Radio Script 7-2-19

Field work in a central Illinois corn field.

Good morning. This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the July 2nd edition of Farm News & Views.

Over the past three months, I’ve talked about problems that farmers in the Midwest have had this spring getting their crops planted. On some farms, growers reported that they were two months late getting corn and soybean seeds into the ground. I was able to see he good the bad and the ugly of crop progress last week, during a road trip making roughly a 400 mile circle around central Illinois and Indiana. Farmers used to say that if the corn was knee high by the fourth of July, they could expect a good crop. Although with modern hybrid corn varieties, corn plants are usually four or five feet tall by this time of the growing season. B observed that in many fields, corn was four to eight inches tall, and soybeans plants had just emerged from the soil. Farmers and farm managers I talked with told me that wet soil this year is only part of the problem with crops being so far behind in growth. Cool temperatures and cloudy days thus far have put a damper on plant growth even for fields that were planted early. Corn plants in many fields are pale yellow, rather than dark green, indicating that wet soils are inhibiting the uptake of nitrogen. Farmers hope that they’ll get plenty of sunshine and warm days to speed up plant growth for the rest of the summer, and hope that frost comes late this fall. While Midwest farmers have faced unprecedented challenges this year, farmers I talked to are still positive about their chances for a good year.

Good looking corn field in northern Indiana.
A bad corn that may get better over time.

Farmers around the country are planting cover crops on millions of acres to protect and improve the soil, while increasing yields and saving input costs for crops they plant. The more that farmers use cover crops, the more they value this conservation practice, according to a new report published by USDA-SARE. The Cover Crop Economics report looks at the economics of cover crops to help farmers answer that big question: “When do cover crops pay?

An ugly field that show signs of equipment being stuck in it.
Ugly field with corn under water.

Based primarily on yield and economic data gathered through five years of national cover crop surveys, the report, Cover Crop Economics: Opportunities to Improve Your Bottom Line in Row Crops addresses the kinds of economic returns that can be expected from cover crops, both under various management strategies and after cover crops improve soil health over time. The report is timely, since the latest Census of Agriculture revealed that national cover crop acreage increased by 50% from 2012 to 2017, and interest continues to grow locally as a way to improve soils and use them for grazing livestock.

Interest continues to build for growing hemp in southwest Colorado, but financial regulations continue to hamper farmers who may want to grow the crop. Recently, Senator Micheal Bennet is pressing federal financial regulators to provide guidance to financial institutions so that growers can get access to the banking system.

I’ll end with this thought from Will Rogers He said The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.
Until Next week. I’m Bob Bragg

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