Well, this has been a little unusual for spring, at least so far. At the time I was writing this (April 21), rain brought fieldwork on area farms to a standstill. Many farmers got fertilizer applied and herbicide applications made, and a few even got a little corn planted before the rains. Once drier conditions return, fieldwork will pick up at an even more frantic pace.
The reason farmers appear to be in a hurry to get things planted quickly is, unlike planting your garden where it doesn’t make a lot of difference if you get your green beans planted this week or next week, farmers can have significant yield losses if crop planting is delayed. With low commodity prices, there is already a small margin between expenses and income. Timely plantings can make the difference between a loss and a profit.
To put this in perspective, think how you would feel if 10% or more of your annual income depended on if you could get something done this week or in a week or two from now. That’s the situation some farmers may be in if less than favorable planting conditions continue. If you really want to make points with your “farmer neighbors,” drop off some cookies or a pan of brownies, or offer to pick up children from school or babysit during planting season. You’d be surprised how much these gestures of good will be appreciated!
One interesting question I had in April is why there was so much smoke blowing up from Kansas. Last year about 2.7 million acres were burned in the Flint Hill area. Burning rangeland in the Flint Hills is a common management practice. It improves forage quality, gets rid of brush that invades rangeland, and preserves the native tall grass prairie in this region. However, it also reduces air quality for those downwind of where the burns occurred. You may experience the same thing locally if neighbors are burning off CRP or other grasses or pasture.
On a much smaller scale (about 40 acres total in five different patches), I burned some of the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) grass on my acreage in mid-April. My objectives were a little different. The main reasons I burned mine is to reduce invasive brush and trees, improve my ability to control noxious weeds, and to make it better for wildlife habitat. I have planted strips of alfalfa around the grass which provides habitat for pollinators and wildlife and also serves as a green fire break. In the image above, you will notice that the fire burns up to the edge of the alfalfa and puts itself out. Click here to see a short video of a controlled burn in progress.
Looking back to when I wrote this last month, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is so far this spring I have not found any morel mushrooms on my acreage, but I’m hoping some warmer weather will bring them on. At least there’s no shortage of moisture this year! The good news is, my wife and I are enjoying freshly picked asparagus. So until next month, have fun on your acreage!