Some Say It. We Do It.

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December 12, 2014
By Travis Michl

Today we’re hauling corn to the ethanol plant. That’s what we’ve been doing all week — running to St. Louis and hauling grain. St. Louis is about 300 miles round trip, and the ethanol plant’s about 40 miles away, but we’ll do 5–6 trips a day over there.

You might be surprised, but we’re not done with harvest yet. We haven’t harvested anything since Nov. 15, when we got done with corn. We’ve had snow twice and rain every other day, and we haven’t seen three days of sunshine strung together since then. But all that’s left is 150–160 acres of double-crop beans, so it’s a drop in the bucket. We’re fortunate.

But the majority of the harvest went pretty good. Everything kept moving right along. Yields were the best we’ve ever had.

After seeing our yields this year, we decided we’re going to increase our strip till acres. We’re continuing with the fungicide program we have implemented. Everything we did this year ended up being pretty well right. We’re going to try for a repeat next year.

As for what’s next, we didn’t get much fall work done this year. During the first big snow—we had about four inches—it was frozen just a little bit underneath the snow and we did a little chisel plow and ran a couple hundred acres of fertilizer through the strip till bar. But essentially that’s all we got done. We were too wet. We didn’t get any wheat planted this year—it was too wet. We like to have the wheat in by the 15th or 16th of October, but not this year. We just won’t have any wheat, so that’s kind of a bummer.

There’s not much else besides. That’s pretty much the status quo for the winter. We still have 150,000 bushel of corn to haul and 75,000 bushels of beans to haul. So we’ll be doing that. We’ll get a little break for the holidays, but we don’t have much planned. Just another run-of-the-mill winter.


December 12, 2014
By Jackson Webb

I haven’t felt burned out in a long time, but this year I feel it. Everybody is ready for a break. It’s been kind of a roller coaster year — from wondering if you’re ever going to get seed in to getting it and replanting beans 4-5 times, to our wet spring and thankfully a wet, cool summer.

We finished corn the first week of September and started on beans and pretty much ran through the bean harvest pretty quick. We finished them on the 24th. Harvest went really well, and it looks to be our best corn crop and probably our second or third best bean crop yet. And now we’re rowed up and ready to plant, so the next thing that will hit the field will be the planter. So we’re looking forward to deer season and duck season and time off now.

A neighbor and I also picked up another 4,000 acres of land and got some wheat planted. It’s up and looking good. We’ll harvest that in May or June. Other than that, we’ve been doing our groundwork. We’re in really good shape as far as field work and preparations for next year. This year we did a good bit of subsoiling and deep tillage. We’re on a three-year rotation, and this was year three. So with the continuous corn, you just get a lot of residue, and you can run into problems. So we burned this year, ran a disk across it and deep-tilled it and then rowed it up.

As far as a cropping plan, Wayne and I are on the third one, just watching the market. This year is a moving target, more so than it ever has been. We sat down and kind of figured out an acreage mix, and that all changed partly because we picked up that other ground. And we came back with a second cropping plan, and now that’s changed with all the wheat we got planted.

Usually it’s done in late November or early December, but the markets can dictate a switch real fast. So I’m sure we’ll be switching varieties up to the deadline. I always tell Wayne, I’m fine if the plan changes as long as there’s some sort of plan in place. Hopefully we’ll have something set this week.

I’m the kind of guy who can’t go sit and enjoy myself if we’ve got work to do. So for lack of a better term, I’m busting my ass trying to get it all done so I can go hunting and just relax.

December 12, 2014
By Aaron Paus

It’s been cold here lately, and today is the best we’ve had in a while, at 45. But we got done with harvest in November, and most of the people are out of the ground here.

Harvest was good. We had some pleasant surprises and some disappointment on some stuff that didn’t go as well as we would have liked. But we’re hauling it out and trying to get situated and organized for the end of the year.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been getting some year-end stuff done — we do a lot of custom work, so that’s getting taken care of; we’re delivering corn on some contracts for December and getting the bills sent. Pretty soon I’ll be looking more closely at the cropping plan.

We’re all frozen over at this point, and we didn’t get any ground prepping done. The cold came about three days before we were done harvesting. We had one little break to get dirt-work done, but we couldn’t rip at all. It’s frozen solid.

As far as insights from the season go, I really haven’t had enough time to analyze it yet to see what worked well. I’m having a hard time trying to find much of anything that we did different that I liked and that I want to repeat.

Initially though, it seems the shorter season did better than the longer season for the second year in a row — it was pretty dramatic on that. So we’ll be shortening our beans from here on out.



October 23, 2014
By Travis Michl

We started shelling corn September 15, which is typical. But it was slow, wet corn. We had some mud last week too, which always brings a new set of logistical nightmares for harvesting. Nice, deep mud. But it's firming back up this week. We're about two-thirds done on corn, and just started cutting beans yesterday, so we're about 7-8% done on that.

A lot of people here didn't start early because the corn was wet, but we kept a handle on it. We didn't get a lot done every day, but we kept making progress ‘til it was time to cut beans.

It's too early to tell on the beans how they're going to turn out, but they're going to be good, no doubt — it’s just how good is yet to be seen. And the corn is the best corn crop we've ever raised.

I think for the most part everybody's going to have a good crop, but those of us that did the extra work and spent a little extra money on fertilizer and fungicide, we're going to be the cream of the crop, I think.

Harvest Insights

We’ve been doing a little analysis of the stuff we do have harvested — seeing what kind of returns we’re looking at and seeing what worked and what didn't work. It appears that the twin-row corn proportionally out-did the 30-inch row corn on our fields, and it initially appears the fungicide was a big payer this year. These are our initial results, on corn anyway. We harvested a little bit of our strip till corn (which was new for us this year), and it looks like it really performed well, considering we only put on two-thirds the rate of fertilizer on the strip-till part, versus full-rate broadcast. It still produced stellar, stellar yields.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

To hopefully avoid the late-October and November logistical nightmare of elevators being full, we’ve moved all the corn that we don't think we can store on the farm to town. We're hoping that we can cut our beans, get back on corn, and that we don't have to worry about going back to the elevator. Hopefully, we can store the rest of what we've got at home and avoid the nightmare.

I'd like to be done with harvest by November 15, but I don't see that happening. I've got a bad feeling we're going to be eating turkey dinner out in the cornfields. But we’re moving along, and honestly it's kind of fun harvesting the biggest crop you've ever had.

October 23, 2014
By Jeff Morse

Today’s the day—we’re getting the combine ready to start cutting corn and beans. We just got our chopping done on about 50 acres of corn silage for our cattle, and we're ready to start harvesting the rest.

In my neighborhood, I'm probably a little bit behind some of these guys, but beans don't take very long to cut once you start going (if you don't have any trouble). You're taking such a wide swath, and there's just not near as much product compared to corn. There’s about a third less grain to haul to the bins, so our soybeans will be short, hopefully.

And on our corn, some of our later stuff is coming to black layer, so I'm feeling like we might be all right, as long as we can keep the three- and four-letter words away from us—one starts with “I” and one starts with “S.”

We did just have a decent frost here about two weeks ago Saturday, which might have killed the beans. It didn't look like it hit a lot of the corn yet on the higher spots, but on the lower spots it did. But the beans I think are pretty well dead. And I think within the next week there won't be any green stems even left in the beans. And that makes a big difference. Yesterday morning, for instance, my neighbor was cutting beans at 8:30 in the morning. And I've seen some running as late as midnight last night.

As for yields, I think they’re going to be pretty decent. One of my neighbors was in the same spot I was in terms of replanting beans, and he was telling me he had some spots that were 40 bushels per acre and some in other spots that were 55. So maybe we’ll get a 50-bushel average on replant beans. If you would have told me that last June, I would have said you're goofy.

Outside of harvest, we’ve also been busy lately with just a lot of things. My son got married recently, which was exciting. And we've been getting our cattle operation moving forward a little more all the time. We have got our new barn about half full of cows and they'll start calving here in about three weeks. All good things.

October 23, 2014
By Aaron Paus

September 20th was the day we started rolling on harvest, which is just a little later than usual. But we're getting close to being halfway done now, and we’re doing well. Our beans are wrapped up and we're working our way through the corn. And our yields are looking good so far. Our beans, for the most part are looking just a little better than anticipated. The corn is about 10–15 percent better than anticipated. So it's going well.

I haven't gotten to my VRI fields yet, but I think for the June and August we had, our yields there may not show up as differently as they would otherwise. We did a fair amount of irrigation in July, but overall it was a light irrigation year.

We’ve also had good weather, despite a few early freezes — one on Sept. 24, and then a bit harder one on Oct. 10. We really felt going into harvest that we would be dealing with some wet weather, but our warm temperatures came back after we had an early freeze, and our grain moisture has been coming down fairly quickly now due to the warm temperatures.

So other than getting harvest underway, we've just been keeping the operation moving and efficient. We're taking a look at some of the input prices and the price of grain going forward. The $3 corn certainly has got everybody on their toes. I think it was bound to happen—you can't have $7 corn without following it with something lower. And unfortunately, I foresee it getting worse before it gets better.

I don't know yet how the market will affect our plans for next year, but my gut feeling says beans over corn for 2015. But I need to take more time to look at the economics of it and factor in this year's profitability of corn versus soybeans and project that going forward. So at this point I'm not saying I'm going to make any change yet.

But in the meantime, we’re all about harvest. In the next few days, I'm looking forward to harvesting some of my better ground and seeing what the monitor will show when I move on to the good stuff.

September 17, 2014
By Travis Michl

We’re just getting our cropping plan started for 2015. We’re not making any major adjustments for next year — no big crop switches. While I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the market, I can’t see any economic reason to be planting corn on corn. So we’re pretty much going to rotate everything out.

As far as corn prices go, everybody’s concerned. Who knows how far down we’re going? And input prices aren’t going down that much. We’re going to have to start doing more with less. You can’t cut fertilizer; you can’t cut your chemical program; you can’t cut your seed program. So you’ll have to start placing fertilizer more carefully to use a little less and start tightening your belt a little.

That’s a big part of why the Maximum Profit System is so important. We all knew the gravy days wouldn’t last forever. That’s why before this year we bought a strip till rig with a dry fertilizer applicator on it — so we can start putting a concentrated amount of fertilizer right behind the row and be able to drop it back a little bit versus broadcast spreading. So that’s a very well accepted practice to reduce your tonnage, but not the effect of your fertilizer.

“It’s a Bushels Game”

You need to save as much money as you can, yes, but there’s only so much you can cut. You have to raise more bushels to lower your cost. And that’s where that MPS system comes in. It’s a bushels game. More bushels divided against your cost is always going to be a lower cost. You have to get more bushels out of what you’re doing.

And that message better be resonating with growers over the next few years. What are things we can do to raise more bushels that don’t cost anything? For example, just slowing down the planter helps you pick up bushels. It doesn’t cost you anything — just a hair more fuel and a hair more time. That’s something that anybody can do to raise more bushels and drive down costs.

“Farmers are their own worst enemies”

Those of us that are following MPS strategies, you can really see who’s trying. You can tell the fields that have plenty of fertilizer or have been scouted for stresses. If you’re not careful in your management practices, those issues are showing up this year. There’s a lot of nutrient deficiency and disease showing up. It’s been cool and damp — not a good year if you didn’t spray fungicide. All this is evident if you didn’t follow the MPS.

The plant-it-and-forget it thing, if that’s what you’re doing, you’re fooling yourself. But that’s what 70 percent of farmers today are doing. I think farmers are their own worst enemies when they have this mindset that they can’t break their yield barriers.

For instance, I think I’ve got a legitimate shot of breaking into the triple digits on some of my high management beans this year — but it’s a lot of work. But what’s funny is that what I’m doing doesn’t cost that much more than what other farmers are doing. I’m just doing it differently. I’m doing it better. MPS takes a lot of management and scouting. It means taking care of your plants, scouting them, feeding them right and giving them what they need when they need it. That’s MPS.

September 15, 2014
By Jackson Webb

The Cropping Plan

Wayne and I have started putting together a plan for next year on what the mix is going to be. I’m shifting my mix based on the market, as well as, for my operation, I need more acres. So I’m going to add wheat to the mix to try to achieve that. I’m not a huge wheat fan just because I never gave it a good chance. But Wayne’s not going to let me half-ass it, for lack of a better word.

Down here, we can plant the wheat, cut it, run it through the dryer, and we’re still planting the beans in early- or mid-May. Having the drying capabilities is going to allow me to cut it a lot earlier and get a bean crop and get a double crop. And we can have a respectable yield on our double crop beans.

I tried wheat once on some dryland, and that was the kiss of death. We made money on the wheat and then ate it on the beans. So next season we’re trying a different approach and putting the wheat on some of my better dirt.

I am giving up some corn acres to wheat and beans. I’m going to trim back a little. Not a lot, but a little. And I’m still going to plant my dryland in corn. If I can get in early, the law of averages says it’ll do decent. It makes more than 10-bushel beans. On dryland, if I plant corn, I’m losing less money.      

The Changing Market

Everyone down here is saying, “Well what’ll you plant next year?” And we’re all saying, “I don’t know, nothing works.” There’s no consensus. Nobody really has a clue.

Everyone is really looking hard at the farm bill — the production side and the price side of it. And I think there’s going to be a lot more homework in making decisions. No one has a clue. Some guys are going to go soybeans no matter what. There is a lot of talk of rice. I don’t do rice, but for the guys who are set up for it, rice works.

I think folks down here can get a really good base payment on their rice acres.

I’ve also got friends that are cotton farmers who are thinking of selling their grain equipment and going back to cotton. They got into the corn craze when the prices were good, but a lot of them never were really comfortable with corn. Now they want to go back to something they know. After all, we’re in the Mississippi Delta — cotton is king.

September 11, 2014
By Travis Michl

The cooler-than-normal summer hasn’t got me concerned, but I don’t think it’s helped my beans any. I would have liked to see it a little warmer for my crop, but at least we’ve been staying dry.

We’re seeing sudden death showing up bad in the beans, and it’s hitting one of my varieties pretty hard. And there are bugs in the beans if you haven’t been spraying insecticide regularly. Other than that, we’re just patiently waiting for the aphids to get here so we can spray again, but hopefully they won’t affect my crop since I have longer-maturing beans. We’ve been learning and going longer and longer, and the longer maturity we go, the higher the yield goes.

I’d say, from the way things look now, we’re going to have our biggest corn crop ever. And as long as the sudden death doesn’t get too bad, we’ll have our biggest bean crop ever. It’s a pleasant change for us around here.

With the cooler summer, we’re going to be pushed back a little bit for harvest. I would say we’ll start in late September. So right now we’re just getting some fall tillage equipment ready before getting stuff out of the ground.

September 9, 2014
By Jeff Morse

Most of our replant has just now completed on pollination, and it’s just starting to fill. Our crop has really made up for a lot of lost ground, I think because we’ve had really great heat and moisture, which is helping convert nutrients to corn, no doubt.

We’ve still got a long way to go, but hopefully Jack will stay away ‘til the first of December. Or at least hopefully we get a late frost.

For harvest, we’ll probably have the beans out before we even start thinking about corn. With the corn, it’s probably going to be at least the first of November — that’s about 4-6 weeks later than we usually start harvest. If a freeze comes, who knows. I don’t even want to think about that scenario.

But we have been lucky in terms of insect and disease pressure. The corn seemed like it was all late enough that we haven’t had too much as far as weeds. We have had a little northern corn leaf blight here and there, and there have been a few cases of Japanese beetles, but nothing major. We haven’t heard of any wild outbreaks of aphids or anything. I think the rain might have put kind of a damper on that too. The bugs don’t like the rain as much as they do when it’s dry. You have tradeoffs. When you have it dry, the bugs come too. But when you have it wet, it’s just wet.