I-80 Planting Tour 2017: Western Iowa Farmers Are Back in the Field

April 12, 2017 12:31 PM

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the entire state of Iowa, saw only two days of suitable conditions for field work the first week of April.

Craig Douglas, a farmer from Adair, Neb., is used to getting equipment ready for the planting season. He’s done it enough times, farming since the Nixon era.

“[I’ve been farming] since about 1971,” said Douglas. “I came back after school and been it at awhile. This is where I grew up. I didn’t get very far.”

Though he’s been in the industry for decades, the start of a new season is always exciting.

“I always look forward to [planting] getting here, but it always seems to get here before you’re ready,” said Douglas.

This year, farmers like Douglas received a little more time for prep work.

Mother Nature gave him a two week break from field work. Clouds and rain kept him off the soils late March to almost mid-April.

“We just need it to quit raining, and have the sun come out, warm up to 80 degrees and we’re ready to roll,” said Douglas.

A dry set of days is making a difference. He’s spraying beans for emergence and hoping to take the planter out of the workshop early next week, continuing at planting a 50-50 rotation of corn and soybeans. 

“If it didn’t mess up on the no-till as much, I probably would plant more beans,” said Douglas. “It’s hard to get out of the rotation mix and get back in,” said Douglas.

Erik Pedersen of Neola, Ia., can count on his hands how many seasons he’s been home full-time farming.

“I’ve only been farming for five years,” said Pedersen. “I graduated from Iowa State in 2010 with a degree in ag business.”

He was born into the industry too. He now farms with his family.

“A lot of farmers get kind of antsy in the spring and fall,” said Pedersen. “I get a little bit that way too,” said Pedersen.

Pedersen says he was out of the field from the end of March until late last week.

“Right now, I’m [putting down] anhydrous and nitrogen in the ground,” he said. “When it comes to plant, I’ll run a planter and my dad will run a planter.”

He says the low-lying areas are still wet, but a lot of the hill ground should be good to plant in days. He has an acreage mix that’s heavy corn, catering to his family’s feedlot.

“We need to plant that corn every year just to make sure we have enough feed on hand,” said Pedersen.

Those are hard decisions all farmers are used to making each year.

“It’s kind of challenging being a younger farmer because of the high capital expense to get into farming and the limiting access to land,” said Pedersen. 

“If you don’t have help or some guidance from the older generation, it takes so much capital to get started,” said Douglas.

Though experience helps, those tough situations don’t get much easier.

“It’s hurting everyone across the board but the older farmers have equity where they can ride through the ups and downs.

Experienced farmers like Douglas will tune up their planters again during a new year.

He will hope this year is as good as the rest. 

Both Douglas and Pedersen say they had a mild winter with temperatures reaching the 80-degree mark in February. Douglas says he’s concerned with an increased amount of bugs and pests, like rootworm, since it wasn’t cold for long enough. 

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