Intense rainstorms stripped fertile soil from unprotected farm fields across the Corn Belt last spring. Parts of east-central and northwest Iowa lost as much as 24 tons of topsoil per acre in May, according to Daily Erosion Project estimates.
Are you thinking about trying a cover crop next fall? It’s never too early to plan, and secure your seed supply. “Be very informed before you start. Talk to experienced cover croppers. Do your homework," says Nick Bowers, cover crop seed dealer.
Growing crops is always a gamble. That’s why Jeremy Hopper runs the numbers. Hopper manages several thousand acres of row cropland near Tiptonville, Tenn. Precision data guides his agronomic decisions and helps him hone his operation.
Jeremy Hopper, Tiptonville, Tenn., uses precision data to make many agronomic and management decisions. Using field maps and data, he can see yield distribution and evaluate hybrid performance, as well as influence irrigation and row spacing choices.
You plan years ahead for crop rotation, fertilizer and machinery acquisitions. Since the rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds, you should be doing the same for your herbicide program, says Lisa Behnken, a Minnesota Extension crops specialist.
Though fertile — in a good year the Braggers raise 200-bushel corn and 50-bushel soybeans — their clay-loam hills are very vulnerable to water erosion. It’s the kind of terrain that some believe should not be cropped at all. Yet the Braggers farm this fragile land intensively, achieving high yields with little soil loss.
Corn rootworms in this longtime continuous-corn field seem to have become immune to the Cry3Bb1 trait, the most common source of transgenic rootworm protection, says Keith Schrader, who farms with his sons near Nerstrand, Minn. In 2011, YieldGard VT Triple knocked out just 25% of corn rootworms in this field, compared to an expected kill rate of more than 95% in fields where the trait works, says Ken Ostlie, University of Minnesota Extension entomologist.
On July 6, 2011, Joe Steinkamp changed his entire weed-management program. Steinkamp raises seed soybeans and white corn on Ohio River bottomland near Evansville, Ind. On that July day two years ago, his neighbor brought over some weeds that had survived Roundup. “He said, ‘Joe, do you know that these are?’ I said, ‘I sure do!’ ”
Soil compaction is invisible, but its effects are clear to see: cloddy soil, delayed crop emergence, restricted root growth, stunted plants, low water infiltration, poor nutrient uptake and lost yield.
Before he plants a single seed, Scott Rahn plans a foundation for top corn yields. He and brother Noel focus on field-by-field hybrid selection, crop rotation and seedbed preparation in their fields near Bingham Lake, in south-central Minnesota.
Keith Alverson and his family started to variable-rate plant in the 1990s, and now find benefit with the practice on every corn acre. He, his father Ron and uncle grow corn and soybeans on rolling land near Chester, S.D. In the early 1990s, they started reducing seeding rates manually in the dry corners of pivot-irrigated fields, where yield potential is always much lower. The practice cut seed costs by 25% in unwatered sections, and was especially beneficial in dry years, Alverson says.