Crops make up for lost time

Kevin Koppendrayer standing among his Pioneer variety corn in a field in the Long Siding area last week.

Kevin Koppendrayer standing among his Pioneer variety corn in a field in the Long Siding area last week.

After a cold, wet spring, and sometimes flooding on Princeton-Milaca area fields, some of that corn has been making up for lost time in the delayed start.

That’s according to a number of farmers, University of Minnesota extension educator Dan Martens, and an ag plant supervisor.

Princeton area crop farmer/corn seed salesman Kevin Koppendrayer last week gave the reminder that height is just one facet of a corn plant’s progress. The area corn has a long way to go yet to mature into harvestable grain, “so hopefully we won’t get the dog days of August with a dry spell,” Koppendrayer said.

But at least Koppendrayer’s corn is among the higher stands in the Princeton-Milaca area. And so is the corn on the farm of Oscar Anderson, who lives north of Foreston and Milaca.

Anderson’s general take on corn in his area is that a lot of it is behind because of the spring conditions. When Anderson was asked why his corn is doing so well that it rises above Anderson’s six-foot frame, he answered, “I’m a pusher” (to get things done on time.)

It turns out that Koppendrayer, 57, and Anderson 83, have something in common. Both had health problems in the spring that made it even more challenging for those two to get their corn planted on time.

Anderson, who has been farming for 54 years, said last week that his “back went out” about two months ago, so that he had to scale back, even selling his small herd of steers. Anderson got medical treatment and says that the injection he had in his back helped, but that he has still been dealing with pain/tingling down one leg but still gets by with the help of ice packs.

Anderson said his doctor told him not to spend more than an hour at a time on his tractor because of what had happened to his back, but Anderson didn’t follow the instructions very closely. Anderson had an attachment put on the side of his tractor so he could get into the cab more easily and then spent two full days on the tractor preparing 38 acres of ground for Steve Bemis to plant the corn on.

Anderson says his wife brought lunch out to the field where Anderson was tilling and asked him about the doctor’s order. Anderson said he told his wife he was feeling all right driving the tractor and so kept on going.

Koppendrayer, meanwhile, found out when he went in for a regular blood pressure checkup this spring, that he had an aortic aneurism, and also needed bypasses. His open heart surgery and triple bypass was April 15, the time when farmers are about to plant.

Koppendrayer, looking back, said he was surprised how weak and tired he was in the weeks following the operation.

What helped Koppendrayer get his corn planted in a “quite timely fashion” (all planted by about June 20)  and also able to service his seed corn customers, was his “really good help,” he said. Koppendrayer’s main hired man, Josh Holcombe, managed the planting of the thousand-plus acres of corn. Koppendrayer’s son Daren took a few weeks of from his job to take care of Koppendrayer’s seed customers.

The kind of hybrid corn that goes in also “matters a lot,” Koppendrayer said. He explained that with an “earlier flowering corn, it will mature earlier and that is important when the window of growing time is shorter. The main concern for farmers now is how soon the killing frost will arrive, Koppendrayer said.

Koppendrayer and neighboring crop farmer Tim Wilhelm, as well as Ogilvie Federated Co-op assistant plant manager Carter Ash, and extension educator Martens all talked last week about how area fields, especially on heavier soils was so cold and wet in the beginning of this year’s growing season.

A lot of farmers got their corn in late as a result, and a lot of the seed took a long time to take off, Ash said.

Although Wilhlem still has corn that is behind, he and Ash agreed that a lot of the corn by now is much better than either had anticipated during the spring.

The kind of hot and humid weather in July that is “miserable” for humans” is what corn thrives in, Wilhlem said. He noted that his earliest planted corn (mid May) has now grown to about five feet high.

Wilhelm did have to replant a large number of acres of corn and he said that is about a week behind, though “coming on strong” since the heat, and “ample rain” arrived.

Wilhelm said his soybeans are “a little behind,” and that soybeans grow under a “different clock.”

The old adage of corn progressing well if it is knee high by the fourth of July, is obsolete because of better corn hybrids and fertilizers now. Wilhelm said he has had corn in some years that was knee high by the fourth of June.

Martens, who monitors crop land more to the west of Princeton and Milaca, such as in Benton County, said he has seen corn in his territory this summer range from six inches to 60”. There was much more than the usual late planting of corn this year, Martens said.

The corn planting in Benton “was all over the board,” with the seeding times ranging from the first of May into the first of July, he said.

There are also a large number of acres where the corn is only going to be usable for silage and even in that case, it won’t be able to be chopped until after frost, Martens said. He explained that the corn’s moisture content would be too high for silage if chopped any earlier.

Martens knows of farmers who replanted corn twice his year due to heavy rains wrecking their plantings. “So there was a whole variance of crop conditions,” Martens said. But the crops that survived the heavy rains are doing a lot better now, Martens added.

Martens, like Koppendrayer, pointed out how the second and third acts of this growing season have yet to appear. The rainfall has varied across the landscape and the soils vary from sandy to heavy in the area, so it is still possible some area farms may not get adequate moisture, Martens said.

Anderson and Koppendrayer, who are moving a little slower these days after their health events, will be watching along with the other farmers for the growing season’s final curtain to come down.

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