It’s been an early harvest, and for many producers there should be an early harvest completion.
This is a stark contrast to last year’s never-ending harvest and a chance to address a lot of other fall tasks.
For those of us with problem perennial weeds such as Canada thistle, now is the prime time to take action. The window can be short, depending on how quickly killing frosts arrive.
Yes, it’s very dry in many regions, but perennial weeds can tap into deep moisture reserves and may still be growing and vulnerable.
The spray window is typically longer for winter annual weeds. My nemesis has become narrow-leaved hawk’s beard. Often we miss an opportunity for some great weed control because we like to have the sprayer winterized and tucked away for the season before temperatures dip.
Rather than diseased and weathered grain, this year’s crop is mostly high quality, so seed acquisition should be a lot easier than a year ago. On cereals and pulses, many producers will be able to clean their own grain for seed rather than scrambling to buy seed with better germination and/or lower disease.
If you have time and access to facilities, seed cleaning is often a lot easier in the fall than in the dead of winter.
Unlike some years, there seems to be no great imperative to buy next year’s fertilizer before prices rise, but again this can be a job more easily accomplished before you have to deal with snow and cold.
When the crop is a bin buster, space for granular fertilizer can sometimes be occupied with grain. Grain cleaning can also be complicated if all your bins are full. This year’s crop is much better than expected in many regions, but it wasn’t the biggest crop ever and grain movement has been good. The on-farm space situation shouldn’t be a major impediment.
Some producers routinely use grain bags, and others use grain bags mainly for surge capacity. Overall, there are likely fewer grain bags dotting the landscape this fall, and some bags are already being emptied as grain moves to market. Fewer bags to babysit through the winter is good news.
Unfinished harvest won’t be a reason to avoid soil testing. Typically, you want to wait until soil temperatures drop, but there’s lots of time to arrange soil testing.
I’d argue that some of the best grain marketing opportunities often exist when everyone is still busy combining. When the crop is still coming off, yields and quality are uncertain and buyers are anxious to access product and get it into the pipeline. So while producers have more time post-harvest, prices have often retreated, at least temporarily.
Uncertainty, often caused by market prices, is one of the prime impediments to fall work. If you’re not sure what you’re going to seed, it can affect what fall herbicides you apply and when you apply them. It also affects seed cleaning and purchasing decisions and the fertilizer you’ll want.
Paralysis by analysis is a common problem. While you’re analyzing what you want to grow where, the fall window for action can slip away.
When the combines are parked for the season, the urgency evaporates. While it’s healthy to take a breather, many activities accomplished in the fall can help ensure a less stressful planting season.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.