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The Value of Good Soils and Land Improvements in Weather Stressed Years
You are here:   Blog  »  Farm and Ranch Management  »  The Value of Good Soils and Land Improvements in Weather Stressed Years

May 28, 2019 

Spring 2019 is turning out to be one for the record books with early and prolonged flooding in places, wet weather in much of the grainbelt, and delayed planting in many areas. Producers are especially struggling in the northern and eastern cornbelt to get corn and soybeans planted. The normal window for maximum yields has passed for the acres not planted. For those who could plant on time and can hope for average or above yields (depending on the balance of the season), 2019 could be a profitable year if grain prices increase accordingly. But, for those who have not planted and can expect sub-par yields, profits will be harder to come by. Part of the difference between being able to plant in a challenging year and not getting a farm planted is in the quality of the farm and its improvements.    

  

One of the keys to having a highly productive farm is soil quality. Is the soil on the farm inherently higher yielding, higher in organic matter, and well drained? Soil health created through various production practices can enhance productivity and internal drainage of the soils on a farm. In a wet spring like 2019, these characteristics and practices can help producers get into the field to plant during the shortened time windows of opportunity between rain showers. The soils may dry a day or two sooner allowing planting to take place. 

  

Another key to having a productive farm that can better handle wet springs like this one is having good drainage. For many farms, this means having good waterways and ditches sized and sloped correctly to carry excess surface water off the farm during heavier rains, but not having improper ditching or waterways that cause erosion or production losses. Depending on location and soil types, subsurface drainage tile is a good option to remove excess soil moisture allowing soils to dry out up to a week sooner than non-tiled farms. Pattern tiling of a farm is a large investment, but one that pays for itself in a relatively short time on many farms. Better drainage through various means helps the crop get off to a better start and normally better yields in the end.    

  

In looking at weather stressed growing seasons, the opposite side of a wet spring and delayed planting is a dry summer and reduced yields from the lack of rain. Again, high quality, well improved and healthy soils will withstand heat and dryness stress better than a lower quality soil or a poorly maintained farm. For the areas that have the ability to irrigate, the investment in the irrigation system and annual operation costs is a profitable way to have more consistent and higher production.    

  

During average or better growing seasons with less stressful wet or dry periods, there may not be as much difference between a high quality farm that has made appropriate improvements for its area and the average farm. But in the years that experience a wet planting season or dry summer, the cost of any improvement made to a farm will more than pay for itself with a better and more consistent yields. 

   

Randy Dickhut 

Senior Vice President - Real Estate Operations 

 

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