DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- How do farmers spell relief? It's called rain that arrives when it is desperately needed.
July ushered in blast furnace conditions for many of DTN's Farm Advisers, a group of trusted farmers and ranchers who check in monthly by email or phone. It was just one more blow for many, who experienced a wide range of weather issues that led to planting delays and, in some cases, replanting decisions.
The result is extreme variability in conditions and growth stages across the core crops, said farmers who reported to DTN from July 7 through July 12, 2022.
Except for a few Japanese beetles, insect pests, so far, appear to have been mercifully light. But alerts have been sounded for diseases such as tar spot in corn, which are weather dependent. Weeds never seem to go away. Soybeans have been slow to develop, noted several of the farmers reporting in during early July.
Supply chain issues continue to be a discussion point and head scratcher for many farmers. This month, our farm advisory correspondents weigh in on the access to farm-related needs and what they are thinking regarding shopping for 2023.
Idaho farmer Dan Lakey told DTN he enjoys contributing to these reports. "We truly do live in such a diverse agricultural country, and I'm constantly fascinated by the crops and conditions just a few states away," said Lakey.
Read on to learn what's happening in various regions of the country.
Extreme weather with hail and tornadoes within a few miles of your farm will give you perspective. That's exactly how Alberta, Canada, farmer John Kowalchuk is feeling this year, when he reported, "Most of the crops are looking pretty good."
"Canola is having some issues in quite a few areas of Alberta with poor germination, and now some are seeing aborted flowers for no apparent reason," said Kowalchuk. "The Canola Council is looking into what may be the cause. There could be some poor yields in canola in my area."
He also reported fungicides are in short supply for many crops. "With the excess rain we are getting, many farmers are putting them (fungicides) on the cereals and pulses.
"I have been fortunate so far, but the risks of hail are pretty high, and the crop is a long way from the bin," he said.
After last year's devastating drought, southeast Idaho farmer Dan Lakey can't complain about going into spring a little late but with adequate moisture. He's growing malt barley, feed barley, flax, brown mustard, canola and spring and winter wheat this year.
"All crops at the end of May through middle of June looked amazing. Our annual precipitation is 16 inches and (we) rarely get more than an inch or two after Memorial Day weekend for the growing season -- the soil moisture from winter usually holds us," said Lakey.
"Right now, the crops still look good, although they are very dry and could use a drink," he added. He figured if the area can catch a shower or two over the next week, he could have a very good crop. "If not, it will be an average crop," he said.
Grasshoppers have been trying to jump on the dry conditions, but spraying hasn't been necessary. Low humidity rarely results in fungicide applications in this area. Weeds like feral rye and brome grasses have been challenging, though.
Lakey hasn't started buying inputs for next season yet. Roller-coaster commodity prices coupled and an uncertain crop in the field have him hesitant to lock in top-dollar input costs.
In east-central Illinois, Reid Thompson had the opportunity to take a close-up view of his corn crop while Y-dropping nitrogen. The verdict was that every field isn't perfect, but overall looks good in early July.
"We have that potential of a big (corn) crop if we get expected rains. Beans have really taken off despite (or maybe because) of the heat," he said. However, he allowed that a soybean crop is tough to decipher at early reproductive growth stages. Fungicide applications were running a week or so behind in soybeans this year.
So far, weed control has held fairly well -- except in some low-lying areas where waterhemp continues to survive. "I did notice a lot of Japanese beetles while Y-dropping. Maybe they've come early enough and won't be a thing during pollination," he said.
Tar spot rumors had him planning to start corn fungicide applications pre-tassel to protect plants earlier and give time for a second pass if needed. Otherwise, so far, disease pressure is light.
Thompson is a shopper; he's always comparing and looking forward on costs and what's coming doesn't make him comfortable.
"Inputs were all secured without much heartburn for 2022," he said. "But 2023 is going to make last year look cheap. I have yet to hear any price with less than a 10% increase on the whole.
"Individual products may have more variance, but costs are all going up. We have started working on booking 'mainstays' for our chemistry needs and are getting ready to lock up dry and liquid nitrogen needs for 2023. We've also been considering large fuel purchases to ensure we have what we need for the coming year.
"When I consider 10% to 15% increases on inputs -- and maybe rent -- for the 2023 crop, it's going to be real lean. There won't be a lot left if something doesn't (change) or (crop) prices don't stay up," Thompson said.
INDIANA AND ILLINOIS
Southwestern Indiana farmer Scott Wallis branched out several years ago to take on some acres in the southeastern corner of Illinois.
"We were blessed with an inch or so of rain on the whole crop yesterday (July 7), which was the first meaningful rain on our Indiana crops in two-three weeks. Our Illinois crops have been very blessed with 2 to 3 inches in three different events in the last two weeks," said Wallis.
That theme of variable crop plays out in this area. Wallis reported having corn ranging from tassel to stands that are thigh high in height. "We planted corn from April 28 until June 5 and beans from April 28 until June 13," Wallis said.
The spring was wet, but nothing like 2019 when Wallis had flooded fields that kept him planting and replanting. This year, fields would be almost ready to plant, and then it would rain and hold up operations. "There was only one good run all spring from May 10 to 16," he noted.
Scouting is important in this part of the world, where southern rust can often sneak in. So far, he's not seen any evidence of disease pressure.
When it comes to shopping, he's not having problems getting inputs, and manure is the only thing he's purchased so far for next year's crop. Price and availability of repair parts for machinery have been a challenge, though.
The cold, wet spring pushed corn later than usual for Jeanne Schmidt, who farms near Maryland's eastern shore. Cornfields are just now starting to tassel. Soybeans and green beans are also running late. "Everything was a few weeks later than usual," she said.
Fungicide treatments are just getting ready to be applied in corn, a standard practice for the farm, she reported on July 9.
After some issues getting herbicides last winter, Schmidt said she was finally able to secure everything needed. They realized some fertilizer cost savings at side dress by using 30% nitrogen and buying totes of micronutrients based on tissue test readings, rather than buying custom compounds from the local fertilizer company. She feels they get more efficient uptake with the precise placement offered through the Y-drop system than with their previous side dress system.
In southeast Michigan, Raymond Simpkins was among those giving thanks for a restorative 1 inch-plus of rain that fell just after July 4 when crops were starting to struggle.
"Corn is looking pretty good and about ready to tassel," Simpkins reported on July 8. He'd been scouting for disease, but so far not seeing many issues.
However, soybeans have been slow to advance, and many of the plants remain small, he added. "There was some late planting, but even the early beans are not growing well," he noted. He also observed marestail pressure being more problematic in beans this year compared to the past.
"I've not had much trouble getting crop input supplies. But equipment parts are a different story," Simpkins said. He was waiting to purchase fertilizer and chemicals for 2023. He's hoping for better price points closer to the year's end.
The corn may have gone in a bit late (mid-May) in south-central Minnesota, but Mark Nowak can't complain about how it looks. Excellent stands and good dark-green color but growth about seven to 10 days behind normal is what he is seeing.
"Based upon leaf count, tasseling should start July 20 and after," said Nowak. Above-normal temperatures in July will advance growth and tasseling, he figured.
Nowak had one 80-acre field received 5 inches of rain this past week and strong enough winds to lean the corn over significantly. While plants were starting to lift up, he also wondered if top-end yield might be off that one field.
Soybeans are off to a slow start due to late planting and cool emergence weather. He estimated growth is two weeks behind normal. "Normal blossoming starts around June 23 to June 25. We saw the first blossoms this week," he said on July 9.
Fewer days to develop nodes shortchanges blossoms and pods. "That will definitely impact yield, as (it's) highly unlikely that missed growth can be made up," he said.
"We were 18 to 21 days later than we like for planting beans this year. I am expecting a 5- to 10-bushel-per-acre yield hit this year as a result of the delayed start to planting."
April and May rains were both above normal to get a nice soil moisture recharge. June rains were 60% of normal. So, there was concern about moisture availability going into July. However, July rains came just in time to average about 2 inches per field -- except for one 80 acres that got a 5-inch downpour. The long-range forecast is dry, though, and Nowak noted that the crops aren't made yet.
Being aggressive in spray timing and some new chemical combinations have kept weeds confused so far. Nowak also hasn't been troubled by insects or diseases yet, but soybean aphid season is on the horizon within the next few weeks.
Corn will get a fungicide application right after silking. Tar spot confirmations in corn have already been made about 100 miles east of his farming area.
Nowak had no problem securing inputs for crops this year, but he's felt the machinery malaise. "We had a tractor component failure. (The) dealer said it would take two weeks to get the part to get the tractor running. The part came in this week -- after 2 1/2 months," he said. The delay required that he rent a tractor to get through planting season, which was a difficult-to-find, unplanned and costly expense.
Nowak has already booked his fall potassium and phosphorus needs to produce the 2023 crop. "(I) covered that risk with hedging 2023 corn in the upper $6. (I) feel good about that management decision right now.
"(I) swept out the last of the 2021 crop two weeks ago and sold (it) at the best basis and highest cash price in my long farming career," he added.
Tassels were just starting to top Kyle Samp's corn crop in north-central Missouri. "Our corn crop looks great. We were really, really dry, but just received a much-needed 2 inches of rain," Samp said on July 7.
"Soybeans are a bit behind, but for the most part, look OK," he added.
Weed pressure is often a challenge in this part of the world, and Samp echoed others in finding that the 2022 input year has required some alternative thinking -- both in terms of availability and curve balls from the spring planting season. "Our retailer did a great job helping us make a plan with the products that were available and finding us affordable alternatives," Samp said.
Ditto on what others said about watching for tar spot in corn. Right now, he's planning on a typical fungicide pass at tassel.
He hasn't shopped for next year's inputs yet. "Everything is still so expensive, and it still feels the majority of the risk is to the downside. This year did a good job showing us that we may have to get creative, but we'll find a way to get what we need, when we need it," Samp said.
Bob Birdsell has learned that farming requires something of a sense of humor and patience.
Everyone and everything in his area of northwest Missouri was feeling this stress around July 4 when air that felt like 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit was being whipped around by 20- to 30-mile-per-hour winds. Then, the temperatures dropped and the rains came -- oh what a relief it was.
"The first corn we planted mid-May will tassel in the next couple of weeks," Birdsell wrote on July 7. "The corn we planted (in the) middle of June is waist high. At least we didn't have to use the granddaughters for it to be knee high by the 4th of July, like we did a few years ago," he quipped.
He finished planting soybeans on June 30. The rain was just what the crop needed.
Unfortunately, waterhemp seems to endure regardless of weather. Japanese beetles were also coming on early and thick. Birdsell was watching to see if he'd have to spray for the silk-clipping insects.
While he hasn't had trouble getting crop inputs, parts can be another story, he agreed. Eventually, the part can be had, but it may take a day or two longer to get because of where it is located, he noted.
Crops seem a little behind this year in east-central Nebraska, reported Ashley Andersen, who farms with her husband, Jarett. "The crop was put in on time, but we had cold weather early, and it burned up a lot of our growing days," she said.
Those temps dropped low enough to freeze some beans, but they opted to keep stands rather than replant. Stand counts, in general, weren't great this year with early planted fields suffering the most. "Some beans took three weeks to come up," she said.
Soybeans are sneaky, though, and warm weather seems to have kicked the crop into gear. Conditions were dry before receiving over an inch of rain around July 4. The good news was pest pressure has been light to nonexistent.
"Our fields are really clean this year," she added. "Everything is sprayed and Y-dropped (nitrogen)."
Sudden death syndrome (SDS) was a new problem for the farm in 2021 and seemed to be associated with flooded areas. Treated seed was used as a precaution in suspect spots, and they'll be scouting for SDS as the season progresses to determine how to further manage in subsequent years.
Input purchasing this year required some thought and planning. They could get products such as fungicides, but not always the exact product they typically purchase or want.
Getting machine parts has been tougher. "We've gotten everything eventually. It's just a waiting game," Andersen said.
This lack of consistency and uncertainty never quite seems to go away, she observed. Major market swings contribute to the unease. "Every day, we brace ourselves for what is going to happen next," she said. "And we keep praying for timely rains."
Keith Peters got a good start this spring in central Ohio and has some soybeans and corn at normal growth stages. However, he didn't finish corn until June 5 and first-crop soybeans until June 20.
"We hit a horrible dry spell, and things looked pretty bleak. Then we got between 2 and 4 inches of rain in two days and now have some flooding and drowned-out spots," he said.
While sometimes the weather doesn't seem to offer a middle ground, Peters reported that all things considered, his crop looked good on July 8.
He's sold on using cereal rye as a cover crop to help control winter annual weeds. He's pleased with weed control he's gotten this year, in general. He still had some postemergence spraying to do this week.
Early planted corn was just beginning to tassel, and he planned to hit it with fungicide this week, as well.
In northwest Ohio, Genny Haun and family pulled the plug on planting corn on June 7 and switched the last 500 acres intended for corn to soybeans. Soybean planting finished on June 20 and then started again -- as they replanted 40 acres or so the following day.
"After a very wet spring, the rains stopped completely, and we went from June 14 to July 5 without a measurable rain. Then, we got about 2.5 inches in a 24-hour period," Haun said.
"Our crops were looking OK, but far behind, and they've made leaps and bounds of progress in the last week after the rain. They look decent overall, thankfully," she added.
The biggest pain right now is they are still fighting weedy issues after needing to take prevented planting on a big portion of acres in 2019. "We vowed to not ever do that again. One way or another, every acre was getting planted this year," she exclaimed.
Fungicide applications will depend on how much rain they get the rest of this month. "Corn will need to make some big growth before we throw the extra dollars at it," she said.
"Our local airport, which is within a 5-mile radius from most of our acres, is closed through the beginning of September for some construction work. It means our local aerial applicator will have to be serviced out of another airport, likely some 30 miles from the farm. It's not a big deal, but it isn't as convenient as having them next door," she said.
While inputs for 2023 have been on the radar, Haun said they are just now beginning the process of booking them. "Most things will get interesting, if not downright difficult, to obtain before we are done," she predicted.
Kenneth Rose is looking forward to some late-summer monsoon rains to finish out the summer crops where he farms in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Milo all got planted. Those early plantings suffered from blowing dust, but a few rains have brought the crop along pretty well, he said.
Pastures have been terribly dry, and cattle have been moved onto emerging grazing Conservation Reserve Program grass, which isn't nearly as tasty, but at least it helps the cattle get by.
"Inputs have been scarce and expensive, but so far, we have managed to secure what we needed at the time," Rose said.
The action word on the Llano Estacado, in northeastern Texas, is "drought," said Mike Lass on July 9.
"No wheat crop. Most of the dryland cotton has been condemned. About all that's left is a little irrigated corn, milo and cotton," said Lass.
He reported that his irrigated cotton looks pretty good as long as the water keeps flowing. "Heat units are plentiful. We've been in the 90-to-100-degree range for weeks with no relief in sight," he said.
One thing about these kinds of harsh conditions, pests are secondary. "Weed pressure isn't too bad. Having trouble killing them because they have pretty much shut down," Lass added.
"I have some tar spots on my pickup, and that's about it," he joked.
Lass said he hasn't had trouble buying or locating inputs. "They're just higher than a cat's back, for sure. Haven't booked anything so far. Slipping into survival mode for now," he said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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