May was mostly cool and cloudy in our area of Minnesota in the north-central U.S. Midwest. We finished planting and all the related spring fieldwork with reluctant help from our daughters, who had more time than in the past to be in the tractor due to online school at home this spring.
However, crops have been slow to emerge. Some seeds were dormant until later in the month, when we received about 1 cm, or .5 inches, of rain followed by warmer temperatures. But everything is emerging, and we don’t anticipate any replants.
We finished planting on May 29, after our tiling projects were completed. In fields that are new to us, we buried rows of tile, or tubes, in the field that will help water drain from the soil and support crop and soil health. This year, those fields will grow spring wheat.
Now it is crop checking and equipment fixing season. With the fields planted, we will regularly scout for weeds and other pests. We check fields ourselves once a week, and we also have an agronomist check our fields once a week. We are familiar with field history and pests to watch for in individual fields, while our agronomist provides a regional perspective. He can let us know if there are specific pest problems in an area that we need to watch for, and then provide recommendations to manage those pests as needed.
As the crops emerge, we haven’t seen any weeds yet, which means our pre-emergence weed control program is working well. My husband, Rodd, is now talking to all our neighboring landowners to learn what herbicide tolerance programs they are using in specific fields and to share our programs with them. This will help us ensure weed control treatments are compatible, and to be vigilant to prevent potential crop damage in fields with different herbicide-tolerant crops.
At the end of May, we also started our first cutting of alfalfa. We cut alfalfa and sell it as haylage to a local dairy. Haylage is a forage crop that is cut and stored with a high moisture content, mixed with other nutrients, and allowed to ferment to become feed. We typically get three or four cuttings of alfalfa each season, and depending on the weather, we cut it about every four weeks.
The beginning of June is also the beginning of construction season in Minnesota. As the administrator for our local watershed district, that means contractors I work with will be able to start on a major water quality project. This summer, we will widen and slope the sides of a drainage ditch. This will improve quality, minimize erosion and help this section of the watershed better manage flooding.
Later this summer, we will start a second major construction project that will address a channel that flows into a local lake. It has been eroding sand, causing an island to form in the lake. Improving the channel will address erosion, water quality and flood management for this local lake and the rest of the Red River.
The first weekend of June, I will pick up honeybees to populate one hive this summer. This will be the third year we’ve had honeybees. We believe they enhance our habitat, and we have plenty of food for them with our vineyard, clover between the rows in the vineyard, wildflowers and more. The hope is that we will be able to harvest some of their honey this year.
Summer typically fills up with soybean industry meetings. This year, such meetings will involve more phone calls and less traveling. We have hosted trade groups on our farm in the past, and we hope that we will be able to get back to welcoming our customers here in person again soon.