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field of ripening soybeans Kyle Stackhouse

Irrigation, please

We have pumped more water this year than ever before

We got home from vacation on Saturday. Now, five days later, I think I’m beginning to get caught up (both on sleep and office work). We had some rain the week we left, but by the time we returned, dad was back to running irrigation full time.

We have pumped more water this year than ever before. I don’t think there is any question about that. Usually we find ourselves in the 5-to-7-inch range. This year, some fields had 8-to-10 inches in the month of July alone. We will end up in the 12-to-14-inch range.

We eased into irrigating near the end of June and continued to pump through July and August. We caught a few rains, so that helped. It’s now September, and we are still going, but with less frequency. Corn will be watered until nearly black layer, and soybeans until most of the leaves are yellow.

When I got home, I had the pleasure of signing the check for the utilities last month. I calculated it out, and it looks as though our energy costs for irrigation are just more than $3 an acre-inch. That has doubled in my career. However, it’s not too bad considering the yield increases compared to dryland. I don’t enjoy the headaches that come with irrigation, but at the same time, we are talking about where we might add irrigation. Irrigation has had two big ROI years in a row, could it possibly go three?

We have been getting out in fields and taking a look at crops. Some of the dryland corn fields look to be better than our (low) expectations. Soybeans are getting hit the worst right now. Lack of rain in areas of the fields with less water holding capacity is showing up. Beans are dying prematurely, sacrificing pods and seed size.

If this heat continues, we may be thinking about picking some corn the end of next week. Despite high management practices, stalk integrity is marginal. Once it’s under 30% moisture we will pick it. There are also some hot bids for corn delivered this month.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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