Humboldt County, Iowa, farmer Doug Adams is pleased with near-trend corn and soybean yields, considering a wide variety of weather conditions through the 2019 growing season. He learned a lot about the soil this year and made adjustments to his plans along the way.
“It seems like something was always going on to be nervous about,” he said regarding the weather. “We didn’t have an abundance of rain this spring, but the continual showers resulted in late planting and that translated into a later-than-usual start to harvest.”
Adams saw more yield variability than normal this year because of the cool, damp conditions in the spring that impeded emergence. “My corn yields ranged 150 bu. per acre to just over 200 bu. per acre. I strive for a 180-bu.-per-acre farm average for our nitrogen program,” he said. “Some fields with corn yields above 200 bu. per acre definitely kept the average up.”
He views cover crops as an important part of his nutrient program and remembers late-spring nitrogen tests signaled cover crops kept nutrients available for the cash crop. However, he’s not impressed with cover crop growth this fall. “In fact, I didn’t seed all the intended cover crop acres because it was getting too cold,” he added. “On those acres I’ll try to seed oats in the spring if the weather cooperates.”
Adams is also working to improve soil structure on a piece of ground new to his operation. This land was tilled last fall and entered his no-till and strip-till system this spring. “I noticed I left some ruts on that farm this fall, but I made it a priority to seed cereal rye this fall, which should improve the soil,” he said.
Remembering the difficulties applying nitrogen in the spring due to rains, Adams applied some anhydrous with a stabilizer this fall. “I decided to go ahead and put some anhydrous on at about 50% of our normal planned rate,” he said. “This isn’t something I always do, but I decided to take advantage of some decent weather before it got too cold.”
During the winter Adams will be analyzing data like stalk nitrate tests and yield maps to come up with the remainder of the 4R nutrient management plan for 2020. Adams strives to achieve continual improvement on the farm and says 4R nutrient management and conservation practices will remain critical to the long-term success of the farm.
“4R Plus practices have helped the ground during difficult years by mediating the weather. When we have excess moisture, the soil on my farm is able to soak it up and is easier to work with,” he said.
He also encourages farmers to rethink their tillage system. “I like to tell people not to worry about working corn ground in the fall if you’re going into soybeans the following spring because we can no-till beans into corn stalks pretty easily without seeing a yield reduction,” he said. “It’s good to have a plan and make adjustments as needed,” he added.
Click here to ask Doug a question about his farming operation.