With interest rates so low, I've been moving pretty fast on some high-quality parcels in my area. It's to the point where I'd like to keep buying, but I'm worried I'll surpass my harvest capacity. How well do the combine rental programs work? Are they good for a pinch, or is it something you need to plan for well in advance?
Erickson: Combine rental programs seem to vary based on your location and the availability of unsold used combines. You definitely need to talk to potential suppliers very early about your needs and the potential costs of rental. Most dealers would prefer to sell combines than service rental machines. You might investigate the possibility of hiring a neighbor to do some custom harvesting as a potential short term fix and money saving measure.
Evans: There is more than just the combine rental program question here for discussion. The need for labor to run an additional machine to maintain hauling and unloading channels would be a huge consideration. Management capability for significant acreage expansion to timely plant and cover all acres for weed control should be considered. To directly address the combine rental program question, it would not be a good option for an eleventh hour harvest need decision. Perhaps you might consider two machines where one has both grain platform and corn head and the other just a grain platform to be more timely with soybean harvest to harvest at optimal moisture and speed up your harvest somewhat to accommodate additional acres.
Myers: Typically a combine rental is something you need to plan for in advance and can be done either through a local dealer or from a nation-wide service. Yes, it is possible to secure a rental "in a pinch" but it would be best to plan ahead. Also, remember that an additional unit involves other logistics like truck, carts, and labor.
Parker: Combine rental programs should be checked out and arranged far in advance of harvest. Rental rates are not based on simple acreage but on usage hours, generally separator hours. The combine lease or rental program has worked well over the years. Along with looking into that option, I would think another option would be to explore some type of arrangement with a neighboring farmer who might have excess harvest capacity. Certainly, all of this should be done well in advance of harvest as down time during harvest is very costly.
Suggestions for a cover-crop beginner
I'd like to try out a cover crop on a couple fields next year. Is there one that's recommended for beginners? I have very little experience with the concept. Starting out, I'm more concerned with spring planting prep than actual performance.
Erickson: I would suggest that you begin your cover crop education by talking to local farmers who are utilizing this farming method or contacting an Extension specialist to get you started. Begin by identifying the attributes of cover crops that are most important to your farming operations. Erosion control, weed control, nutrient management, organic matter build-up and reducing surface compaction are all advantages that must be considered.
Evans: Go to the Midwest Cover Crop Council MCCC website http://www.mccc.msu.edu/ to help you make a university research based decision. There are numerous attributes to consider for your determination of performance in terms of soil quality, nitrogen scavenging, nitrogen producing, forage, seed, etc. Some cover crops in the Brassica family are useful to reduce nematode numbers. Two suggestions, start small to learn and start with success in the plan. It makes sense to target your cover crop program to address a problem area such as erosion, nematode problem etc. But don't target the cover crop with a poorly drained problem area where the cover crop species does not fit and is doomed to fail. Your concern for spring planting prep is legitimate for your success as you start out with this new management program. Pay particular attention to completely killing a cover crop. For example never place atrazine in with glyphosate or ammonium sulfate on annual ryegrass as it will not be killed whereas glyphosate and ammonium sulfate will provide an excellent kill during late March or early April.
Myers: I would suggest contacting your local NRCS office for more information as there are a great variety of cover crops available. What do you want to achieve? Mitigate compaction? Hold the soil? Add nutrients? Your concern with spring prep and the crop to follow is also valid and involves critical timing, choose carefully.
Parker: Two combinations are good starters for beginners. 1.) Oats alone or with turnips or radishes work well and winter kill so there is no issue with kill down in the spring. One drawback is they need to be planted early, 9/15 north of I-70 and 9/30 south of I-70. 2). Cereal rye (not annual ryegrass) can be seeded later, 11/1 north of I-70 and 11/15 south of I-70, and it is easy to kill in the spring. However, growth can get out of hand in the spring if it is not sprayed on a timely basis and extra N would be needed if going into corn. Both of the above work well on a variety of soil types. Cover crops provide many benefits, two main benefits are soil erosion protection through the winter months and nutrient scavenging in the fall early winter followed by nutrient release with spring/summer decomposition.