View From the Cab

Spring Crunch Time Arrives

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, are deep in the details of spring planting this week. Our View From the Cab series will follow them throughout the 2018 crop season. (Photos courtesy of Genny Haun and Kyle Krier)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Kyle Krier jolted awake at a much-too-early 2 a.m. Monday morning. Not even a gentle spring Kansas breeze could coax the young farmer back into an easy slumber.

"My brain was on full alert. I tossed and turned -- just thinking of all the stuff we have to do. I thought about going ahead and delivering an order of hay, but I wasn't sure they'd be too thrilled if I showed up before sunup," said Krier, laughing.

Most farmers can identify with the stress that comes with spring. Timely operations -- be it planting, spraying or scouting -- all compress in the best of seasons. "We know it will all get done, but sometimes it is just hard to turn the brain off," said Krier, who farms near Claflin, Kansas.

DTN is following the Kansan Krier and Genny Haun from Kenton, Ohio, throughout the 2018 planting, growing and harvesting season. You can read an introduction to their farming operations here:

https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Haun is also experiencing some feverish conditions in Ohio as storm clouds have been rolling in just about the time field operations start building steam. Two children with minor illnesses and a funeral added to the juggling for her this past week.

Here's how crop conditions are shaping up in Kansas and Ohio:

KYLE KRIER - CLAFLIN, KANSAS

Krier called from the sprayer as he was busy chasing the planter to make sure it didn't get too far ahead of preemergence applications. "We want to keep pretty close in case we do get a shower. Getting residual down is so critical to our weed control system," he said.

He is planting all dicamba-tolerant soybeans this year -- both as a defensive move against possible off-target movement and because varieties yielded well in his area last year. He took a yield hit from some off-target movement of dicamba last year and decided he didn't want to risk it again this year.

Palmer amaranth is his big weed worry. Marestail and some of the viny weeds are mostly under control, he noted. The necessity to get pigweed sprayed early is critical with dicamba applications though.

He hopes to get at least three weeks of residual control from Valor XLT and will be following with a post-application of Engenia and Outlook.

Krier's been checking to identify neighboring fields that might be sensitive to dicamba and said the farmers in his neighborhood seem to be cooperating and communicating well. At this time, he's also planning on having postemergence dicamba applications custom sprayed.

Conditions have been mostly dry in central Kansas, but a few showers this past week have things looking up. Soybean planting was underway. He's not planting any corn this year, and milo plantings won't start until the end of May or early June.

This week Krier's been scouting for alfalfa weevil. He's also been scouting wheat carefully. Drought coupled with some freeze damage has him carefully weighing every treatment against yield potential to make sure it pays. So far, he said, freeze damage doesn't appear to be as bad in his area as it is to the south and east.

"Wheat is delayed this year and just started to head out this week. Once it is headed, we'll have a better idea of what it could potentially yield and if treatments for stripe rust, for example, will pay off," he said.

Krier said that while the wheat in his area has potential, it will continue to need more rain. Warm temperatures and strong winds very quickly make for dry conditions.

In addition to farming, Krier also sells crop insurance. What he dreads is a wheat crop that comes in around 20 to 30 bushels per acre (bpa). "I call that no man's land -- that midway crop where it doesn't pay much on crop insurance, and you still have to cut it and don't have much to sell. I'd rather see a crop go to zero than sit there," he said.

The Wheat Quality Council's winter wheat tour made a stop in one of Krier's fields last week. "They actually predicted one of my fields will yield 46.5 bpa. I'm hoping they are right -- after everything wheat has been through, if it makes that, I will be happy," he said.

And, who knows, it might also afford a good night's sleep.

GENNY HAUN - KENTON, OHIO

If Mother Nature could turn off the spigot for just a bit, the crew at Layman Farms would welcome a drying spell to complete planting.

Genny Haun's father, Jan Layman, reports rainfall totals for their township. He recorded 4.95 inches of rain in April, and that doesn't include the several measurable snows they had in this northwest corner of Ohio, near Kenton.

"We've had 2.32 inches of rain in the past five days," Haun said on Monday. "It's hard to build momentum when we get in the field for about a half a day before getting rained out. Then we wait three days and go through it all over again."

The wacky rainfall pattern started last summer when a wet spring dried up to barely a drop and was followed by a sloppy fall and winter. "We don't do any tillage, but those that do are only now just starting to get into the field. So there's a lot of catch-up work going on," she noted.

Layman Farms was able to get fertilizer spread on about 1,200 acres over the past week. They also got 500 tons of lime spread that they weren't able to apply last fall when conditions got too wet.

Cover crops went out on about half (2,500 acres) of their acreage last year. The heavy rains they experienced can result in field washouts, but they were happy to find soils held much better in fields sowed to cover crops. Those cover-cropped fields have also been better fit to plant earlier.

"We went from zero to approximately 45% planted on corn (1,200 acres) in the short amount of time we have had to work," she said. "Normally, we plant corn and beans at the same time, but because of how the winter played out and how the spring has been going, we don't have any beans in right now."

Strong winds have made it challenging to get burndown treatments applied, so plant-back requirements have also held back bean planting.

Layman Farms runs two air seeders -- one a 30-footer and the other a 40-footer. But one of their operators was tied up spreading fertilizer and the other was doing his civic duty working for the board of elections over the past few days.

"We're not too worried yet -- if the weather cooperates, we can get our beans planted in a week," Haun said.

Two years ago when the season ran late, the family managed to plant 3,850 acres in less than five days. That required renting some additional equipment, but Haun said it is proof of what they can do if pushed.

"We try not to run too many long nights. Everyone has their own job to do and we don't really have a crew to run second shift.

"We also really believe in watching the number of hours an individual driver is behind the wheel -- for both health and safety reasons. But we have an eye on the weather, and sometimes we have to push a bit harder if it means getting the crop in," she said.

The passing of her husband's grandmother took them to Tennessee this past week. Haun said such events put work into perspective, as the couple believes the need to hold family close should be a priority.

Haun and her husband, Matthew, have a toddler and infant son. "We try hard to make sure the boys see both sets of grandparents each week.

"My grandparents were so important to me as I grew up, and we want our children to have that too," she said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(AG/BAS)

Pam Smith