It’s been a while hasn’t it? Work, out of town family, weeds, insects, etc. etc. etc. Let’s catch up and recap, shall we?
June 19th Soybeans:
June 19th corn:
July 2nd corn and soybeans:
July 22nd soybeans and corn:
Uh, what? Yep. That’s me. Standing up. What a difference a month and 12 inches of rain makes. Yeah, I’m only 5’8″ but that puts the soybeans at five feet tall and the corn around nine feet. Two ears per stalk. It’s pretty crazy to see in person. The deer haven’t really caught on to what they have yet so the lack of pressure has let the soybeans grow with little browse. This means a heavy load of bean pods are on the way. They soybeans started to bloom this week.
I’ve never seen soybean flowers in person, but they are unimpressive and tiny. In fact, I almost missed them. But when I started looking closely, there are large numbers of flowers on each plant from the top to the bottom. The bean numbers should be huge.
I will take this opportunity to squeeze some bad news and a lesson learned in to the post. All the corn in the garden pasture grew tall and set two or three ears per stalk. Everything looked great. The corn dried down two weeks ago. Now it’s all eaten or ruined. An insect infestation has devastated the entire crop. There is less than 10% of the ears undamaged and those will be gone in the next week. I started to notice something very unusual and frankly, gross, starting to appear on the top of some of the ears last week. By this week, it was on almost every ear.
This is the top of an ear
Weird and nasty. Those are couple of words that come to mind. I have a question out to some experts on QDMA’s message board to identify the problem but I think I have a pretty good idea of the culprit – weevils. Although I’ve never heard of weevils causing this kind of reaction to corn, there are small black weevil-like insects moving throughout the kernels when you peel away the white….stuff. So, here is the lesson: I spent hours and hours researching fertilizer, pH levels in the soil, seed selection and planting dates but really never moved on to pest control. By the time I even thought about doing something to slow the damage it was too late. 1,000+ ears of corn were wiped out in one week. Research will be focused on pest control this winter.
Back to good news. Sunflowers. It was an awesome sight to look over seven acres of large yellow flowers.
For anyone who wants to grow peredovik sunflowers, here’s a valuable little piece of information – peredovik sunflowers are 90 day sunflowers. This means from planting date to mature, dried down seed heads is ninety days. I received mixed opinions ranging from 90-110 days. They were mature in 90 days. This is an important fact. I planted them on April 15th. This turned out to be about 20 days too early. It not going to be a big problem but it’s good to know for future planting.
About June 25th, we started to get very regular rain storms. This was needed because the fields had not had rain in over a month. But 10 days after the rain began the weed free sunflowers looked like this.
This is a problem. No matter how many sunflowers and seeds you have on a field, without a clean, weed free area for the dove to land they will not use the field. So I had to make a decision. By July 9th, the weeds were taller than the sunflowers and the sunflowers were starting to dry down and the seeds were fully formed. I decided to be a little unorthodox and spray the whole group of sunflowers with 41% glyphosate. This would kill the weeds but it would also kill the sunflowers. It was an educated guess but still a little scary to speed up dry down on seven acres of sunflowers I have spent 100+ hours working on. If it didn’t work, the dove hunts were off. I returned today and was relieved to see it had worked.
Sunflowers become very sturdy as they dry down. The grass and weeds lay down, the sunflowers stay standing. Problem solved. Well, half the problem. Now the competition is dead but it’s covering the ground still preventing the birds from landing in most areas.
So another decision has to be made. Option one is to bushhog strips through the sunflowers and lightly rake the residue in small piles, leaving loose seed exposed on the ground. This isn’t a bad option and we might utilize it in some areas. But today I tested another possible option – fire. Over the last year I have come to learn fire is a very valuable tool. But like most tools, it needs to handled with caution. Burning in mid summer in Alabama is a dangerous proposition. The timing and conditions need to be perfect and the manpower and experience level needs to be high. My main concern was the fire would burn through the stalks and topple all the sunflowers to the ground leaving no cover for the hunters. That and a raging wildfire that burns half of Chilton county. I lit a small test burn in a couple of areas around 3pm when the temperature was 95° and the dew point was low – the worst case scenario for burning. If the fire didn’t burn up the sunflowers and stayed cool and slow moving we can use this option. The fire moved slowly through the area and burned very low to the ground, leaving bare dirt and standing sunflowes. We will most likely use this method for as much of the field as time will allow.
The burning of the sunflowers is a prime example of why I started this blog. I spent two weeks asking everyone I could find if this was a viable option. Foresters, farmers and wildlife managers. No one had ever burned standing sunflowers and no one knew if it would work. Now I know. And so do you.
Even with all the grass, there are still some open spots on the field with bare dirt. And the dove have found it. When the temperature dropped and the sun began to fall behind the trees this afternoon, birds began pouring on the field. Groups of 5-20 birds moved in and out of the sunflowers and were still coming in when I left at 6:45pm.
I’ll leave you dove hunters with your favorite sight. 43 Days.