Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grading Fields for Higher Yields

Harvest is growing long these days.

It’s been a good harvest.  However, there’s nothing more disheartening than watching the yield monitor register some of the best corn you’ve ever had, only to suddenly drop by 100 or more bushels an acre.

If corn is selling for approximately $4 per bushel, simple math tells us that equates to $400 an acre. 

What’s causing this loss?

Wet holes.

The flat creek bottom where we’ve raised our best corn is littered with low spots where water collects.  Even though we know corn needs water to thrive, too much, in this case, water pooled in low lying areas, stunted our corn yield by over half. 

The areas with lighter colored corn are in wet spots.  Corn standing in water or wetter soil is stunted in growth because the water fills the spaces in the soil, and the roots cannot receive oxygen.  This severely limits yields at the end of the season.
Plus, the water runs off the field haphazardly causing eroded spots as it races to the creek. 

So, hubs decided to call up his uncle who owns some dirt soil (apologies to my former soil science prof, Dr. Miles - I tried, but "soil" just doesn’t always sound right, even if, technically, it is), dirt moving equipment to grade, or level, the field.

Leveling the field requires moving a lot of soil, so obviously we had to wait until after harvest, but a lot of “trash,” or the unneeded stalks, were left behind. 
We burned the field off because the buckets, also called dirt scoops or dirt pans, cannot handle all of that corn stalk trash in their equipment. 
After the corn stalks were burned off, the dirt movers drove through the field with a pickup truck outfitted with a GPS receiver.  This tells them where the high and low spots are in the field.  This data is inputted into a computer program which will tell the dirt movers exactly how much soil to shave off or dump in certain spots in the field.  We also disked the field to help loosen the soil and to make sure it dries out and will flow through the dirt scoops better. 

At one spot in the field sits the laser, which sends the previously recorded information to receivers on the dirt scoops. 

The first pass through the field, the operator will manually decide when to scoop dirt and drop it, based on the information the laser is sending it.  On the second pass through the field, the operators let the laser do all of the talking, and it automatically picks up and drops dirt to fill in the lower spots. 
Notice the red receivers atop the dirt scoops.
Since we’ve graded these bottoms, we’ll be able to significantly raise our corn yields.  (Not that I need a longer harvest season...)  Now, instead of water pooling in low spots, the water will flow towards a rock-lined ditch serving a two-fold purpose: draining the field and slowing erosion.


  1. What a great explanation of leveling a field! Thanks for linking it up to the Country Fair Blog Party this month.

  2. Hi Nicole! Sorry, somehow I missed your comment until just now! Thanks for reading along! :)