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In pursuit of a bumper crop

Article cover photo
Rolland Schnell, ISA President from Newton, pauses for a portrait while planting soybeans earlier this week. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA senior communications manager 

Just beyond the crest of the hill you can see a sliver of Lake Red Rock, Rolland Schnell, Iowa Soybean Association President, said as he planted soybeans in a field near Otley. With 1,700 acres of corn and soybeans planted, numbers and machinery issues were consuming his attention. 

Schnell's immediate problem was to figure out technical issues he was having with his GPS system as he planted into a thriving rye cover crop. The lush green blanket of rye obscured his planting tracks, and the normally failsafe auto steer was giving him fits as he worked the conservation friendly no-till field that withheld nutrients from passing into Lake Red Rock. 

"The weather has been beautiful this week, so we've got a lot of beans in the ground," he said as he watched a bank of monitors detailing his planting rate and path.

Rolland Schnell planting no-till soybeans
Rolland Schnell planting no-till soybeans

Schnell also had his mind on the upcoming U.S. Department of Agriculture World Agriculture Supply and Demands (WASDE) report that was to be released the next day. The WASDE report gives the status of supply and demand for the corn and beans that he was sewing into the nutrient-rich soil. He wanted a solid report but knew that planting his 2017 crop was his foremost concern. 

According to the report, this year’s soybean crop is projected at 4.25 billion bushels, down 52 million bushels from last year’s record. Nationwide yields are forecast at 48 bushels per acre, 4 bushels less than last year, which more than offset a higher harvested area pegged at 88.6 million acres.

"The prices will be what the prices will be," he said as he made another pass with the planter. "I need to make sure I have a crop to sell first." 

Schnell's day was now stretching into the evening as he worked his phone to make sure the seed tender was where it needed to be as he moved to the next field. The next field was a 20-minute drive through a maze of gravel roads that led him to a field near the tiny town of Galesburg, Iowa.

With his GPS technical issues behind him, he started planting a field on the bottoms of a valley. This field was planted with no problems as Schnell counted down the acres in his head. Each pass was one closer to the planting finish line. But this wouldn't be his last field for the night. 

As the full moon appeared and the sun slid behind a ridge to the west, he planned the logistics to move to the next field and the field after that. He would try to finish as many acres before forecasted rains would lock them out of fields for several days. 

To see and hear more about Schnell's day, watch the above video.

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

Iowa Soybean Association | On-Farm Network | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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Iowa Soybean Review

August 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.