"The corn is in the bin, and the fodder is no longer in the shock."
OK, I'm not James Whitcomb Riley. But I do know when harvest is over, and except in areas where extreme weather has shut things down, most folks are wrapping up harvest. Some people have even plowed, or chisel plowed. Why anyone would want to chisel soybean stubble is beyond me, but that's a different story for a different day.
Actually, maybe it's a transition to this story. Part of planning for 2014 is deciding what kind of tillage system you're going to use. Are you satisfied with that you're doing, or do you want to make a change? If you want to change, do you want to switch cold turkey, or just try a new system on part of the farm? Will you have to buy new equipment even just to try it, or can you rent what you need from a dealer or maybe a neighbor? Maybe you can hire a neighbor to custom plant a field so you can try no-till, or whatever system you're thinking about trying,
If you have cover crops growing, then you've already made an important decision in your plan. The next step is to have a strategy for burning down the cover crop. When will be your target height to bring it down? What chemicals will you need to use? What is your contingency plan if the weather doesn't cooperate?
It's also time to plan for more accurate stands for 2014. If you have an older planter and haven't touched it for a while, maybe this is the year to have each unit run on a test stand. Many seed dealers and even some equipment dealers have test stands. Most carry parts if you've got a finger-pickup style planter so they can fix parts if they discover there is a problem. Waiting until March 1 to pull the planter out and see if it looks OK might be a plan, but it's not a good one.
Instead, you may even want to test each lot of seed on a meter stand, especially if you've got a vacuum planter. Size and grade can affect accuracy. Seed dealers and consultants in some areas even have mobile shops where they bring the test stand to you, and can test each lot of seed so you'll know how to make adjustments when you're ready to plant.
It may seem like a lot of work, but planning now can save downtime and lost time when the ground is dry and the sun is shining next spring. Those were two rare commodities in the spring of 2013. According to some forecasters, they may be rare again in 2014. Doing your homework now can help maximize running time when conditions are right next spring.