A Tale of Three Corn Fields

This weekend David and I did some crop scouting. Our Pierron farm, still called by the name of the family who owned it before Heims did, has four main fields, divided by waterways. It’s our best ground, and almost the entire farm is tillable. I drive by this farm on my way to work every day, and lately I’ve been thinking how well this one farm depicts the growing conditions so far this spring and summer. A description of this farm can also basically summarize our activities over the last two months.

Three of the four fields at the Pierron farm are planted in corn, but all of them were planted at different times under different conditions. We plant most of our tillable acreage in corn because we need to feed our cows, and they really like corn silage. The fourth field, on the back side of this farm (not visible from the road) is planted in alfalfa, which we mow and bale for hay. We also plant milo for grain or silage, sorghum and other forages for additional feed, and soybeans simply as a rotational crop, but those crops are being grown elsewhere this year.

The the three corn fields at the Pierron farm, in order left to right, as they look from the road.

The first corn field at the Pierron farm was planted on May 3rd. On May 4th, it snowed. Thankfully, the snow didn’t last long, and the corn came up after a week or two. The corn is now roughly 8’ tall and tasselled. Over the next few weeks it will pollinate and start producing grain. The ground is dry and this field could really use a substantial rain to help the ears grow.

The first field from eye-level looking down a row. This corn is much taller than me and has tasselled and started putting on ears.

The second corn field was planted in rye last fall. The rye was ready to chop on May 4th, but the heavy snow laid it completely flat. Thankfully, when it started to dry out, the rye stood back up, and we were able to chop it for silage. The quality of the feed dropped each day we waited, but it should make good feed for our heifers (not so great for the cows). The damp conditions in which we chopped in addition to the deep roots of the rye left the ground compacted and very hard. Even after working it several times with multiple implements, the seed-bed left a lot to be desired. We had to get the seed in the ground if we wanted a crop, though, so we went ahead and planted. A few days later we got a heavy rain that left water standing in the field for several days. There are bare spots where the water stood. The seeds in that area most likely rotted in the ground before it dried out.

This is the second field, in an average spot. In this field there are spots with no plants, spots with plants I can step over easily, and spots where the corn is shoulder-high. Here the plants are about to my waist, with taller plants scattered throughout. You can see how thin the field is compared with the first field. Unfortunately, there are several short plants starting to tassel.

The third corn field wasn’t supposed to be a corn field this year. Last fall we seeded the field with alfalfa. Alfalfa is planted in the fall and harvested 3 or 4 times throughout the summer. It is a perennial crop and can usually be harvested, without replanting, for three consecutive years. Unfortunately, we did not get much rain last fall to help the seed get started, and the alfalfa came in very thin and full of weeds this spring. There wasn’t enough of a stand to justify harvesting, so we tore it up and planted corn in early June. Planting corn in June isn’t something we were thrilled about. The crop won’t be fully covered by insurance, and may not make much grain if we don’t get rain in late August, when rain is commonly very sparse in Kansas, but the alfalfa would not have yielded any feed, and we have hope that the corn will. This corn actually “caught up” with the corn in the second field due to better growing conditions, even though it was planted weeks later.

Again, taken from eye level. There is some variation in this field, like the second, and this is one of the best areas. It has actually outgrown the area I photographed in the second field. Note how much thicker the rows are by comparison, that is true throughout the field. And this corn, with some rain, should get quite a bit taller before it tassels. Height and foliage are important because we chop our corn for silage, which uses the whole plant. We get much less feed from shorter, thinner plants.

As I mentioned, the fourth field on this farm was planted in alfalfa during fall 2011. We were not able to get any hay off of it last year due to the drought, but it came back reasonably well this spring and was deemed worth keeping. We just finished hauling the bales from our second cutting back to the dairy. We hope to get two more cuttings before the end of the growing season.

The alfalfa field on the back of the farm. The brown spots are where the windrows from our second cutting laid on the ground before being baled. The third cutting likely won’t yield much because of the dry weather, but we have to cut it in order to get good growth for our fourth cutting.

As I said, the Pierron farm is some of our best tillable ground, and we hope that despite a few changes in our plans and some tough conditions, we will yield a lot of feed from it this year. We’ll be preparing to chop the first corn field in just a few weeks.

One thought on “A Tale of Three Corn Fields

  1. Very good report on 3 corn fields! We have the same thing here in southwest Ohio and the main difference is the planting date. Looking at our corn, you wish you would have planted it all to corn this year here. It’s a corn growing year for sure!

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