Farmers in the eastern Corn Belt are battling wet conditions this growing season. Those conditions not only limit the days available to plant or replant, but also the days to apply inputs like fertilizer. We talked to a crop duster company about what they’re seeing in the air and the type of business boom they’re experiencing on the ground.
It’s been a season of saturated fields, leaving some acres bare and others too wet to care for on the ground.
"We've been able to do almost no field work to do our side-dressing, finish planting or anything since the later part of May," said Fred Pond, a farmer in Scott, Ohio.
That’s where David Eby and his team step in. This season, AgriFlite, a crop dusting company, is flying from Ohio to Iowa, spraying on fungicides, fertilizers and even insecticides since many farmers are unable to apply those on the ground. A year they thought would be slow has now become one of the busiest.
"We've had more rain than we've ever had this year, especially in June," said David Eby, AgriFlite's founder. "Every day getting one or two inches--it's unbelievable."
The wet conditions have even hindered its own operations. AgriFlite is working out of a nearby airport because their runway was underwater.
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It’s not only a year of unusual conditions, but an unusual amount and type of business. Fungicides are usually the biggest part of AgriFlite's busines. But this year, the company has seen a dramatic increase in nitrogen applications, especially urea.
Eby says that, in a normal year, his team applies anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 pounds of urea. This year, he's applied more 2.5 million pounds, and the calls keep coming in.
"We got some guys that want us to do it right now," Eby sad. "A lot of it was in the Toledo area by Blissfield, Michigan. Some was in Ohio. A lot around here and also western Illinois."
While farmers are still making calls, the window to apply nitrogen is slowly closing, according to Farm Journal Agronomist Ken Ferrie.
“If you’re flying on nitrogen with an airplane, there has to be some oxygen in the soil. If you can’t walk through the field that’s yellow because it’s too wet, oxygen is going to be a problem. Adding nitrogen isn’t going to help. But if the water that’s left has firmed up the soil and the corn is showing severe stress, yes, we can add some nitrogen to it, right up through brown silk, with a pretty good chance turning that yellow corn,” Ferrie said.
Now Eby’s planes are full of fungicides, but they may switch back if needed.
“As soon as we get caught up, we will put urea back on,” said Eby.
It’s a helping hand in the sky to aid farmers with soggy conditions down below. "This is the first time I remember flying on a nitrogen-type product like urea," Pond said. "We normally have a nice opportunity to side-dress and do that."
What are you doing to help your crop survive the wet conditions this year? Let us know on the AgWeb discussion boards or leave your comments below. You can also send photos and videos of the fields in your area to AgWeb's Crop Comments.