STEP 5 - FERTILIZING

 

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Hay Farming
Hay farming process.

Step 1- Tilling
Working the soil.

Step 2 - Planting
Planting the seed.

Step 3 - Irrigation
Watering the crop.

Step 4 - Weed Control
Dealing with weeds.

Step 5 - Fertilizing
Fertilizing the soil.

Step 6 - Cutting
Cutting the hay.

Step 7 - Baling
Baling up the hay.

Step 8 - Stacking
Stacking the hay bales.

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Fertilizer - Putting Back What the Crop Takes Out

Just as you fertilize your lawn to get lush, green grass, it's necessary to fertilize a farm crop if you really want to get maximum yield.  The exception would be if the soil is already naturally rich in the nutrients that your crop needs.  Even then, if you farm on that piece of land long enough, then the plants will pull out certain nutrients and eventually the soil will be depleted of those necessary nutrients.  One way to deal with this situation is to rotate crops.  That means that you plant different crops in the soil during different years of farming.  Certain plants use up specific nutrients, but they may also help contribute other nutrients back in the soil.  Plowing in the dead plant material at the end of the farm season can also help replenish some nutrients in the soil.  Rotating crops can help balance out some of the nutrients in the soil, but it will not be able to change the fact that growing plants depletes the soil.  In other words, you can't get something for nothing.  Farming uses up the soil and requires careful management to ensure long term soil fertility.  In order to get maximum yields out of a field, it may be necessary at some point to add nutrients back in by fertilizing.

Fertilizing 

Large Fertilizer Spreader Fertilizing One of Our Fields

When we first moved out to the farm, orchard grass was the biggest majority of what was already planted here.  Orchard grass is like many other grasses (including the grass in your lawn) in that it requires lots of nitrogen in order to grow well.  As a result, I needed to fertilize frequently in order to get a good hay crop off my orchard grass fields.  In fact, I was told that I should fertilize 3 times a year in order to get maximum production off my field.  Herein lies one lesson I learned in farming.  In the beginning, when I was first getting into farming and learning how to do things, I just trusted the field man that represented the company where I bought my fertilizer and chemicals.  If he said that I needed to do it, then I just did it.  True, fertilizing frequently does result in a greater yield.  Problem was that the increase in the crop yield didn't necessary offset the increase in costs.  In the end, I had more hay to sell (and more work to do), but I gave away more of my profits to the chemical company.   As a result, the only one really getting richer was the chemical company selling me the fertilizer.  All I got was extra work to do.  What I finally learned was that while it is necessary to fertilize some, it is not always necessary to fertilize as much as they say.  I also learned that there are a couple ways to increase farm income.  One way was to produce more crop and do a lot more work in order to try to get increased profitability.  Another way (a much better way in my opinion) was to try to minimize expenses as much as possible which results in a more profitable operation.  In the case of fertilizing, that meant that I would do it some, but only enough to make it profitable and worth the additional investment.

Fertilizer Spreader

Close Up View of Big Fertilizer Spreader

A few comments about how the fertilizer is applied to the field.  The method shown in the pictures above is to hire a big fertilizer spreader to apply the fertilizer on the field.  Another way is to inject liquid fertilizer into the irrigation system and apply it along with the water.  Of course, this method only works with irrigated farming.  I have used this method of fertilizing through the irrigation system.  You basically get a tank set up by your well pump and the chemical company fills the tank with the desired liquid fertilizer mixture.  An injection pump is used to pump the fertilizer mixture through a hose and an injector that is mounted in the mainline coming out of your irrigation pump.  The fertilizer mixes with the water and it is applied to the field in this way.  This is not a bad way of doing it, but sometimes when the chemicals in the fertilizer mix are corrosive, then it can do damage to metal pipes and other metal components in the irrigation system.  In my case, most of the time I just hire the big fertilizer spreader to come out and apply it for me.  They can apply it very evenly and very quickly and it's well worth the nominal fee to have them apply it.  The spreader is a unique vehicle.  The one's that have come here are big 3 wheeled vehicles with 2 big tires in the back and one wide tire in front.  The spreader has a large bed in back where the fertilizer pellets are stored.  A big blower fan is used to blow the pellets through the boom arms which extend out back and the fertilizer is then dropped onto the field.  It's a very efficient and effective way to apply fertilizer.  In the end, it takes some experience to learn where the best bang for your buck lies in terms of how much (and how often) to fertilize.  If you do fertilizing right, then the result can be increased crop yield and increased profitability.

 

 

 

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