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Karl Guenther Column: corn, soybeans start on the farm

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A farm is seen in the distance behind corn fields in Redkey, Indiana June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith
A farm is seen in the distance behind corn fields in Redkey, Indiana June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith

On more than one occasion over the years, I’ve listened to a farmer counting out all the things that went wrong the preceding year.  Then comes the “I’m gonna raise hay and sell it”, or, “I’m going to get out of corn growing and just concentrate on livestock.”  After a few weeks, the first of April rolls around, and that same farmer is back in the field prepping acres and acres of cropland.  Just as most geese fly south in the Fall, most farmers (around here, anyway) plant corn in the Spring.  And so it will be again, this year, and very soon.

I understand there were some second thoughts being expressed last fall, about this spring planting plans, out of concern for climate conditions - - evidenced by the drought of 2012. As of  last fall, in fact, corn planting intentions were down 4%, as farmers contemplated moves toward soybeans and wheat. However, the seed-growing giant Pioneer, in the publication GROWING MICHIGAN, advises growers to avoid assigning too much importance to the growing/harvesting problems of last year, related to drought. “Rather”, says Brent Wilson, the DuPont Pioneer technical services manager, consider that “weather changes from year to year and we can’t predict the next growing season.” He then goes on to state the obvious:  That farmers should look at several seasons, and rely on that information as they make those planting decisions.

Also, beware of potential for carryover of both herbicides and fertilizer which move with the water on the crop.  Last year’s very dry weather may not have permitted crops to take up all the chemicals applied.  Soil testing should be even more valuable than usual

The renewable fuels industry - - most people will read that as “Ethanol” . . So, OK, that’s what I’ll do, although the broader term, biomass, includes corn stalks, wood chips, and general trash.  The Ethanol industry continues to enhance its production capabilities and is growing constantly, in terms of facilities coming on line, and in the development process, as well as in production efficiencies leading to more ethanol per bushel of corn.  Just a couple of years ago in one of these columns I noted there were very few flex-fuel pumps, especially around here, and that there were really only a few million flex-fuel vehicles on the road.  Now, the Renewable Fuels Association reports there are more than eleven million flex-fuel vehicles on U.S. roads. An Internet source tells me there are 58 E-85 pump around Michigan, including a couple in Portage and some more in Battle Creek.  More E-85 vehicles purchased should mean more E-85 pumps installed. But it’s a long., slow process.

Corn is still the primary base for ethanol.  We’ve not heard much about soy-diesel lately, but it’s still out there, and both corn and soybeans start on the farm.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.

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