We are nearly six months into the 2021 year and if you take a cruise through the country right now you will notice that the crops are really starting to take off with growth. The corn is starting to get some height, the soybeans are very noticeably in rows and first cutting alfalfa is in full swing. There is still a lot of time before the farm crops will mature in late summer and will be ready to harvest by fall. How do some farmers manage their crops to get the best possible production for the year?
There are many farmers who now take advantage of crop scouting services to ensure their crop gets the best plan of action for the highest bushel yield in the end. I took some time to talk with Brandon Carter at Carter Ag Service to get some input of what crops and planting looked like this spring as well as his thoughts of how the year may pan out.
Carter and his crew offer a service to scout fields every week, from before the fields are even planted to the end when the crop is ready to be harvested. Because they are in the fields every week, they see the development of the crop from week to week and can adjust everything from watering to fertilizer or even insect repellent and much more. When I asked him about how this spring went with the weather and planting, he told me that he would break the spring into thirds.
“The first third is right when the soil temp got to 50 degrees and the planters started putting seed into the ground. The seeds got the needed heat and moisture in the first couple of days of germination to have a great start,” said Carter. “The second third comes when it starts getting colder at night and the soil temps would dip down to the lower 40s which didn’t give some seeds the best start due to the cold germination. Because of this Cold Germ, the farmers will end up losing 1,500-2,000 plants per acre from the original 31,000-36,000 seeds they plant per acre.”
He then explained that when the farmers are expecting some cold nights they will bump up the seed input into the ground to offset losing plants due to the cold nights. The last third of planting in general was pretty textbook, 50-degree and above soil temp and water to get that seed started on the right track. It wasn’t until this last week or so that we have really been getting some heat and the crops are really taking off. We had a good stretch after planting when we had cool days and mostly overcast skies, but along with that came some much needed rain as well.
Carter said he felt as though the rain we have received has been more helpful than harmful. There are very few partially flooded fields and those are mostly near the river ground where the water table is higher and the ground has some areas where the water can’t run off. He had two years that he referenced as benchmark years for crop growth - 2018 was the perfect year for crops where they were set up from the start to have about 300-350 bushels of corn. Then he talked about the bomb cyclone year of 2019 where the crops were so saturated from all the rain that they couldn’t get a chance to really take off and many would rot from the inside and die. “In comparison to 2019, with the rain we’ve seen this year it has been a cake walk. I haven’t seen above average fungus and the plants are off to a good start,” said Carter.
There are so many seed treatments out there that help the seed to have a better start and help protect them from soil borne disease. Carter talked about the thaw this spring and how the winter kill probably didn’t kill as many insects as it could have with a little better conditions. He thinks there may be a little more insect pressure this year than normal. “There is more Alfalfa Weevil than I have ever seen this year, so I’m expecting to see more insects in the farm crops as well,” Carter said. “Right now is one of the most stressful times for a corn plant at the V4-V5 stage where it is determining the width of the ear. At this stage if something were to shock it, it would just get less width and fewer kernels around the ear. Mother nature pending, I think this year will be average to slightly above average for yield at harvest time.”
It was obvious how passionate he was about what he does as an agronomist. Carter and his team, composed of Jake Madsen and Connor Schwanz, cover the Gothenburg area (north and south) and even go to the Sumner area for one day of scouting a week. He uses the Sumner area as a tool for the Gothenburg area. Because they are further east they are about a week ahead of the crops in our area. He can then expect to be watching for certain things in our area if he is seeing certain trends in the Sumner area. This is a very intricate area of work and the farmers trust what the agronomist says to make sure they end up with the best possible crop with what the year presents to them.