August 22, 2016

Weather has been hot and wet, which is a bad combination for beans in Iowa.  Sudden death syndrome (SDS) has started to show up. It is a fungus that infects soybean roots and produces a toxin that moves up the plant and kills the leaves. There is nothing that can be sprayed on the foliage when it shows up. I just made a trip across the state and could see SDS in many fields.  It is hard to watch it damage the crop. Beans looked beautiful all season, but now this damage will take bushels off the top.

Iowa farmer April Hemmes scouts soybean fields to find sudden death syndrome in wet areas.
Iowa farmer April Hemmes scouts soybean fields to find sudden death syndrome in wet areas.















Fortunately, my whole field is not affected by SDS, just places that stay wet or have soil compaction. The pods look good and are filling out nicely.

hemmes-822-2Aphids were building in numbers but have subsided, so I shouldn’t have to worry about those bugs.  A little white mold has shown up in the fields too, so wet weather has caused some problems.

I have not had a lot of weed escapes but have noticed many fields that do. Weed resistance is a concern that many of us are talking about and will address with different modes of action next season.

I expect to be harvesting soybeans in about a month. For now, I am getting equipment and facilities on the farm ready for the crop. I will be at the Farm Progress Show next week in Boone, Iowa, where I am looking forward to promoting soybeans!

August 8, 2016

My chemical and fertilizer service man and I were scouting soybeans this week. We found some aphids but not at economic threshold yet.  A lot of pods are setting on!

We have had good rains, so I was a bit surprised to see some yellow spots in the field showing up. The spots are where lighter soils are in the field.

Iowa soybeans are growing tall and pods are filling on April Hemmes’ farm.
Iowa soybeans are growing tall and pods are filling on April Hemmes’ farm.


This week I am getting things ready for harvest – working on the wagons, putting new cycle sections in my bean head so it will cut the beans better, and preparing my bins so I just have to put the grain in and go during harvest.

Since I am a “glass full” kind of gal, I always hope for the best, but know that there will be problems.  My biggest challenge will be to get this big crop in a bin or to the Meal and Biodiesel plant.  It will require a lot of hauling.

The big surprise for me this year is how good the crops look.  Rains have been great and that has really helped fill the plants in fields.

Unfortunately, the whole soybean growing country has not had great growing conditions like we have had in Iowa.  At the last United Soybean Board meeting, I heard a lot of stories of poor-looking soybean fields, either too dry or drowned-out fields with too much rain.  There will always be these problems in some areas, but I hope that excellent growing conditions continue for northern Iowa!

July 11, 2016

I have finished spraying soybeans and am scouting for disease and insects. Soybeans in my area of North Central Iowa are in bloom and will begin to set pods soon, if they haven’t already. We seem to be the “Goldilocks” area. Rains have been timely and no damaging storms. Basically, our crops look fantastic!

Our county fair is this week and I am the 4-H beef project leader. It is great to see youth display their projects and talk with them about how the year leading up to the big show has progressed. Seeing young people excited about agriculture and continuing on in it is invigorating to me.

Weather has been favorable for soybean growth on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.
Weather has been favorable for soybean growth on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.

On the farm, we have more rain in the forecast, but I have not had any drowned-out spots show up in fields yet. I keep a close eye on the aphids in my soybean fields and keep a count on their population to see if any control measures will be needed.

I have had very few challenges this year, so I’m counting my blessings! Timely rains, avoiding the late frost with the early planting date and an uneven emergence in no-till have been the excitement of the year so far.

A surprise this year was drift from my neighbors corn field spray coming onto my soybean field. I am giving him a pass this year, as it isn’t terrible. Plus, my cattle have gotten into his field more than once and he didn’t do anything.

On my trip to China a few weeks ago, it was great to hear customers there tell us that they know we are the most sustainable farmers in the world. I can’t tell you how good that made me feel, knowing all the hard work I do on my farm with filter strips of grass along my stream bank, wetlands, no-till farming and rotating crops has paid off. I want to have healthy soils for generations to come.

July 1, 2016

In my neck of the woods, our rains have been like Goldilocks – Just Right!  Soybeans are looking great. There are some difficulties with germination in spots with high residue, but all fields are filling in nicely. I just finished spraying my second round of Glyphosate-tolerant beans. So far, there is not a lot of weed pressure. Since we are past the longest day of the year, my beans have started to flower and it looks like it’s going to be a great year.

From the tractor seat, soybeans are being sprayed for weeds on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.
From the tractor seat, soybeans are being sprayed for weeds on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.

I was in Shanghai and Beijing, China, talking about the Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP). USSEC conducted workshops explaining the SSAP, how to get a certificate, and why it is important to be sustainable either on the farm or in the corporate environment. The Chinese attendees were very receptive to our message.

At the trade seminar, I was fortunate to talk about all I do on my century farm to be sustainable. I showed slides of my no-till soybeans, pollinator plots, native grass filter strips along my stream banks, wetlands and land I leave idle that was pasture and would not benefit from tillage. I have been a Natural Resources Conservation Service soil and water county commissioner for 25 years and realize how important it is to save the soil for future generations on my farm.

April Hemmes talks sustainability and best management farm practices in China.
April Hemmes talks sustainability and best management farm practices in China.

I am fortunate to have been to China three times and I just love the people! They are warm, friendly and welcoming. They know how important our soybeans are to their feed and oil industries. I loved it when the president of the largest importer in the nation looked at us and asked, “Why are you talking about sustainability? We all know U.S. soybeans are sustainable and the best quality in the world! You should be talking about something else, like how safe GMO soybeans are!” It was good to hear that they know how U.S. farmers care about our farming practices.

June 8, 2016

With planting done, I am monitoring and scouting fields for disease and weed growth. I do not see any disease or weeds yet, which is normal. Aphids typically don’t appear until late July or August.

The weather was cold and wet during emergence. We had a frost, but the soybeans have not been affected. I am seeing that emergence is uneven for the beans that were no-till planted after corn, which is a concern.

The beans are 3-4 inches tall at this point and need warm weather to grow. We are forecast for warm and sunny weather in the next week, which I expect will see the soybeans shoot up. I don’t see any yellowing, so the crop is coming up green and looking good.

Soybeans emerge through crop residue on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.
Soybeans emerge through crop residue on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm.

Weather is always a challenge. It is windy a lot of the time in Iowa. There are 169 wind turbines surrounding my farm to harness the power of the wind and generate electricity.

I am looking forward to traveling to Beijing and Shanghai for the International Oilseed Producers Dialogue and International Soybean Growers Alliance meeting in a week. I am interested in finding out what buyers are looking for. I also really enjoy talking to people about how I focus on sustainability and use conservation practices on my farm.

April Hemmes harvest 2015-8253
Photo by Joseph Murphy, Iowa Soybean Association

May 31, 2016

My farm has highly erodible land, so sustainability is a priority for me. I practice conservation till on the land. Using no-till, I leave last year’s corn stalks on the field to protect the soil from wind, capture snow and hold moisture. The residue provides organic matter and valuable nutrients for the soybeans to grow.

I planted my soybeans in May, which is earlier than usual, thanks to a warmer-than-average spring. (Iowa is known for its unpredictable weather, so I don’t plant in April because of the potential of freezing temperatures.)

The soybeans are looking beautiful at this time. We are waiting on rain, but have had good moisture this spring.

Now that the soybeans are planted I’m working on equipment. I like to get the planter ready for next year, or in case I have to replant. While things are fresh in my mind and the weather is good, I also like to tear the planter apart and work on it. Then I will put the sprayer on.

The challenge coming up is weeds and insects. I scout fields regularly to assess the health of the crop and the potential for damage of weeds and insects.

I love the marketing aspect of farming and started a women’s grain marketing group which meets regularly. My spring planting decisions were made in the fall, but I look at the markets and set up contracts throughout the year.

Conservation-tilled soybean fields on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm

Conservation-tilled soybean fields on April Hemmes’ Iowa farm

soybeans copy
Hemmes’ 2016 soybeans are off to a good start.