Sustainability

Ground Work 2022: Planting Underway in Missouri

A weather pattern bringing high winds and small amounts of rain at a time, like just 5 cm, or .2 inches, has slowed our start to planting this spring. Fortunately, with mild temperatures and half a day of sunshine, we can return to our fields.

We started planting corn on April 12. And as wind speeds and field conditions allowed, we are terminating the cover crops in the fields that will be planted to soybeans.

Last fall, we planted a cereal rye cover crop on 100% of the ground we plan to plant to soybeans. Herbicide applications terminate this cover crop — and control any weeds that might be in those fields. Roughly two weeks after terminating the cover crop, these fields are ready to have pre-emergence herbicides applied and soybeans planted. We expect to be planting soybeans by the end of April or beginning of May, weather permitting.

That timing allows us to plant corn first, which takes a couple weeks. I usually run the planter, while my brothers and nephew handle other work. For example, if a field being planted to corn has heavy winter weed pressure, we apply a burndown herbicide to control them. Those applications may also include a pre-emergence herbicide. Most of our corn receives a full-season herbicide application when the plants are 7.5 to 10 cm, or 3 to 4 inches, tall.

We are also finishing up conservation work in some of our fields. In early spring, we’ve been building terraces. We use tile outlet terraces, a practice that helps protect our soil from erosion and manage water. A bulldozer creates the terraces, which have underground tile buried in them. The tile, a tube with slits around it, stores and carries water away from the terrace, while leaving the soil in place. Our terraces are designed with risers and tiles that allow water from a heavy rain event to drain in about 8 hours. That’s long enough to slow rapid water flow, but quickly enough to prevent water damage to our crops.

Like other supply chains, the agricultural input supply chain is currently under pressure. Compared to other farmers, we’ve been fortunate due to a couple factors. Our farm’s location, which allows us to efficiently deliver our crops to different markets, has also enabled us to get the inputs we need. Combined with advanced planning, we are ready to get our soybeans and corn off to a strong start this spring.

We ordered much of our nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides early last fall. We applied the fertilizer then, and the herbicides were stored so that we have products available to control weeds this spring. We received our corn seed in the middle of winter, and our soybean seed is being delivered now.

We typically rely on poultry litter to supply phosphorus and potassium fertilizer. This year, we spread chicken litter from egg and broiler farms between 65 and 80 km, or 40 and 50 miles, from our farm. In our no-till system, it is spread during late winter and early spring on the cover crop in fields that will be planted to soybeans and on stubble from last year’s crop in fields that will be planted to corn.

Despite our slow start, we are excited to start raising another sustainable crop for our customers.

Neal Bredehoeft

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Neal Bredehoeft farms soybeans and corn with his brothers and a nephew near Alma, Missouri.