LAKE BENTON, Minn. – Minnesota was fighting against COVID-19 in mid-May when Bob Worth gave his producer progress report. Rural regions with meat processing facilities or assisted living care for the elderly were especially hard hit, with the state recording 12,494 positive cases as of May 12.
The numbers were expected to keep climbing higher for a while.
Bob attended most of his meetings via social media apps. Among these was the Minnesota Biofuels Council that was fighting for ethanol production. A long-time proponent of biodiesel, Bob appreciated learning about ethanol.
“We’ve been meeting all the way through planting time,” he said. “The farmers on the council weren’t extremely pleased, but we understood the situation that we couldn’t have in-person meetings.”
Normally, board members would have driven to St. Paul and met for 4-6 hours ahead of planting season. Fortunately, the planting season has gone very well, the Zoom meetings were kept to two hours and farmers had a very short commute.
The Worths had a great start to the 2020 growing season. As of April 27, they had all of their corn planted, and were ready to start on soybeans. Soybean planting was completed on May 3.
They received a very welcome inch of rain on May 4-5. It was a nice soaking rain.
Temperatures for May 7-12 dropped below freezing in the early morning hours.
“Our beans are not up so that’s good,” he said, speaking of the cold. “Our corn looks pretty yellow, but our corn can handle a lot until the growing point gets up above the soil.”
Temperatures were expected to stay above freezing for the rest of May.
During his 50 years of farming, Bob said 2020 is one of the easiest plantings he has experienced. There were no breakdowns, just a few hours of fertilizer tardiness, and 1,000 acres of soybeans planted in just four days. Two men planting 250 acres per day was pretty good considering the Worths roll about half of their soybean acres before planting.
“We want to get that nice seedbed – the planter units stay there and never move,” he said. “Rolling makes a much better job of planting. The corn stalks don’t bother the firming wheels, so it makes it a lot nicer.”
Bob and Jon are very aware of the potential for wind erosion on the Buffalo Ridge. They only roll the ground that has enough residue to protect the precious topsoil. On the 500 acres that were not rolled, the Worths will pick rocks for the final two weeks of May.
There is a new project at the Worth home farm – a new 33,000-bushel soybean air bin. Concrete was poured the first week of May.
Their decision to build a new bin was based on the cold and wet harvest of 2019.
“The soybeans never dried out – 15-17.5 percent moisture. If you hauled them to town you would take quite a beating on discounts,” he said.
Since they had a large amount of corn prevented plant acres in 2019, the Worths stored wet soybeans in their corn wet-holding-bin and ran air. With natural air drying, the soybeans dried down to 13-13.5 percent when they were hauled to the elevator.
“We figured right there, that would pay for a bin in the long run,” he said. “You take the discounts you’re taking and use that toward paying for a bin and it won’t take long. Plus it will save us 5-6 days of harvest time. It seems like time is very important in the fall of the year.”
Bob credits dry conditions, plus a gradual warm-up, for excellent planting conditions. In addition, taking prevented planting on many acres last year gave the Worths an opportunity to complete tillage on all of their fields.
The farm’s location – at 400-600 feet higher than areas to the east – sometimes requires tillage for the soils to warm up. That consistent tillage really helped, he said.
2020 marks the first time the family has planted following prevented planting, so there were some challenges creating a smooth seedbed, but overall, things went great.
“May 3 is probably the earliest I’ve ever had the crop planted,” he said. “As the new technologies come out for the soybeans, the cold tolerance is much better, so we’re planting earlier all the time.”
COVID-19 drags on, and there have been bright spots and great challenges. Bob asks everyone to get the help they need – whether that’s equipment repair, crop consulting, accounting or psychological help.
He recently wrote an editorial for the American Soybean Association on the dangers of getting too depressed. As a first step, whether for yourself or someone you know, consider visiting minnesotafarmstress.com or see https://www.mda.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/2019-10/copefarmstressbrochure10-2019.pdf or call 1-833-600-2670 (press 1) for the Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline. It’s best to call when “something just doesn’t seem/feel right.”