View From the Cab

Here Comes the Rain Again

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio and Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.

DECATUR, Illinois (DTN) -- Kyle Krier was only a day, or a moisture point or two, away from soybean harvest when the rains started. From Friday to Monday, his area of central Kansas has received 3 to 7.5 inches of precipitation.

The odds of a quick dry down aren't likely either with Hurricane Michael pushing more moisture northward. "We're probably looking at 10 days to two weeks before we'll cut beans, and that's if we don't get more rain," he said on Monday evening.

In Ohio, Genny Haun hasn't experienced quite the same deluge, but the rains are definitely messing with the harvest at Layman Farms. "So much for the plan of doing all the beans first -- we're running wherever we can find crop that is mature, and it is dry enough where we don't tear up fields," said Haun, who farms near Kenton.

While the calendar date does not yet register "late" for either of these farmers, they are both anxious to put away one of the best-yielding crops they've grown in their farming careers and do it while it is still in good condition. With thin profit margins, there's also a burning desire to avoid drying charges. Add the uncertainty around tariffs, lack of available storage and even a lack of labor to truck the grain to their growing list of worries.

Krier and Haun have been reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. Here's what's happening in their part of the farming world this week:

Genny Haun -- Kenton, Ohio

The words "don't have a breakdown" have taken on new meaning for Genny Haun over the past two weeks. The harvesting equipment has been queued up and ready for some time. The glitch this fall came when a computer system that operates the grain scale decided to throw curveballs.

News that a hard drive couldn't be restored, nor any data recovered, was the first strike. Well ... maybe it was more of a foul ball because hand-written records were available.

The decision was made to upgrade the system as long as it had to be replaced, but technicians continued to find even more issues as the installation progressed. Lightning is the likely culprit, Haun said.

Let no lesson go unlearned is her motto. She hopes to introduce more stringent rules for backing up farm computers. "The only thing that system is used for is related to weighing trucks and running the scales, but that's no excuse. We should have done a dry run on it. Here we are at the peak of the season trying to fix a very important component at a time everyone else needs those tech repair people too," she said.

"Backing up software is as important as the software itself," she said. "But this is now coming down to a hardware issue, as well."

It may or may not be a help that harvest has been hit and miss, so there have been fewer trucks to pass over the farm scales so far this year. Haun said rain events have ranged from 0.5 to 1.5 inches. "We'll get 25 or 30 acres harvested and here it comes again," she said.

"We know farmers in other parts of the country that are facing much worse conditions though. We feel blessed to be where we are."

She's also not panicking yet. "It is still fairly early for us. If the weather cooperates, we should be able to finish soybeans in the next two weeks," Haun said. She said so far rough calculations are showing soybeans yields up about 35% over last year.

"We'll take it! But we're also really looking forward to seeing yields from our better ground," she said.

The family was also in the process of beefing up security around the farm. A rash of thefts of semi-truck batteries across the county has put farmers on alert.

Another situation they are continuing to monitor is seed production fields that experienced dicamba injury after the herbicide moved off-target from neighboring fields earlier in the season. Beyond a possible yield reduction, some research has indicated seed germination might be an issue if the plant encountered drift late enough in the reproductive stage. Haun said the seed company they grow for has been watching the situation carefully, and there will be thorough testing of the seed after it is harvested.

"We are not against the technology, but we have experienced this issue and did file complaints," Haun said. "If no one speaks up, then regulators won't know what is happening."

Kyle Krier -- Claflin, Kansas

Before the latest monsoon hit, some farmers were cutting wet soybeans in the hope of moving them to market, said Kyle Krier. "I called some co-ops and they agreed to take a jag as long as they were under 15% and really they wanted 14%, Krier reported.

"We hand shelled some beans that tested 14.6%, but with no on-farm storage available, I was afraid I might end up with wet beans sitting on a truck," he added. Two of the three soybeans in a pod tended to be dry and the third, a butterbean, he said.

Grain terminals in his area had been accepting beans up to 16% prior to the rain events, but were quickly overrun with deliveries, Krier said. He found one crush plant two hours away from the farm that was willing to take beans at 15% moisture, but wait lines were estimated at 3 hours if the truck was in place by 5 a.m.

As of Monday, he had 1,200 acres of soybeans and about 160 acres of milo left to harvest. There are potential quality concerns with both. Milo can sprout in the head. Soybean pods that swell with additional moisture can split open and result in shatter losses. Soybeans can also sprout in the pod.

Several of those soybean fields border creeks, and the chances of that water leaving the banks and coming into soybeans was looking likely. Krier has mentally steeled himself for some quality issues on those fields.

Getting soybeans cut as soon as possible is also critical to his plans for the 2019 wheat crop. The current plan is to plant winter wheat behind all soybean acres. Again, how wheat acreage plays out depends on how long harvest is prolonged.

Freezing temperatures are also predicted for the region this weekend. "That's also concerning for wheat, because I'd like to get some growth on that wheat," he said.

Whether the situation will be bad enough for crop insurance to kick into the equation is still a question. There are provisions for both soybean quality concern in soybeans and prevented plant in wheat. However, being the only guy who didn't get wheat planted can raise a red flag.

"Payout on soybeans will depend on your guarantee and yields -- which are pretty good this year. So the dock is likely going to have to be high for it to kick in," noted Krier, who also sells crop insurance.

Cold weather also brings the likely end to hay season. He took five alfalfa cuttings off of some of the fields and four from others this season. "If we don't get more rain this week, we might be able to lay the rest of it down. A freeze won't matter as long as it is cut and in a windrow," he said.

"We can't be disappointed at all with the alfalfa side of our business this year. Good price, good production, good quality ... but it would be nice to but it would be nice to get five cuttings off everything to have even more high quality dairy hay to offer the market."

As it got late into September, rains also kept him from getting as much new alfalfa seeded as he wanted. Instead those acres went to winter wheat. Since he's no-till wheat, those fields aren't as likely to wash with the big rains.

"We're probably going to have some replant wheat though. Right now we have lakes everywhere," he said.

The young farmer is doing some deep breathing to keep all this in perspective. And he should be well practiced because he and wife, Melanie, will welcome their second child any day.

"I've spent a lot of time spinning my wheels and searching for contingencies on this harvest situation," he said. "I've looked into quick, temporary storage and tried to figure angles, but this child is the most important thing.

"And no ... we don't know if it is a girl or a boy," he said. "Surprises like that are what make life worth living, and I can't wait to meet him or her."

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith