Some people think a field like this is ugly. Can you believe that? I love seeing last year’s stalks in my field. It immediately gets me thinking about my responsibility to my soil and to leave my field in better shape than when I got it. It makes me think about how I’m feeding my crop and the importance of how I manage crop residues in my field. The nutrients that those stalks hold and the value they have in stopping soil erosion are not to be overlooked. I love farming, and I love doing my best every day to do it the right way.
Speaking of doing things right, we barely got the crop in. We got rained out leaving the field. As a result, we did not get the nitrogen fertilizer and pre-emerge herbicide on. We caught a break in the weather and were blessed with an almost perfectly still day to get those things applied a week after we planted. The crop was still 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the soil surface and things worked out very well. I may go into greater detail about that application on a future post.
COMPLAINER ALERT!!! One challenge that we’re facing on this field is the fact that we have terraces and some crazy terrain that we’re trying to do strip tillage in. First of all, you have to drive just perfect (maybe even beyond perfect) to do the strips just right. It’s nearly impossible to have your strip tillage implement follow the terrain and stay exactly where you want. Then when you’re trying to plant, there’s residue right where you don’t want it to be. I’m not trying to be a complainer here. I’m merely trying to explain the difficulty there is in doing the job “just right” throughout the entire field. One problem you can see in this picture. Can you identify it?
The picture looks a little different than my recollection of how things looked yesterday, but one thing is 100% accurate. The seed depth and placement is not perfect. Notice how a couple plants appear to have an extra leaf. That means they emerged from the soil perhaps a day or maybe even more ahead of the smaller plants. When I dug up these plants I noticed the planting depth varying from 1 inch (on only a few plants) to 2.5 inches (again, on only a few plants). Most of the planting depths throughout the field were in the 1.5 inch to 2.0 inch range, which is ideal. However, in a cooler spring like this one has been up to this point a half inch can make a big difference in emergence. When plants emerge evenly, they compete equally for water and nutrients. When there’s a big bully on the block, in this case a corn plant that’s 1 or 2 leaf stages ahead of its neighbor, the big bully gets a majority of the nourishment. The smaller plants never amount to anything and become like weeds in your field. One thing for sure we need to change for next year is our residue managers on the front of our planter. They simply are not effective at pushing residue sufficiently out of the way for us to maximize our potential in a minimum tillage situation.
Instead of focusing on what isn’t perfect, I’d prefer to find something to be positive about. It’s wetter now than when we planted, so I feel fortunate that we pushed hard to get into the field when we did. Otherwise, it would still be unplanted and the decisions would get that much tougher.
Overall, I’m excited about the potential of this crop and look forward to making as many correct decisions as possible to help preserve that potential throughout this growing season.
How’s your crop coming? I hope you’re getting things in the ground and having some fun watching it grow!