A look back at 2020 from Between the Rows

Charlie Kail

No two growing seasons are alike. That’s the fun part of this game we play. We keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect the same result, but when it comes to rain it gives you a different result and sometimes you don’t like it. It was wet early so the root systems weren’t deep. Then it dried out in some places and the roots weren’t deep enough to chase the water.

A successful 2020 was about getting the rain. We planted the corn in ideal to too wet conditions. It stayed wet long enough to get the corn going and then it got dry. There is just nothing you can do to fight that.

We lost control of marestail in the beans late in the season around here. That was mainly because of a lack of residual, either not putting down residual at all or not putting down enough too early to survive the summer. With the dry conditions, the bean leaves stood up on edge to stay out of the sun, which lets the sun down through the canopy to activate the weeds to take off if there was no herbicide to control them. Then when they took XtendiMax away from us it made things a little tougher. We have more marestail out here because of that than we should have. Corn herbicide seemingly worked a little better around here than in the beans.

There was a lot of fantastic hay made in this area in 2020. The fifth cutting this year was as good or better than any of the rest, which is not normal. We got a shot of rain in September and the alfalfa just exploded. We had ideal conditions for getting re-growth back too before winter.

Jake Heilmann

Mother Nature holds the ultimate trump card and you have to do your best and get lucky with the weather. We have a lot of different tests we did this year. We have to go back and put a pencil to things like different foliar feeds, fungicides, growth adjuvants, and treatments to see what paid and what didn’t. I was really happy with our weed management this year so I don’t think we’ll make any changes there.

In our corn we did some different nitrogen applications. We did pre-plant anhydrous ammonia, we did sidedress with anhydrous ammonia, we did sidedress with 28%, and we did late season Y-DROP nitrogen applications. One thing that stood out was the Y-DROP. That was a pretty effective way of getting the nitrogen on and the yields were very encouraging. We had two different tests where all of the N got put on late and the yields were surprising. There wasn’t much difference between pre-plant and sidedress 28% and anhydrous. 

We were one of the first in the area to move away from wheat. We got back into it with H2Ohio and we came up with a four-year rotation with wheat. It gives us a window for tiling too and I think wheat is going to continue to gain acres on our farm. There were some challenges but we were able to overcome them. The wheat looks really good right now.

We do a lot of tillage. We have a small percentage in strip-till. Tillage is important for the amount of corn back to corn that we do. It allows us to get into that early planting window. We have to wait so long for these sands and sandy loams to come up to temperature in the spring. The tillage can really shine when that ground gets dried out and warmed up quicker.

Willie Murphy

Ten years ago everybody said you needed to plant corn in April. They said the earlier you plant corn, the better it will be and you can plant beans whenever and it doesn’t really matter. What we have really found out that has stood out this year and last year is that we need to have our bean planters ready to go as soon as we get nice weather and plant beans as early as possible and maybe be a little more patient planting corn. In the last couple of years, the corn planted in the latter part of May has been better than the corn planted earlier. I really think if you get the corn up in 5 to 7 days it will yield better than the corn that sat there for 2 weeks and didn’t do anything. Soybeans can stay there for 3 weeks and still keep coming up.

We pushed the issue to get corn planted in the middle of May and we probably should have quit about a day before we did. There was some cold, wet weather and the corn we planted about 12 hours before that we had to go in and tear it out to replant it. That morning we should have just left the planter in the barn.

We planted almost 400 acres of wheat and barley this fall and that is a comfortable number. We kicked around the idea when wheat got up to $6 about planting a little more. If you get another 100 acres, there is another couple days of harvest and if you don’t get the right weather you are going in the opposite direction of where you want to go.

Patty Mann

It looks like our 3.4 and 3.5 maturity beans are going to be pretty close in yield and be our best varieties. We have been pretty happy with our weed control in the beans, but we struggled in the spring with getting our burndown on some acres. Then we ended up doing more tillage on that ground than what we’d have liked if we had gotten all of those acres sprayed. Where we did that extra tillage, the fields are not yielding as well. So no matter what, we have to take the time to get that burndown on in those fields going to beans. We just have to go ahead and wait to get the burndown on because I think that will pay off.

It has been a different year, that is for sure. At the end of last year, I said I couldn’t wait for 2019 to be over with and move on to 2020. Who knew what was ahead of us when we flipped that calendar? We have to be careful for what we ask for. We are overall happy with yields, even though we did not get quite the rainfall we wanted early on. We will end up just fine. No matter what we do or how hard we try, Mother Nature will always trump everything. Like typical farmers, we are just looking forward to next year.

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