View From the Cab

Keep Those Combines Rolling

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, of Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, of 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. (DTN photos by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Harvest is finally in full swing for Genny Haun and Kyle Krier. The two farmers have been reporting on the 2018 crop season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.

The growing part of the season had set the Ohio and Kansas farmers up for what they hoped would be one of the best production years yet. However, weather woes have kept grain harvest to a minimum until recently.

Things turned around this past week. "We have been pushing hard," said Kyle Krier, who farms near Claflin, Kansas. "We're facing a forecast of rain for Wednesday (Oct. 24). Grain quality is amazingly good, considering what we've been through, but that won't hold forever."

Weather hasn't been quite as wild in the north-central section of Ohio near Kenton, Haun noted. But the sporadic rainfall that had kept Layman Farms chipping away at harvest finally subsided and allowed full-tilt gathering this past week.

Storage and labor continue to be concerns for both farmers and add a smattering of politics to the mix.

Read more to find out what's happening in their regions of the farming world:

GENNY HAUN - KENTON, OHIO

The announcement of the sudden termination of Ohio Director of Agriculture David Daniels had Genny Haun on full alert this week.

"News reports have attributed the termination to an ongoing disagreement with Gov. John Kasich over the measures being taken to address Lake Erie's water quality challenges through increased agriculture regulation," Haun said.

This is a particularly sensitive topic for Haun. In July, she testified on behalf of the Ohio Farm Bureau at a hearing before the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Charged with examining the governor's executive order to intensify efforts to fight toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie, the group deferred action to a subcommittee. Haun has since submitted written testimony to the subcommittee. Agriculture shouldn't carry the entire burden of the cleanup, she said.

The health of Lake Erie has been at the center of debate for decades. Kasich has requested that eight western Ohio watersheds be declared in distress. That move could potentially trigger some tough new fertilizer and manure management mandates. The state has committed to reducing phosphorous entering the lake's western basin by 40% by 2023.

Haun said she recognizes that agriculture needs to be part of the solution. However, some 6,500 to 7,000 farmers will be influenced by the proposals, and she feels that stakeholders need to have input into the decisions.

The move to install an interim state director of agriculture comes just weeks before the gubernatorial election, she noted.

Meanwhile, the politics of harvest were improving at Layman Farms. By Monday, Oct. 22, Haun estimated 20% of the corn had been shelled and about 50% of the soybeans cut. "Thankfully, the quality remains good and yields are even higher than we expected," she noted.

That additional volume puts even further pressure on where to put the extra. "We have about 80% of our bean storage full already," she noted.

The farm hired two new employees for part-time/seasonal work -- a blessing since two of their regular crew have been away for personal reasons. "Both of these new hires bring extensive experience and wanted part-time work -- sometimes things do go right," she said.

Seed sales would typically be ramping up this time of year, but several things are influencing advance orders, Haun reported. Tax changes in 2018 are discouraging prepaying expenses, and there's a possibility that might also influence early seed orders.

"We're also still waiting on the EPA ruling on dicamba. I don't know how much that will influence sales. In our operation, we believe that is where the genetic advances are right now. Even if we don't utilize the chemistry, we will continue to use the seed for the technology advances and to protect ourselves against off-target movement. We're really excited about getting GT27 (isoxaflutole/ glufosinate/glyphosate) technology seed coming through the production chain," she said.

KYLE KRIER - CLAFLIN, KANSAS

"Not going to lie, I'm having a bit of a tough time keeping a life balance," Kyle Krier admitted. With a 1-week-old son and a toddler in the house and crops left to harvest, sleeping has pretty much been short listed for this Kansas farmer.

Still, he was counting his blessings. The kids are healthy and his soybean and milo crop is still standing and not showing much deterioration despite buckets of rain and several inches of snow.

Just deciding what machine to climb into first each day has been another challenge. "I've been running the combine, sprayer and air seeder this week. Plus we have 350 acres of hay down -- what a crazy year," he said. Relatives have been pitching in as helpers at home and on the farm, allowing him to run three grain cart drivers. He's planning on hiring the milo to be custom harvested if the operator can't get to it before the next rain.

"A week ago, we didn't have a bean out, and if things go as planned, we'll have all 1,250 acres harvested before the rain hits," he said. "As they continue to dry down, we're starting to see a little shattering."

Earlier in the month when the rain wouldn't stop, Krier was questioning his decision to go with a fuller-season soybean for the 2018 season. The majority of his seed selection fell into the 4.2 to 4.3 relative maturity (RM) range.

"We had to buy a little seed to finish up one field this year, and the only variety we could get was 3.8," Krier noted. "Those beans lined up next to a 4.2, and yield was a full 20% less. They were ready to harvest, and we couldn't get in to get them on time."

"Unfortunately, we don't always have these insights when ordering and planting soybean seed. But the later-maturity soybeans really worked out for me. Fungicide and insecticide treatments also paid handsomely," he added. Wooly bear caterpillars were especially voracious feeders this year, and untreated fields in the area experienced more feeding and are seeing quality issues.

Krier said soybean yields are breaking records -- doubling averages in some dryland fields. "Rainfall has been a big factor. But we also trialed a lot of different inputs this year as we try to increase dryland yields through selective input use.

"I still need to push the pencil to see exactly which treatments were most profitable this year. Volume matters in markets with margins this slim. But we also have to look at economic returns," he said. "Not every acre is the same either. When we take on new rental ground, for example, there are often costs and time required to build its productive capacity."

Five cuttings on nearly every acre of dryland hay is another record for Krier's books. However, he has been a little disappointed in the test on some of that hay this year. "Last year we saw some crazy-high feed value -- in the range of 251 to 290 relative feed value (RFV). In fact, some of the dairies wouldn't take it. The really high test hay went to milking goat dairies," Krier said.

This year, volumes of rain favored stem elongation. Less sunlight did not help promote leaf production. "It's still really good hay, and we definitely do not have a shortage on this farm," he said.

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

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Pam Smith