As I write this, there are 28 million acres across the US enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the provision in the 1985 Farm Bill that allowed land owners to rent acres to the government, effectively taking marginal acres out of production with the goal of preventing erosion and cleaning up the environment in general. Beginning in 2015 though, the government will cap CRP sign-ups at 26 million.
Fertilizer prices. They continue to rankle us, and we continue to wait for the lousy numbers to go down.
Because corn is down, we expect that fertilizer should be as well. Four years ago, fertilizer prices jumped up, and you were told it was because corn jumped up. Well…that wasn’t exactly true.
There are some weeds this year. It has been a particularly tough year for weed control, and apparently, some of us didn’t win the fight as completely as we might have liked. At this point, there’s not much to be done about it, but that doesn’t mean that you need to retreat to your corner to lick your wounds.
Just like graduation into the next grade is the big payoff to a school kid for all the hard work he or she put in that year, harvest is our big payoff for our own toil during a growing season. Also, just like we expect a kid to build next year on the information learned this year, so should we expect that of ourselves.
Within a month of today, we’ll be back in our wheat fields.
As always, entering this season with a plan is crucial to your crop’s success, but the motivation is coming on a little stronger this year in light of the tough season we had last. So, before we begin drilling seed into the ground, here’s a brief list of must-do’s to ensure that you enter the season set up for a big yield:
So. We have not had a significant rainfall event for over 30 days in most areas. While this isn’t totally surprising—this is Kansas after all, in July—there’s a lot of corn out there not looking so great.
The difference between the corn that’s not looking so great and the corn that’s looking a bit better is how it was managed in the lead up to this hot and dry July.
I used to work for a grower who also raised chickens. Year after year, he’d spread their manure over his fields, always in the same pattern. And year after year, he’d run out in exactly the same place. A full fifteen years after that man stopped raising chickens and spreading manure, you can still pick out that line where he always ran out, the corn looking good on the one side, and not so much on the other.
If you’re currently part of a VRT program, odds are that you signed up when corn was selling for over $5 a bushel. With prices around the three and a half dollar mark today, you might be feeling the same pinch that we’re all feeling at this moment and thinking that the VRT program that seemed so worth it at $7 corn, well, isn’t quite as worth it at $3.50.
While cost is understandably important to you, thinking of that sort can be shortsighted.
With our wheat off, it’s time that we turn our attention to the next plant population to inhabit our fields, but I’m not talking about next season’s crop quite yet. I’m talking about cover crops, which provide a bridge from one growing season to the next and, when used strategically, can provide a bridge from where you are now to increased profit and sustainability.