Thursday, July 02, 2009

Done for Another Year

Harvest is over for The Poor Farm. 4931.7 bushels off 161 acres, making 30.6 bu/acre. I get 1/3 of the crop. I just sold the crop for $5.02/bu. This will have to sustain the place for two years, because there won't be a crop next season due to crop rotation requirements.

So, it's below average - thirty five is the minimum standard for dryland wheat in this neck of the woods. It was too dry too long when the wheat started growing after winter. Then, it was too wet. Go figure. It also had significant hail damage, which might yield some more income from insurance. It's been a rough year for the crop/hail people - their adjusters have been and still are very busy. All in all, I'm not complaining. I'm just tickled to have a crop at all. But, it sure had the makings of a far better crop than it was.

Thanks for all the positive thoughts. My involvement as a rich landlord is similar to the Hindmost in Larry Niven's Known Space series, only more so. It is said: "Lead, follow or get out of the way!" I stay out of the way. I miss the action, but I've got to work at the job I have. No time for harvest these days. Some people ask me: "Why don't you farm your ground?" Do the math. I'd have to have about thirty thousand (conservative estimate) in old junk equipment just to work and plant the ground, then hire custom cutters to get the crop in. If whatever old tractor I had puked up it's pistons, this farm would be toast. Most of the equipment in the price range this amount of ground would support has already been hauled off as scrap in this area. Economy of scale is a way of life, as Farmer Frank always preaches. He is not just whistling Dixie on that subject, either.

So, I miss out on the hands on rewards that a real farmer gets from doing a job well. I miss having more control over my destiny since I hand it over to my "tenant." He's the one taking on the significant risks, and I have to trust he will do the best he can. Luckily, he is a damn good friend and I trust him and his family with far more than just the family ground.

But, I can still walk out into a freshly worked field of summer fallow, grab a handful of the loamy, slightly moist, warm soil, and breath in the smell of potential growth. It's not just plants that have roots down 'round here.


RT said...

You might not be hands-on, but you are continuing important traditions and sustaining a part of the United States that the so-called elite folks feel is non-important.

Very worthwhile.

When you do crop rotation, can you plant something other than the wheat? (I'm somewhat ignorant, so forgive me.)

Jeffro said...

Yes, other crops are sometimes rotated on the ground. We grow milo (or grains sorghum)as a fall crop, but on dryland ground that doesn't get much rain, not every year. It would be considered continuous cropping the ground to follow up with wheat or milo. Most farmers with irrigation or lots of rain do just that, and rotate between a variety of fall crops and winter wheat, or just the fall crops further east of here. Rotation of crops helps prevent soil borne diseases from occurring, whether it's continuous or in a summer fallow plan like we use. Soybeans help put nitrogen in the soil as well, but they are a poor crop for the amount of moisture we get.

So, a lot of farmers will be burning or mowing and disking under their wheat stubble in order to have the ground ready to plant late corn or beans. Lots will just plant wheat again. This is all on ground that gets a lot of rain or is irrigated. They also have to use an intensive fertilizer program to replace the nutrients that are consumed by the last crop. We usually just try to keep the weeds down while leaving the "trash" on top as a cover to protect against wind erosion while the ground "rests." By the time it's ready to plant again, the crop residue has deteriorated enough that it isn't a problem for tilling - it won't jam up a drill. We'll throw on a bit of nitrogen and call it good, too.

A lot of farmers have gone to "no till," where the ground isn't plowed at all. It may be chiseled to open it up for moisture, and the weeds are controlled chemically. The seeders are of a different design, able to handle the extra material. The advantage is less fuel consumed than conventional tillage, but the chem costs are high, and the initial investment of the equipment is quite high as well.

We could continuous crop this ground and try to keep up with fertilizer, but the subsoil moisture would eventually run out. This method of summer fallow doesn't use the ground up - it's a method of soil conservation as well. So, basically, we are using two years worth of moisture to grow one year's crop. Double cropped dryland wheat yields generally stink compared to the normal summer fallow program.

And, btw, that isn't a dumb question. The summer fallowing we do seems to be indigenous to this area of the Great Plains. Certain areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and so on do the same thing. Further north, some of the ground is fallowed, but they grow spring wheat and loads of other small grains.

Hope this is slightly clearer than mud!

Frank W. James said...

I have a gut feeling the harvest this year well EAST of you isn't going to be all that much better despite this week's crop report from the USDA.

Glad you got something and while I cash rent a small amount of ground the cash rent is figured on thirds just like your situation. Amazing, isn't it how similar things can be so many miles apart?

All The Best,
Frank W. James

drjim said...

Glad you got the harvest in safe and sound. farming can be a dangerous business, especially around harvest time with all those mechanical monsters running around.
I salute you for the important work you do in helping to feed us, and in helping to keep our country going.
I pray that Chairman MaoBama doesn't go after our farmers.

Jeffro said...

Heh. Chairman MaoBama. I like it!

RT said...

Thanks. I knew about the crop rotation, but I only heard about it using a different crop each time to "fool" the diseases and such (and to retain nutrients...something like that...going back to history class and my science classes).

:) I didn't realize there were so many different approaches. Neat how that's all been figured out through time. When I was researching gardening (veggies in particular) I read about even rotating those crops because of the disease issue. The information also discussed "no-till" gardening.

Joseph said...

Hello Jeffro!!

Sorry I haven't been around the blog much lately- I moved the mobile-mansion to a different place, and haven't quite got around to getting the internet, yet. Just got back from my vacation in Kansas, there was about eight days there where I didn't sleep for more than five hours in a row-we were running pretty hard. We all agree that we have found something Cole likes to do, and he's pretty good at it. He automatically gets stuck hauling 'split hoppers,' if it wasn't for that he would have Judd Yeager lapped more than once.

My cousin and uncle from Colorado out running combines, I had 'em trained pretty well, (to the point where I think they were slightly annoyed at me, which in my eyes means I was likely doing well.) We got every grain we could off your quarter!! I was just trying to remember, was that quarter continuous?

We had eight combines on us for a while, the Dasenbrock/Nash five, a custom guy from Minnesota with a 35' 9770 that sort of owed us a favor, and some other custom guys also from MN with two 36' New Hollands. For the larger part of it, there was just the five machines. Between fighting mudholes, a few late starts, and more than our share of breakdowns, Dasenbrock Farms should be cleaned up Tuesday or Wednesday, but don't bet on it... :)

Jeffro said...

Joe: Sorry I missed you - knew you were back. Don't worry - I'm quite sure y'all got everything you could! I saw the 9770 and took pics of the New Hollands - at the time I was wondering what they were doing on the Schridde(sp?)-Davis ground. Found out why later.

I kinda wonder if Cole has discovered a career - he'd probably be better off farming and doing his trucking for the farm as a "hobby." At any rate, he sure seems good at it. Spuddy is like me - he only works so much and so hard - he's not as young as full of piss and vinegar as certain youngsters I can think of.

And it wasn't continuous, the farm had no crop last year. Just pasture rent. Oh, and that sweet, sweet government payment.

Give 'em hell at the coal mines, ol' buddy! 'Cause your President loves ya!