It’s Déjà vu for many ag retailers. The late harvest of 2018 left many acres without anhydrous applications done, and the spring of 2019 wasn’t conducive to catching up on that backlog. Now, in mid-November 2019, retailers are reporting progress but not near the coverage they need to be at.
“We’ve been fighting conditions all fall—like we did last fall and last spring,” says Brandon Wilson with New Century FS in Melbourne, IA. “We had some guys running in the third week of October. And if it would have stayed dry, we’d be in a different boat now.”
As Wilson explains, “We’ve had guys run 24-hour shifts already applying anhydrous. So far, we’ve applied 25,000 acres, and we’ve got 60,000 acres of custom anhydrous yet to do,”
Ag retailers needed all the dominoes to fall just in the right order to apply across all the acres they needed to cover. Anhydrous tanks can’t roll until the crop is out and soil temperatures drop.
This week USDA reports harvest progress at 66% for corn and soybeans at 85%, which is up from last week’s numbers but still behind the five-year average. University Extension and many in the industry recommend waiting for soil temperatures to be 50 degrees or less to minimize the loss of applied nitrogen.
In central Illinois, the team at The Equity says the long-lasting warm weather slowed their applications of anhydrous.
“We went from summer to the middle of winter,” says Ryan Wermert with The Equity. “We are maybe 70% done with dry fertilizer application, but I don’t know if we are even 30% done with anhydrous.”
Adding to the challenges brought by harvest and the weather, having so many acres to cover means labor challenges as well. Wilson shares his team has already incurred a lot of overtime.
“In the last payroll, we had 60 to 70 people who (in total) had 3,500 hours of overtime, and we haven’t hit full stride this fall yet,” he says.
Right now, retailers are just readying themselves to seize the application windows left in 2019.
“It seems like there will a bit of a let up in the weather, and we can keep moving,” says Wermert.