View From the Cab

Weather Helps Harvest in Iowa, Wet Conditions Slow Okla. Fieldwork

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
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Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, (left) and Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are this year's featured DTN View From the Cab farmers. (Courtesy photo of Zack Rendel; DTN photo of Brent and Lisa Judisch by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Baseball great Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else." He seemed to be saying you've got to have a plan. DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, had a plan last week, and it led them to successfully completing this year's harvest.

"In order to get done this week, everything had to go perfect," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

Brent's plan involved several remaining fields of corn and two fields of soybeans. Weather and machinery cooperated so that on Saturday the last 9 acres of corn were finished, wrapping up the harvest of 2017.

"Every single thing we had to do we got done," he said.

Two lines coming off the big air compressor in the Judisch's ample-sized farm shop make short work of blowing off chaff and dirt. By Friday, soybean heads were already cleaned, and sickles rebuilt and put away until next year. Corn head and combine cleanup will wait for the next big rain when combines will be washed and left inside the heated shop to dry for a week or so.

On Saturday, three v-rippers were mounted on tractors and are ready to go. It rained about 3/10ths of an inch overnight Saturday. "We couldn't go back to the field to do tillage. Guys who were still picking corn didn't work Sunday," Brent explained. However, that didn't keep Brent from using a backhoe on Sunday to remove old fences on two farms.

"It's hard to maintain ditches on farms with fences still out," he said. Using a fence-post puller he bought from a local machinery shop, Brent yanks the posts and uses his skid loader to "roll wire up like a snowball. I can remove a half mile of fence in four hours." Wire balls are then loaded onto a trailer and sold for salvage. Wood posts are burned in brush piles made of inevitable trees growing in fencerows.

With work completed by 5 p.m. Saturday, Brent and Lisa visited their middle daughter Madeleine in Iowa City.

Soybean moisture levels remained at about 13% right up to the end. Plants had dried, which allowed Brent and Lisa to "drive as fast as you could combine them." Yields remained lower than last year at 60 to 65 bushels per acre compared to 2016 yields of about 70 bpa.

The last corn harvested still tested around 18% moisture regardless of maturity. Test weights were good at over 58 pounds per bushel. This year's yields beat last year's, which was "best ever" until now.

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Locally, harvest is about 80% complete. Fall tillage is going well with soil working up nicely.

The local ethanol plant is clamoring for corn with unloading hours running from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Ethanol margins are strong. Many local elevators have plenty of room even as harvest wraps up. "We are seeing evidence of that in local basis," Brent noted. Another positive demand factor for corn comes from a couple of recently built fish farms in the area that are using a new byproduct from ethanol production, similar to gluten, as a food for locally grown tilapia.

With 2017 harvest behind him as another new year approaches, Brent took a moment to reflect on one for the record books, even as he plans for 2018.

"It's great to get done, but it's even better to get done with no serious breakdowns and no injuries," he said.

HARVESTING AND PLANTING AT SAME TIME

Outside Miami, Oklahoma, where View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel raises crops with his uncle, Brent Rendel, harvest and planting share the same fall season. That's because as summer soybean and corn crops are harvested, winter crops such as canola and wheat must be seeded.

Winter canola is already up and growing. Herbicide applications of grass killer to control ryegrass and cheat have all been made. That was finished Saturday. Now hard red winter wheat drilling has begun; while there was 600 acres of soybean cutting to go, it was put on hold because of high-moisture green beans and dreary, misty and drizzly weather.

"We put our heads together and decided to drill some wheat," Zack explained. On Monday, Zack hooked up the two 12-foot drills he pulls in tandem, but the weather turned wet. Tuesday was the same, and tough corn stalks threatened to cause hair pinning of the residue in seed furrows.

"It was like a heavy dew all day, so I decided Tuesday to do bookwork," he said. Barring heavier precipitation, after hitting a small snag when the weather finally cleared, the wheat should all be planted early this week. "We ran out of seed Saturday when we discovered weevils in holdover seed from last year," Zack told DTN early Monday.

Zack's usual seed provider was almost out of supply. They had just 39 50-pound bags on hand. That's when Zack phoned a reliable neighbor, Jake, who had the 100 units of leftover seed Zack needed to finish. "That's who I call when I need help. It was Jake who loaned me a tractor when ours went down earlier this year."

One hand washes the other. "While we were talking about seed, Jake learned the tractor pulling his wheat drill had gotten stuck. Jake asked, 'Could I borrow a tractor (to pull it out)?'" Zack said.

With wheat profits hard to come by, Zack hopes premiums may be offered for above-average protein levels in next year's HRW crop. Without better profits, graze-out may be an option down the road as wheat becomes little more than a cover crop on the Rendel farm.

Zack's uncle Brent planted a soybean test plot in cooperation with the Kansas Ag Research and Technology Association (KARTA.) The plot compares planting dates with varying plant populations and maturities from groups 4.7 to 5.5. Each comparison has four replications. At Brent's invitation, OSU brought its plot harvester to the farm on Friday to harvest the plot. Results should be available soon.

Family is important, but fall work is demanding. Sometimes tact is called for, such as when it Zack's wife's birthday. "Friday was Kristi's birthday. I got her some flowers, because I couldn't spend the day with her," Zack said.

But, with fieldwork on hold, there was time to spend with Zack and Kristi's son Nathan. His birthday party was Saturday at the tribal gym. "I'm a member of the Cherokee tribe of Oklahoma and the Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma. They own four casinos. The income from those goes to members mostly in the form of healthcare. They take really good care of their members. The gym has a fitness center, basketball court, volleyball and bounce houses for the kids. A lot of birthday parties are held there. We can rent it for $100 for two hours. That's a pretty good thing for the kids," he said.

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Editor's Note: View from the Cab 2017 will take next week off, returning the following week for our final installment.

Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald

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Richard Oswald

Richard Oswald
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