Producing more with less
MAXWELL – Iowans can count on three things as the next presidential election cycle begins in earnest – they’ll be bombarded with political ads, the results of the Straw Poll in Ames will make national headlines, and Iowa farmers will have a unique opportunity to showcase modern agriculture to the non-farm public.
That’s why the Birchmier family of Maxwell teamed up with the Iowa Soybean Association to host a farm visit on Aug. 9 for members of the media from around the globe who were covering the Iowa Straw Poll.
“This land has been in our family for five generations and we welcome visitors to our farm,” said Rhonda Birchmier, whose family farms approximately 2,700 acres of corn and soybeans.
“We want to help people understand how we minimize inputs and maximize the outputs to help feed the world.”
Birchmier noted that her family:
- Uses sustainable farming practices to protect soil and water quality.
The Birchmiers use minimum tillage, no-till, terraces and grass waterways to control erosion and protect valuable topsoil
They also use grid sampling to ensure that they don’t over-apply crop nutrients.
“The fertilizer alone for our crop now costs more than the total cost of all our crop inputs just a few years ago,” Birchmier said. “That’s just one more reason why we work hard to be good stewards of our inputs.”
- Adopts new technology to operate more efficiently.
The Birchmiers’ operation includes a Pioneer Hi-Bred seed business and a dealership for AgLeader Technology, which includes yield monitors, GPS guidance systems and software for precision farming.
The Birchmiers carefully select hybrids that will offer the highest yield potential on their fields, said Rhonda Birchmier, who added that her family uses precision ag equipment to be as accurate as possible when they plant their crop and apply nutrients.
“In addition, we use yield mapping as a report card to see what worked and learn what we can do better next year.”
- Never forgets that Mother Nature is in charge. 2011 has been a challenging growing season for the Birchmiers.
While an extremely wet spring delayed planting, the crop got off to a good start in May and June. Then came the 85- to 100-mile-per-hour winds that ripped through the area on July 11. “This completely flattened a lot of the corn crop,” said Birchmier, who noted that much of the corn stood back up within a week, although many of the corn plants goosenecked.
The crop took another hit in late July, when an extended heat wave triggered a significant amount of kernel abortion.
“My best guess for corn yields in this area will be around 150 bushels per acre,” said Birchmier, who added that the soybean crop looks great, due in part to timely rains in early August.
- Maintains an entrepreneurial spirit. The Birchmier’s son Trever, 18, started a hay business during high school for his FFA project, and the enterprise has now expanded to include 15 acres of alfalfa and 20 acres of grass.
Trever Birchmier sells large round bales and small square bales and connects with buyers from Texas to Colorado through the online classified ads he places on Craig’s List.
“Farming is what I love, and I’m grateful that my family has created this opportunity for me,” said Trever Birchmier, who also feeds beef cattle and plans to study agribusiness at Des Moines Area Community College this fall.
- Takes a big-picture view of sustainable agriculture.
The Birchmiers sell most of their corn to Lincolnway Energy, an ethanol plant near Nevada. They also feed their cattle distiller’s grains that are a co-product of the ethanol production process. This is one of the many ways that modern agriculture focuses on sustainability, Birchmier said.
“Farming is our livelihood, and we are always looking for ways to improve. It’s in our best interest to take care of our land, so we can pass it on to future generations of our family.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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