Recently in the news, there was a politician who made headlines with a comment that either made every farmer’s blood boil or made their eyes roll as they let out a chuckle.
“It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, and up comes the corn. You could learn that.”
Mike Bloomberg made that comment in 2016 at the Distinguished Speakers Series at the University of Oxford Said Business School.
Let’s all take a moment of silence for his run for the presidency. May it never be back.
Moving on without snide comments, I was in the camp of the blood boiling farmers (Kalley has a hot temper). I thought to myself, “Does he know? Does he know how insanely complex and technological planting today is? Does he realize all of the painstaking hours we pour over our equipment, GPS systems, irrigation, crop plans, and employment strategies?”
Of course not. Mike Bloomberg doesn’t concern himself with these facts. He wouldn’t have the slightest clue about any of that. Then I thought to myself, 99% of our country’s population doesn’t either - not necessarily because of willful ignorance, but just from lack of access to the information in everyday life.
Disconnection from where products come from is a huge problem in our society - in all sectors, not just Ag. Many don’t understand what it takes to grow a single cotton plant, let alone the process of growing hundreds of plants, then the process to make denim. We just buy the jeans. But that isn’t anyone's fault, as the industrial revolution, consumerism, and urbanization has isolated so many from their farming roots, just a couple generations back.
So let’s attack that problem and follow process of how we plant cotton seeds. I won’t be going into insane detail here because I would have to write BOOKS and BOOKS about each individual step. Our entire lives revolve around making sure seeds get into the ground correctly to grow plants to their fullest potential. Also, every farmer has a different crop plan that is based on the market, climate, soil type,— and well thousands of factors that I don’t even know about because they are so unique to every single farmer! In short, I don’t want anyone to assume that planting is done just this way as I explain it, because that is far from the truth.
With that being said, here is a summery of steps that we take to plant cotton!
Crop plans - When one crop is harvested, a farmer has to start thinking about what their next crop will be. (Not much down time.) We analyze what seed varieties and techniques yielded a good crop (and what did not yield a good crop). Then we make a plan to grow the best cotton we can manage and order seed.
Seed Bed Prep - Throughout the winter, we start to implement the crop plan by tilling, fertilizing, and irrigating the soil to provide the seeds with the best emergence (sprouting) possible.
Equipment Prep - We work on the planter, repairing any wear and tear from the previous year. Also, upgrades in technology are added to the software. We use programs to track planting in mind blowing detail. (Examples include how often the planter lays two seeds at once, the soil temperature, and the depth at which seeds are planted.)
Seed Inventory - The seed arrives to the farm in bags or huge black boxes called pro-boxes. We make sure we have received the right amount and varieties and fix any mistakes.
Test Runs - Test runs are preformed to make sure the ground was prepared correctly and the planter is fully operational.
Waiting game - When all of that work is done, we have to gauge when to start planting. Cotton planted too early will be damaged by cool temperatures. Too late and the growing season will be too short to optimize yields. Years of experience provided from previous generations help with this decision.
Planting - Finally, the planter is filled with seed and we get rolling. We use GPS systems in the tractor to make sure the rows are planted in perfect strait lines and to track problem areas in the field.
Rising Problems - You would not believe how often something breaks or a system goes down. The planter operator and all of the people helping with the planting process spend hours fixing problems as they arise. (Detail provided in this picture. Lots of moving parts.)
Prayer, Hope, and Faith - Then, you wait. Everyone prays and hopes the crop plan will be successful.
Then you have weather to deal with. When cotton plants are juvenile, they are exceptionally susceptible to weather damage and sometimes an entire crop is destroyed. That will put a farmer back to the drawing board to get another crop planted on top of their hard work, if at all.
I hope this gives everyone a little insight on how laborious and strategic planting a crop is. Knowledge, research, and technological advancement are imperative to keep our farms and ranches going. Hopefully for generations.
So our kids can learn how to put seeds in the ground.