The largest test for a crop farmer occurs in the fall when the harvest puts the yield in the bin.
"The results of that test are critical to the business. But only the farmer and his banker know those results," says John Klein, Soil Conservationist with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Corning, Iowa. "You cannot see the yield by looking at a standing corn or soybean field. Many a yield has been "stretched" at the coffee shop. No proof is required and talk is cheap."
"A second test of a farmerâ€™s ability occurs each spring. That test is objective and visible. It's the 'Field Test' from the road," says Klein. "Without the crops, neighbors can now see how each farmer manages."
Klein lists key management criteria
- Ditches, gullies and erosion problems are easily seen in spring.
- Row patterns are either on the contour or they are not.
- Residue that a farmer is supposed to leave on the land is apparent or absent.
- End rows going up and down the slope are easily recognized along the road ditch.
- Grassed turning borders are noticeably absent on slopes.
- The need for grassed waterways is easily seen now where that small gully is running across the field.
"This field test is easy to see," notes Klein. "Everyone can see it from the road in a moving car. It is also an accurate test of the ability of the farmer."
Landowners watch, too
Landlords can now see how tenants manage their land. Neighbors talk about the light soils appearing in a dark field where the topsoil has wore off. Rural water users and townsfolk can see where the silt comes from thatâ€™s in their reservoirs.
Spring is test time for the managerial ability of a farmer. What does the land say?