"You will get an education on the farm you never found at the University of Illinois." That's what a friend told me yesterday. His comment annoyed me at first, but then I thought it would be the perfect topic for my next blog.
The background: Dad and I have been struggling lately with the decision on making later season fungicide, insecticide, and nitrogen applications. Most experts are saying to not spend another penny on this crop. They say to let things play out. Crop prices are down, and spending any more money to increase yield is a risk farmers should not take.
Dad, on the other hand, says to do the opposite of what the masses do. We also have found that later season applications often add more than enough bushels to cover the added expense. He did end up spraying some of his best soybean acres with fungicide and insecticide. We both had fungicide sprayed on corn that showed foliar disease pressure.
One wet field that I farm has been on my mind all year. Nitrogen was applied this spring, and I planted it in late April. The rains then started. We ended up reworking the field and replanted it on Memorial Day weekend. The stand was decent in some places while short and stunted other places. Nitrogen loss and ground saturation were the culprits.
Should I have it sidedressed? The corn was rather young, and I decided that a sidedress application might pay. Last Saturday was the first day that ground conditions warranted proper application with a custom Hagie sprayer. Less than 24 hour after application, eight inches of rain – yes eight inches – fell in that area. Only time will tell if that application helped.
My friend was right: I've learned a lot about farming this summer that I could never have learned in a classroom. Classes can be like farming in a bubble. You always get the crops planted and the livestock fed. Crops grow, the ground is never muddy, and you sure don't get eight inches of rain after a nitrogen application.
This will be one of those years we will remember. The less than ideal years make management decisions tougher. These tough decisions will hopefully help me become a better farmer.