Sustainability

Ground Work 2021: Wet Weather Delays Fall Fieldwork in Kentucky

October is usually one of our busiest months. We normally finish shelling corn, plant winter wheat, and start harvesting soybeans. This year, we have been delayed by lots of rain, so that we are about two weeks behind average on this work.

For example, in late September, corn harvest was interrupted by a 10-cm, or 4-inch, rain. That saturated the soil, so that any rain we’ve gotten since then causes the fields to get sloppy and muddy, so we can’t work in them. Our heavy farm equipment could get stuck. They also cause more soil compaction under those conditions. And we have continued to get smaller rains since then.

This has delayed corn harvest significantly. After the first week of October, we still had about 485 hectares, or 1,200 acres, of corn left to shell. Thankfully, our corn yields have been very good, above average. We will have more than enough corn to feed our pigs for the next year. We won’t have space to store all of it, so we have been selling some of it and trucking it to customers during rain delays.

Our pigs are thriving, enjoying cooler fall weather and fresh corn to eat.

But when we are able to be in the fields, we now will have to harvest quickly and get winter wheat planted. About half the corn fields we have harvested will be planted to winter wheat, and we are starting that work while harvest continues.

The fields being planted to winter wheat receive a burndown herbicide application to control any lingering weeds. They also receive dry fertilizer that the soil needs both for the winter wheat and for the double-crop soybeans we will plant next summer. Then we plant wheat directly into the corn stubble. This no-till system works well in our rolling hills.

We will plant a cover crop in the harvested corn fields that won’t be planted to winter wheat.

Though we are behind, we will still try to finish all that work in October. By the beginning of November, we have to start harvesting our soybeans, which look really good. We are expecting an excellent crop. Because we grow all our soybeans for seed production for other farmers to plant next year, we must harvest them when the moisture is just right. The soybeans need to contain 14% moisture, so the seed coat doesn’t crack. If the seed coat cracks, they won’t germinate well and can’t be used as seed.

During the rain delays, we’ve been catching up on office work, maintaining equipment and attending industry meetings. But I’m anxious to get back into the combine to shell corn, and then move to a tractor to plant winter wheat.

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.

Caleb Ragland

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Kentucky

Caleb Ragland and his wife Leanne farm with his father and brother near Magnolia, Kentucky.