August 22, 2003: Can anything go right? Maybe it’s
just one of those days, but nothing seems to be going quite
as planned. Actually it feels like the makings for a country
western song. I usually take some time off away from the farm
early in August to spend with my family. This year, it seems
I need it more than ever. Between the leaf hoppers, the weeds
and the weather, I’ve had about enough.
The wheat harvest didn’t go all that well. At least
the equipment didn’t break down, so I guess I shouldn’t
complain. But, the yields were off due to the weather extremes.
The quality isn’t so hot either. The test weight is
low due to undersized kernels and I had some vetch as a weed
so there is some contamination of the wheat with vetch seed.
The hay under sown into the wheat early in spring was tall
enough to be just under the seed heads so I had to cut it
high reducing my straw yield. And it rained several inches
on the straw, making it hard to bale. On the bright side,
I didn’t plant much wheat last fall so the misery was
July started off very dry. It didn’t rain for almost
three weeks. That meant we had to set up the irrigation system
for our research plots in potatoes and pumpkins. And everyone
enjoys carrying muddy aluminum pipe through the fields. Then,
towards the end of July we couldn’t stop the rain.
The dry weather brought on the leaf hoppers. They chewed
up the alfalfa and worked over the potatoes pretty hard. They
even ate the young alfalfa growing under the wheat. Then the
wet weather prevented us from cutting the hay on time so the
hoppers continue to suck the juice out of it. I already mentioned
in an earlier article that much of my corn had drowned out
and what is there would be weedy. Just so you know I didn’t
lie – it’s weedy. The soybeans – weedy also.
(I think the weeds know when you’re on the ropes and
they conspire in July to finish you off.)
At least the weather was perfect for growing oats. The crop
looked great standing in the field. Until the heavy rains
and wind knocked some of it down so it’s no longer standing.
I haven’t actually started harvesting it yet but the
mental picture of the combine moving through golden fields
of standing oats has now been replaced with one of a combine
slugging its way through downed oats with green weeds poking
out gleefully reaching for more sunlight. Some fields are
still standing, so maybe it won’t all be bad.
There are a lot of reasons for grain to lodge, or go down.
Some of them are environmental and beyond our control. But
some of them are of our own doing. First and foremost we need
to select varieties that show good stand ability. Some varieties
are just prone to lodging. Your university variety trails
are a good place to start to check the performance of many
of the varieties available for planting in your area.
The next most common cause of lodging is probably over fertilization.
Too much nitrogen will cause many small grains to over-extend
their height, put on a heavy seed head, and go down. In my
case, I think it was a combination of too much nitrogen left
in the soil from previous crops and the weather. Heavy thunder
storms coupled with some high wind did the damage. It didn’t
help that the straw length was greater than normal for the
varieties I planted. Or, that the constant rainy periods fostered
more weed growth than normal, weakening the straw. While insect
and plant diseases can also cause lodging, I don’t see
any evidence that these were contributory factors in the damage
I have. The end result is grain that will be difficult to
harvest and straw that will be tough on the combine.
On the bright side, the potatoes should yield alright and
the pumpkins that germinated look great. The apples are sizing
up and fortunately the hail that hit only two miles away missed
the fruit trees completely. Even though the small grain harvest
isn’t running real smooth, the prices look great and
the market seems strong. Wheat delivered to the mill is around
$6.00 per bushel and that’s not bad.
I don’t know what to expect for the fall pumpkin market.
We always sell our pumpkins on the conventional market. Right
now the pumpkin vines are spreading out and flowering so it’s
too early to tell what the yields will be but all looks promising.
Well, it’s off to the equipment shop to rebuild the
plow for our fall plowing operations. I start plowing in August
to establish most of my legume cover crops. By the way, now’s
the time to order all your cover crop seeds as well as any
organic winter wheat, rye, or winter barley seed you’re
planning on planting. Even though this year’s crops
are still in the field, we need to plan for next year if the
plan is to be successful. The nitrogen for next year’s
corn needs to be planted this fall.
Write me with your questions or comments; I always look forward
to hearing about your farm.
From one Farm to Another