Farm Horizons, Feb. 2011
Outlook for 2011 growing season
By Dave Schwartz
Soybean Product Manager/Agronomist
A grower once told me, if fields have good subsoil moisture in spring, he expected a minimum of half a crop, even if weather was droughty that growing season. Evidently he put a great deal of value on subsoil moisture.
I have always felt this way, as well. Clay loam soils in south central Minnesota typically hold 9 to 10 inches of available water in the upper 5 feet when they are at field capacity. This is the moisture that crops tap into during July and August that maintains plant growth.
I have been asked at farm meetings this winter about the crop outlook for 2011. I believe the outlook is very positive for crop producers at this point. Tile lines are still running, so many fields in this part of the state are near field capacity for soil moisture. Another plus is growers finished fall tillage, for the most part.
One year ago, many corn fields were still standing in much of central and northern Minnesota. This normally delays field work and takes bushels off of next year’s crop.
Another plus is the grain market. Growers have had the opportunity to market new crop soybeans at more than $12 a bushel, and corn at $5 per bushel.
It’s hard to say what affect snow depth will have on this coming year’s crop. Most of the moisture in snow runs off in spring as temperatures warm up, so this will benefit lakes and other surface water. If snow keeps coming at a normal rate the remainder of the winter, we could be looking at 80-plus inches, which could possibly delay spring field work.
It may be premature to predict a good crop at this point, because so much can happen between April 15 and harvest. Big rains, hail storms, wind, insects, diseases, excessive heat at pollination, frost, and many other factors can take a toll on grain yield, and normally do during the course of the season.
One thing I have noticed the past few years is how well today’s crops tolerate stress. Corn plants have healthier root systems, due to seed treatments and traits that control corn rootworm. With the introduction of Round up- Ready crops, weeds take less moisture, sunlight, and nutrients away from crops, thus providing a healthier environment for crops to grow.
Will 2011 be different than 2010? You bet, and that is what makes farming interesting.
Have a safe year!