Farm Horizons, February 2014

Crop plot project yields success for Watertown-Mayer FFA

By Matt Kane

WATERTOWN — While some school organizations and athletic teams chose to sell pizzas and candy to raise money for the future of the program, the 60 members of the Watertown-Mayer FFA chapter — 30 in middle school and 30 in high school — rolled up their sleeves and went to work for their fundraiser.

The FFA group, under the guidance of Managing Agriculture Advisor James Kocherer, with input and advice from professionals in the industry, and donated labor and product, took on the project of planning, planting, and harvesting two crop plots — one corn and one soybeans — in the Watertown area. The results: $15,018 deposited into the High School FFA Agronomy Activity account and $8,000 deposited into the Area FFA Alumni Affiliate’s account.

“The project is helping with supplies in our chapter, helping to complete a courtyard project, and increasing safety in our labs with new projects like a small gas engine stand,” Kocherer said in the project report.

The success of the project has prompted the alumni group to support the hiring of an assistant FFA coach, current Watertown fourth-grade teacher Sara Marquette, who is a former FFA National Degree recipient. It has issued a $500 grant through Ms. Marquette for Agriculture in the Schools, and has begun discussions with the District 111 School Board and community about building a greenhouse for the program. Also, a scholarship to Ag in Motion was funded.

The Watertown-Mayer FFA chapter is having a banquet Sunday, March 9, to recognize all who participated and donated time and products. The banquet will also serves as time to register for the 2014 project.

The Plot Project

The entire projects came at no cost to the FFA program. The land, labor, equipment, seed, fertilizer and treatments, monitoring, harvesting, hauling, drying of product, and signage were all donated by businesses. The money from the sold crops went back to the FFA program.

The profits from the bean plot on the Foley property went to the FFA Alumni Affiliate’s account, and the profits from the corn plot on the school property near the secondary soccer fields went into the students’ FFA Agronomy Activity account.

The idea to begin an FFA project that would also work as a scholarship benefit for students came about in 2010, soon after Kocherer was hired at Watertown-Mayer schools. The FFA program received permission to use 34 acres of land District 111 had purchased in 2006 south of Watertown, adjacent to Carver County Road 25, for one of the plots, and accepted a private offer from area resident Ed Foley to use 18 acres of land east of town near County Road 20.

The school district’s land was originally purchased in anticipation of a new school being built to coincide with the area’s growth, but the faltering economy evaporated those plans by 2010. Because the land is still in bonding, it cannot be farmed for profit or rented out. It was determined, however, that the 34 tillable acres could be farmed if the proceeds from the crop went back to the FFA program.

The Foley land was being rented out and farmed before Foley gave the FFA permission to use it for the 2013 project. In 2012, those 18 acres were used to produce corn.

Knowing what had been farmed on the Foley property the previous season made deciding what to plant for 2013 easy, considering the rotational planting strategy. Since corn was planted in 2012, the students determined soybeans were the best option in 2013. The logical decision to plant soybeans on the Foley property led to the decision to plan corn on the school plot. Previously, the school plot did not have crops, just scrub hay that was used to keep the weed seeds down.

“The students decided to plant corn on the school property plot for two reasons,” Kocherer wrote in the project report. “To have a seamless field rotation in place annually and to offset bean vs. corn commodity prices for their payoff.”

When the decisions about what to plan were being talked about, corn had spiked to more than $8 per bushel, and beans were at more than $14 per bushel.

Earlier studies by the students revealed that the corn generated more than twice that of the beans, but the nutrient benefits of rotating the crops would benefit the project as a whole.

Planting on both fields occurred between May 25 and June 1, 2013 by Thaemert Farms, with the assistance of from seventh grade FFA student Wesley Burns, and managing committee members Hayden Swanson, Michael Burns, Cole Thaemert, and Jon Brummer-Stumpf.

The soybeans were harvested the week of Oct. 25, and the corn was harvested the week of Nov. 4.

James Burns operated the combine, and the weigh wagon was donated by Channel Seed. Bruce Barfnecht Trucking out of Delano hauled the corn, and United Grain Systems in Brownton dried the grain.

All the nutrient inputs and support was done by Centra Sota.

Centra Sota stayed with the project through the duration; from planting week, to midseason pest and top dress, to fall preparation for the 2014 season.


As any farmer will attest, planting and harvest comes with challenges every season. Here is a list of the challenges the Watertown-Mayer FFA members faced during their crop plot project of 2013:

• May 9 snowstorm and late soil thaw, and rain that delayed planting until June.

• Floods and a washout on the soybean field

• A difference in soils on the corn plot due to part of the plot being an animal out-lot and another part at one time housing an old farm building

• Planter problems

• High winds affecting the signage

• Public relations and input costs related to signage

• Unproven claims made by neighboring farmer

• The falling prices of grain affecting expectations and realities

Preparation for 2014

“I’m so excited, I can’t wait to get to next year. It gets in your blood.”

This comment was made by senior Cole Thaemert in one of his high school classes.

Thaemert is the only member of the 2013 project who will not be back for the 2014 edition.

Plans for the 2014 project have already begun.

The crops will be rotated, with corn to be planted in the Foley plot and soybeans to be planted in the school plot. Both fields have been fertilized by Centra Sota, and Burns Farms has provided stalk chopping and fall tillage.

The Watertown-Mayer FFA group hopes to plant in late April or early May. Thaemert Farms has offered to do the planting, but the FFA is looking for help with tillage and other facets of the project.

School property: Corn

The seed population for the corn crop planted on the 34-acre school property was 29,000 per acre.

In general, the 363-foot rows ran east-to-west. A six-row gap was left fallowed on the northern edge of the field along a tree line. The other edges were surrounded by field grass, which was cut for hay throughout the season.

The school field is set back from Carver County Road 25, due to the ditch and the 100-year-old high water mark

Burns Farms and Thaemert Farms donated 10 to 24 gallons of liquid starter fertilizer containing zinc, Avail, and Ascend.

The plot was planted in 30-inch rows in sets of four rows per corn variety. The varieties of corn were planted according to when the seed would receive. The seeds that would receive earlier were planted in the middle of the plot and so on.

The varieties of corn seeds planted in each row:

Rows Seed

Rows 1-4 Mycogen 2Y479

Rows 5-8 Mycogen 2A509

Rows 9-12 NK N38W-3111

Rows 13-16 Kussmaul GL997Quad

Rows 17-20 Stine R9422VT3 ProBlend

Rows 21-24 Stine R9311VT3 ProBlend

Rows 25-28 Pioneer PO392AMX

Rows 29-32 Pioneer P9917AMX

Rows 33-36 Wensman W7140VT3PRIB

Rows 37-40 Wensman W9325STXRIB

Rows 41-44 Dekalb 49-29RIB STX

Rows 45-48 Dekalb 48-12RIB STX

Rows 49-52 Legend LR9197GenSS

Rows 53-56 Legend LR9397YT3RRIB

Rows 57-60 Dahlmann R49-312SSRIB

Rows 61-64 Dahlmann R50-306SSRIB

Rows 65-68 Channel 197-68STXRIB

Rows 69-72 Channel 195-58STXRIB

Rows 73-76 Croplan 4033VT3PRIB

Rows 77-80 Croplan 3399VT3P

Rows 81-84 Croplan 3337VT2PRIB

Rows 85-88 Croplan 2417VT2P

Rows 89-92 Croplan 3080AS3000-GTF

Rows 93-96 Channel 202-645TXRIB

Rows 97-100 Legend LR9304GENSSRIB

Rows 101-104 Dahlmann R50-300SSRIB

Rows 105-108 Dahlmann R49-312SSRIB

Foley property: Soybeans

The seed population for the soybean crop planted on the 18-acre Foley property was 140,000 per acre.

The beans were planted in 30-inch rows in sets of six per variety.

The varieties of soybean seeds planted in each row:

Rows Seed

Rows 1-6 Channel Buffer Seed 1805 treated

Rows: 7-12 Channel Buffer Seed 1805 not treated

Rows 13-18 Asgrow A1037429 treated

Rows 19-24 Asgrow A1024341 treated

Rows 25-30 Pioneer 24Y30

Rows 31-36 Pioneer 24Y22

Rows 37-42 Stine 19RA02

Rows 43-48 Stine 20RAZO

Rows 49-55 Channel 2207 R2

Rows 56-61 Channel 2105 R2

Rows 62-67 Wensman W321NR2

Rows 68-73 Wensman W3200NR2

Rows 74-79 NK S20-Y2

Rows 80-85 Mycogen 5N210R2

Rows 86-91 Dahlmann 5119NRR2Y

Rows 92-97 Dahlmann 5215NRR2y

Rows 98-103 Legend 20R20N

Rows 104-109 Legend 105R21

Rows 110-115 Legend 14R22N

Rows 116-121 Channel Buffer Seed

The FFA students each found a seed representative to work with. Here is a list of the companies that responded to the student’s inquiries, and their student contacts.

- Mycogen Seed Corn: Eric Kuehl

- Channel Seed: Jim Burns

- Dahlmann Seed: Joel Leafblad

- Dekalb/Asgrow Seed: Tom Wachman

- Pioneer Seed: Duane Janikula

- Wensman Seed: Tony Loftness

- Legend Seed: Mike Luethmers

- Croplan Seed: Tyson Kaldenberg

- Stine Seed; Kussmaul Seed; Mycogen Beans; NK-Syngenta Seed: Ryan Pawelk

Work force

Chisel plowing: FFA alumni Jim Burns of Burns Farms

Second plowing and first spring nutrient cycle: Cole Thaemert and his father, and FFA alumni Carey Thaemert of Thaemert Farms.

Rock picking: current middle school and high school FFA members. Tractors were driven by seniors Cole Thaemert and Jacob Borka.

Second plowing: Watertown residents Nelson and Charlie Burns.

Planting: Thaemert Farms, with assistance from seventh-grade FFA student Wesley Burns, and managing committee members Hayden Swanson, Michael Burns, Cole Thaemert, and Jon Brummer-Stumpf.

Field assistance: Channel Seed field representatives Dan Wanous and Tim Kjolsing.

Signage: FFA alumni purchased signs from Herald Journal Marketing and Media Services.

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