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Revisiting the 2020 Successful Farming cover stories

The first 2021 issue of Successful Farming magazine just arrived in farmers’ mailboxes. Before you crack the cover on a new year, take a look back at the biggest magazine stories of 2020.

Farmers overcame challenges and embraced new opportunities. Cheers to the new year!


The new math of weed management

by Gil Gullickson

If 16.5 million acres of Illinois crop ground was infested with waterhemp in 2017, how many will there be next year? Boot up your smartphone’s calculator. That’s because we’re flashing back to a problem akin to one you’d encounter in a high-school math class in this January cover story.

February 2020 cover of Successful Farming


What’s your Plan B?

by Jodi Henke, Gil Gullickson, Betsy Freese, and Natalina Sents

Failing fast forward is part of being an entrepreneurial farmer. If it’s time to change course, what could be a good fit for your farm?

Organic grains offer a niche market that is catching the eye of larger farms looking to diversify.

Some farmers have found opportunities driving trucks by using equipment their farm already owns.

Some livestock farmers have found their niche by staying small and avoiding competition with the largest producers.

One Nebraska family adopted irrigation technology when they found the specialized labor they needed hard to find.

Other farmers are having success with crops aimed at the human consumption market.

Transitioning to a niche market or adopting technology may not be a solution for every farmer facing hard times. A career shift may be Plan B for some producers.

March 2020 Successful Farming cover


Mother Nature rules. So why not follow her lead?

by Gil Gullickson

After shepherding his cow herd through a “humdinger of a blizzard” during the heart of calving season in March 1998 and several days of scrapping with snowdrifts and stinging winds, farmer Seth Watkins asked a pivotal question:

“Why was I working against Mother Nature instead of with her?”

He decided to revamp his farm’s system.

April 2020 Successful Farming cover


Hope for hemp

by Laurie Bedord

In a time when there seems to be plenty of challenges in agriculture, hemp is offering hope for Leigh Barry. This farmer added hemp to his traditional row crops and shares the lessons he, along with his agronomist, learned after year one. They include:

  1. Choose seed wisely
  2. Properly prepare the grow site
  3. Watch for males
  4. Be mindful of THC levels
  5. Keep an eye on pests and disease
  6. Handle plants with care
  7. Invest in an extractor
  8. Documents your journey
  9. Watch the markets

May 2020 Successful Farming cover


Sizing up semis

by Dave Mowitz

The semitrailer has become the transportation workhorse of choice in farming. Machinery editor Dave Mowitz offers suggestions for buying used trucks.

The challenge with buying used semitrucks, unlike farm iron, is that they are employed in a huge variety of transport jobs or may have a murky past. For these and many other reasons, it is most prudent to dig deep into a truck’s past before buying – even if it is a late-model vehicle.

The gold standard in used semitrucks is farmer-owned not only for other agricultural buyers but also for purchasers from other markets.

June 2020 Successful Farming cover


All about the cow

by Laurie Bedord

Rolling Lawns Farm is leveraging the legacy of the purebred Holstein. For more than a century, the Greenville, Illinois, dairy has been committed to providing top-notch care for its purebred Holsteins.

“My family has been milking cows on this farm every morning and every night since 1910,” says Michael Turley, who along with wife Jennifer purchased the 700-acre operation after his father, Neal, passed away.

July 2020 Successful Farming cover


How to sleuth for 2021 seed

by Gil Gullickson

July is normally the time when companies start pitching their latest and greatest products for the next year. Even though, thanks to COVID-19, farmers aren’t going to field days or shaking hands with agronomists, they need to start making steely-eyed seed decisions for 2021.

Seed selection is one of the biggest decisions farmers make every year, says Joe Lauer, a University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist. 

August 2020 Successful Farming cover


Robots on the Rise

by Laurie Bedord

As farmers become more comfortable with automation, companies forge ahead with innovation, including these featured in the August cover story:

  • Terraclear
  • Smartcore
  • Rowbot
  • See and Spray
  • Autocart

September 2020 issue of Successful Farming


Can-do shops

by Dave Mowitz

Take a look at these three Midwest farm shops after undergoing innovative structural changes that improve working conditions for their owners.

October 2020 Successful Farming cover


Dicamba: Sunrise or sunset

by Gil Gullickson

Farmers have used dicamba since 1962, when it was first approved in crops like corn, says Bob Hartzler, an Iowa State University Extension weed specialist. 

Dicamba in dicamba-tolerant crops faces a tough reregistration process. An EPA decision on use of dicamba in dicamba-tolerant crops is expected this fall.

Note: After the October issue was published, the Trump administration approved the use of the weedkiller dicamba on genetically engineered cotton and soybeans for the next five years in late October.

November 2020 issue


Sold! Auction houses pivot to online

by Dave Mowitz

When the pandemic hit, auction houses at the height of the machinery sale season faced a crisis: Hundreds of live auctions they had scheduled could no longer be held with buyers in person.

“Today, we have more bidders at our sales than ever before. Record after record is being set on prices. Even if COVID disappeared tomorrow, I would expect almost all of our consignment as well as retirement and estate sales will be held online from here on out,” says auctioneer Dan Sullivan.

Mid-November 2020 cover


Connecting in the fields

by Laurie Bedord

Having the ability to precisely monitor in-field variability and make decisions based on data is transforming how farmers manage their operations.

Sensors – both on and off equipment – measure myriad attributes to help farmers maximize yields with minimum resources. Above and below the ground, sensors can determine when more downforce is needed, define when a crop is thirsty, detect a disease before lesions even appear on the leaves, or guide how chemicals are applied.

December 2020 Successful Farming cover


Goodbye, 2020

by Successful Farming Staff

The world was dealt a blow in 2020 with more than 1.8 million deaths attributed to a global pandemic. COVID-19 might have changed the way people will live and the way businesses will operate forever. For farming, the novel coronavirus has tested the food production, transportation, and distribution systems. Farm families, while trying to socially distance and shelter in place, found that the world still relied on them to continue planting and growing the world’s food supply.

The Successful Farming staff wrote a number of articles to highlight what grain and livestock farmers, ag industry officials, and the world learned about their preparedness, effectiveness, and responsiveness to a devastating pandemic and challenging weather conditions.

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