Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Miracles in the Making?

God says, "Leave the miracle part to me. 
I've got the seed, the soil, the sunshine, the rain and the seasons.
I'm God and all this miracles stuff is easy for me. 
I have reserved something very special for you 
and that is to plant the seed."
--Jim Rohn, Author & Motivational Speaker

Two weeks ago, I walked across the road and took photos of Randy planting corn. It was one of those days when the brilliant blue sky dusted with wisps of clouds beautifully offset the brown earth. My farmer was planting seeds.

A farmer believes in miracles. If he didn't, he'd never plant a seed. Last Friday, we walked across the road again, and little green corn sprouts lined up like soldiers down rows of brown earth.
We had gotten 0.40" of rain Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. That little bit of moisture had perked up these tiny, delicate plants. Do we need more rain to make this start a crop? Yes. We didn't get more than a sprinkle over the weekend when some areas in Central Kansas got as much as 1.5 inches of much-needed moisture.

Do we need the wind to die down and quit blowing dirt across Kansas? Absolutely, and that's where the miracle comes in, I suppose.
Wheat is still our primary crop at the County Line. But this is our second year of adding dryland corn to the rotation. In recent years, there has been some dryland corn planted in our area, but wheat is the dominate crop. For most in this immediate area, irrigation is not an option. Our proximity to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and its salt marshes is not ideal for quality ground water for irrigation.
Corn was a primary crop in this area when it was settled. The 6th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture of 1888 reported that corn was the main crop for Stafford County, covering 48,030 acres. Oats were grown on 10,849 acres, while the winter wheat crop totaled 8,717 acres. Pasture ground was tallied at 13,446 acres. Other crops in 1888 were millet, spring wheat, rye, Irish and sweet potatoes, sorghum, castor beans, cotton, flax, hemp, tobacco and broom corn. Swine outnumbered cattle in livestock. (Information taken from Stafford County History: 1870-1990.)

The corn across the road was planted on ground where we harvested wheat last year.

We have a no-till planter, so we are planting into the residue left after the wheat was harvested. The multi-fingered blades cut through the wheat straw so that the seed can be deposited into the soil. After the last few days of relentless wind, Randy's investment in buying the no-till planter seems smarter by the minute. With the sky (and we humans) choked by flying dirt, the residue on the surface is helping to keep a fragile hold on the soil in the corn fields as the small plants emerge.
Randy also applies fertilizer to give the seed a boost of energy for germination and early growth.
In some ways, I guess we are returning to Randy's Stafford County farming ancestors' roots by planting corn. However, the corn planted today is much different than the varieties planted 125 years ago.
Today, many farmers plant RIB corn (refuge in a bag) - whether it's irrigated or dryland.
The green-colored seeds have a different genetic make-up and are treated with a different insecticide than the pink-colored seeds. The pink seeds are a refuge for several different insects in a field, giving them a habitat to satisfy EPA rules. Before RIB technology was available, farmers had to plant so many acres in a field to a corn that wasn't resistant to the bugs and the rest of the field could be resistant. With RIB technology, farmers can plant it all at the same time, without changing seed and figuring acreage requirements. 
Our planter was set at 18,800 corn seeds per acre. Each $260 bag had 80,000 seeds and plants 4.3 acres. One bag of certified wheat seed costs $15 and plants a little more than 1/2 an acre. A bag of milo seed costs $100 and plants 14 acres.
Prior to last year, we planted milo as our row crop. Corn offers a potential for higher yields (or so my Farmer says. I don't think he is just justifying the purchase of a corn header for the combine). There is more drought tolerance built into dryland corn seeds than previously available. 

Additionally, corn is Round-Up ready, and milo is not. We have been having trouble controlling weeds in milo. If there are weeds and grasses in the corn, we can spray with Round-Up without harming the growing plants.

As with any crop, there is a great deal of time between planting and harvest. We will need rain to fall and hail to stay away and the wind to quit blowing in 50 MPH gusts. But, my always optimistic farmer is hopeful. That's just the way he's built, though I must say the unrelenting wind is cracking his armor of optimism just a bit. 

I know for certain that miracles happen,
but only for those who hang on to hope.
--Nick Vujicic
Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life 
I walked across the road last night near sunset, and the little plants looked like they'd been in a nine-round prize fight against a heavyweight champion. They have. They've been beaten by the unrelenting Kansas wind for the past three days. And the forecast today won't give the tender plants a breather in the neutral corner either. Randy says the corn can come back from this beat-down. I think they will have to be champion prize fighters to do it!


  1. Kim,
    Your little corn plants make me smile! I'm glad spring is at your house and you share it with those of us that are still in the midst of winter. Monday morning we had 4-5" of heavy wet snow and another inch or so last night. Monday got up to 36* and was windy, so it melted a lot.

    At least there are little sprigs of green grass poking through the snow. Hope and optimism.

    1. We aren't experiencing winter, but the wind is unrelenting. I have to tell myself to be thankful. I guess I don't have to look far to be thankful that we didn't get the tornadoes that have impacted so many across the Midwest and South, including SE Kansas. I hope you'll soon be able to experience spring in your neck of the woods -- minus the winds!