No doubt you have seen tractors out in the fields during spring planting, but do you know what they’re doing out there? We talked with Monica, a farmer from northeastern South Dakota, who explained what planting season is all about.
When does planting season typically start?
On our farm, planting usually starts the last week of April. For the best success with planting, you want warm soil. Since we are based in northern South Dakota, our ground is cooler, which means we get a later start than some of our fellow South Dakota farmers.
How do you prepare for planting?
To get ready for planting, we make any necessary repairs and maintenance to machinery and equipment to make sure everything is ready to roll when we get into the field.
To prepare our soil, we take samples and test to see which micronutrients are needed in the soil to produce a healthy crop. Then we can make a “prescription” for exactly which nutrients need to be supplemented in the soil with fertilizer because we don’t want to overapply. With those soil tests, we know we are applying the exact amount of fertilizer necessary to grow a healthy crop.
How long does planting season last?
We usually start planting at the end of April. Depending on how the weather cooperates, we finish getting all the seeds in the ground middle to late June. The latest we ever finished planting soybeans was around July 4, during a year with particularly bad weather.
Once we get all the seeds in the ground, we monitor the plants for any diseases, weeds or insects that might be harmful to the plant’s health. If we see issues developing, we apply the appropriate crop protection products, including herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, to keep the crops healthy and growing.
Throughout the whole summer, we are also hauling the grain that we harvested last year to the local elevator to be sold.
What’s the most challenging thing about planting?
There is so much technology involved in agriculture today. Everything is very precise because our goal is to take care of our land and resources above everything else. We incorporate the latest technology so we only apply the amount of seed and fertilizer that the crop and soil needs. This technology is a great asset to have on our farm, but it also comes with a steep learning curve.
What’s your favorite thing about planting?
After we have planted all the seed, the anticipation is my favorite part. Waiting to see that new crop emerge out of the ground is an exciting time. It’s very fulfilling as a farmer to see the fruits of our labors. We love growing food for our family and other families in South Dakota. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Want to learn more about what keeps farmers busy through out the season? This blog shares what it’s like to hustle for healthy crops.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.