Ryan Peterson, Clear Lake, Minn.

The seed corn looked excellent on June 7, 2019. Photo by Andrea Johnson.

Clear Lake, Minn. – Sherburne County can feel like its own little country.

Located just east of the Mississippi River, glaciers over the eons moved sand and gravel to this region.

Crops spring up quickly in the sandy soil but rely on frequent rain or irrigation to bear fruit and reach maturity.

“Personally, I wish it would rain,” said Ryan Peterson on a 90-degree June 7, 2019.

The rest of the state was wishing it wouldn’t rain.

“Our corn is okay. We’re watering our rye, because we just don’t want that to burn up,” he said.

Slightly rolling farmlands protected by wooded areas work well for the Petersons’ crops: seed corn, field corn, edible beans, soybeans and rye.

The Bono Hybrid Rye was at least two feet tall and starting to head when Ryan gave his report. The Petersons applied some nitrogen and sulfur to the rye using the irrigator system on May 31.

“That looks really good,” said Ryan. “We’ve had good rye before. It’s normally on dryland, so we fertilize it once with dry fertilizer right away. We’ve never fertilized rye through the irrigator before.”

The seed corn plant population was on the low side, but the corn that came up looked really good. The Petersons kept the stand and side-dressed it with nitrogen in late May.

Kidney beans were planted May 29, 30 and 31. The Petersons could already row the fields by June 6.

“We watered them after we sprayed them, and we gave them a little shot of water,” said Alan Peterson during the June 7 interview at the A & L Peterson farm shop. “We had heat, so they really popped out fast.”

Irrigators are so important to this region. Each pivot requires a permit, which costs $140 per year. The Petersons keep track of how many hours they apply water and report that information to the county. It’s always a lot of work running and checking irrigators. One of the pivots had a broken water line that needed fixing two days in a row. The Petersons thought maybe they didn’t get that line blown out properly last fall – but there are always things to fix with irrigators throughout the summer.

In-between everything else, Ryan hauled corn to Bushmills Ethanol in Atwater, Minn., about a 50-mile-drive. He figured he had at least 10 semi-loads left to haul.

In mid-June, the Petersons planned to start applying anhydrous ammonia on the corn when the plants were 6-7 inches tall.

“You can’t put it on in the fall, it would just disappear, and we can’t put it on in the spring either,” said Alan. “We want the corn just tall enough so that if we push a little dirt, it won't bury the corn.”

The cornfields were sprayed with herbicide, and one field of soybeans was sprayed. The Petersons expected to also get the soybeans sprayed for weeds in late June.

“We normally do a lot of certain kinds of sprays,” said Ryan. “This year we changed it up a bit – just changed up a few of the chemicals and we’ll try not to do two applications. Hopefully we can get by with just one.”

Kidney beans will get a herbicide application in late June too. Weed control was excellent so far, Ryan added.

Another load of cattle was finished and ready for the packing plant. The Petersons intended to ship the load in mid-June. They were ready to get more feeders into their lots.

While they waited for more cattle, Ryan and the rest of the Petersons mowed lawns and cleaned up their cattle yards. A nice commodity shed held modified distillers also called wet cake. The product comes from Bushmills Ethanol in Atwater, and it is hauled to the farm by a trucker with an end dump trailer.

“It’s good stuff – it’s like 50 percent moisture,” said Ryan. “This feeds really well.”

The Petersons also have a roller mill to crack the corn before it’s fed to the cattle, because it’s easier for the cattle to digest cracked corn than whole corn. They get minerals through Hubbard. Silage is put up and stored in an upright silo. A bag of silage is also filled and used throughout the winter.

“We normally have 100 acres of dryland and run half rye and half corn, so it never gets good moisture. By the time we should be doing silage, we’re doing kidney beans and kidney beans take priority,” Ryan said. “When we get done with kidney beans, we’ll chop silage and we get what we get.”

As the tour of the feedlot ended, Ryan pointed out a pair of ravens that had a nest in one of the barns. At first, he wasn’t too happy to have the very smart big black birds, but then he noticed there were fewer pigeons around the farm site since they set up their nesting territory.

“I’m happy about that,” he said.

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