Preparing for Spring

Spring has arrived! It’s time to put the crop in the ground and start on yet another growing season. This is one of the most exciting times on the farm; the start of a new season, new life, fresh growth, and the anticipation of the year ahead. There is nothing quite like planting the spring crops and having the young seedlings emerge from the soil, full of promise and full of potential.There is much to be done before the seeds can actually be planted. Many days of preparation are expended long before the seeds are placed in the seed bed. Field drainage work, soil testing, proper fertilization, and seed bed preparation (conventional or minimum tillage) all must be completed before planting. Before any seeds are placed in the soil, we go to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of our planter. For top performance, every aspect of the planter must be checked: disc openers, chains, sprockets, and bearings. Calibrating each row unit, kind of like a tune up for your car, is also necessary from time to time. Thanks to new technology, we can operate the planter and check the monitor in the cab to determine the seeding rate. Accuracy is critical for a proper stand and good yields. This year, field checks have confirmed seeding accuracy levels of 97% with our corn crop.

Also, planning ahead to have the proper crop rotation. We annually rotate, or change up, the crops we plant so we can better utilize natural management of undesirable weeds or other pests. Typically, we rotate between cotton, corn, soybeans, or small grain crops.

Corn is planted first. Ideally we would like to start planting the first part of March. However, at that time of year, soil moisture and ground conditions can play a major role in whether or not that schedule is maintained. Corn is planted 1½-2” deep, and needs to be planted in warm soil. Since it is a member of the grass family, corn has no trouble pushing through the soil to emerge in 7-10 days after planting. The wet weather we have had this year has many farmers running two weeks or more behind on their corn planting

Cotton comes next about the first half of April. Typically, April is a month of adequate rainfall. Cotton is planted very shallow (¾”), so again, soil moisture is critical at the surface for good germination and emergence. Cotton is planted so shallow because the plant actually pushes the germinated seed up and out of the ground as the baby leaves begin to form.

This action is very similar to the action that the opening of an umbrella would make as it springs up an open, except the plant has to move the soil out of the way as it does so. We will plant soybeans next, about the first of May. 

Soybeans need good moisture at and after planting or else they will swell then germinate, sprout, then wither. Timing is even more critical when it comes to soybeans.

Once the seeds are in the ground, and the seedlings have emerged, we begin to manage the crop as best we can. We have to control insects and other pests that can feed on the tender new growth and damage the seedlings. Also, as the seedlings grow in the fertile soil, weeds and other plant competition also grow. They must be managed through careful application control measures that won’t hurt the crop we’re trying to raise. Also, supplemental fertilization is done as the plants progress into different stages of growth and nutrient needs. This can be a very demanding time as different crops at different maturities require different management. No two years are ever the same, and it is always a challenge to get everything done at just the right time.

That’s all for now, more later…..HAPPY SPRING!