February is the time when farmers start pricing seed and getting it lock in for the upcoming season. In the last few years there has been production issues with some crops, so the earlier you get your seed bought, the more secure you will be. Sometimes the seed companies have plenty to go around, but some years that is not the case. I planted roughly half my acres last fall in triticale, but I still need around 200 acres of various crop seed so I have been pricing the various dealers in Oregon and found out some interesting things about prices.
Last year a main producer of triticale seed in Christmas Valley, OR had frost damage which drastically reduced his yield, so triticale 102 was real short. I called up my dealer and they were selling it as fast as it was being delivered and I only could get my hands on a couple ton. I ended up making up the difference with 348, a variety I never planted before and we will see how it turns out. I paid around $700/ton which seemed rather high. The previous year I planted a variety called Fridge which the dealer sourced from Canada. It worked out pretty well for me but had pretty long awns which I wanted to get away from this year.
Now I am looking at oat and pea seed for my spring and summer double crop planting needs. Below is a table of prices that I am finding as I shop prices. I have priced three dealers so far, I won’t list the names here but if you have ever talked to me about seed I bet you could figure out who they are! The three prices listed for each variety is for each dealer so you can see if one dealer is higher on one seed type and lower on another seed type.
Cayuse oats $570 – $450 – $520
Everleaf oats $805 – $700 – None in Stock
Maple or other spring peas $960 – $700 – $860
Austrian peas $960 – $950 – $820
Judging by those numbers, it pays to shop around. One interesting thing I noticed is the spike in pea seed prices. A few years ago it was down towards $700/ton for Austrian peas (winter hardy), but it has obviously jumped much higher this year. I am talking with some dealers about growing seed for them this year, it only takes a few acres and there will be enough supply to drop those prices down quite a bit. My yield was around 3,000lbs/acre when I grew peas for Helena, so at $.30-$.33/lb for dirty seed, there is a pretty good profit margin for everyone involved and the prices should drop some. If it doesn’t, heck, I will just hang on to it and sell it myself!
When growing grain crops such as oats, wheat, barley, or triticale for hay, one of the most important things that affect yield of the crop is proper irrigation. Proper irrigation can be the difference between a 3 ton/acre and a 5 ton/acre crop and doesn’t cost much more than a mismanaged irrigation system.
Irrigation timing is critical with grain hay crops. I have broken growing season down into 3 parts that require different Irrigation rates.
Part 1: New Seeding. This stage begins even before the crop is planted. Here is when the subsoil moisture can be best built up. This time is during the early spring and usually the winter snows have melted and moisture is deep, but if it is not, than this is the time to correct that. If you are dry 1 foot down or more, irrigate one pass before you plant to push that moisture down. April 15th is when most of the water gets delivered so make sure your system is ready to go so your planting doesn’t get delay too much. After you have irrigated, wait a few days to dry the top 2-3 inches enough to plant, then get that tractor rolling and get the seed down. Seed will not sprout without moisture, so if the top soil is too dry, a quick irrigation with sprout that seed. I like to get the seed sprouted before applying fertilizer so the N doesn’t leach down below the roots. After applying fertilizer, it is important to get it water down into the soil, but too much water and the N will be pushed below the roots and will be useless.
Part 2: Growing Season. After the fertilizer is spread and the plants are 6 inches or so tall, they have enough root system and use enough water to not worry so much about leeching your fertilizer. I run my sets for 12 hours every 5-6 days during this time period and only shut off if a rain of more than a half inch falls. Some people make the mistake of shutting off after a too light of rain and have a difficult time recovering. When the plants are growing and it is hot and sunny, a lot of water is being pulled out of the soil and it is important to keep the soil damp but not saturated. Grains don’t recover well from droughty conditions. Keep the water flowing and keep that moisture in the ground.
Part 3: Preharvest. The last set before turning the water off before harvest is the most crucial in getting top yield, especially with short wheels on wheel lines. At this time the crop is quite tall and sucking huge amounts of water from the soil. Also it is during the hottest part of the summer and evaporation rates are high. If you have short wheels, you must time your last pass to occur right before the wheels won’t turn in the crop any more. I like to switch my nozzles to a size higher than what I ran during the growing season and run 24 hour sets my last pass to push that water all the way down and saturate the soil. By this time the fertilizer has been absorbed into the plant and so leeching is not as big of a concern. If you have 5′ wheels, your crop has 2-3 weeks more growth after your lines cannot roll any more so getting the soil saturated will delay your harvest and boast your yields, it will also lower nitrate levels. If you have pivots, this is not a concern and you can freely irrigate until whatever harvest stage you are aiming for.