Flexibility is the word for 2020 crop planning

Farmers need to look for simple, practical and flexible plans as they plan for 2020 while cleaning up from 2019.

Standing corn will require special planning in 2020. (File photo)

Flexible, practical, simple, and something that makes money are words and comments made to describe the 2020 crop plan during our farm visits over the last couple months.

Simple and practical are comfortable, and those are the plans that farmers are accustomed to. No surprises, raise crops previously grown, and remove the error that could happen. Flexible is more challenging but likely more appropriate for this upcoming season. Farmers can ask the tough questions when they sit down with their adviser, and a couple weeks ago, Carl and Brandon Jensen, of McVille, N.D., did just that. As the father/son operation sat down with me at the kitchen table, they started the conversation with the word flexible.

“We know it’s going to be more work, but we really need this year’s plan to be flexible.”

Mark Huso
Mark Huso


Flexible, throughout the discussion, meant multiple things, but No. 1 it meant having multiple crop options. We have fields lined up that could be soybeans, sunflowers or edible beans. On the cereal side in north-central North Dakota, some fields could be either corn, wheat or barley. Other crops you will notice driving through the region are canola, flax and peas. Calendar date, soil conditions, seed availability and the weighted factor of market price are going to affect what seed goes in the planter or drill.

The nitrogen plan also needs to be flexible for the different farms we operate with. Option A is going to be 100% of nitrogen up front, with another option of split applying nitrogen on some corn and wheat acres. A third option for nitrogen is applying after planting.

In recent years, the herbicide program for many farms uses the word flexible. The use of pre-emergent herbicides have allowed for post-emergent application timings to be more flexible as weed pressure is greatly reduced with the pre-emergent application. In looking ahead to our post-emergent applications, it is good to let our retailers know what we are looking at using so they have product on hand or even delivered to the farm. That will allow for a more flexible application rather than just being tied to what product they have in warehouse at that time.

The standing corn in the field for many of our farms will also require the management to be flexible. Our first goal is to get the corn harvested and off the field. After that, many scenarios will be a factor. Field conditions, what tillage to use, and which crop to grow are all decisions that are going to be made in a short time frame, so we will need to have a plan in place for such decisions.

We are also going to have to handle “what if” situations with the standing corn. The longer the corn stays out in the field into June and July, the risk of emerging weeds becomes a harvest factor, and we may have to use a desiccant to burn some of those down to assist in harvest. Prevented planting is another situation we will have to plan for once the 2019 corn does get harvested. We will have to utilize a tillage, herbicide, and likely a cover crop plan for those acres.

After some time and thought, we hope to put a plan together that is all three: Simple, practical and flexible. A good plan should contain those and be able to overcome the challenges that Mother Nature and the grain markets will provide us with.

Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting from Lakota, N.D., is a crop consultant who works with farmers in six North Dakota counties. Huso is involved in the production of cereals, canola, corn, edible bean, soybean and sunflowers and can be reached on Twitter @husocrop or by email: .


Mark Huso
Mark Huso

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