In addition to raising corn, soybeans, popcorn and wheat on an Indiana farm with his dad and grandpa, Brian is the personality behind The Farmer’s Life, which has reached more than 59,000 followers on Facebook. Brian’s 1-minute video of his kindergartner driving the tractor while planting has been viewed more than 8 million times. A proud Purdue University ag alumni, Brian received a bachelor’s degree in soil and crop management. | @thefarmerslife
Farmer Perspective: Looking Back on 2019 and a Year Full of Lessons
Feb 21, 2020
It’s 2020 which means 2019 is done. Ignoring stored crop staying in condition in a winter that hadn’t come yet where I live by the time January rolled around. Two bins got hot already, and that was only January! Anyway, 2019...a wet, difficult planting season full of decisions like whether to actually plant anything followed by a harvest that wasn’t easy. At least for us it wasn’t because harvest included an inordinate number of equipment breakdowns, including a combine fire to get things started . But did we learn anything from 2019? Yes! Last winter I was at the 2019 National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis. Planting soybeans early was a hot topic. Early soybeans worked well for us in 2018, playing a part in a record whole farm bean yield on our land. A year later when I wanted to try to repeat that feat, 2019 said, “You’re planting one field of beans in May, and you’ll do all the rest the second week of June.” But planting soybeans early begs the question of when to plant corn. Back to the no-till speakers: Some suspected that farmers could wait until soil temps hit about 60 degrees instead of 50 degrees to plant corn. The theory being warmer soil temps means more soil nutrients available, more active soil microbes and likely better overall planting conditions. Well, we were forced to wait this year, so in a way we put that theory to the test. Could we plant corn in late May and early June rather than at the end of April and still get a good crop. For us, the answer was basically...yes. Our corn yields were within a few bushels of our five-year average. And some of our best yields came from the last fields planted June 1-3, slipping in before the June 5 insurance date with all our planned corn acres. There are some caveats here, though, that make 2019 exceptional. It was still wet when we planted. Here in our part of Northwest Indiana, we never drowned in 2019. We just got regular rains of a tenth or two keeping us out of the fields. No flooding or ponding. But planting conditions weren’t ideal. I don’t recall planting one acre last year where if it was April 20 I would have parked the planter for another day or two so conditions could be optimal. The corn we planted June 1 and 2 was probably the worst planting job I’ve ever done, and I said those were some pretty good yields. Yeah, it was still 26 percent moisture in the middle of November, but it wasn’t getting any drier standing in the field. So if I did such a bad job planting—and by bad job, I mean mainframe tires pushing mud, seed trenches left open and sidewalls smeared and compacted—then how did we end up with the equivalent of our long-term average yields? It kept raining. Those poorly made furrows stayed soft because they stayed wet. We could still find open seed slots late in summer looking at the bottom of pollinated corn plants. If June had been warm and dry we would have been trying to push corn through slabs of concrete, and it surely would’ve been a complete disaster. July did turn out hot and dry, particularly the early parts of July when corn is normally pollinating. Our corn wasn’t pollinating, though. Because we planted so late, pollination was late. The last of our corn was pollinating the first weekend in August. The two fields planted June 3 were next door to a neighbor’s April-planted corn that went through all the weather of 2019. It had dried up badly in July. The June corn was pulling away from the regularly planted corn—those two fields missed making 200 by a few bushels. I couldn’t complain. Do I want to do 2019 again? Not really. But I think the idea that soybeans can be planted earlier than we might normally think could be a big deal. And I think waiting to plant corn until the soil warms up just a little more could be a viable idea as well. And is that much really lost? If it’s warm and we have good soil moisture the corn will come up fast. When we go in mid-April it takes several days to appear. Maybe 2020 will be “normal” and we can try both without extreme stresses. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members. Leverage the power of a network 10,000 farms strong If 2019 showed us anything it's that each year brings its own unique challenges. When you join Farmers Business Network℠ , you'll gain access to the tools, resources and support you need to overcome adversity and maximize profit potential on your operation. Sign up for a free demo and find out how we're working together to put Farmers First®.
Farmer Perspective: So, the corn is done... but we are not.
Jun 11, 2019
Since my last post , we’ve hit a nice milestone for 2019—we finished corn planting! On Thursday, May 30, we spent part of the day at a meeting, learning about prevent plant options. We really didn’t want to go that route, but we felt we needed to be informed as June 5th loomed, and we still needed to plant around half the planned corn acres. It was a beautiful day, until the drive home from the meeting, when it rained on us while we inspected some field conditions on the way home. But it didn’t rain a whole lot on our sandier farms North of US 24. So Saturday, after sitting idle for a week, the plan was to go to our farms furthest from home to see if they were dry. This meant switching to soybean planting, which we didn’t really want to do, but we didn’t have corn fields that were ready to roll. As I prepped the planter at home, Dad headed North to see how things were. He was stopped in his tracks at the next furthest farm, as he saw that it was fit enough to plant corn. So we loaded up and pushed hard on corn there all day. We finished that up Sunday, then headed back South, past the shop, to finish one 50-acre field I had planted 12 acres of before our last rain delay. After that, it was a trip a little further South to hit 46 and 33 acre fields to polish off planting corn. On June 3, we wrapped up all the corn. It took some extra road time and running around, but it’s done. Sitting at the prevent plant meeting it wasn’t looking like we would get corn in by our June 5 insurance date. Not a huge deal, but we started to talk about maybe the following week it would be time to pull the plug on corn and switch to more beans. We really pushed the envelope on a few acres mudding in the corn, but at this point we are placing our bets on being all planted may pay off well (literally) in the long run, if areas worse off than us continue to have more rain. We had to skip a few impassible spots, but those only added up to a couple of acres. The way things are going, they’d probably fill up again and drown the crop anyway. So corn is done, but we are not. As it stands, the first field we planted this season back on May 10th is still the only soybean field that’s planted. Because we always double crop soybeans behind winter wheat, we feel we still have the whole month of June and then some to get ourselves to 100% planted. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll have to take a break sidedressing corn to go cut wheat! The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.
Farmer Perspective: A #plant19 update from Indiana
May 23, 2019
Our planting progress in northwest Indiana as of Friday, May 17, 2019 is that we planted one field of soybeans last Friday, one field of waxy corn two days ago, and put 137 of 200 contracted acres of popcorn in the ground yesterday before getting blasted by a white wall of rain. Side note : Our new planter with electric meters does pretty well at 7.4mph to get that last pass of popcorn in before it’s too wet, so at least the field will be squared off in the middle if we don’t get to plant the rest. Allegedly, we’re not supposed to plant any more after Monday. As we sit today, just under 14% of our ground is planted. It’s something! It is wet here, obviously. But we are not drowning like other parts of the Midwest—just consistently too wet for field work. No flooding or dams breaking like Nebraska and Iowa. Our nitrogen program had to change to fit the current situation. Normally, I’ll take about four days going around to every corn field preplant to do areas I can’t really side-dress later in the season. I got to do that for one day—that was 23 days ago. We have a low-disturbance anhydrous applicator that we love, but it can cause seedling damage with its shallow placement. We had hoped to try a liquid applicator to alleviate this on the field borders, but time and logistics just didn’t allow that to happen. We ended up having a fair amount of 28% blown on with a sprayer. So our borders were all taken care of in good order, and we’ll get to see how that application method and timing pans out. The rain knocking me out of finishing popcorn was actually nice for soaking that liquid N into the soil. We rent out two test plots that also got a full rate of 28% applied (because the plotters would rather I not side-dress), and I don’t want to shallow place anhydrous right before they plant. The way things are going, those things may happen the same day. The forecast for the next couple of weeks is calling for potential inches more rain to come. I’m still confident we can get the crop in and not prevent plant. Prices rose quite a bit this week, and maybe we will shift into a weather-driven market now if problems persist. I want all that popcorn in the ground because it’s 100% priced already at a good price. If we get everything planted, I think we can still make good yield at this point. That hope was reinforced when my phone alerted me to the anniversary of some old photos... I found one of us filling the planter with soybeans on May 26, 2017. So of course I pulled up another app to see what that field yielded—64 bushels an acre. Stay hopeful out there! The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members. Pioneer is a registered trademark of DowDuPont, Corteva Agriscience or its respective owners.