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It finally rained enough to count, here in Cass County, NE. We have been having small rains off-and-on all spring. Until now, the amounts have been only enough to get the topsoil moist for a few days. I know that other areas have been getting enough to result in some recharge of the soil. Most of Nebraska was extremely dry until the rain of the last two days. Rainfall totals ranged from .4 inches to 2.5 inches. That is enough to at least germinate the seed. The downside of the storm that passed my farm on Thursday morning was that it also produced the worst hail storm in the Omaha area, in the last several years. Fortunately, it was too early to do any damage to the crops.
One large farming operation has some corn planted. Past experience tells me that hard rain or hail on freshly planted crops this early will result in a lot of compaction. It is doubtful that there will be any yield loss, however. Agronomists now are warning farmers to be on the lookout for insect infestations resulting from the cold damp conditions. My how quickly attitudes change! At least for those of us with no corn seed in the ground, insects will not be a problem until something is planted.
I have been doing some preliminary farm chores, in preparation for starting to plant. My neighbor custom applied 32-0-0 nitrogen to the small patch of bromegrass that is cut for hay every year. Some observers wonder why I do not kill the grass and plant the field to regular crops. The answer is that the 10 acres of grass are divided into four fields, hardly enough to be convenient to plant with today’s large machinery. Until 2008, the grass sold for horse hay was more profitable than corn or soybeans. I suspect that will be the case this year as well. Large round bales are selling for $200, according to area farmers who still have small patches of grass hay. I am not sure how that compares to the income from other crops, but it sounds good. With the little bit of rain we have had, I am guaranteed at least some crop from the hay field-unless there is another hail storm!
Another early spring operation that I got completed just in time was to get a grass waterway that was made in 1967 converted to a tile outlet terrace system. The job was almost too small for a contractor to drive any long distance to work on. I was fortunate in that my nearest neighbor was getting some structures installed as well. The contractor was glad to have another job in the neighborhood, so that he could have the extra income without having to drive a long distance. After the contractor left, I had time to put the disk on my tractor and get the clods smoothed out before the rain.
The cold rainy weather of the last two days has been an opportunity to get necessary maintenance done on my planter. It is now 21 years old and still doing what I bought it for. Any piece of machinery with that many years of use requires a lot of repairs. That is especially true for no-till operations and 15 inch rows. I think I have everything fixed only to discover that the first day in the field exposes those things that I thought were just fine when I parked the machine a year ago now malfunction. Such is the nature of a “almost retired” farmer. My cost per acre of crops produced is very competitive with farmers who have newer machinery. However, the extra time I spend getting the small numbers of acres planted offsets some of the machinery money savings.