In the old-time westerns, the hero rides off into the sunset after overcoming trials and tribulations. The implication is that he has survived to fight another day and will begin anew the next day after a day of rest and renewed spirit.
Is it so different to watch the tractor and planter ambling toward the western horizon? This year, it seems apt. Randy began planting corn on April 15 and is about to finish up. Just like a cowboy in a Wild Wild West film, we've had our share of battles this past year, including 15 inches of rain falling in just one month last fall. The deluge kept us from planting one-third of the acres we'd planned for wheat for 2019.
So, corn it is. And with the longer days of springtime, the hours in the field have increased again, too. It makes for a happier farmer, who says, "I finally feel like I'm getting something done."
The prevented planting of wheat acres
means an increase to those we'll devote to corn on the County Line.
Two piles of bagged corn seed are marked for us at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op.
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 purple-colored seeds. The
purple 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.
Randy adds a seed talc - or lubricant - to the planter boxes to facilitate the seed's journey from planter to soil.
He is also putting on a starter fertilizer to promote early growth. This comes after the co-op applied 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre earlier this spring. I'm often the delivery driver for the starter fertilizer, going to Zenith when Randy empties the tank.
The make-up of the starter fertilizer was determined after Randy did soil testing before planting. It includes 40 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of sulfur and 1 pound of zinc per acre.
The fertilizer is in the tank pulled by the pickup. First stop is pulling up to the scales at the elevator to weigh the empty pickup and fertilizer trailer and tell the scale operator what kind of fertilizer we want. (There's another stop after the tank is filled.)
Then, it's off to the fertilizer shed, where an employee fills the tank with the "recipe" Randy has ordered.
This year, we're picking up the seed as we need it at Zenith, so on some trips, I also get the bagged seed from another building.
Once back to the field, Randy can then use the fertilizer in the trailer to refill the fertilizer tanks on the planter, attaching a hose ...
And then starting a motor to pump the fertilizer to the planter.
It's a little hard to see, but he can watch the levels rise in the yellow tanks.
And then he's off again.
We are planting more corn this year than ever - 600 acres. That's not much when compared to other farmers, especially those with irrigated acres, but it's significant for us. We'll also plant 95 acres of milo and 30 acres of silage, doubling our normal row crop acreage.
Often, the field across the road is filled with an ocean of waving wheat in June. This year, it will be corn instead. I've always thought the lyricist for the musical, "South Pacific," didn't really know that much about Kansas crops, when he claimed, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" in one of the songs from that show.
But with wheat acreage down and corn planting up, maybe I'll have to re-evaluate!