View From the Cab

Harvest Speeds Ahead in Indiana; Rain Boosts Winter Wheat Emergence in Nebraska Panhandle

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
DTN View From the Cab farmers Lane Robinson and Leon Kriesel. (DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "We literally have not stopped for one day except for that little rain last week. Our weather has continued on in an unbelievable fashion. Harvesting is just rocketing on."

That's the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Lane Robinson described last week's harvest progress at his place outside Cromwell, Indiana.

Lane and his partner, Eric Strater, had finished harvesting their genetically engineered soybeans as of late Sunday. Next up are the conventional soybeans for livestock feed. "The elevator won't be ready to accept non-GMO soybeans until the middle of the week," he said. How do they use raw soybeans? "Actually it's a feed mill. They have their own roaster."

Once soybeans are out, it'll be on to corn. After weeks of waiting, a natural gas line to replace higher-priced propane has been connected to Lane's grain dryer.

Lane estimates harvest progress in his county at about 50% done. "I think there are some smaller farms that are close to being done," he said.

After a cold, wet spring and planting delays, yields remain a pleasant surprise -- though not everyone was spared. "There have been no yield changes since last week. You really can't complain, especially after what they went through down south (central Indiana)," Lane told DTN late Sunday. That seems to be borne out by one of Lane's marketing advisers, who reduced state yields below earlier estimates. "Some of the better counties must have started first. Later reports have just gone down, down, down."

Though there's been no local shortage of storage to date, some farmers are planning ahead. "I know one partnership of about 4,000 acres was going to start hauling into town to tie up storage and then go back to on-farm storage because yields are so good," Lane explained.

When harvest moves quickly, it tends to bring other things along. According to Lane, it's earlier than normal, but hog and dairy producers have begun spreading manure on fields of soybean and silage stubble. "Harvest started early, so they just kept on rolling and they should be finished early too," Lane said.

"I thought the article on DTN ('OSHA Policy Changes Loom for Fertilizer Retailers' by DTN Staff Reporter Russ Quinn) about anhydrous ammonia was interesting, even though we don't use it here. Our soil won't support use of NH3 because it's too sandy. It's certainly going to consolidate the players. Mom-and-pop operations won't be able to comply with regulations," Lane said.

Meanwhile, DTN View From the Cab farmer Leon Kriesel "got just a little bit of rain" spread over two days last week. "It almost wasn't rain, but it was," he said.

Wheat emergence has been slow in the area around Leon's farm near Gurley in the Nebraska Panhandle. That's because dry conditions at planting time offered little to help newly seeded fields germinate. But light drizzle last week and heavier rain the week before has changed things for the better. "Wheat is coming up. Some is about an inch tall. Some is just breaking through. Some fields you can see the rows," he said.

Leon grows and sells certified seed from about 3,000 acres. Because emergence of this year's crop has been spotty, some customers have been gearing up to replant, which meant Leon would need to clean his reserve supply to meet demand. "We got all our wheat seed cleaned that we were going to do. We're still loading out customers. I got all the skips in our fields filled in. We'll be cleaning the mill this week, cleaning up equipment. We're back to a little more relaxed time now," he explained.

Dryland corn in the area is close to harvest. This year's rainfall totals over 24 inches to date, about 10 inches above normal, which has been good for growing corn. "I did hear somebody stuck a combine into a field of corn that was 18% moisture. You see quite a few dryland cornfields here. If it rains and makes 85, they'll plant it again next year. Next year if it doesn't rain and it makes 35, they'll still remember the good year. When my folks moved here, everyone grew corn but it was fed on the farm. Most people moved here from the east. They were more familiar with it, but they soon learned wheat was the better crop," Leon said.

Sunflower fields in the area have more drying to do before harvest. Milo is still green, and heads are filling. A chance of frost later this week could speed maturity. "I haven't seen any (sugar) beets dug up on the table -- that's the ground above the North Platte Valley to the north, and Lodge Pole Creek to the south," Leon said.

Milo was grown here widely several decades ago when shorter-maturity public varieties were common. Today's milo generally has longer maturities measured as RM (relative maturity) that don't allow for the cooler, shorter, dryer growing seasons of the Nebraska Panhandle. "In the '60s and '70s, University of Nebraska had a sorghum breeding program. One variety we used in food plots would always mature. I used to combine it and use it for chicken feed."

The reality of falling crop prices may be settling in. A distant relation in Fairbury, Nebraska, has passed away. "None of his relatives farm," Leon said. His farm was auctioned off. The 280-acre farmstead with house and outbuildings, 100 acres of row crops and the balance in CRP, brought about $2,400 per acre. "I think the auctioneer was thinking it would be in the upper $3,000 area. Only two or three people bid on it."

If there's one place farm property has held its own, it may be in long-held machinery. An older John Deere 40 series tractor (circa 1980) and loader brought $29,000 at auction recently.

Leon understands why.

"The oldest tractors we have are a couple of International Harvester Super Cs (built in the early '50s). We use them to pull gravity boxes around the seed plant. You can buy them for about $2,000, and you can fix them. Comparable new 20-horsepower tractors would cost you $20,000," he said.

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Richard Oswald