In driving around Ohio roadways during the bustling planting season, I always enjoy peeking in on the progress in the fields via the view from the road.
Here are some trends I noticed in 2013:
1. New equipment is almost the norm. I got so used to seeing new (or almost new) equipment as I was driving around, the occasional old tractor was somewhat shocking. Planters too seemed a little bit newer and quite a bit bigger than in recent years.
2. With new equipment comes new technology. I think I even saw a guy with his feet up by the steering wheel of the tractor one day courtesy of auto steer as I drove past.
3. More fields with less residue. After hearing so much about increasing conservation tillage and a steady trend of moving more toward no-till, it seems that I saw more tillage (and more extensive tillage) in a larger percentage of fields than in the past. Retired Ohio State University agricultural engineer Randall Reeder had similar observations as he traveled out west this spring.
“I just returned from spending the week in Illinois. As we drove, we were amazed at the lack of no-till. We saw more tractors pulling disks and field cultivators than we did pulling a planter. Fields that had been planted, or were ready to plant, had virtually zero residue,” Reeder said. “Those farmers are late planting corn, and instead of planting in fields that already appeared to be in perfect condition for a planter, they felt compelled to spend their time instead doing another tillage operation. All those corn planters in Illinois are fairly new, modern planters, why were the farmers preparing the soil as if they were still using a planter from the 1950s?”
Ohio, of course, is historically ahead of the curve on conservation tillage, and is likely still a leader in this area, though my anecdotal observations may suggest otherwise.
4. Many buddies. More often than not, when I see a tractor in the field, the passenger “buddy” seat is occupied by some wide-eyed (or sometimes sleeping) farm boy with aspirations to drive that tractor some day. The future is brighter than ever for agriculture and I am glad to see a promising young crop of interested farmers, even if it’s just from the road.
What are your observations from the 2013 planting season?