. As of right now, we’re going to end up leaving the wheat. There are just a few spots that won’t be a big issue in the whole field.

“We’ve been getting tractors and equipment ready to go and trimming some trees back around the fields. We have sandy gravel some ground that is pretty forgiving for planting early and we can get on that sooner and then we work our way back home where we have clay. We’ll get corn started and then switch things back and forth with corn and beans.”

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