JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- After a summer of above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall across most of the Corn Belt, some members of the DTN Farmer Advisory Group had begun opening up their cornfields as the harvest moon made its appearance.
The panel of roughly two dozen farmers, agronomists and ranchers, who report on crop conditions and current thoughts about agriculture, shared that despite the droughty conditions that plagued many regions this season, the crop has seemingly been slow to mature and dry down.
SOME HAMPERED HARVEST
In southeast Indiana, Scott Wallis started his corn harvest on Sept. 11 and was about one-third of the way through the corn acres when he started his soybean harvest during the third week of September. He said corn moisture was still in the mid-20s.
Kyle Samp found similar conditions in his north-central Missouri corn. He said the biggest surprise of harvest so far has been how slow the crop has been to mature.
"We are still struggling to find corn that is below 25%. Soybeans aren't quite as far off, but it's still a surprise considering how early they were planted."
Keith Peters in central Ohio echoed what Samp experienced in Missouri. His corn moisture was at 26% in one field he harvested, so he turned his attention to a field of early beans that were ready.
"The corn is at least two weeks later than normal," he said. "I probably won't get really going on corn until after Oct. 1."
Many other members of the advisory group also reported a slow start to harvest. In Sudlersville, Maryland, Jennie Schmidt said they tried shelling some corn but found moisture above 25%. They decided to give it more drying time in the field and turned their attention to their other crops, including grapes and lima beans.
In northwest Ohio, Genny Haun said she would be surprised if they started anything before the second week of October. A mid-October harvest was also what Marc Arnusch predicted for his corn in eastern Colorado. Kenny Reinke surmised that soybean harvest for him in northeast Nebraska would begin as September ended, but corn harvest wouldn't happen until the last few weeks of October.
Harvest was also running slow for Jay Magnussen in northwest Iowa. He had hand-shelled some samples: Later-maturity varieties were running in the low 30% range, but early maturity corn was coming out in the 22% to 25% range. Not far away in south-central Minnesota, Mark Nowak said his corn had hit black layer during the third week of September.
"On our farm, we have not started any harvest," he said at the time. "I think it will be at least a week before anything is ready. Soybeans should be first, then corn maybe around Oct. 10."
WINTER WHEAT WOES
With many regions still facing dry conditions and long-term soil moisture deficits -- combined with current low wheat commodity prices -- the decision to plant winter wheat is not always a straightforward one.
Arnusch said that wheat is a large part of his operation, but water availability is always unclear in the arid high plains of eastern Colorado. Wheat planting began for Arnusch in mid-September, but they stopped until more rain was forecast.
"We plant wheat on our dryland acres, but we also use it as a good rotation on some of our irrigated acres," he said. "Wheat helps us navigate the difficult task of managing our water resources."
From Maryland to Missouri, DTN Farmer Advisory Group members were letting economics, and not Mother Nature, decide winter wheat's future on their operations.
"Prices have tanked, and it doesn't pencil out right now," Schmidt said. "We haven't seeded any wheat yet and are debating it."
Samp had already decided to forgo wheat this year. "The economics of growing wheat make it pretty dicey," he said. "I'm still trying to make money farming."
In central Ohio, Peters said that when combining the value of the winter wheat crop with the straw and the soybeans that follow, those are some of his most profitable acres. However, he noted that his double-crop beans this year weren't doing as well because of the droughty conditions they battled.
In Nebraska, Reinke said he will plant wheat due to some futures contracts that he secured. He noted that he likes having it in the rotation.
Mike Lass in north Texas said he'll plant winter wheat following cotton, which he hopes to defoliate by mid-October and begin to harvest by Nov. 1.
"The wheat will serve as a cover crop behind our cotton," he explained. Should the wheat do well over the winter, it will be allowed to mature and then be harvested for grain. "In February, its fate will be determined."
PLANNING FOR 2024
While some within the advisory group still wait to get combines rolling on their 2023 harvest, it hasn't kept them from already planning for the next crop season. Many noted that inputs such as fertilizer and diesel had been booked and prepaid. Conversations with seed dealers had already started.
In northwest Iowa, Magnussen said that while his seed plans for 2024 will be similar to this year, he'll look for more traits to combat corn rootworm. On the soybean side, he said he's looking for Enlist varieties with greater tolerance to white mold, an issue that has become more prevalent the past few years.
Nowak said that after harvest is complete, they assess what varieties did best this year in south-central Minnesota and plan accordingly for 2024.
"Our growing season rain ended up at only 60% of normal," he said. "We'll be looking to determine if there were any drought tolerance differences."
In Nebraska, Reinke said his rotations are pretty well set for 2024, but weed pressure and prices may change the traits he employs.
"Conventional corn continues to be a win-win, but conventional soybeans just get more and more frustrating each growing season," he said. "They get hit so hard with dicamba drift."
EPA HERBICIDE STRATEGY
While a majority of the advisory group members had heard of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Draft Herbicide Strategy Framework," none had reviewed the 96-page document that is available for public comment until Oct. 22.
The proposal is the agency's attempt at fulfilling its obligations under the Endangered Species Act, and it outlines how EPA intends to protect more than 900 listed species and their designated critical habitats (CH) from agricultural uses of conventional herbicides in the lower 48 states.
"I don't know the EPA proposal well, but in the past when more regulations are pushed, it usually hindered proper management of the field and using the regulated product efficiently," Reinke said. "I feel most of us are already good stewards of the land and do what we can to protect the environment and still do it at a high management level."
Currently, a letter crafted by the American Soybean Association is circulating online that calls for EPA to withdraw the draft proposal. It can be found here: https://drive.google.com/….
Individual farmers, ranchers, pesticide applicators and other agricultural producers who have concerns with the draft proposal are being encouraged to sign on to the letter here: https://docs.google.com/….
Read more about the EPA Draft Herbicide Strategy Framework here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Jason Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com
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