I had a comment from a reader the other day about our use of chemicals on our land, so I thought that I would devote today’s Topic Tuesday (sorry it’s a day late, my kiddo came first last night before the blog) to this concern. I had my husband, Kevin, put it into words that would explain why we do what we do to raise our crops.
The reason we use chemicals…which have been tested and proven safe by our government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
We take our job protecting soil and water very seriously. We also have to take very seriously weed control, if we don’t then we can and most certainly will have extreme damage to our crops and their yield potential.
|Applying anhydrous last week to our fields.|
What is anhydrous ammonia? It is one of the ways we are able to put on nitrogen fertilizer. When put on in this form it takes a few days in the soil to naturally convert to a usable plant form of nitrogen. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N, P, K). There are also some micronutrients that are needed such as zinc and sulfur. Most soils have some or all of these present at some level, but if not taken care of and replaced then plants will have a tough time sustaining production levels if we don’t add fertilizer. Why is that? It’s because we take a crop off of the field, just like a garden. Nutrients are left in the fields as residue, but some come off in what we have as a grain, oilseed, potato, hay, grass or whatever the crop is.
A similar example to this would be how Miracle Grow makes a garden grow better. Why is this? It’s because plants need fed also. If you plant a garden in the same spot every year, sooner or later without care and added nutrients in one form or another, that soil will wear out because all the nutrients were taken by the plants that were taken off of that area of your garden. The same goes for a row crop farmer, just on a much larger scale. With technology today though we are very accurate in placement of fertilizers and that keeps the plants able to use what we put on every year in a much more efficient way and it helps us use less per bushel of yield than ever before.
|Our soybean field last spring before it
was sprayed. You can see the weeds
were growing quite well between the
rows of soybeans.
Some typical reasons to use chemicals have to do with less trips across the field, reducing soil compaction and obvious weed control which is key to plant health. Plants need little or no competition to thrive….the ones that are strongest will choke out others, compete for nutrients and water. Giant ragweed, sunflowers, velvetleaf, lambsquarters, marestail, foxtail and others are some of our main problems around here. Different chemistries have to be used to control some that are broadleafs (velvetleaf and sunflower) versus the ones that are grasses (foxtail and brome).
Farmers don’t want to spray or fertilize in any excess manner because it raises our costs, it takes time and we care about the soil and water. It is how we make our living and we live on the land that we farm, so it is definitely tops on our list especially when there are in most cases, generations of us farming the same ground and dirt. I hope that with the advances in technology and fertilizer, to leave our land in better shape for my son.
On our farm we use a typical two pass system on our ground whether it be for corn or soybeans. We raise no-till crops for soil conservation and less compaction. Other people have different systems which are tailored to their farms and their cropping systems. Within our two pass system, we spray the first time to kill early season weeds that are taking nutrients and water that we desperately need for seed germination. Some farmers can skip this pass if they have tilled the soil just prior to planting, but in heavy rains that soil is more susceptible to erosion. The second pass is done after the crops are somewhat larger and are soon to canopy (have enough leaves to cover the ground between the rows and shade out any other weeds trying to pop through, sunlight is required for growth and at this point they can keep weeds from getting the sunlight they need to grow and compete).
Most recently we have had some effective fungicides (kills fungi) that are applied later in season that are usually applied by airplane or helicopter. These are very helpful in late season plant health. The key is to try and keep plants as healthy as possible, just like our cows, our kids and our families. That’s exactly why we use these approved practices that have evolved over many years of farming.
I hope this answers a lot of your questions and concerns. If you have questions about anything that we have explained here, please let us know! We’d be happy to further explain our practices in crop management.