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Archived Farm Reports - B2 Farms, LLC

Winter 2010
by Brek Burgweger

This fall and winter have been extremely wet in eastern North Carolina. We usually start planting winter wheat around the first week of November but the weather was so good the last week of October that I felt we should take advantage of it and start planting a week earlier. Little did I know that that timeframe would be the best opportunity to plant wheat for the rest of 2009. We finished planting on November 4th and exactly 1 week later received 12 inches of rain in 48 hours from a Noreaster that started off the coast of North Carolina. There was so much rain that the pumps that drain the farms couldn't keep up so the fields were under water.

Fortunately, the first of the wheat we planted in the last week of October was already germinated and out of the ground so the standing water didn't hurt it as much. The last 160 acres of wheat that we planted on November 4th was still in the ground and germinated but hadn't reached the top of the soil yet. The wheat still came out of the ground but was a little thinner than the rest of the wheat. For a lot of other farmers in our area, they either didn't plant wheat this year because it was so wet or the wheat they did plant didn't even germinate because it was planted just before the big rain. In all, there is very little winter wheat planted in eastern North Carolina this year.

Around the same time we plant wheat, we're also harvesting double crop soybeans. The soybean crop this year was the best we've had in a while. Yields were excellent and better than what we budgeted. We finished harvesting soybeans around November 10th which was exactly 2 days before the rain hit us. We grew all seed beans for Monsanto this year and were glad that we harvested them before the rain because it would have reduced quality considerably. Monsanto will pay a premium for good quality soybeans.

This winter I've been working on budgets for 2010 and I have to say it looks a lot better financially than 2009. Although the commodity markets have dropped about 40 cents from the corn market in the last week. I still think 2010 will be a profitable year if we can raise good crops. Other than budgets and getting chemicals and fertilizer ready for next year, we've been working around the shop cleaning equipment and getting all the little minor repairs straightened out before we go to the fields this spring. We'll also start shipping out corn in the next few weeks.

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Farm Report - Fall 2009

Corn Harvest 2009
by Brek Burgweger

The 2009 corn harvest was a wet one in North Carolina. We received about 8-12" in July and the moisture stuck around right through harvest. The fields were really wet which made it interesting in our no-till fields. We were able to get all the corn harvested but left a lot of ruts in the fields. It finally started to dry out in mid-September which allowed us to get into the fields to start getting them ready to plant wheat.

The corn crop was very good and was at the lower end of our highest expectations. Although it was a great start to the growing year, the large amount of rain we received in July kept the highest of expectations in check. Both the test weights and yields were excellent in all our varieties except for one. It looks like we'll be planting a little more corn next year since it looks to pay out a little better than the wheat/soybean rotation.

Since corn harvest, we've been getting the fields ready to plant wheat. We usually mow the corn stalks then burn them off before we plant wheat. All of our ground is no-till but since we left so many ruts during harvest we had to disc a lot of the land after the stalks were burned. Besides field work we've also completed GPS soil sampling on the wheat ground and are incorporating variable rate technology (VRT) into our fertilizer program. We have our own fertilizer truck and have outfitted it with VRT starting this year. In year's past we did a flat rate fertilizer program where all the wheat and corn ground received the same amount of fertilizer. I'm hoping that VRT will save us a few extra dollars and only apply fertilizer to the areas that need it most.

In Wisconsin, we've just started harvesting corn and soybeans. The frost held off till mid-October and although it hurt some of the crop, the majority should be good to go. It looks like a great crop but it'll be a late year since corn moisture is really high due to the lack of heat this summer to mature the crop. Currently, we're finishing up building a small grain facility to quickly dry and ship out corn & soybeans as they're harvested.

We'll begin harvesting soybeans this week in North Carolina. These were the soybeans we planted behind the wheat we harvested in June. Although they had a lot of rain in July and we had to replant 50 acres the crop looks good and we should finish up sometime before Thanksgiving if it stays dry.

 

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Farm Report - Summer 2009

Corn Harvest is Around the Corner
by Brek Burgweger

Earlier this week I attended the Blackland Farm Manager's Tour which is hosted each summer by a local farmer and sponsored by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the Blacklands Farm Management Association. Local farmers, seed dealers and farm suppliers have the opportunity to tour the farm and learn about the latest information in agriculture from some of the top agricultural experts in North Carolina. For example, this years tour had in-field information on soybean yield enhancements, corn defoliation, manure use, compaction and the use of corn fungicide. It's a great program and lasts for about 3-4 hours. Last year I attended the Corn College in Illinois and although not as intense as the Corn College, the Blackland Farm Manager's Tour is just as informative.

This year's corn crop looks to be one of the best ever in Eastern North Carolina. The crop had an excellent start to begin the year and has received adequate moisture throughout. In the fields that I've walked, stand and ear counts look great and it'll be fun to harvest what looks like a great crop. Harvest should start late next week if not by the following week. The soybeans we planted behind wheat look good as well. We had to replant 50 acres because of poor stand but the beans look good.

I was in Wisconsin for all of July and had the opportunity to look at the crops in the area. The corn and soybean crops look good but there's growing concern that the corn crop is maturing a little late. A good part of the corn crop hadn't tasseled when I left to go back to North Carolina at the end of the month. In fact, July 2009 was the coldest month in Wisconsin since the 1890's. If we don't get an early frost, the crop will be really good but in Wisconsin you start worrying about early frost around September 15th.

 

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Farm Report - Early Summer 2009

Wheat Harvest In Progress
by Brek Burgweger

Wheat harvest started early last week and the crop isn't as good as we expected. Head scab, a disease in wheat which develops during flowering, has hurt our yields by about 5-10 bushels across all varieties. The issue seems to be a couple of days of rain we received right around the time of flowering. We didn't get very much rain but it seems it was enough to cause the disease. It's not a complete disaster but I've heard other farmers in our area mention the same problem.

The harvest has also been slow. We've had afternoon rains stop us everyday. We've had 1 day where we've been able to start harvest around noon and finish late at night. In the next few days we'll start planting the double crop soybeans behind the wheat.

Although the rains aren't helping the wheat crop they're really helping the corn crop. This has to be one of the best starts to a corn crop in recent memory. We've avoided the big rains that can destroy plant population and leach fertilizer.

The corn is now tasseling and pushing an ear. Along with the rain, we've had temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's for the past week. This is ideal for the pollinating corn crop. I don't know what the rest of the crops look like in other states, but Eastern North Carolina corn looks good everywhere.

We've had some extra help flown in from Wisconsin to help harvest the wheat and plant the soybeans. Kody Klitzke is a 12 year old from Monticello, WI who just graduated from the 6th grade. He helps out on our farms in Wisconsin and now he's helping out in North Carolina for the next few weeks. He's pretty good help and happy his Blackberry works all the way down here.

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Farm Report - Spring 2009

Off to a Good Start
by Brek Burgweger

We finished planting corn in North Carolina the last week of April and the corn crop is already knee high. This spring has been a good one for the corn crop to get off to a good start. The temperatures we're in the mid to upper 80's shortly after we finished planting which really helped the germination. It was fairly dry when we planted the corn with only a small shower slowing us down for about 2 days. Other than that, it was pretty smooth going. Currently, we're finishing up sidedressing the last few units of nitrogen on the corn crop. The next big stage for the corn crop will be in another 2-3 weeks when it begins to tassel and germinate.

We received 2" of rain last week and that really helped the wheat crop. It was heading out and germinating and the rain was a timely one. In about 2-3 weeks we'll start harvesting wheat and planting double crop beans behind the wheat crop. This is usually one of the busiest times of the year for farmers because the wheat crop has to be harvested quickly to avoid the big rains which can lower wheat test weight. While you're busy harvesting wheat, you have to get the ground ready to plant soybeans.

Planting corn and soybeans in Wisconsin has been a different story. It's been extremely wet and a real challenge to get the crops in the ground. In North Carolina, we've started planting corn as early as April 1st some years and haven't finished till mid-May. There's a big planting window here. However, in Wisconsin and the northern parts of the Midwest, the window to plant corn is only a few weeks. If the corn is planted any later, the yield will drop off significantly.

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Farm Report - Early Spring 2009

Preparing for A New Year
by Brek Burgweger

Since the beginning of the year, we've been busy around the shop and in the fields. One thing we usually always start doing the first of the year is hauling our corn and soybeans to our buyers. We have 200,000 bushels of on-farm storage with the majority of that storage used for corn. We experienced a significant drought last summer and the corn pollinated during 95-105 degree temperatures. One of our farms was able to escape the heat and dryness but our other farm was really hurt. The drought and extreme temperatures decreased our yields, and the quality of grain that we stored wasn't nearly as good as previous years. When it came time to move the grain this winter, the corn wasn't moving out of storage like it normally should because of the lower quality of grain so we had some challenges trying to get the grain out. For example we had to cut a hole in the side door of a bin and slide an 8" auger through that hole in the door just to get the corn out. It was a heavy 20' auger.

One thing I enjoy about agriculture and farming is marketing and as the last few years have shown, it can be both fun and stressful. Before each marketing season, I usually have a written plan of how I'm going to sell each crop. I don't always follow the plan exactly as I have it written but I think it's a good idea to have something down on paper. It really varies from year to year. For example, this past year most of our corn was priced by forward-contract last spring and summer. Prices were so good early last year that it was tempting not to sell the whole crop at once. We were able to lock-in great prices for corn during the summer of 2008 when commodity prices were sky high. For the corn that I didn't forward contract during the summer, I bought put options during the same timeframe to protect the downside. I didn't think they would be worth anything when I sold the grain this winter but they really protected me on my unsold grain in storage when the commodity markets fell through the floor this past fall. For this year, I'm really looking at having most of my corn sold by the end of June. With the uncertainty in the economy and reduced demand of commodities worldwide, I think this year will be a challenge to get good prices again unless we have a weather scare this summer.

The past few weeks we've been applying nitrogen and chemicals to our wheat and corn fields. We traded in our old John Deere sprayer for a new John Deere 4730 sprayer. Out of all our equipment on the farm, a sprayer is probably our most used and most economical piece of equipment. The nitrogen and chemicals are usually applied to the wheat during the first week in March. After that, we'll broadcast our nitrogen on the corn fields just before planting. Once the corn is planted and about knee-high, we'll sidedress the remaining nitrogen on the corn.

We'll be planting corn in the next few weeks. We usually start the first week in April if the ground is dry. Hope for dry weather.

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