soybean field

Richard Wilkins - Greenwood, Delaware

Farm: Richard farms 400 acres of soybeans annually with his wife, Donna, and nephew, Christopher. In addition, he produces 400 acres of corn, 250 acres of wheat, 100 acres of barley, 200 acres of vegetables, 250 acres of hay and raises 150 head of beef cattle.

Water from Wilkins’ irrigation system creates a picturesque scene in his pea fields. He’s waiting for the peas to harvest so he can plant corn in that same field.

June 9, 2014—This week, we are side dressing the corn with nitrogen. We’re getting a lot of scattered thunder storms, and that’s usually a good thing. But this morning, we had a pretty good downpour in one area, so there are three farms that we aren’t going to get to side dress today because the soil conditions are too wet. Other than getting the rest of the corn side dressed, we’re hoping that the peas will get mature enough to harvest. We’re checking them every day. The sooner they’re harvested, the sooner we can get the last of the corn planted in the field where the peas are. We’re running out of growing days, and I’m hoping we don’t have to switch the field to an alternative crop. The longer the corn is in the ground, the higher the yield will be. Every day we are delayed in planting that corn means that our pounds of grain will be less. We are also waiting for the barley to get ripe. It wasn’t quite ripe enough to harvest last week, and now the weather is too cloudy and rainy. The weather supposed to be clear this weekend, so we’re hoping to harvest it then. The alfalfa is ready to harvest again, but we need some sunny, dry days to dry the alfalfa hay down. I had a pleasant surprise when I got up on Tuesday morning. I thought we only had a sprinkling of rain overnight, but I looked at the gauge and we had an inch. A farmer’s perfect dream is for it to rain during the night and then the sun to come up and dry everything in the morning. We continue to think about sustainability by using the integrated pest management practices to justify when we need to put a crop protectant on the crop. We’ve also done pre-nitrate side dress testing on the corn fields. The test tells us how much nitrate we have in the soil, and we use that test result to estimate how much nitrogen we want to put on based on our yield goals. What we’re trying to do there is put on just the right amount of nitrogen fertilizer. If we don’t apply too much, we’re spending more money than we have to and were potentially harming the environment and water quality.