Thursday, April 30, 2020

Cleaning Up? A Corn 2020 Tale

If we were smarter, we might increase our corn income in 2020 by bypassing the corn and moving directly to the cobs.

We got this "special delivery" package from some caring (?) friends soon after the hoarding of toilet paper depleted it from store shelves.

Even though our local grocery store - Paul's in Stafford - has had most items in stock, they couldn't keep toilet paper on the shelves for awhile. Owner Jim Chansler didn't lose his sense of humor as evidenced by the display in the TP section.
Facebook post by Jim Chansler on March 18

(FYI: There is TP now in Stafford, though not a huge variety and not my preferred brand, but beggars can't be choosers as all the old wives will tell you.)

With corn prices in the toilet - so to speak - the cobs may be worth more than the corn. (I'm joking ... I think.)

Covid-19 has brought U.S. travel to a screeching halt, and with it, ethanol production has plummeted. The cutback in ethanol production has already led to a significant drop in corn prices, since corn is the predominant grain used in production nationwide. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, since early March, corn futures prices have fallen by 17%.

Out of the more than 800 million bushels of corn produced in Kansas each year, the Kansas Corn Growers Association says 27% goes to Kansas ethanol plants, 27% goes to Kansas livestock feed and 44% leaves the state

But we - like other Central Kansas farmers - are planting the 2020 corn crop. We began planting corn on April 20 and finished on April 28 (with starts and stops in between). 

As I've said before, corn is not a main crop for us. Last year, because of weather conditions that prevented wheat planting in fall 2018, we raised corn on 600 acres. But since we are primarily wheat farmers, that was a lot of acres for us.

This year, we are back to 180 acres committed to corn.
Today, many farmers plant RIB corn (refuge in a bag) - whether it's irrigated or dryland. Our farm is entirely 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. The make-up of the starter fertilizer was determined after Randy did soil testing before planting. 
It includes 20 pounds of nitrogen, 15 pounds of phosphate, 5 pounds of sulfur and 1 pound of zinc per acre. After planting, the co-op is applying 70 pounds/acre of nitrogen, along with herbicide 
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 for a final weight.) This year, because of social distancing, the request was made through the office window, rather than going into the office.

Then, it's off to the fertilizer shed, where an employee fills the tank with the "recipe" Randy has ordered.
This year, we again picked up the seed as we need it at Zenith so on some trips, we 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.
He starts a motor to pump the fertilizer to the planter.
He runs the motor until the tanks are filled.
 And then he's off to make another round. 
The corn planting was slowed briefly last week when we received 0.60" of rain. (We aren't complaining about that.) But Randy completed the task on Tuesday. Now we're waiting on it to emerge. Today, it's another day of moving cattle to summer pasture. More on that to come!


  1. 😃 Corn cobs--very cute. Made me laugh out loud right here at my desk.


    1. I know. The friend is quite a practical joker and one of Randy's breakfast buddies, so it was definitely in character!

  2. The domino effect of Corona is never ending.
    Your life is never dull.

    1. So it seems. However, Kansas' governor has lifted the stay-at-home order, but there are different phases as we begin "reopening." It will be a long time before life is even close to looking like it once did. But our work continues. We are very fortunate in many ways.