Welcome to the 2017 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic practices to enhance their return on investment and profit potential. Check back each week for new blogs and videos from the farmers as they share their experiences and crop management decisions throughout the growing season. Here is a brief overview of our four participants.
Hello again from southeast North Dakota. Over the last month, we have been finishing up the last of the maintenance on our equipment, and getting all the data loaded into monitors for the #plant17 season. The frost is still coming out of the ground in our area. The weather has been a mixture of warm days, between 45-65 degrees, and cold nights. The nighttime temperatures are still dropping down below freezing. This makes it difficult for our ground temperatures to warm up. Looking at the long range forecast, we think it will be at least 7-10 days before a warmer weather pattern sets in, and we will feel confident to start putting corn in the ground.
Some growers in the area have found ground that they feel is fit, and have started planting wheat and applying fertilizer. For the most part, however, the countryside is idle. It won't be long though and the full planting campaign will be underway. My brothers Brian and Nick have started our field preparations. They have been picking rocks and cleaning up tree lines the last couple of weeks. We don't get a lot of time in the fall to work on these projects. Most years we struggle to get harvest and fall tillage done before the ground freezes. We take advantage of any extra time we have in the spring to get odds and ends done before we start planting.
As the days go by now, all the planning for another year starts to become reality. The lists and numbers on a sheet of paper are turning into daily deliveries of fertilizer, seed, and chemical. The excitement, stress, and anxiety of another season start to creep in. We will be spending most of the next few days, or weeks, leading up to planting doing our double and triple checks of all the systems. In our area it's critical to be ready to roll and avoid breakdowns when the weather decides to switch.
This is our Case Patriot 4440 sprayer. In the last few years it has been vital to our operation as we continue to make more in-season applications. We apply a pre-emerge chemical to both our corn and soybeans, in addition to our post-emerge passes. We also now use it to implement our fungicide program in soybeans, foliar feed crops, and side-dress our corn with Y-Drop. This year we will be able to map and record all of its applications with the FieldView drive. We have been using that system in the planters and combines to record our data. Having it compatible with the sprayer will allow for easy record of applications, and help us to know what products and applications helped our bottom line. It was nice to have some warmer weather to get it out of the shop and unfolded, so we could go through it for maintenance. This is a piece of equipment we can't afford to have go down.
The weather in the Lidgerwood area has kept us guessing all winter. It seems like March and February have swapped this year. It now looks more like mid-winter than early spring. Last week the fields looked ready to plant, and today we are scheduled for 8-10 inches of snow. With that being said, we are relieved to have some extra time to keep prepping for spring planting. There seems to never be a lack of work to do around the shop. We came back from the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas with some new ideas we would like to implement. If you haven't attended the Commodity Classic, I would highly recommend it. It is a great opportunity to see what's new in both equipment and practices. Having the opportunity to network with other farmers is worth the trip. Anywhere you go, you have the opportunity to talk to farmers from across the country that are probably planting the same crops you are, but may be using different practices. I think it helps to open up a new perspective, and get the thought process rolling about if there is something you could be doing a little bit better to get the next 20 bushels.
We currently have the planters in the shop. Every year when we put them in the shed I say, "next year it's going to be a quick in and out of the shop. Just check the disks and meters, update the software, do a diagnostic test, and we should be ready to go plant." Another year, and we have proven this theory wrong again. We have parts spread everywhere in the shop. We're making a few changes to our John Deere 1770NT 24-row, 30-inch planter. We have added Keeton Quick Attach Seed Firmers with the liquid fertilizer option. We had Totally Tubular prior to this. We are also switching out our Yetter screw adjust row cleaners for floating row cleaners with Precision Planting Clean Sweep. We are looking forward to being able to adjust the row cleaners from the cab. We have had drier planting conditions the last couple years, and have started doing more minimum, spot tillage in our fields. It was hard in the past to find the right setting for the changing conditions.
We are also in the final stages of getting bigger saddle tanks plumbed in to feed our 2x2. Last year we ran about 12 gallons of N-P-K of 28% 10-34-0 + KTS. This year we are going to add a little higher rate of N and K to our 2x2. We are planning on applying 16-18 gallons per acre, and need a little more capacity to keep the tractor moving. We also made another change to our plan after returning from the Commodity Classic. We have decided to bring back the old practice of placing 2x2 on both sides of the row unit. Some people have been seeing a good response from having the fertility placed on both sides of the root system.
Having tight margins this year has again made us pick and choose what updates we are going to make. There are a lot of things we would like to do, but we have to try and figure out what will help us the most this year. Hopefully we will have the planter back together by the time we write next month's blog!
It has felt more like March than January in southeastern North Dakota the last few weeks. We have been enjoying the mild weather to haul grain, and all the while are putting together a strategy for the 2017 season.
Last year was a year of change on our operation. We sat down to do projections, and realized with the farm economy in a downward trend, we needed to do something different if we were going to make things work long term. We needed to reevaluate how we were spending every dollar. One area we noticed we could cut costs was custom application for fertilizer. For years we had done a full broadcast fertility program in either the spring or fall for our corn and soybeans. We based our yearly fertility program on our annual soil tests and yield targets. This system worked, and continues to work for many growers, but in a year where every dollar counted, we were spending too much money on nitrogen up front. We decided to utilize a liquid nitrogen fertility program to compliment our fertility strategy. This allowed us to hedge our bets. We wouldn't be 100% in on our nitrogen investment in November or April because we could control it later in the season. We applied about a third of our nitrogen 2x2 with the planter. We left the other two-thirds to be split applied with the 360 Y-Drop on our 4440 Case Patriot sprayer. This allowed us to watch the growing conditions and control of how much we were going to spend at any point in the season.
As the summer went on, we continued to miss rains. We got drier and drier as we moved from June to July. At this point, we were thankful that we had not spent the money up front on our fertility. In mid-July, however, we had an excellent chance for rain, so we went out and pulled soil test and analyzed them with the 360 Soil Scan and applied what it recommended to hit our yield target. As the year would turn out, the rain came at the right time and we ended up with one of the biggest crops we have ever had. The difference maker on our operation was the fact that we were able to grow more corn using less nitrogen in 2016, which helped our bottom line.
Our soybean crop was also one for the record books, but not without its own set of challenges. Most people would assume that with dry weather the risk of white mold would be low. We too thought that maybe we would miss it last year, but still continued to scout the fields throughout the summer. We received rain in July and into August. This created the perfect environment for white mold. We treated about half of our soybean acres with Endura followed 10-14 days later with Priaxor. We didn't hold the disease pressure 100% in our most disease prone fields, but we were able to preserve a lot of yield verses if we would have left it untreated. Some of the variability can be contributed to the different soybean varieties that we plant. Some plant types are more prone to disease. We will be aggressively planning varieties, scouting, and implementing a fungicide program again this year to manage white mold.
Moving forward in 2017, we're excited to try a few more new things on our operation. We will be utilizing the Roundup Ready2Xtend system on our soybean acres. We have been growing dicamba tolerant soybeans on seed production the last two years, so we feel comfortable with the genetics, but we are excited to finally utilize the herbicide technology to help us manage our tough to kill weeds like waterhemp.
One new strategy that we already have in place for our 2017 corn crop is fall strip tillage. This allows us to put our P and K down dry to save money by using a lower rate of fertilizer. Strip tillage also allows for higher efficiency because of proper placement. Also, we are hopeful we can implement this on more acres going forward to help reduce trips across the field, allowing us to cut fuel and labor expense. We will again put our nitrogen down with the planter 2x2, and side dress accordingly.
It's hard to know if everything in 2016 came together perfectly on its own, or if our new way of thinking really paid off. We're looking forward to implementing some of the same strategies this year, as well as trying some new crazy theories. We're excited for the year ahead, and to share our journey with you!