Sustainability

Ground Work 2021: Finishing This Season and Preparing for Next Year in Iowa

The weather has been a challenge in our area of the U.S. Midwest throughout 2021. Thankfully, it cooperated enough in November to allow us to finish harvest, along with strip-tilling and fertilizing the fields that will be planted to corn next season. And our cover crops continue growing well.

We finished cutting soybeans in early November. Because soybean prices were strong, we sold most of our soybeans to a local grain handling company. We hauled them directly to one of the company’s nearby storage locations, called grain elevators. We ended up trucking the soybeans between 16 and 32 km, or 10 and 20 miles, from our fields to the nearest storage facility. However, a few times the closest grain elevator was full, so we hauled the soybeans farther, to the next storage location that had room for them.

The only soybeans we stored ourselves were grown to become seed for other farmers to plant next year. Those soybeans will stay in our grain bins until the seed company we work with asks us to deliver them. Then we will use our semitrucks to haul the seed soybeans nearly 100 km, or about 60 miles, to their seed cleaning plant.

We then focused on finishing corn harvest. I convinced my daughter Cassandra to run the combine, while my brother Pete and I hauled corn either to a nearby grain elevator or to our own storage bins. That allowed my son Schyler to start strip-tilling next year’s corn fields. With the additional help, we finished harvesting corn in mid-November. We are storing about 65% of our crop, and by the end of December, we will likely start selling and trucking some of that crop to nearby ethanol plants.

Next, we turned all our attention to strip-tillage and applying fertilizer. Strip-tilling disturbs a narrow strip of soil and places nitrogen fertilizer into it. We will plant corn directly into those strips next spring. We finished that work on our farm by the last weekend of November. We will continue custom strip-tilling fields for other farmers in our area who don’t have the equipment until we finish, or cold winter weather forces us to quit.

With the fieldwork finished, we concentrated on finishing a new pig nursery near Schyler’s home. This building will house young pigs from the time they are weaned at 5 to 8 kg, or 12 to 18 pounds, until they grow to about 20 kg, or 45 pounds. This new building is a sign of the growth of our farm as we ensure it can support all our families. We expect the building to be finished by mid-December. Then the company that we raise pigs for will test all its features. Once they ensure it is ready, we expect them to deliver young pigs to fill the nursery for the first time in early January.

2021 was a very stressful, challenging season. We started the season adjusting our cropping plans because of the derecho that hit our area in August 2020. Dry conditions influenced planting and soybean emergence. Throughout the summer, drought and heat stressed crop growth, and we expected that to heavily impact yield. But the season ended up better than expected, with crops outyielding expectations. Rains that replenished soils also slowed harvest and fall fieldwork, until we finally finished at the end of November. Despite the drought and heat, we harvested the best crops we’ve ever raised. I have no idea how that happened, but I am thankful!

Even with the challenges and weather troubles during the growing season, U.S. soybean farmers still produced a large, high-quality soybean crop, like we do every year. We do the best we can each year with the conditions we face. This year shows how our efforts to continuously improve help us manage through challenges. I am proud to produce reliable, sustainable, high-quality soybeans.

This field update is funded by the soybean checkoff. To share or republish part or all of this Ground Work 2021 article, please link to the original article and credit www.USSOY.org.

Tim Bardole

Tim Bardole is a fifth-generation farmer from Rippey, Iowa. He farms with his father, Roy; his brother, Pete; and his son, Schyler. Together, they grow soybeans and corn and raise grower-to-finish hogs. He serves as a United Soybean Board director and is also on the Iowa Soybean Board. He’s interested in sustainability and ensuring product quality for customers. Tim and his wife Lori have three children: Cassandra, Schyler who is married to Lauren, and Gabe. They also have two young grandsons.