Until I worked in agriculture, I really didn’t know what kind of work went into planting the fields that I’d drive by everyday. Man, have I learned a lot and yet there are so many things I’m still learning.
Farmers like Bob Walker of Somerville, Tenn. have a lot to consider when planting. For quite a while he’s been helping me understand some of what farmers are juggling. This time, I’ve convinced him to help me do regular updates from his farm this season.
I’m starting with the blog posts now, because Bob finally got to start planting. He’s planting corn now and we’re itching for cotton to go!
Some of the basic things farmers have to consider are fairly closely related to what I do as I plant herbs in a planter box on my deck. I have to admit to reading the envelope to be sure I have a chance to see the herbs pop up cause when I haven’t read the package, I had to buy some seedlings to transplant later.
Before I buy the seeds:
- I look for the date the seed was tested.
- How deep are they to be planted?
- How important is water/drainage?
- Will they get the right amount of sun?
But Bob has to layer in all sorts of things like:
- What do the market looks like for the year? This has a major impact on crops planted on neighboring farms as well as the Walkers. He tends to plant several crops and various maturities so harvest is spread out.
- With the soil types, what crop mix is going to work best? Some crops work best on certain soil types while some soil types provide options.
- Are the fields too wet? If so the tractors could cause compaction issues and rut up the field.
- Is there adequate moisture to get the seed to a good start? If not, some farmers will consider irrigating to get the crop started. In dryland fields, farmers may need to wait for a forecast that includes rain. Bob says they use no-till which helps them maintain good moisture.
- Are the soil temperatures in the right zone with the right weather forecasted in the coming days? Corn planting can be done earlier as the crop is more cool tolerant than cotton.
- How many equipment hours will we have contracted out vs. available in crop and for the key times of planting and harvest? This has to be considered along with market prices as harvesting speed for cotton
- Is in-season financing lined up? Like any business, there could be cash flow or the need for financing. Farmers generally need to know pre-planting where they will be for the year.
- With the brothers help, how many employees are needed and when? Just need to give labor a thought. Can’t plant without adequate tractor drivers, seed delivery, etc.
- What weed and insect pressure should be anticipated? What are the management plans that need to be put in place preplant or pre-emergence of the crop
Monsanto employees will be following the 2010 crop season from beginning to end on the Monsanto.com Crop Season site.