There is one goal on the minds of farmers this October – get the crop harvested.
Erika Parker, technical agronomist for DeKalb Asgrow in Dwight, Illinois, said that is step one, with the hope a repeat of 2018’s post-harvest weather does not occur.
With the right conditions and a little luck with the weather, farmers should be able to get a better jump on fall field work. While every operation is different in its approach, she said there are benefits to making sure nitrogen is in place before the 2020 planting season.
“Fall nitrogen is a good option, but if the winter doesn’t allow it to happen, we have some other options to get those acres addressed,” Parker said.
Parker said she would even suggest having multiple nitrogen applications throughout the season if possible.
Having sufficient nitrogen ahead of planting this year was especially important, she said. While Parker said her area of Illinois does not have to deal with too much runoff, denitrification is a concern.
“We turned out bone dry. The plants have to eat through water. They can’t get their nitrogen unless they have water,” Parker said. “If a farmer didn’t have much nitrogen on up front and was in a situation where it was all side dressed, the corn struggled to get any of the nitrogen.”
She said the major difference she is seeing in corn with nitrogen applied pre-planting is in the current maturity of the crop.
“It doesn’t seem to be progressing as quickly,” she said.
Last year, Mahaska County, Iowa, farmer Michael Jackson said being a no-till farmer helped him get other post-harvest work done. With a little extra time, he was able to get the nitrogen he needed applied, though it was a challenge.
“It was an issue last year. The guys that (apply nitrogen) started getting late with the rainfall,” Jackson said. “We were fortunate enough to get it ahead of the deadline and not worry about water quality. This year it’s starting to shape up to be the same way.”
Jackson said as of Oct. 3 he has not harvested any corn or soybeans, and much of his area is about two weeks behind.
Curt Mottet, the location manager for Farmer’s Coop Association in Richland, Iowa, said he is expecting delays on nitrogen applications this year, but this fall should not be anything like the crunch he saw in spring. Many retailer’s anhydrous tanks are full, so being able to apply might be advantageous.
“Once we have the opportunity to go, we are going to hit it pretty hard,” Mottet said. “We don’t want to go through another spring like this year.”
Mottet said if farmers are not able to get much anhydrous in place this fall, there could be a price increase, so that might be motivation for a lot of producers.
Jackson said another place he is seeing an impact from the season-long delays is for farmers who utilize cover crops. The southeast Iowa farmer sells cover crop seed, and said some of his customers are holding off on planting to see how the next few weeks shake out.
“I’ve had several people say ‘we aren’t going to commit to anything yet,’” Jackson said. “We’ll see how it goes. The fear is we won’t get to (planting) when we are hoping to.”
He said some of the fears are due to the economics of hiring someone to apply the cover crop seed.