Preparing to plant is a year-round activity

Snow-covered landscapes don’t exactly bring to mind the image of tractors out in the fields planting the year’s crops, but planting season will inevitably arrive.
It could, however, start a bit later than some would prefer due in part in some areas of record-setting snow falls in February, and soil still saturated by a wet 2018 fall. Rain on top of the still frozen ground last week did not help matters.
Lance Oye, who farms northwest of Pipestone with his family, said he prefers to begin planting by April 25 and usually is able to get in the fields by then. Last year that was not the case and he suspects it won’t be this year either.
“The snow we have now, a lot of it’s going to run off because the ground is frozen,” Oye said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of flooding issues.”
As is always the case, farmers are at the mercy of the weather. The best they can do is plan and prepare. Oye said much of that preparation for spring planting begins in the fall trying to get fall field work done.
“I do strip tilling and then we put the fertilizer down in the strip and we just leave it and then we go back in the spring,” Oye said. “Sometimes you have to freshen the strip up — most times not — and then you plant directly in that strip and your fertilizer is already down below there.”
Oye said his family was able to complete most of their field work last fall, but there is still quite a bit of ground that’s not been worked due to the late harvest caused by wet weather.
“I’ve got about 100 acres left to strip till,” he said.
Oye and his family grow corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa and cover crops including cereal rye, turnips and radishes, on about 2,500 acres and raise around 300 purebred Angus cattle. Oye also custom farms around 500 acres and works with another individual to custom strip till around 3,500 acres.
Oye said his family started planting cover crops about 10 years ago. He said cover crops improve soil health, provide food and bedding for their cattle and have increased yields. Oye said they start planting cover crops right after they harvest wheat or oats in early August. By spring Oye said the cover crops are “all kind of deteriorated and gone” and the fields are ready for the next crop.

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