Manager Update for March 3, 2015

NDSU Winter Wheat Trial

NDSU Winter Wheat Trial


Happy End of winter!

At least I hope so. But then I am not in the snow removal business or anything else that makes money from snow. Those guys probably not having a good year around here at least. The Northeast is a different story. If the forecast holds true, we will probably see if the winter wheat comes back in a couple weeks. Right now it looks like a nice stretch of ever improving temperatures and normal precipitation. However, it is March, anything can happen with little warning.

I think we are close to being done with the meeting season as well. Abbey Wick is holding here end of the season Café talks at the lodge on Thursday, March 5. I have received word there is lots of room left so if you would like to attend, just call the county agents office at 701-724-3355.

Crop prices are still in the red ink level. According to all the winter meeting experts, better get used to it. As one person said, 2015 will be survivable mainly due to good balance sheets. 2016 is going to be the year that separates the wheat from the chaff. Of course things can change, but I remember well the 1980’s. Things were pretty bleak until the farm program stepped in and got some cash moving. Of course there is always the usual debate of the overall worthiness of subsidies. Being in the business of soil conservation brings to mind some opportunities to at least focus on keeping soil in place. With weed resistance issues and low prices it will be tempting to mine the soil with tillage. If times get tough, it is a good idea to rent out a basement bedroom, but tearing out an outside wall to sell the lumber to pay the heat bill is a bad idea. I certainly want to the farmers that are already here farming, but it is just as import to make sure the opportunity for farming goes on into the future.

When times get tough if you can’t make a profit, at least limit losses. Make sure you are still around when times get better. This is for many of us a “Back to the Future, dejavu all over again” scenario.  Using rotations, alternative crops, livestock, off farm jobs, working on your own equipment, anything to save money is how you make it. This is where having a good fertile health soil is a cornerstone. On top of everything else, I see the lasts drought outlook has our neighborhood in the crosshairs. This really is looking like the 80’s! There is an absolute ton of information how to manage water and fertility by proper crop timing, (rotations). Our plots have been a wonderful classroom to see the advantages of well places rotations. Nothing is ever perfect, but wheat and corn following flax has always worked out well. Corn following alfalfa is a great plan on a wet year. If it looks dry, I would trying something else. Corn on corn has been a tough crop no-till and ever where we have strip tilled. Walt Albus has done well with using strip till under irrigation, and his data is readily available. Alfalfa is very easy to start after winter wheat in the fall and has never failed us in our 13 years. Finding a market for the smaller crops is a must before you plant. Alfalfa is a really tough crop to make money on unless you have the ability to wet chop if you encounter a wet period during harvest. The expert growers have always said you have to cut by the calendar if you are going to make it work. One thing I can’t stress enough Is the increase in organic matter we have seen. Although this is a really complex issue, bottom line is we have around a 1% increase in 10 years of no till and strip till farming. This means around a 1000 lbs of nitrogen has be assimilated. This becomes a huge asset because in theory the higher the percentage of OM, the higher the release of nitrogen and the less you have to fertilize. Not only do you have to fertilize less, but the fertilizer you do put on is less likely to be lost.

Hopefully we have a nice spring to get the crops planted and nice growing season without floods, drought, hail and storms.

Best of luck!

Kelly Cooper

Farm Manager


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