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For many farmers it is part of their fertilizer plant to get it applied in the fall, easing the workload in the spring time for other operations. (Mark Huso/Special to Agweek)

Harvest, finding the end and looking to spring

LAKOTA, N.D.—Harvest is still rolling for many farmers.

Mother Nature has hit the brakes more than a few times throughout October and into November during this fall harvest run.

In October, we dealt with two different snows that dropped up to 8 and 14 inches. When that happened there were many acres of soybeans, edible beans, sunflowers, and corn.

After the snow melted, we were granted with some favorable weather that let us get majority of the sunflowers, edible beans, soybeans, but not all, and put a nice dent into some of the corn acres.

Rain showers then came through dropping anywhere from 0.25 to 0.75 inches. However, when it rains this late, we don't get the necessary warm temperatures to dry the soil and get us back in the field the next day. Instead, it delays harvest for another two to three days. Now some fields are wet enough that we are waiting for the soil to freeze so the combines can travel across them and we can finish the remaining few acres of soybeans and corn.

With harvest delays, fall fertilizer applications are also put on hold. For many farmers it is part of their fertilizer plant to get it applied in the fall, easing the workload in the spring time for other operations. Fall fertility has primarily been nitrogen applications in the form of anhydrous ammonia or urea for the next year's cereal crop. Now, more farmers are applying phosphorus and potassium for the next year's bean crop. Some farms now have a fertilizer tool that can apply nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur or other nutrients all banded in one application. Of course, the large fertilizer spreaders can also do that in a blended fertilizer application.

With the weather and harvest delays, fall fertilizer applications are only about 40 percent completed compared to a typical fall. The way the forecast looks, fertilizer applications are done for the fall.

That does cause some concern moving into the spring of 2019. However, the concept "bigger is better" is very true when it comes to applying fertilizer.

Farmers have invested on their own farms buying in large fertilizer spreaders. Banding tillage tools are mostly 60 feet in width and pulling a large dry fertilizer cart that allows them many acres per fill. Fertilizer retailers also have invested and their spreaders are newer and larger. The tender trucks that fill them are no longer tandem axle trucks, rather they are now tractor-trailer tenders that allow more time in the field and less time transporting loads. The spring workload becomes much more challenging if we are dealt with a late start, but we can't worry about that in November.

What we will worry about is what will be planted in 2019. We now have five to six months to plan for the next time our fertilizer applicators and planters will be back in the field.

Farmers are challenged with lower commodity prices influencing some of the choices they will make into 2019. Do more with less, right?

As a crop consultant, it is my job to match their vision for improving their operation and add insight to the decisions they will be making. Plant more wheat? Add sunflowers to the rotation? What is the situation with the edible ban market? Do we do more variable rate or less? Should we plant Liberty or Dicamba soybeans? Do we need to add new equipment? These are just a few of the questions farmers are asking in the early planning stages for next season.