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Best of NAMA 2020

Midwest Messenger reports:

With months to go before their season officially ramps up, what do seed dealers focus their time on during the winter months?

Five Nebraska seed dealers sat down with Midwest Messenger's Kerry Hoffschneider to discuss what keeps them busy as they wait for the 2019 seed orders to roll in.

Craig "Eddie" George-Channel Seedsman, Palmyra, Neb.

What are some of the things you are doing this time of year?

CG: I try to ride in as many combines I can and that usually involves a Snickers and Pepsi to get in the cab, but the last thing I want to do is slow them down. My main goal is to learn what is working and what isn't.

Harvest is the culmination of all the decisions we made together throughout the past 12 months over countless early morning phone calls, tailgate discussions and God-willing kitchen tables. I gather as much information as I can to influence the upcoming year. While waiting for the combine or semi, I am also pinching stalks, checking head loss, doing a quick stand count, and evaluating plant health.

What should farmers be looking forward to as they plan for next growing season?

CG: I've done this for 20 years now, and we say it every year, but every year is always different. I try to always guide the growers I work with in decision-making to not base everything off the current year. You must evaluate multiple years, multiple plots/fields and weather to look forward to success.

What are the biggest challenges this year?

CG: I work in a primarily dryland area, so rain is always our determining factor. We try to control what we can, and hope the good Lord does the rest. Our growing season was a bucket-full of extremes. Planting was a week or two late, but once we got rolling they never slowed down, so everything was in the ground in a timely matter.

Then it turned hot and very dry. I remember coming back from Iowa on Father's Day weekend and wondering if we would have anything at harvest. Then it rained a little Monday, and everyone got a nice shower Tuesday, which was crucial for the corn at the time, as it was determining how many rows around the ear would be.

Summer continued with above normal temps and below normal precipitation, a lot of spotty showers where the neighbor would catch an inch and we would get .20 hundredths, which is a big difference if you're already dry and the corn really needs it.

As harvest neared, so did the rain. We had 10 inches about three days (I think) and numerous wind events around 70 miles per hour that have really knocked corn over and leaned the soybeans.

Our biggest obstacle was the heat moving the crop along so fast. When the rain finally came, it was too late. My new problems with the recent wet spell are the earlier maturity beans that were dry before the rain and are now swelling and splitting the pods open, with losses as high as 10 to 15 bushels in the worst areas.

Are you seeing more use of cover crops and other innovative practices?

CG: With cover crops, I have more guys trying each year, mainly ones that still have cattle to graze, or possibly trying to break up a hard pan (compaction).

Grid sampling with variable rate nutrients is also on the increase, putting the right amount of fertilizer on the acre that gives you the most potential at harvest.

Nate Belcher-Owner, Cover Crop Exchange, Omaha, Neb.

What are you doing this time of the year in the cover-crop focused business?

NB: As we get deeper into fall, our focus shifts from getting seed orders fulfilled and delivered to working with growers on the 2019 crop and aligning them directly with buyers. We are a little different in that we are a technology platform connecting growers directly with buyers, so this time of year is when we are collecting information and data about what is being put in the ground for 2019 harvest.

This year, we saw a lot of cereal rye being planted, as well as quite a bit of hairy vetch for nitrogen production. A lot of this was planted on corn and bean acres with some producers utilizing the forage for livestock.

What are cover crop growers looking forward to in the coming season?

NB: Going into the 2019 season, we encourage producers to consider alternative crops as a way to diversify their cropping system and income streams. Cover crops are growing in demand and there is a need for increased production. Growing cover crops can mean higher net profit per acre, especially when taking into consideration the low commodity prices that we are seeing right now.

Why do you do what you do?

NB: We are always working towards putting farmers back at the top of the pyramid. We do what we do so that farmers can get a higher price for the crops they raise, and so that growers can buy those crops at an affordable price. We believe when both parties win, communities thrive.

Terry Dittmer-Owner, Crete Lumber and Farm Supply, Crete, Neb.

What kind of seed do you see moving the most out of your store this time of year?

TD: The main seed we are selling this time of the year for groundcover is wheat. Many will plant this for groundcover, but we still have people that will plant this for grain, as well.

Winter rye or cereal rye and triticale have been popular to plant for an early spring grazing and cover crop. Triticale will mature later but produces more tonnage. Another popular cover crop was turnips and radishes, but those need to be planted earlier in the year to get the most benefit. Alfalfa and oats are always very popular to plant either in September, March and April.

We rent no-till drills to plant these variety of seeds. We also carry CRP seed for dormant seeding which will start being planted after Nov. 1 or Nov. 15.

Simply put, Dittmer said it's satisfying to serve customers.

Dittmer said it is very rewarding striving to have all the tools, resources and seed needs that farmers and livestock producers need year-round.

Doug Geisler-AgriGold Field Advisor and Farmer, Riverdale, Neb.

What issues are you seeing in the field this year - challenges and successes?

DG: This year sure has been interesting. We were a little late getting the crops planted this year with all the moisture we had in April and May. We started harvest here on Sept. 20 and got some dryland beans cut and some corn picked.

Then it started raining on Sept. 29 and we had some snow and didn't get back in to the field until Oct. 17. Most of the beans are out in our area. We had some very good dryland and irrigated soybean yields here this year. One thing I have been seeing this year and last year is the earlier planted beans yielded better than the beans planted in mid-to-late May.

Dryland and irrigated yields are going to be very good. We are starting to see some stalk rot in the corn from all the rain and foggy days we had in September and October. Guys sure need to be checking their fields for this. Some hybrids are worse than others this year.

What keeps you busiest this time of year?

DG: I also farm. We are mostly irrigated, and raise corn and soybeans. Harvest time is my favorite and the busiest time of year. It takes more manpower to harvest than any other time of the year. I am very lucky to have my crew to get the crop out in time.

What innovative practices are being implemented this year?

DG: We have had scales on our grain carts for several years to keep track of field totals and to calibrate the yield monitor. This year we put a Libra Cart system on our grain carts. It consists of a Bluetooth box that plugs into the weigh bars on the grain cart and then connects to an iPad. It automatically starts recording the weight when the grain cart unloads into the semi. It keeps very detailed records. You can keep track of each truck load, destination, and field total. If you subscribe to Cloud Storage, the information shows up on all your devices.

Why do you do what you do?

DG: I knew I wanted to farm when I was a kid. I love to plant the seeds and watch them grow. I enjoy being a seed dealer because I get to work with other farmers and help them place hybrids on their farm.

Phil Kempcke-Pioneer Sales Rep. and Farmer, Kempcke Seeds Inc., Blair, Neb.

What issues are you seeing this year?

PK: The big challenges for farmers was the weather this fall. As the season progressed, it looked like we were going to have an early harvest. Then the extended period of rain came. Due to the weather we had during grain fill and after grain fill, we have seen stalk rot in corn that can lead to standability issues.

On the soybean side of things, the wet weather has slowed progression of harvest due to the highly saturated soils. Personally, we had to leave areas of the field because it was too muddy to get through with them with the combine. My customers are generally pleased with yields overall so far. That's the positive this fall.

What areas of innovation and technology usage are you seeing grow?

PK: In the last 15 years, there has been a big jump in technology. This is not just new seed genetics, but also use of mapping and yield maps. We do prescription planting for guys, so they can have a variable planting rate. We also have an app, so they can track their plant health on their phone. There's some cool stuff out there. I have all my fields entered into my phone. I enter the plant date and it tracks heat units and the rainfall on each field as the season progresses.

A lot of people are also getting into nitrogen management. We know that prices are down, and we are producing a lot more grain. So, for us to become more efficient, we don't want to waste money on fertilizer and we don't want to over-apply nitrogen for water quality. On our app, you can set a yield goal for a specific field and it will show you the areas that you need more nitrogen or have enough nitrogen. We are using phones and iPads far more.

Planters are becoming far more sophisticated. You can change planting rates as you go, and some allow you to plant more than one hybrid. It is fun and challenging at the same time. The bigger farmers are leaning pretty heavily on this. But, it's not for everyone.

Why do you do what you do?

PK: I grew up on a farm and have done this my entire life. I have been farming for more than 40 years and have a passion for farming. I like the seed part of my business because of the personal interaction with the customers. Even though they are coming to me for answers, it's amazing how much you learn from your customers. I also enjoy that my son Nate is part of the seed business and farming operation, as well as my brother Paul.

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