So it all began innocently enough, my dad thought I should try my hand at farming. I own land, but have always had others farm it for me and used it as a kind of rental income, like owning a house. An investment like stocks or bonds. All of which have their own mathematical challenges. Between you and I it has never been that profitable. I am basically looking at a blank canvas. I have 60 acres of land that I can do whatever I want. I could turn it into the next festival site like Woodstock, Comstock, or Burning Man. None of these seem very practical and a math teacher just does not seem like the type that can pull it off. So I am going to plant a crop and see what happens. But what crop? Corn, soybeans, milo, wheat, alfalfa, and oats all crossed my mind. I even thought of turning it back to native pasture, but that is not very profitable or interesting. So I decided on milo or sorghum. Then the next set of questions hit you in the face. How are you going to plant it? How much fertilizer? How much insurance? How much seed should I buy? How deep should I plant it? When should I plant it? Then these questions lead to other questions!!! What is the population of seed per acre? How many pounds of seed will produce that population? Is it the same for all varieties of milo? Does the diameter of the seed matter? If it does what does it effect? Soil moisture is low, does this make a difference?
All of these questions have mathematical answers. And they all take you down some pretty interesting mathematical roads from algebra to statistics, and probably calculus with all of the changing rates. The answer ultimately comes down to what is in front of me. What tools do I have at my disposal. The only tool I have is a 15 foot drill with 7.5″ spacings between each row. What is the population for my milo seed per acre? I have this handy chart in the planter manual that tells me that I can set the planter to apply 15 to 122 pounds of seed per acre. Milo seed averages out to 14,000 seeds per pound, and from a few web sites I have browsed it is said to plant from 18,000 to 70,000 seeds per acre. Several posts on an ag related site said to shoot for 30,000 seeds per acre. If I just dump seed into my drill I can plant between 210,000 and 1,708,000 seeds per acre. This is way to high, so I have to modify the drill in some way to bring this number down dramatically. Which holes should I plug in the drill? Every other one? Plug two and keep one open? Then once I decide on this how do I know that it is correct? How far apart should the milo seeds be planted?
This I do know. I need to answer the question of how many rows should I plant and how far apart should I find my seed in a row once I plant. I also need to plug my holes so that I can plant in a symmetrically. Huge gaps between plants are bad and are not spotted until it is too late.
One thing is for sure. Farming is for those that are mathematically strong. Probably more to post on this with more specifics. It is turning out to be an intellectual challenge. I see why people enjoy farming and beginning to think I chose the wrong profession.