Sustainability

2020 Ground Work: Weather Determining Work in Delaware

It’s hot. Temperatures have been above 90°F, or 32°C. And we haven’t gotten much rain in the past few weeks. The hot, dry weather dictates what work can be done and when I can do it.

My spring crops have been planted and have emerged. The soybeans look pretty good, but they are getting thirsty. They could use some rain. The dryland corn also needs rain. The corn planted under irrigation looks pretty good, but I don’t expect the bin-buster crop I got last year.

About one-third of my fields have irrigation, and crops in those fields have needed the water. However, at least five of the eight irrigation systems have needed repairs to keep running. That repair work has kept me running on top of a wide variety of field work that needs to be done right now.

I still haven’t planted lima beans, and I am waiting for the call from the company I contract with to tell me when to plant. I expect to hear from them any day.

I harvested, or cut, barley for a couple days starting June 9. It yielded well, averaging nearly 5.4 metric tons per hectare, or 100 bushels per acre. Some of this barley will become cover crop seed to sell to other farmers next year. The rest of it will be delivered to a local elevator, and it will most likely be used in animal feed.

After it rains and there is moisture in the soil, I will plant double-crop soybeans to follow the barley. Double-cropping is raising two crops in a field in the same year. The barley was planted last fall and harvested now. The soybeans planted for double-cropping usually require a bit shorter growing season than the varieties planted in the spring. But soybeans planted between mid-June and mid-July can still yield a solid crop.

In the next week or so, the winter wheat will be ready to harvest. I will need a couple days to cut my winter wheat, and then I will take a couple days to custom harvest wheat for other farmers in the area. On my farm, I will follow the winter wheat with double-crop lima beans.

This week, I hope to finish side-dressing corn, or applying nitrogen fertilizer to help the crop thrive. Typically, this happens when the corn is 15 to 20 cm, or 6 to 8 inches, tall. But because of how this season is going, much of my corn will be between 30 and 45 cm, or 12 to 18 inches, tall when the fertilizer is applied. I also need to apply herbicide to the corn.

Fortunately, planting my soybeans into heavy cover crops have kept weeds from growing and competing in those fields. If it doesn’t rain much this summer, I may not need any additional weed control for those soybean crops. If we do get more rain, I may need to make my planned post-emergence herbicide application, but it won’t be needed for a few weeks.

From what I’ve seen, it could be a hot, dry summer in my region of the U.S. east coast. That could make irrigation critical – and challenge systems to keep up with crop needs.

It has also been a challenge to keep up with technology needs. I’ve had technical issues with both my mobile phone and computer, but most of the stores where I can get help have still not reopened since the start of the COVID-19-related shutdown in this region a few months ago.

In the meantime, it’s hot. And I have plenty of work to do in my fields.

Cory Atkins
Cory Atkins

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Delaware

First-generation farmer Cory Atkins and his wife Kate, a registered dietician, live near Seaford, Delaware. Cory grows soybeans, corn, wheat, barley, grain sorghum and vegetable crops like green beans, lima beans and pickling cucumbers. In addition, he has a seed dealership and does custom planting, spraying and harvesting. He serves as a director on his state and regional soybean boards, as well as the United Soybean Board.