Lee Briese, independent crop consultant with Centrol, and I have been talking a lot about helping farmers through a stressful time when everyone is overwhelmed. It’s tough to think about planning when most plans in 2019 changed multiple times. Here’s what we are talking about to help reduce stress and manage in 2020.
Sit down and talk about your fields with your business partners. Do this now and do it in a conference room space or somewhere that is out of your home so that you can talk business. Rely on each other as partners to make decisions together, determine your strengths. Say those strengths out loud to each other and write them down. May seem warm and fuzzy, but I’ll bet everyone could use a boost right now.In times of uncertainty and stress, we need to rely on the skill sets of our partners and have confidence in them that they will make the best possible decision they can when faced with an issue. Have full confidence in each other. You are partners because you believe in that other person’s abilities.
Next, identify your “A priority” fields. These are the fields or acres that were in the best shape going into this winter or are in a good position on the landscape or whatever it may be. Make a list, write them down. Then commit to not rushing through those acres planting this spring, don’t speed up to get to the next acres.
Then, figure out which fields you are fairly confident you can get to but may take a little more preparation or they might have a little more water and need to dry out — your “B priority” fields. Come up with a plan for these acres. Commit right now that you will not rush through them during planting. There may be some parts of those fields that you know aren’t going to get planted because they are too wet or saline or whatever the reason. Have a plan or just an idea for managing those acres later — maybe a cover crop?
Lastly, figure out the acres you know it’s going to be tough to get to — your “C priority”. Maybe they have an unharvested 2019 crop on them, deep ruts or were under water going into the winter. Your plan is going to be different for these fields. You are not going to rush to get them planted because that may compromise the job you do planting your other acres in priorities A and B. Acres in this last category may be the ones where you need to do some field work to take care of ruts and you seed a full season cover crop to manage water. Remember that the full season cover crop doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be simple, like cereal rye that can be planted in June and will stay about 12-18 inches tall, it won’t head out in 2020 because it didn’t vernalize. You still have herbicide options for broadleaf weeds. Simple plans are good plans.
Hopefully doing this A, B, C priority rating will help reduce the stress of uncertainties this spring — having a lot of acres to cover and not enough help, poor field conditions or unfavorable weather. Piece by piece, take a deep breath and get through 2020.
Abbey Wick is an Extension soil health specialist at North Dakota State University.