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IFB Farm Bureau District 12 Director Douglas County Agriculture update

By Larry Dallas
Douglas County is hot and dry as I type this on June 17. The U.S. drought monitor shows Eastern Illinois as being abnormally dry. It was tough to watch the rain run south of us on Friday, although we did not need the flood they had in Effingham. The corn rolls up tightly in the heat of the day, protecting itself by reducing leaf surface. The soybeans are doubtless under stress as well but that is less obvious. 

A drainage contractor told us that there was still moisture in the ground where he was installing tile and the corn roots were 18 inches deep. The plants can’t pull water out of the ground fast enough when the temperature is 100 degrees. Compacted corners and ends roll up first because the roots are usually shallow in those areas. I have seen complete fields rolled up this year. 

One agriculture supplier used to say you don’t want your corn to have a bad day. 100-degree temperatures and no substantial rain might qualify as a bad day. It is said that a dry June is good for yields because the plants must root deeply looking for water. We should get a test for that this year.

There is evidence that stressing soybeans may improve those yields. A Missouri farmer known for very high yields purposely burned his yield trials with herbicide to make them branch out. He had irrigation to help the plants through that stress. A friend of mine heard this farmer speak several years ago. He said there was an audible gasp from the crowd when the Missouri farmer told the rate of this herbicide he used. 

The heat and moisture stress can make it harder to control weeds. The plants will grow more slowly and take up less herbicide because of that slow growth. Some protect themselves with a waxy layer the herbicide has trouble penetrating. Sprayers have still been running around here and the herbicides appear to be working. 

The extended dry weather made it easier to complete our nitrogen applications. About half of our corn needed the greater part of its nitrogen after planting. We ran out of time to put it on beforehand and still plant in a timely manner. Some years that operation is difficult to complete because of rain. We did it in three straight days this spring.

With planting complete, we have gone on to mowing and cleaning up equipment. Effective herbicides have relieved us of the row cultivation we spent many hours at in the past. The only method of weed control was physical removal with tillage until modern herbicides came into use. Most farmers do not miss that trip over the field. I did not mind cultivating corn and soybeans if I had a good radio to listen to and I felt like I was doing a good job. 

We found several broken drainage tiles when we were in the field this spring and have fixed some of those. Many of the original clay tiles in our fields are 100 years old. Freezing and thawing, heavy rain, and heavy equipment take their toll on the tile. Sometimes a tile break shows up as a six-inch wide hole in the ground. Other times the hole is large enough to put a car in. Some of the shallow small tiles we fix by hand. The large holes require a backhoe and a lot of effort.

Fixing broken tile in dry weather is easier because the water flow is minimal. Trying to fix a big tile hole full of cold water is not fun. Many times, a hole will need to be repaired before a spot in a field will dry up enough to run tillage equipment. It is not uncommon to shut down the field cultivator and go fix a tile to get a wet place dried out. 

Grain prices continue to stay near record highs. A few things are coming into better focus as far as what the harvest might look like this fall. Ukraine is supposed to have planted about 70 percent of its crop area. What they will do with that harvest remains a big question since they still have most of the 2021 crop on hand.

The upper Midwest stayed wet, and they were very late completing planting this spring. Western Europe is dry and France’s wheat ratings have declined 5 weeks in a row. The hard red winter wheat areas of the U.S. have been dry for thr years. Kansas is the number one wheat-producing state. The state is projected to produce 80 percent of the crop it raised a year ago. 

There is genuine concern around the world about food shortages if the U.S crops don’t turn out well. We are fortunate to produce most of our food and still be able to export our surplus. Many counties do not have that luxury, unable to feed themselves. The Middle East and much of the African continent depend on imported food. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission of the federal government has proposed forcing companies that sell stock to report on climate-related activities those companies may be involved in. Supposedly, an investor could look at this information and decide if they want to support a company with their capital. Agriculture interests are concerned this may filter down to farmers who would have to track their activities that might affect the climate. 

As we have noted before, agriculture is an energy-intensive business. Already some companies want to know how the grain they buy, or use was raised. It would be a burden for a farmer to track all his activities to satisfy the SEC requirements. Farm groups have responded accordingly, asking legislators to stop this intrusion. Computerization has made record-keeping easier but we don’t need the extra work this would require. No doubt there would be penalties for providing incomplete information. 

This rule is 510 pages long with 1,068 footnotes. The public was given 39 days to respond. There are huge privacy concerns for farmers since we for the most part live at our place of business. This Administration’s climate policies appear to be leading to very obtrusive and expensive reporting requirements for small businessmen. 

Thank you for reading about agriculture this month. We will hope for a nice rain and cooler weather. That would be good for man, beast, and our crops.

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