Plant 2021

Here comes spring!

It’s that time of year again. The weather is becoming more comfortable and humans are itching to get back outside. I am finalizing winter activities and starting to think about priorities to prepare for Plant 2021. I figured I would do a quick post to let everyone know I am still alive, enjoying life, and intent on writing. I’m not sure what I should be writing about in this space, but intend to continue thinking about it throughout the 2021 growing season.

One of the primary agriculture topics I have been thinking about is increasing soil health. I worked with Indigo Ag last year and paid $15/acre for their top tier subscription which gave me access to their biological seed treatment and agronomic insights. I believe I received a payback via corn yields, but it is difficult to say. I am all for any technology that increases the resilience of plants in the field and thus increased yield potential. One of my primary concerns in any given year is selling production that never materializes. This hasn’t been a problem in recent years but it’s always in the back of my mind.

Another hot button topic is carbon capture. It seems to me that science needs to catch up to the hype. We are being told to stop tilling, plant cover crops, and bask in the glow of reduced atmospheric carbon. It seems easy enough but how do we deal with compaction, poor cover crop growth, and all the other problems that come with reducing our toolkit? I was forced to till a field that had gullies so bad I almost damaged the combine trying to get the 2020 corn crop out. I was unable to plant cover crops on my northern acreage due to the growing season window closing (flying in seeds with an airplane isn’t economical). I did have an 85 acre no-till field (1.75 driving hours southwest) seeded via broadcast along with other nutrients, but it didn’t seem to take hold. I am now looking into broadcasting cover crops and working in shallow with a disk (vertical tillage) to cover more ground, increase incorporation, and hopefully have better results. I believe going this route means I forfeit carbon payments, though I have work to do to better understand expectations here. I have also heard that grazing livestock on cover-cropped ground increases root growth and thus increases effectiveness of the cover crop and the benefits they provide to the soil. This is an interesting insight that may push me in a different direction with my operation, which is currently row crops only.

I hope you are all doing well, staying safe, managing your health and living your best life. Have a good one!

-Farmer Dan