Ground Work 2021: Planters Rolling in Iowa

We are focused on planting both soybeans and corn right now. When we started planting, conditions were less than ideal. Soil temperatures were cooler than we prefer, but our drought is continuing. We started planting to ensure our crops can use the moisture below the top 2.5 centimeter, or 1 inch of soil to germinate.

We planned to start planting both soybeans and corn at about the same time, but we had to adapt that plan because of our cool mid-April temperatures. We planted a variety of cover crops on more than 60% of our acres last fall. The cover crops need to be terminated before planting, but how they are terminated depends on the type of cover crop. Some fields have a rye cover crop that needs to be actively growing so we can effectively terminate it with burndown herbicides. We had to wait to get into these fields until we got a few days of warmer weather and the rye started growing again.

However, other fields contained cover crop mixes like oats and turnips terminated by winterkill. That means the plants died during the winter as we expected. We started planting fields with mixes like this that didn’t need to be sprayed, which means we just started planting corn.

During a cold snap that brought a bit of snow last week, we filled our barns with 5,000 weaned pigs. We spent a couple of days caring for them, getting them settled and ensuring they are healthy. After that, we turned our focus back to planting.

Fortunately, last weekend’s air temperatures warmed up enough to allow the rye to come out of dormancy and start growing. We are now planting at full speed. My brother Pete does all the spraying, so he is terminating cover crops. He is also applying residual herbicide for early-season weed control before we plant any of our soybeans. My son, Schyler, is planting corn. I am switching between planting corn and soybeans, depending on what fields are ready to be planted. My dad Roy is keeping us all moving. He is delivering water to Pete for the sprayer and seed to Schyler and I to refill our planters.

We will continue adapting throughout planting season. We will figure out if using a planter or a drill does a better job planting soybeans in the fields where we had to destroy corn last year because of the derecho, or windstorm. These two different types of planting equipment give us options to best manage the heavy residue and potential volunteer corn as we plant those fields.

When everything is running smoothly and conditions are good, we need nearly three weeks to get everything planted. Although we want to get the crop planted, we would welcome any rain. Though that would interrupt us, our fields are very dry. We need moisture.

We are also watching the markets. Soybean prices are skyrocketing, which makes us wish we still had some 2020 crop to sell. Prices are also rising for the 2021 crop. However, I am concerned about the impact of these prices on world markets. Because I have visited U.S. soybean customers in Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines, I understand the potential for some countries to be priced out of the soybean market. While I want to be profitable, I also don’t want it to be harder for some of our customers to feed their livestock and their people.

Though we can’t control market prices, planting our 2021 crops is the first step we can take in ensuring that we continue to provide a reliable supply of soybeans to the global market.

Tim Bardole
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.