Monday, May 4, 2015

April: The Month of Planting

Welcome to the April installment of my Month-By-Month blog series.  While January was about the books, February was about networking, March was about preparing for the upcoming farming season, April is one of the busiest times of the year.  It is when we start planting!

Planting start dates vary greatly depending on the location of a farm, and seasonal factors that are different every year including field conditions.  Wet, muddy soils delay planting.  Dry, dusty soils allow planting to progress quickly.

Due to the mild winter, we were able to start seeding right away in April.  According to my husband, we only had about 11" of snow over the winter, which is the equivalent to 7/8" of rain.  The temperatures warmed quickly during March, which allowed the fields to dry out fast.

This day, May 4th of last spring is when we starting planting for that growing season - a whole month later than this year!

Regardless of the plating start date each spring, we first spread dry fertilizer (urea) on our winter wheat fields.  Even with the little amount of snow coverage, our winter wheat fields look promising.  The urea granules break down when exposed to moisture (rain) and provide the plants nitrogen to help them grow. 

Spreading dry fertilizer on winter wheat.

Next we start seeding.  This year we added a new crop to our rotation: yellow field peas.  Since peas do not need additional nitrogen applied to help them grow, we used our Case IH single disc air drill to plant them. We are anxious to see how they produce.

Planting yellow field peas with the Case IH no-till drill.

The next crop to seed is barley.  We are able to plant barley early in the spring because it is more tolerant of the cold night temperatures that can dip near freezing.  We used our Concord air drill to plant barley and applied anhydrous ammonia (nitrogen) along with other fertilizers while seeding.

Planting barley using the Corcord air drill.

Spring wheat follows barley.  The crops are similar in how they grow, and we used the same methods.  However, some of the fields that we seeded to wheat had not been tilled in the fall, so we also had to work them prior to seeding.

Tilling the field and seeding with spring wheat - a race to stay ahead of the other.

Corn is next up in the rotation.  Many times there is a small delay between planting wheat and corn because the soil has to be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or there is a potential that the seed could rot after it is planted.  During this time, we prepared the soil on those fields.

We applied nitrogen via two methods on various fields: anhydrous ammonia with the Concord air drill, or by spreading dry fertilizer (urea) just as we do over the winter wheat crop, only nothing had been seeded yet.  The soil was then tilled to prepare the seed bed for planting.

The view from the tractor of tilled corn ground.
The corn planter is in the distance ready to seed.

Corn is seeded using our Kinze planter.  It has been designed with 16 rows, 30" apart, and is accurate in spacing the seeds approximately every 7" while driving down the field.  Corn planting wrapped up on May 1st, just short of the end of April!

Planting corn with the Kinze planter.

We are fortunate to have had seeding go very well thus far - no major equipment breakdowns and no one has even got their tractor stuck!  Next month we will begin planting soybeans.

Although we have had some rain, the ground is in desperate need for moisture.  If seeds don't receive moisture, they don't germinate.  If baby plants don't receive rain, they shrivel up and die.

Say a prayer.  Do a rain dance.  Sing songs about rain.

Until next month,


  1. Dana, you mentioned soil prep, does the soil have any larger rocks that need to be removed? On our drive to Fargo last weekend I noticed a lot of larger rocks and rock piles in tilled fields in Western MN.

    1. Yes, we have a lot of rocks in our soil. Some fields have more than others. Each field has a couple of these rock piles on them - sometimes they are on the edge of the field, and other times just in the middle of it and we have to drive around. We have a rock picker that can be used to get the larger ones. It is pulled behind a tractor and scoops them up. The really big ones we have to use a bulldozer to dig out, and then backfill with soil. I will have to do a post on rock picking sometime!