Ninety Years of Progress

Between the Fencerows

Reflecting on how farming has changed

Published on: May 21, 2013

Saturday, while we were loading the planter, one of our landlords happened along.  He and his wife were on a drive out from town to go past their old place, and the plot of farmland they own.  The brief dialog began with 'I'm ninety,' and continued down memory lane on the progress of agriculture. 

From horses when they were kids, to the John Deere A with a 2-row planter my dad recalled my grandpa planting with, to the awe of modern agriculture focused on the 400-hp tractor and 60-foot planter sitting in front of us. My, how agriculture has changed; I can only wonder what progress I will see.

Speaking of progress and modern agriculture, we planted 50% of our acres in six days last week.  It is amazing the amount of work that can be accomplished.  The thought of this is also a bit scary.  Even by managing corn pollination with varying maturities, we are left at a higher level of weather risk this summer.  A heat wave at the wrong time could cause pollination issues, and a dry spell would impact more acres than in a normal year when planting is broken up by some rains. 

If the planting window stays clear, we will probably slow things down this week on the last 20% of acres, to spread planting out just a bit.  We would still like to be finished before the holiday weekend and give everybody a few days off. 

Statistically we will begin losing yield this week, as corn planted after May 20th loses about a bushel per acre.  However, after the last few years, I think I would rather spread risk instead of go with the stats.