2023 Crop Planning

January 11, 2023

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As Holtz Farms begins to prepare for planting season, much of the 2023 crop planning actually started back in the Spring of 2022. Everything we do during the previous growing season allows us to make improvements for our next planting season. A list of what we pay attention to includes:

  • applying herbicide
  • analyzing weed control and crop safety
  • watching seed emergence between seed varieties
  • digging up seeds to determine how the planters preformed
  • analyzing pest presence and crop diseases
  • watchin for fertilizer burn on the root systems

So, every time we make a pass across the field with the sprayer, the nitrogen side-dress applicator, or the combine, it gives us an opportunity to inspect every acre we farm. The combine’s data is like our report card on how we farmed that year. From there, we collect all the yield data from the various trials. We then put them side by side, along with our notes on what we visually observed while in the fields. From here, we create goals for the next year, and we never use the exact same practices every year.

After all this data is reviewed, I begin our plan for 2023. I start with crop rotation and decide what crop will be grown in each field. I will place seed varieties that I feel perform the best for each farm and field. (According to soil types and other factors.)

Fertilizer Program

From there, I work on my fertilizer program. For corn, we use a strip till machine that makes the first pass across the field. This machine works an 8” wide strip of soil 4” deep while mixing in a dry fertilizer blend. After the strip till application, we come in with the corn planter and plant the seed on the 8” wide strip where the nutrients have been placed. Along with the corn planter, we also apply liquid fertilizers. The first fertilizer is a nitrogen blend with micronutrients and other products to help with fertilizer efficiency. These are placed 2” away and 2” down. Our second product being applied is a starter blend with micronutrients and other nutrient products. Those will be placed within close proximity to the seed.

Side-Dress Applications

Once the crop starts to grow, we will make a side-dress application of a nitrogen blend at around V5 of the plant stage. For us, having the flexibility to place different forms of fertilizers in different applications is important. I can compare which form of fertilizer is the most cost effective. On a year like this with high fertilizer prices, it makes it even more important. For example, instead of using 100 lbs./acre in our strip of DAP where the majority of the nutrients are not available, I changed to 50 lbs./acre of DAP through the strip till. I will add a higher rate of phosphorus to my liquid starter program that is more plant available for this growing season, while also reducing our overall fertilizer cost with no yield reduction.

For our spray program, all of our crops will have three applications. We start with a no-till burndown to kill off our winter rye cover crop and other weeds. Then we do an early post-emergence application to clean up any other weeds and to put down some residual herbicide. At this time, we add some foliar fertilizers to help with the plant’s nutritional needs. Finally, we apply fungicide prior to development to keep the plant healthy through grain fill and for late season stability.

Digital Tasks…

After the crop input needs are planned and ordered, I then begin my least favorite job. The arduous task of creating files on the computer and data entry. I’m pretty sure no farmer loves doing this, but it needs to get done. At Holtz Farms, we use the operation center on the “MyJohnDeere” app for all our mapping, crop planning, and prescriptions needs. It is an easy-to-use system once you have all your farms, fields, and products in the database. After that, I assign crops to each field, create product mixes for all our seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals. Lastly, I make “VRT” seed population files for each corn field.

Even after we think all the crop planning is done, we continue to make changes to it, tweaking the programs to increase the yields on our operation. Whether it is different weed issues, products that we could not get, or mother nature, we are always flexible and willing to adapt. We know that farming is a partnership with nature, and we respect the ebbs and flows of what it provides us with.

Written by Tyler Emhoff

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