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During the course of any year on our farm we usually go through a similar cycle. I come up with some crazy idea that I heard at a farm show somewhere or my favorite – from a customer who is having good results with something that is a non typical approach to a common problem. Really the direct interaction with the farmers I interact with makes me a much better farmer. The passion, ideas, drive and ability never stops inspiring me – but I digress. The cycle then continues with selling the idea or concept to my dad, some fail and some succeed. The next step is me figuring out a way to put the approved idea into action. Once the combine rolls in the fall the proof will be in the pudding so to speak, and then comes the judgment phase of our cycle when my dad determines whether he feels it was a success or a failure. This is also the point where I try to quantify the changes and resell him on why we did what we did.
We have done this cycle with everything from openers on our previous drill; to new drill; to combine headers; to straight cut canola; to growing lentils instead of peas; to where we are now with our complete lentil method – injecting inoculant into our fertilizer and applying Molybdenum to address a micronutrient deficiency. The idea to inject inoculant for pulse crops has been around a long time, but making it work with peas and lentils came from farmers desires. I was excited about it because I was about sick of coming home a minimum of one day from seeding looking like I had been digging coal all day. We were one of the first farms to try this and when we started I was extremely nervous about the potential results. As everyone who is familiar with pulses knows: no inoculant survival means no nodulation, and no nodulation means much less yield. Internally I never let on to my dad how nervous I really was as to whether or not this idea would work. The other portion of the method we were trying was applying Molybdenum in furrow to address our demonstrated micronutrient deficiency. Together the potential for success or failure with this new method of lentil management couldn’t have been higher.
Weather conditions were reasonable for the first part of the year but far from perfect for lentils. We got into harvest with an extremely high amount of rain – right after I had swathed my lentil crop. The combine finally rolled into the field after a lot of rain followed by some patience. The inside headland round was disappointing to say the least – averaging 12 – 15 bu/ac. I was upset at another failed idea that I had sold my dad on and put so much faith and effort into. I had convinced my dad to do his entire lentil crop like this – 1/3 of his acres – and we weren’t getting our average yield. Frustrated I left my dad to continue combining in the middle of the field and returned to the yard a quarter mile away to retrieve the semi, cussing all the way there and back. On my return the combine was stopped waiting for my return and hadn’t traveled very far. I pull up with the semi and immediately ask, “What’s wrong? What did you change?” His reply was simple, “Nothing, it wouldn’t run under 35.” I found that hard to believe so I jumped in with him and we started again, sure enough the monitor wouldn’t run below 35. I was blown away, not that 35 bu/ac was the highest yield I had ever heard of, but for us it was a brand new high – and 3 bu were grown to the ground!
At this point I am in disbelief and am having a bit of a difficult time understanding what to make of the lentil crop. The emotional rollercoaster made for an interesting hour but the new idea had good potential to pay off. We stop to unload the second hopper into the semi and my toughest critic turns to me and says, “Well son I don’t care what we did this spring but we aren’t changing anything next year!” I knew at that point there was no need to resell him on whether or not this new method was here to stay.