OLIVIA, Minn. — With 30 years of professional agronomic consulting services, plus being an actual farmer himself, Curt Burns gets listened to — such as at the Nov. 17 Renville County Corn and Soybean plots information session at Max’s Grill in Olivia, Minn. Burns listing: C.B. Agronomics LLC, Stewart, Minn. His email: burnsagro@gmail.com.

Said Burns, “As we all know, 2021 turned out to be a challenging, teasing, then rewarding season. We started with plentiful soil moistures; then virtually no rains until August. Crops were writhing. You and I were thinking mostly negatively. At county fair time you were talking 100 bushel corn. Then August happened and 10 to 15 inches of rain! And you harvested 170 bushels, 200 bushels, 240 — even more.  During this August/September time frame we simply underestimated the rainfall factor. Also, get favorable temps too and despite a drouthy start it’s apparent you can salvage a decent crop.”

“I had guys thinking 100-bushel corn and ending with 150 to 175 bushel corn. Kernel size was deep; test weight was good.  Yes, I hear about today’s genetics being better than genetics of 1988.  But I also think we’re better farmers than we were in 1988! Still lots of moldboard plowing in 1988. But look at today … crop residues left on soil surfaces help absorb rainfall keeping the moisture in the soil.”

“Also today, more narrow-row cropping. That additional canopy also helps preserve moisture. Yes, genetics today are better than 1988. But the reality is you guys are better farmers today … and you’ll be even better farmers 10 years from now.”

“It’s all about education; about technology; and your ability to put this technology to work on your own farm. This year variations, even from township to township, were amazing. I had townships with four inches rain all year getting 50-bushel beans and 150 to 160-bushel corn!”

“The point being, your soils are still the number-one determiner of your success and it starts with good drainage which then permits good root penetrations. In my 30 years’ experience I’ve learned we can be on the dry side into June; but if we start getting wet in August and September, we can still get a pretty good crop.”

“I’ve never seen low-ground, peat-soil areas produce like they did this year … yield monitors pushing 300 bushels in those areas. Summing up, even if the good Lord keeps us on the dry side into that May-July timeframe, but quenches our thirst starting in August, we can still have good crops.”

“Yes, a couple of things about 2022 concern me … and you guys know fertilizer prices top the list. I know several of you locked in your prices earlier this fall. But I’m seeing many fertility tests now showing low to medium fertility … and cash rent prices already at $275 to $300. Are we now mining our soils because P and K prices are too high? Certain truths don’t change. If you’re going to successfully grow good crops you need good fertility practices. You can’t skip on fertilizer; you can’t skip on drainage.

“A common mistake I see is a grower picks up a new farm to rent and that farm does not have the best drainage. I suggest work with that land owner about fixing those areas. No, I’m not saying pattern tiling, but fix the obvious. It’s important you work with these land owners — not just for your assurance of a good crop, but perhaps even more important to that land owner is the added sustainable value to his property.”

Another concern of Burns: “If we don’t have a really cold winter we’re likely to see expanding insect issues in 2022. I think grasshoppers will keep increasing; so too will spider mites; also root worms. I don’t like to say it, but we need a polar vortex for at least three months this winter or we will have insect issues next season. This means perma-frosts even 24-inches into the soil.”

In order to get a good crop you’ve got to do the basics: drainage, fertility, weed control, insect control, and good crop insurance too.

“Yes, your risk factor of damage from corn rootworms keeps increasing. I’m not saying that if you have long rotations — including sugar beets, or peas, or sweet corn — that you can plant non-transgenic hybrids and be fine. But if your neighbors are into continuous corn or you have a neighboring dairy farmer with increasing corn rootworm issues, you may be okay on your farm. But when you start bringing non-transgenic hybrids into closer contest with traditional or more transgenic hybrids, you’re likely going to see more root worm population into that township.”

“What I’m saying is, look at your operation, plus how much continuous corn is in your neighborhood. If increasing, that proximity likely means more beetles closer to my corn fields too. So maybe I need to look at traited corn too. I’m not trying to sell something … I’m just saying that if we continue with this warmer winter scenarios, we’ll have issues with more rootworms.”

“I don’t like ‘down corn.’ That’s my number-one concern,” sums up Burns.

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