PAGE, N.D. – There is hardly any fieldwork going on in the northern part of Barnes County, according to Brad McKay, and he has taken this delayed spring planting to make some seed deliveries and make sure his machinery is in top condition.
“Last Friday (May 8), I loaded some soybean seed for a customer I have at Kathryn, N.D., which is located in the southern part of the county,” Brad said. “It seems the southern-end of my territory is starting to see some fieldwork. But around here there is a little scratching around on the high ground, but nothing full-bore by any stretch.
“I’m hoping, the way the forecast sounds, we may get going by Monday (May 11) and the fields will starting coming around. We will still be a few days from starting to plant corn, since we first have to put down our fertilizer. We just need some warm temperatures – it has just been so cold,” he added.
Brad typically puts down all of his fertilizer in the spring.
“That gives the corn a nice shot of fertility right away in the spring,” he said. “It seems to respond a little better if we can do it this time of year.”
They hire the elevator to apply the fertilizer. Brad’s dad works that fertilizer into the field with the field cultivator and Brad runs the planter. They rely on Brad’s wife, Megan, to keep things running at home with the seed business.
Later in the growing season, he uses a “Y-Drop” on his sprayer and does a lot of side-dressing of fertilizer, which allows him to put on an additional 30-50 pounds of nitrogen on the crop during the growing season. It’s usually applied when the corn is about shoulder-high. He applies a nitrogen stabilizer in the mix and just dribbles the product on the ground along the corn rows. Eventually, a rain will cause it to soak in the ground. He has been using this practice for the last 5-6 years and has been pleased with the results.
“When we split our nitrogen application like that, I feel we can raise more bushels of corn on less nitrogen,” he noted.
The late planting date is also a blessing, since any early-seeded crops may have been damaged by the freezing temperatures during the second week of May.
“The lilacs in the back yard were leafing out pretty good and they took it pretty hard,” he noted. “But that really isn’t too out of the ordinary to have a hard freeze in May.”
Rainfall has been rather light this spring. About 10 days ago they received about an inch of rain, but only spotty showers since then. What is holding up spring planting is the excessive moisture they have been the recipient of for the last 2-3 years.
Brad has found that those conditions are carrying over to many of the township gravel roads in the area. Many farmers are having a difficult time getting to their fields with fertilizer and seed, as well as with the equipment needed to till and seed those fields.
Brad didn’t do any corn combining since our last visit. The moisture content of the corn is dry enough for harvesting, but the wet field conditions are keeping the combines out of the field.
“I feel like we have waited this long, what is another couple weeks while the soil dries out more?” he said. “I didn’t feel like it was worth tearing up machinery to combine the crop earlier,” he said. “There is a lot of corn left in our immediate neighborhood, and this is due to soft field conditions and the really soft road conditions I mentioned earlier.”
Finally, due to the late planting season, Brad has noticed some of the farmers are returning corn seed and are going to plant more soybeans in its place.
“I think some guys were thinking of planting more wheat to replace the corn, but now that we are getting to the middle of May, I don’t think many will go that route,” he concluded.