Production Blog

The Web of Work

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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This spider set up housekeeping in a soybean field, gathering in the harvest dust and creating a reminder to slow down and admire our work. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Illinois (DTN) -- Fall has always been my favorite season, but this harvest caught me off guard. The 2015 crop year seems to have evaporated between the wet spring and the dry days of August and September.

The fields are all but stripped of crops in my area. Much of the tillage is complete. Dry fertilizer rigs have been flying across the countryside. Tiling machines are tunneling their way to remedy wet holes and I've seen more than a few green fields of volunteer corn providing a green contrast to the golden stubble. I'm already working on articles that try to assess what it means to 2016 agronomics. Gulp.

When I look back over the past season several things stand out. Waterhemp ran rampant to the point that we saw weed chopping crews in central Illinois. Weather issues brought nitrogen losses and rapid dry down of the corn crop. Yet, we recorded some of the highest individual field yields ever during the Midwest Pro Farmer Crop Tour. Uncertainties over availability and import approvals of new genetically engineered agronomic traits persist.

Still, my most memorable day of the 2015 season happened recently in Aaron Rients' soybean field near Flanagan, Illinois. I was there to grab a few harvest shots when a corn devil kicked up in the adjoining field. This mini tornado of corn confetti seemed a perfect metaphor for my swirling thoughts. Where did the season go? Did my words and coverage grasp the importance of this year? What did we learn? What crop conditions we saw in 2015 have bearing on 2016?

I watched a corn leaf ribbon separate from the whirlwind to float aloft with no particular destination -- as if a witty tweet among the many serious articles yet to be written.

Then, Rients called me to the side of the combine where he'd found a spider's work intricately laced between the soybean plants. Dust detailed each thread and the beauty of it made us stop.

Every so often something comes along to remind me how lucky we are to be in agriculture and surrounded by so much beauty. It's easy to get caught up in the web of work, but important not to lose the wonder.

Pamela Smith can be reached at



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