Ohio Farmer

Field Snapshot: Cool weather delays planting; concern mounts over grain prices into the future.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

May 18, 2023

6 Slides

Nathan Brause’s plan was to plant early, but cold weather kept the soil temperature too low for his liking. However, it wasn’t enough to call for switching things up. Weather rarely changes things here, he says.

“We have a 14-way cover crop mix ahead of corn that’s after the wheat, and we just let it grow until the time we plant corn,” he adds. “So, whether it's the middle of April or the end of May, when it's time to plant, we plant, killing the cover crop one way or another.”

Brause farms about 1,500 acres with a three-crop rotation equally divided into corn, soybeans and wheat in Ohio’s Crawford County, about 5 miles northeast of Bucyrus and Sulphur Springs. He also does custom planting, harvesting and wide-drop applications of nitrogen.

He works with his youngest son, Alex, 25, and two other employees. Together, they work with two other operations, and between the three, they’re farming 3,500 acres.

He planted 100 acres of soybeans the first week of April, and four weeks later, they were just starting to emerge.

As of May 9, he says, “They don’t look the greatest because it really hasn’t been that warm. They’re a bit yellow.”

Up until last year, Brause was no-till, crimping and planting green. “But with the recent cold and wet springs, we did do some tillage last year, and we may again this year work that cover crop in right ahead of the planter,” he says.

Their early-planted soybeans were planted in rye, which is still growing, but will be terminated soon.

Tiling expansion

Last year, they tiled a 15-acre field by the house, which was an experiment with 20-foot centers, as opposed to other tiling on the farm ranging from 30 to 50 feet.

“We tiled it ourselves, and when working the excavator, it was really great to see every scoop filled with big, fat worms going in and out of holes,” Brause says. “In contract, I tiled another farmer’s field that was clay and had manure applied, but with no cover crops and continuous monoculture. There were no worms.”

The farm pulled a 71-bushel average on beans last year. “I think that was mostly because of this cover crop program we use,” he explains. “So, my goal is to keep a living root in the soil at all times.”

Faster dryer going in

Another big change on the farm is replacement of the regular grain dryer with a new Soukup vacuum-cooled, mixed-flow dryer, which is five times the size.

“We’re working on that right now,” Brause says. “It will be nice because that's been a hang-up for us for a few years. We couldn’t get the corn dried fast enough, and I'd like to take it off wetter anyway.”

Wheat got its second shot of nitrogen on May 6. “Wheat’s kind of all over the place — nothing really awesome,” he says.

New last year, as part of the H20hio program, the farm sourced pen pack manure and spread it after cover crops.

Sunflower addition

Another addition in the past three years is slowly putting more sunflowers into the post-wheat cover crop mix.

“We haven’t done a lot, maybe about 100 acres, but we're going to put sunflowers in all 500 acres this year,” says Brause, who harvests them in November and sells for bird seed. “Income-wise, it’s not as comparable to double-crop beans, but it gives you a little bit of income, and you still can have your cover crop mix.”

He’s optimistic this season, noting that input costs such as fertilizer, chemicals and fuel have come down, but he’s still concerned about grain prices.

While there seems to be some push to sell now, Brause is not entirely convinced, even though he has forward-contracted about 60% of his beans, 20% corn and 30% wheat. “I’m concerned because we’re flirting with numbers that may or may not go above production costs,” he says.

When asked to answer this question, “What’s the best part of 2023?” Brause says, “I’m alive and well, and my family is doing good. Health and wellness are most important to me because we've lost a lot of good people the last few years.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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