The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

August 14, 2013

Helicopters and airplanes help area farmers

DEWITT -- Planting date, soil temperature, rain, sunshine, bugs, fluctuating market prices -- Clinton County’s farmers are up against a multitude of issues, many of which they cannot control.

Enter airplanes and helicopters, both of which have been busy in local skies recently.

Farmer Dustin Johnson of Elk River Township said he had scouted his fields looking for early signs of fungal infection or plant injury to decide whether to spray.

“Aerial application is expensive, but if we can protect the yield that we have worked long hours to achieve, we want to make that investment,” he said.

Ground rigs are used, too, he said.

“They can apply at higher pressure to get into the canopy of the crops. They have high ground clearance, but some high side hills and taller hybrids do not allow those machines to go through without causing serious damage to the crop.” he said. “The ground is usually drier this time of year so compaction isn’t usually a big deal.

“Some planes will be seeding cover crops in the coming weeks. We will put (cover crop seed) down before harvest to give the cover crop a head start. We do that on our farms to help build soil fertility and help fight erosion over the winter and early spring. On fields that we will harvest early, we will just plant the cover crop seed conventionally with planters or seed drills.”

Johnson also said the current season is very important to young farmers.

“This is the time that some farm leases are being decided. While some may be renewing with existing tenants, other folks may be looking for a change.”

According to Ag Decision Maker, published by Iowa State University, the cost of producing a 145 bushel per acre crop of corn following corn will be $5.19 per bushel. To harvest 185 bushel an acre will require inputs costing $4.90.

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