I was so excited to blog about planting the Blank Slate . . . but then this happened and that and so on. Here I am a few days later, but the news is still the same. The corn is in the ground and growing.
Here are a few of the details and observations from Thursday, May 19th as we were planting the Blank Slate field.
Drainage – I’ll have more updates on drainage (likely over the next 18 months) as we get approval for installing drainage tile on the Blank Slate. 80 to 90 percent of the field was ready to plant a month ago, but there are a couple areas where years of neglect have led to drainage problems. The west valley of this field is actually the beginning of a “blue line” on the FEMA map, which designates an unnamed tributary. Erosion off the hillsides of the field have left some topsoil in places that actually are holding back the water drainage for a few days after rain. Tile will help greatly here. On the southeast end of the field, it’s kind of the same story. These areas have delayed planting the last two years for us compared to fields where drainage tile has been installed.
Soil Temperature – I get a lot of questions about soil temperature. Sometimes it feels like a knock against us farmers in the Upper Midwest. “Our soils are warmer than your soils.” The soil on Thursday was fantastic. It was 65 degrees where drainage was good. It was 55 degrees where the soil was still a little wet. Amazing what a difference the proper amount of air in the soil has on the entire environment.
Insecticide – We found insects in the field that would certainly attack the seed and young corn seedlings. There were wireworms and even one grub along the trees. We put dry Force insecticide on with the planter, but I screwed up on the rate. When we changed which hybrid we were going to be planting, we switched from a VT3 trait (Roundup Resistant plus protection from corn rootworm and corn borer) to an Agrisure trait with no rootworm protection. Without the corn rootworm trait, especially in a corn following corn rotation, I would have liked to have had a full rate of insecticide applied with the planter. You see, there’s no rescue treatment for corn rootworms. They do all their damage underneath the soil surface so your one chance to get them is with a planting time application of insecticide. We’ll add a full rate of generic Capture in with the Harness and liquid Nitrogen which have yet to be applied to the field. Technically, I may still be okay doing it this way, but I won’t plan on doing this ever again.
Refuge corn – I did plant a refuge corn (Roundup Resistant but no trait for insect protection). For the non-farmers, we’re required to plant 20% of our acres to corn hybrids that do not contain a trait protecting the plant from insects. By planting a refuge, the scientific community hopes to delay the inevitable growth of bugs that are resistant to the traits. On our farm, we plant a little more than the 20% refuge and use a full rate of planting time insecticide on those acres (which is completely legal – I know, it seems strange to me too).
Hybrid – I am planting Stine 9207. It’s an early 90 day hybrid with a ton of yield punch. In fact, it yielded over 250 Bushels per acre in our test plot last year. Let’s hope it can do that again!
Seed Treatment – Another important cog in my plan is QuickRoots seed treatment. We’ve been using QuickRoots on everything (corn, beans, wheat) on our farm for a number of years now. We’ve seen 6 to 8 bushels better corn pretty consistently, so it’s an absolute no-brainer for us.
Fertilizer – The key ingredient to high yields is the plant food we use. Since my field has very little fertility in the soil, I have to apply almost all of what I’ll need to produce corn kernels and support my plants all the way until harvest. Once again, I’m putting Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizer products to the test with an in-furrow application. I’ll be using 5 gallons of Pro Germinator and 5 gallons of Sure-K along with a gallon of Micro 500. We also have experiments with a 50% higher rate than that in a strip or two. I’m also using another product that contains a little sulfur right in the furrow as well on one strip in the field. I question the crop safety of sulfur in-furrow, but the ACLF folks haven’t steered me wrong yet so I’m giving it a shot. As for the nitrogen and the majority of my sulfur, we need to get that sprayed very soon before the corn emerges from the soil.
Responsible Nutrient Management – So far, I’m really glad I haven’t put the nitrogen on yet. With all the rain we’ve had, I’m certain I would have lost a percentage of it to leaching. Many farmers who did get the nitrogen on last fall or early this spring are pretty concerned that they might run short of nitrogen late in the season when the corn plants really need it. By putting my P, K, and micros in the furrow, I can’t think of a more responsible way to protect those nutrients from loss. Also, by banding the fertilizer like this and using highly available fertility products, I am using far fewer pounds of actual nutrients and still getting great yields.
There is sure a lot to share and discuss this growing season. I can’t wait to see this crop come up and find out what I get to learn this year.