Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guest Blogger: Dryland Corn

I know this is my wife's blog, but I asked her if I could write about our new experiment on the ranch, dryland corn.  Corn has been grown for many years out here, most of it was just grazed and never got harvested.  I decided to try corn because I am a believer in the power of a good crop rotation.  I think a good crop rotation will benefit your soil with organic matter which makes better water holding capacity. 

We all know how precious water is out in Eastern Montana.  Rain and snow is our irragation system.  This first picture is yellow peas planted into last year's standing corn stubble.  When it came time to harvest the peas this field out yielded the other fields by 7-13  bushels to the acre.  Next spring we will plant spring wheat into this field and see what it does.  Typically in Eastern Montana people fallow one year and plant wheat the next, 50-50 rotation.  We are currently planting wheat, peas, wheat, fallow.  So a little more intense.  Seven out of ten years the wheat the third year will yield as good as summerfallow wheat.  At the most 7 bushels to the acre less in those other three years.  Peas are good for nitrogen fixation, this is where the corn comes in.  It will break up that hardpan in the soil which limits how much moisture our soil can hold.  I think corn following peas, then going back to spring wheat will do very well.  We noticed how wet the soil is near the surface while the corn is growing in the field.  There should ample moisture near the top of the surface to get a good start on our spring wheat.  We planted some spring wheat into our corn stubble this last year and it came up very quick and looked good until yours truly accidently sprayed it with some roundup.  So we will have to wait until next year to see how the wheat responds following corn.  I still believe that wheat is the most profitable crop in Eastern Montana, but if you can add some rotational crops like peas, corn, or whatever.  I think your wheat will even be more profitable.
           Back to the corn.  We planted it May 20-May 23.  A little later than I would have liked, but it was very wet this spring.  We first spread 100 lbs of urea, then planted at a population of 13,000 seeds/acre with a John Deere 8 row 7100 planter.  We sprayed it with 24 ounces of roundup two times and also mixed in some liquid zinc and phosphate.  Next year I would like to put down some phosphate with the planter.  I think it will help the pop up.  The corn grew very well, started to tassle the first week in August.  We got nearly three inches of rain in August.  Not good for wheat harvest, but great for corn.  The grasshopppers got into it a little bit and trimmed the leaves on the edges, so we lost some yield there.  Of course the deer took their share on one field down by the creek.  Neat to see all the wildlife that corn attracts.
 The corn started denting the first part of September, and by October 15 it was 20-24 moisture.  I decided we would start harvesting it to get it done and we would stick it in some dryer bins.  One field of corn was following peas and yielded 51 bushel to the acre.  Not bad considering it had 5.5" of rain on it during the growing season.  It was very consistent all throughout the field.  This field was the fastest emerging one. The next two fields were following wheat and they only made 30 bushel to the acre.  We didn't get a good stand on those fields.  The last field averaged 54 bushel to the acre, and it followed chemfallow.  It was very inconsistent, as most of the corn came from half the field.  I think that ground was so wet and cold when we planted it, that the emergence was erratic.  To think that the corn came from half the field is scary, because that would mean some of that corn was making 100 bushels to the acre.  I think we can raise that kind of corn out here with some help from mother nature and tweaking of the planting and fertilization.
          We also baled up the stalks on 3 of the 4 fields.  We left the last field for winter grazing for some cows.  Not only did we cut some good corn, but we also made two tons to the acre of corn stalks.  There is still some stuff left for cows on, even after we baled those 3 fields.  We used a flail mower on the stalks, then raked it and baled it.  Kind of labor intense, but well worth the time when you are getting two tons to the acre. 
           I think corn has great potential out here.  One negative is harvesting with the high moisture and dealing with weather in late October.  By the way the corn dried to 15-18%.  The neighbors came in by the droves and got some for their calves.  We are feeding it to our calves as well.  No problem with getting rid of it though.  This kind of stuff keeps me excited about farming and ranching.  I like trying things to see if they are ecomically feasible.

peas following corn

                                            Corn in mid-July                                           Corn tassling in August

Corn standing ready to be cut

Combine in the field

Agronomists, checking out the stand

Corn feeding into the  header

Corn in the Grain tank

Out of the Auger

Into the truck

Neighbor Chuck watching the corn

Stubble standing after the combine


The Farmer said...

Excellent post Scott. Its progressive Farmers like yourself that keeps the rest of us in Farming, by following your example.

Kathy said...

Scott, what great pictures of you and the boys. I also loved the documentation. The city girl in me followed most everything you said except when you got real specific about the was there my understanding dropped off, but I loved it anyway. I can't wait to show the kids the pictures. We love this kind of stuff. Reading and then seeing what you're talking about it is very educational. Thank you!-Kathy (and how nice of Traci to share some space on her blog!)

CampGuy said...

nice post and pictures.