Saturday, November 28, 2015

Learning to farm, going against the usual rule

A lot of my early farming was spent looking at other peoples operations and learning from them.  Good and bad, true and false, I basically approached farming as a complete unknown, and 10 years ago it was.  My family history has farming in its background, but neither my mother or father farmed.
So I'd look around and see someone doing something, and genrally speaking I'd do the exact same thing, which meant I did some odd things.  Later, as my learning progressed those things didn't seem so odd anymore; it just took a while to figure out why it made sense.  

combining winter corn from bruce king on Vimeo.

And this applies to crops, too  If you look around in your area you'll see crops and farming activity, and usually it's because that particular crop or activity is well-suited to the environment.  So I never tried to grow pomergrantes here because I didn't see any.  

So this year I went against that basic rule, and planted grain corn, which is corn designed to be harvested for the corn kernels themselve, instead of the entire plant and kernels for use as animal feed.  I'm still going to use the corn kernels as animal feed (although they'd make great organic corn everything!) but I wanted a crop that I could grow somewhere else and only have to transport the highest-value portion - the kernel - to reduce my costs in bringing it back.

The grain corn that I planted this year was planted on a schedule so that it would be physically mature on september 1st - at least according to the seed vendor.  As you've seen, I watched and watched and watched the corn as it matured, and then dried.  

Despite having a warmer-than-usual year, the corn matured 2-3 weeks after the stated maturity date, and really didn't get dry enough to combine until 2 months later, around the second week of november.  

golden grain pouring into combine from bruce king on Vimeo.

During that time we had lots and lots of rain, and two floods, which I was sure would be the end of my corn, but surprisingly enough, the fields where I planted aren't in direct current -- the water rose and fell pretty gently, and for the majority of the corn, the water didn't get high enough to touch the ears.  Tall corn is good!

The corn is coming in somewhere around 23% moisture, but will keep best at 15%; so I'm using small grain drier to dry 5,000lbs of corn at a time.   The high-moisture corn can be  used as feed pretty much straight out of the field; the dried version will probably need to be rolled or ground or something to make it more digestible for the animals.  

I'm going to call this against-the-grain a success, and given that the corn is still in pretty good shape despite floods and rain... well, I think that I'll be planting corn somewhere on my fields from here on.  

1 comment:

Rich said...

Your estimated harvest date was probably off because you need to use Growing Degree Days to estimate the maturity of grain crops, instead of the actual number of days. As an example, a 112-day corn variety will take approx. 2700 GDD to reach maturity (112 days * 24 hr. = 2700 GDD). Depending on what your low and high temperatures each day actually were, it could take only 100 calendar days or 140 calendar days to reach maturity.

A good description of the number of GDD needed for each stage of growth is at:

Oklahoma has a Mesonet site that calculates the GDDs for different crops and different planting dates that I've been using with my wheat and sorghum crops to follow their development. I would guess that Washington probably has something similar available, which would make it easier to better figure out how many Growing Degree Days you typically have during summer so that you have a little more info about what variety of corn might be suited to your farm.