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Spring plans

Agriculture.com Staff 03/19/2009 @ 7:45am

Hello again from Sunrise Acres. Spring is upon us and with it comes a rush of preparation for the coming crop year. Water will soon make its way through the maze of canals to be applied to our desert landscape. Once again, God and farmers will transform the dull browns of winter into a palette of breathtaking color.

Does it seem to you that this winter has been a long, drab one? Maybe it's just me but with the constant barrage of doom and gloom coming from the television and news stories it has been hard to keep a positive attitude. It reminds me of the one and only quote I remember from a Vice President years ago. In referring to his detractors, which as I recall had ample reasons to detract, he called them "nattering nabobs of negatism." I'm not sure it's all proper English but doesn't it fit the talking heads of today? With a little sunshine and warmer weather, the farmers of the Treasure Valley will peel off the grays of winter and do what they do best.

At Sunrise Acres, the pastures and hay fields are starting to show a bit of green here and there. With fertilizer prices sliding back a bit, we had a mixture of phosphate and potash applied. Then our crop adviser, Joe Uranga, oversaw the application of Sencor and Gramoxone to the alfalfa. The Gramoxone kills the annual weeds while the Sencor is longer acting and reduces the number of new weeds sprouting. This will most likely be the last year of production for these hay fields as the stand of alfalfa is starting to thin. Hopefully hay prices will remain strong this year although early indications are that the highs of last year won't be returning.

The status of our pastures is uncertain. I think there is a race on to see who will plow the hillside first, the gophers or us. Why any animal would want to burrow through gravel and sand is beyond me. Looking back, the mistake we made was to add a little alfalfa seed to the pasture mix. Alfalfa roots are like candy to the gopher and seem to attract them from the neighbor's fields. With no animals lined up to graze the pastures this year, cutting them for hay will not be practical unless the gopher mounds are flattened out. We may try spraying out the alfalfa and shallow tilling to smooth out the landscape. If that doesn’t work, we will plow the gophers!

With the warm dry weather, Carol will start the process of preparing our corn ground for one more go round back to corn. While corn prices seem to take one step forward and two back, the ability to apply Roundup has really cleaned up the fields and they will be ready to be planted to hay next spring. And maybe, just maybe, the geese will remember how nicely we fed them all winter and will return with friends next January.

At Agri-Lines, the spring business is picking up. Some decisions have been delayed due to uncertainty with how the NRCS EQIP program will shake out this year. With a new administration and focus on budget questions, state agencies are understandably hesitant to offer hard dates as to when projects will be funded. The EQIP or Environmental Quality Incentives Program has been very helpful in addressing runoff and water quality issues. When first implemented the program paid as much as 75% of a practice cost. Now in real dollars it usually amounts to closer to 40%. There are guidelines that must be met which commonly add more cost to a project than if it were installed totally on the farmer's "dime." Other qualifying projects include wheel lines, drip irrigation, and gated pipe "surge" systems. These are all designed to lessen or remove the runoff water from leaving a field and carrying sediment into the rivers and streams.

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