DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Fixing fence may not rank as a favorite job for many, but Zachary Grossman has a soft spot for the chore. The antique fence stretcher he uses not only gets the job done, but the tool also stirs up plenty of nostalgia.
"My grandpa bought it at an auction and passed it down to me. He always told me it had to be 100 years old when he got it. All I know is we've been using it for 20 years and every wire I tighten with it feels like a connection to him and all he taught me," said Grossman.
The Tina, Missouri, farmer will also tell you that mending fence is a task that never ends in this country where cows and crops collide. He caught up on a few odd jobs during the Memorial Day weekend as all the crop has been planted and there was a small lull between other field operations.
Meanwhile, near Barney, North Dakota, Chandra and Mike Langseth have been tearing down fences -- or more precisely, rolling up old barbed wire -- on some land they purchased a few years ago. This week, though, is crunch time for weed control as there have been precious few good spray days and waterhemp is growing like ... well ... a weed.
The Langseths and Grossman are cooperating in DTN's View from the Cab series, a weekly feature that details crop conditions and takes a diary-like look at farm life from different geographic regions. This is the sixth report of the 2023 growing season. Find last week's report here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Read on to learn why rapid crop emergence is changing some weed control plans in North Dakota and how important fences are in Missouri. This week, both farms shine a light on forages.
CHANDRA AND MIKE LANGSETH: BARNEY, NORTH DAKOTA
Good soil moisture and warm conditions have made for surprisingly fast crop emergence this year on Langseth Farm. That's a desirable situation, except the weather has also been accompanied by strong winds that all but shut down spray opportunities.
"On the back half of the good planting window last week it was about 85 degrees every day and the winds were blowing between 25 to 30 mph," said Mike. "Some of that corn got planted and came up and there was never a time in between when the wind was low enough to spray anything pre or early postemergence."
The preemergence window on some soybean acres also slipped by and herbicide options are more limited due to potential crop injury after the crop has emerged. They do hire custom spraying rather than stall planters to spray, but windy conditions took that strategy away this year, too.
Fortunately, most weeds are still within the acceptable size for control. "Still, I like to get that burndown and pre on so that I can be choosey about when I spray post," Mike noted. "I've got a little more mud on my sprayer tires than I'd like this week because we caught a couple of small rains. If I hadn't felt so pushed to be timely on getting these weeds, I probably would have held back and waited to spray."
"We'll be transitioning to an early post with a layby followed by a later post with layby on some acres. I really don't like to make post products work that hard," Mike said. "Right now, we're still trying to figure it all out and how to work with what the weather gives us." The good news is swapping out products this year isn't as difficult since supply lines don't seem as strained as they were over the past few years, he said.
The term layby is the practice of adding a layered residual (such as Dual or Outlook) to emerged crops. There's no foliar control of weeds, but it gives added residual protection to control weeds that have yet to emerge.
Getting the weather to cooperate and open good spray windows could be tricky, said DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick. More showers are in the forecast for the Barney area and chances continue through next week. "Models are expecting cold fronts to come through next week, but they don't cool temperatures off much," he observed. "Lots of days in the middle and upper 80s are in the forecast right now. I suspect that models might be underdoing the cool down a bit, though."
Statewide, the latest USDA Crop Progress Report pegged corn planted at 72%, well ahead of 51% last year, but near the 73% five-year average. Corn condition was rated 68% good and 4% excellent. Soybeans planted was 53%, well ahead of 21% last year, but near 55% for the five-year average. Emerged was 12%, ahead of 1% last year, but near 15% average.
Chandra, who does much of the crop scouting for the farm, figures weeds will be a constant topic this summer. The canopy closure provided by 15-inch row soybeans is a helpful cultural control. Since there are more herbicide options available in corn, the Langseths like to concentrate efforts in that crop to keep fields clean as possible going into the subsequent year in soybean.
But news this week that North Dakota State University weed scientists have confirmed the first case of dicamba-resistant waterhemp in a nearby county isn't comforting. Tall waterhemp has already been confirmed resistant to Group 2 (ALS inhibitors), Group 9 (EPSPS inhibitors/such as glyphosate and Group 14 (PPO inhibitors) herbicides in some areas of the state.
"With the exception of our fields beginning to look a little fuzzy (with weeds), I'm happy with how planting went and how the crop looks. Everything is up and growing well," said Chandra. "We have been lucky to have moisture, but not too much. That doesn't always happen."
Cleaning up planting and strip-till equipment and making needed repairs before putting machines into storage was also on the agenda this week. "We don't have a ton of shop space and it's always a little like 'Tetris' getting things put away. So, it is better if we don't try to move things around too much," Chandra said.
Corn and soybeans command most of their attention, but they grow a field of alfalfa that is contracted to a local dairy. The dairy harvests the crop and their agronomist scouts for pests, but the Langseths are responsible for spraying for weeds and insects. They also maintain fertility, which is important since compensation comes on both dry matter tonnage and feed quality.
"The first cutting was made last week. I don't have a report back from the dairy yet, but understand the quality was really nice," Mike said.
The field began as one of their poorest drained and with areas in the field that could run as high as 9.0 pH. "We got that field tiled and immediately started looking for someone that would want alfalfa. We felt growing it would really be good to help bring the soil back.
"We've grown some really good alfalfa off of it over the past four years instead of what would likely have been poorly yielding corn and soybeans," he said. "It has been the right thing to do for those soils."
DTN visited the Langseths' farm in late May just as planting was finishing. Find a video of Chandra talking about planting progress here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
ZACHARY GROSSMAN: TINA, MISSOURI
Forage and hay take on different meaning to Grossman. In the rolling hills of northwest Missouri, tall fescue is still a popular grass for pasture and some baled hay. Brome grass is widely used for hay because of its hardiness and drought tolerance.
Grossman has already clipped fescue pastures to reduce toxic endophytes that can accumulate in seed heads. Clipping is a proven way to reduce toxin loads as it allows grasses to stay in a vegetative, leafy stage longer. It also results in grasses that are higher in nutrition and digestibility.
While there are endophyte-free tall fescue seed varieties, he prefers management strategies to minimize toxin levels. Being careful with nitrogen applications is also important. "Traditional fescue is so common here that it is hard to keep those endophyte-free stands pure. Plus, there is the expense of establishment and questions about hardiness and palatability," he said. "I know many people cuss fescue, but if we didn't have it in Missouri, we wouldn't have grass. I'd rather try to work with it than work against it."
The round baler has been getting a once over and was due to be picked up from the implement dealer this week. Mowing and baling hay should begin soon, depending on weather. Grossman hopes Mother Nature cooperates to get a big second cutting around Labor Day. Second cutting brome is typically square baled for sale to horse customers.
Pop-up showers continued to find many of his fields this past week. "It'd be nice to have a widespread rain, but right now we're thankful for every little drop. We certainly aren't dealing with a moisture surplus, but don't have to look far from us to see those who are really hurting," Grossman said.
"Our crops look great at this time. I'm not seeing areas of stress, except for some small pockets in the bottoms where the corn is rolling on a hot afternoon," he said.
Baranick said those farmers who have received random showers should count themselves lucky. "You don't have to go too far west in North Dakota from where the Langseths farm to find drier spots, and drought continues around Tina," Baranick noted. "The Drought Monitor vastly expanded coverage of abnormal dryness and drought in both areas and especially farther east through the Midwest, as well."
When it comes to northwest Missouri, Baranick said radar estimates aren't very impressive, but radar estimates can be tricky. "These pop-up type showers and thunderstorms can put down more than the specific algorithm that we use suggests. The opposite is true as well," he said.
"Either way, Tina is on the right side of the Midwest to be getting some chances for showers and thunderstorms through the coming week. Doesn't mean they'll be heavy, or they'll hit, but the chances are there," Baranick said.
Grossman stands by his grandfather's -- and many an old timer's belief -- that it is better to be dry at this time of the year than later in the summer. "Grandpa liked to see the corn work a little to find moisture, thinking that it helps to establish the root system as it reaches for moisture," he said.
"It's a fine line but being dry right now maybe makes for a little tougher crop, as long as rains come along to help out later," he said.
In the latest USDA Crop Progress Report, Missouri moisture supply deteriorated this week statewide and was rated 17% very short, 45% short, and 38% adequate. Subsoil moisture supply rated 16% very short, 42% short, 41% adequate, and 1% surplus.
Corn emerged was 93% complete, compared to the five-year average of 76%. Soybeans planted was 86% complete, compared to the five-year average of 47%.
With most of their crop sprayed for weeds, Grossman had time to tend to other chores, such as straightening and aligning an existing fence. He likes to target a stretch or two of fence to replace each year. Updating fences seems prudent rather than constantly patching old, he figured.
"The flowering dogwood may be Missouri's state tree, but there's a lot of country people that will tell you the real state tree of Missouri is the Osage orange. We've got a lot of it around and it may sound old-fashioned to some, but we cut hedge posts for our corners and line posts," he said.
Big diameter corner posts might be 12-foot long. "We make an H-brace by putting two big hedge corners in and stretch from that. Smaller diameter hedge posts are set with four to five steel posts between," he explained.
Those posts will last a lifetime but getting them whittled to size is no small task. A sharp saw helps, but the real workhorse is the skid steer when it comes to dragging trees out of hedge rows, he said.
Good fences do make good neighbors, Grossman agreed. "We're kind of fortunate that we don't have cattle right across the fence from anyone. But still, the most annoying call or text you can get is one saying your cows are out.
"Because I'll guarantee you, no matter what, that call always will come at the most inconvenient time," he said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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