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Very early planting in Illinois

Very early planting in Illinois

Most years I plan to begin planting corn between April 15 and 25 and be finished by May 10. This year I will have all of our corn planted by April 25, plus 1/4 of our 2012 soybean crop has been planted for a week. Western Illinois soils are dry and warm. Some of the warmth is coming from tractor engine heat; every direction you look there are at  least two farmers doing fieldwork without worry of getting stuck in the mud. Good eyesight is not needed to spot tractors working in fields this year. Doing an inventory of which fields are being planted is a simple process of following the dust contrails. The soil surface is very dry, but not too dry for corn to germinate. A few fields of corn planted in March (not mine) have corn a couple of inches tall. No soybeans have emerged yet. The standardized plan is to have cows graze cornstalks until May 1, then plant corn after moving the cows to grass pasture. This year I am ready to plant those fields now, but cannot move the cows. I need to keep the cows nearby to receive embryos the last week of April, so they cannot be turned out in large pastures — yet. If we put the embryos in now the calves would be born during the 2013 National Cattlemen Convention in Florida, which Carol and I plan on attending. May 4th is going to be the day we do embryo transfers. The donor cow is Renee's champion show heifer from 2011.

Dad switched to no-till farming 20 years ago, and Carol and I have continued the practice, which is a good fit for our farm. High traffic areas and fields that get manure applications do get tilled. No-till farming reduces soil erosion. Most people think of soil erosion being caused by water. Water and wind both erode soil. There is much less dust following my corn planter in the no-till section of our field when compared to the area we tilled to loosen an area of compacted soil. The narrow strips in the field are where NH3 fertilizer was injected. Yes I know the picture shows me being a "little to the left,", but I am not a socialist. I'm just a farmer feeding 165 people in the world.

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