There is a former John Deere engineer in Iowa, who now farms some corn and he thinks he has discovered that he can grow corn on half the ground and get the same yield. And, he is not a flat earther or a tree hugger. He’s a real honest to God corn farmer. His name is Bob Recker, and he likes to tinker with his no-till farm operation. He wants to give back to the American farmer, who, he says has fed him well for so long. AgWeb.com’s Chris Bennett exposed this “heretic” in a lengthy piece on Tuesday.
Imagine turning off every other row on your planter and doubling the drop on the others. That is the thrust of the experiment. Recker is looking for a couple of things in his strategy. One is exposing his crop to more sunlight. Another is using less water. By rotating the spaces planted each season, he is able to rest half his soil.
He has some long land, the rows are a half mile. Normally his rows are populated with about 34,000 stalks, but he doubles that. His plant rows are 60 inches apart. In the test plot all the rows have the magic “edge row” look and yield.
Recker says it is no secret that edge rows, which get much more sunlight than the inner field plants, are better producers. “I am trying to harvest sunlight,” Recker says.
In his 2017 plot the, 60-inch corn rows produced the same yield as the 30-inch (traditional) plantings, but on half the space. And with less water. The only issue is that as corn grows, soaking up the sun, so do the weeds. Recker sees that as solvable.
Bennett’s article points out that either a good residue basis or well-planned weed control takes care of the weeds. The other thing is, the grower can use that extra space for a cover crop. Cover crops such as rye grass, radishes and cowpeas do well, help keep out weeds, and do not compete with the corn crop.
There are about three dozen farms experimenting in 60-inch rows under all types of conditions. Recker says that if someone is just growing corn, 30-inch rows will probably work as well. But if you want to add a cover crop, without losing yield, the 60-inch experiment is worth it. It requires no special equipment or changes in irrigation systems.
I do wonder, however, where the aliens from outer space will hide with all that open space in the corn fields. The Children of the Corn may not like it either.
En garde for those trucks
No sooner had the ink dried on my column last week, that included a warning to watch out for cattle and grain trucks, then I watched a near disaster at Hillcrest and Main. As the light changed to green for Hillcrest, the lady in the compact coming south, started to move. The cattle hauler with a loaded trailer blew the light.
The lady caught the movement and her front bumper dipped as the behemoth roared by, well over the speed limit. She and I both just sat there for a few seconds. I thought about giving chase, then I just thought about seeing my grandkids that weekend.
VSV warming up again
Although the recent cold snap slowed down the number of cases of Vesicular Stomatitis (VSV), Maggie Baldwin, Colorado State Assistant Veterinarian, let us know this week that some new cases have been reported and, “We are not out of the woods yet.” Eleven quarantines remain in four counties: Garfield, Larimer, Morgan, and San Miguel. The total count of premises under quarantine for VSV by county is updated regularly on the CDA VSV website. There are no new cases or continuing quarantines in Montrose, Delta, Ouray or Mesa Counties.
Find ‘em and fix ‘em
Every once in a while we all get something wrong, like I did on my story about Robbie LeValley last week. Turns out, while she has been on the Delta County payroll for 24 years, only the last seven have been as county administrator. Also that figure for the mis-marked funds from the Beef CheckOff Program should have been $200,000 out of $7 million, mis-marked by the NCBA, not the USDA.
Vicki Becker of Montrose also remembers Brother Dave Gardner. She took the time to drop me a note recalling the comedian that I mentioned last week. She recalled a line I had forgotten. A farm mom said to her son, “James Louis, get away from that wheelbarrow. You know you don’t know nothin’ about machinery.”
Senate clears heirs farmer funding
Tuesday afternoon the US Senate approved an amendment to House Bill 3055, offered by Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, that would provide $5 million for the relending program which would make it easier to resolve farm ownership issues and clear titles of farmland handed down from generation to generation.
The problem arises from heirs who are short of funds but may have a stake in a farm without clear title. They cannot get mortgages to improve their property or take part in credit and conservation programs.
The $5 million proposed by Jones would be available to USDA for loans to cooperatives, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations. In turn, they would lend money to projects that resolve ownership and succession on land with multiple owners.
The full bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate soon. The program was mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill.
Michael A. Cox is a Montrose-based content provider. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org