Hustling for Healthy Crops

There’s no doubt farmers are busy when it’s time to plant and harvest crops, but the work doesn’t stop once the crops are out of the ground. Farmers make many decisions throughout the year to keep their plants healthy and family businesses thriving. Let’s look at what typical soybean farmers have on their calendars that keep them hustling throughout the year.

As the new year begins, farmers have already selected and purchased most of the seeds they will plant. During January and February, they are busy preparing business financials, evaluating data, assessing their marketing plan to sell their soybeans throughout the year, learning about new technologies to improve their family farm and attending classes to renew important certifications like pesticide application.

In March, they meet with agronomists to determine what kind of fertilizer they should apply and to discuss other factors that will help keep their crop healthy. They inspect equipment to make sure their tractors, planters, discs and sprayers are ready to run in the field for planting. It’s also time to purchase crop insurance to protect their soybeans since Mother Nature is anything but predictable.

Before the equipment rolls across the field, farmers send their planting plan to the USDA for tracking. At the end of the season, they also report how many acres they harvested. Then it’s time to load field maps into the precision technology in the tractors so they plant just the right amount of seeds and use the right amount of crop inputs.

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In South Dakota, planting officially starts in late April or early May when the soil temperature reaches at least 50 degrees. Most farmers do some type of tillage to prepare the seedbed. Many are more sustainable by reducing their tillage over time to control erosion and take care of their soil. Soybeans are a friendly crop that require less tillage and fertilizer than other crops.

It takes about 15 days to plant soybeans. If the soil stays warm and the weather is sunny, plants can sprout in as little as four days. Farmers try to finish planting by June 1 so the plants have plenty of time to soak up the sunshine, nutrients and water needed to grow. Some farmers may apply herbicides to make sure weeds don’t overtake young soybean plants.

Farmers spend the summer months monitoring their soybeans. Many use drones to take pictures of their fields. If they notice a problem, they can take quick action by applying a crop protection product like a pesticide. In addition to evaluating their own soybeans, farmers look at other fields. Seed and crop input technology is constantly improving so attending summer events, talking with neighbors and watching for market trends help them determine what to plant and purchase next year, as well as ways to improve their management practices.

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By the beginning of September, farmers select the seeds they will plant next season and prepare the combine for harvest. The first week in October is typically the busiest. After all the soybeans are picked, it’s time to store, market or deliver them to the elevator or biodiesel processor. Fertilizer application, tillage and tile drainage improvements wrap up the harvest season and then equipment is cleaned and stored for winter.

As the end of the year approaches, South Dakota farmers pay for their seed, analyze field data and visit their landlords. Some farmers don’t own all the land they farm so it’s important to stay connected to those who do. Then it’s time to spend time with family and friends, give thanks for the food on their tables and the opportunity to grow more healthy and safe soybeans in the new year.

Want to learn more about the soybean’s journey after harvest? Read this.

Dig deeper into sustainable planting by reading this Q&A with farmer Paul.

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