It may be early February but we are thinking spring on the Blomme farm. Spring is always very exciting because it’s a fresh start filled with optimism for the year. The smell of black dirt, the sight of baby calves jumping and kicking and the sound of tractors roaring as field work begins. Planting season will soon be here.
Before any of that can happen, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get ready for it. We are currently installing some upgrades on our planter which we hope will make it work even more efficiently this year. I would argue that the planter is the single most important piece of equipment on the farm because we have one shot to get the crops planted. It’s critical that we get planting done right because everything that follows depends on how well the seed was planted to begin with.
There is a very narrow window of time that is optimal to plant corn and soybeans. The timeline is driven by the soil temperatures, the weather and the maturity of the seeds being planted. The ideal window for planting corn in Iowa (in order to get optimum yields) only lasts about seven days on average. That means, to have the best chance of success, we need a lot of things (that are mostly out of our control like the weather) to align so we can get the crop put in the ground. During planting, every hour counts because any delay could literally cost us bushels at harvest time.
The goal is to get as much planted as quickly as possible while still doing a thorough job and paying attention to the details. With this goal in mind, we’re making some upgrades right now to our planter which include vacuum style meters and an improved lift and down pressure system. These technologies will help us get proper seed placement. Planting depth is one of the most important factors when planting corn.
If you can visualize with me for a minute . . . imagine a tractor and planter going across a field at a whopping 5 mph. Think about all the parts on the planter that are turning and moving in order to plant each individual kernel of corn. It’s pretty incredible that we have the equipment and technologies now to consistently plant seed at a very targeted depth and spacing between each kernel. Most of you probably have grandparents or great grandparents who could tell stories about planting corn a few rows at a time with horses. Today’s planters can plant up to 48 rows at a time. More commonly, you’ll see 8, 12, 16 and 24 row planters across the countryside. To top that off, a lot of the tractors are steering themselves with modern day auto-steer systems.
In the tractor cab, we have monitors that tell us how accurately the planter is performing. They notify us when something isn’t working properly and we can make adjustments. They also map the field as we plant so that we can use those maps later in the year to learn more about what happened in each field. After we harvest these fields in the fall, we will compare the as-planted maps with the harvest maps and try to learn more about how certain areas of the field produced, how certain hybrids of corn performed and much more.
Thanks to improvements in equipment and the various technologies used today, the U.S. farmer is the most productive in the world. One farmer in the U.S. produces enough food to feed 155 people. And they’re doing it all using fewer resources like fertilizer and chemicals.
We love to have tractor riders so come visit us this spring and experience planting time.
Our little helpers are ready to throw some bags!