ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- Even as wet weather stalls the 2018 corn and soybean harvest in parts of the Midwest, many farmers have their eyes on 2019 seed selection.
"It does seem early to be picking out seed, but the seed companies offer some good discounts if you book now," explained Justin Honebrink, a farmer facing a stalled soybean harvest in central Minnesota.
The weather promises to give him plenty of time to mull seed choices this week. "I have a lot of rain and a little snow in the forecast, so progress looks like it is going to continue to be slow," he said.
Honebrink is among the DTN Agronomy Advisors -- a group of farmers and ranchers whom DTN periodically surveys on fieldwork, crop conditions and other issues facing agriculture. Those farming in the eastern Corn Belt reported a timelier harvest, with high yields and good weather. Most producers were also actively weighing seed decisions in corn and soybeans, as well as sowing cover crops and planning fall herbicide applications.
SOGGY, SLOW AND WORRIED
A boat might prove a more useful tax write-off than a combine this fall in northwest Iowa where Jay Magnussen farms.
"We got from 7 to 14 inches of rain in one day last week," he said. "Widespread flooding sent many fields underwater for the second to sixth time this season." Needless to say, harvest is moving slowly. "We won't see the end of the bean harvest in northwest Iowa until the ground freezes in some fields," Magnussen predicted.
Early soybean yields are ranging between 50 to 75 bushels per acre (bpa), and with the exceptions of wet spots, most corn fields are yielding well, Magnussen said of his area. "I'm surprised it's as good as it is considering the terribly poor planting conditions and extremely wet summer," he said.
In Minnesota, Honebrink has used the slow harvest to catch up on chopping silage and hauling manure, but he is starting to worry about getting soybeans out on time. "We usually have the beans pretty much wrapped up," he said. As for corn, he's pulling it out of the fields wetter than he would prefer, but yields could be a record, he added.
Honebrink has found a silver lining to the soggy fall -- or rather, his cows have. "The only good thing about all the rain is that the cover crop took off nicely in the wheat field and I was able to turn the cows out on it earlier then expected," he said. "That made a big difference in feed usage as the pastures were slowing down going into fall."
RACING TO THE FINISH LINE
Farther east and south, farmers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio reported smoother harvest progress.
John Werries finished up corn harvest in early September and has only a third of his beans left to cut in west central Illinois -- and the results have been a relief. "Our whole farm average bean yield is going to beat our previous high by 10 bushels," he predicted. "Our whole farm average corn yield beat our previous high by 16 bushels."
Josh Miller is wrapping up corn harvest and starting soybeans in southern Illinois. "[Corn] yields have been on both ends of the spectrum," he noted. "Overall, I think we'll be a little better than last year." He hopes to start drilling wheat in the coming days and fall herbicide passes are on the docket for late October.
In southwest Indiana, Scott Wallis is two-thirds done with corn and soybeans. He expects an average corn crop but "beans have a shot at record whole-farm yields."
Keith Peters is also seeing excellent corn and soybean yields and decent weather in central Ohio, but hydraulics breakdowns on both his combine and tractor have conspired to slow him down. Nonetheless, yields are looking good, and he is also sowing rye and planning fall herbicide applications.
In northwest Missouri, however, the effects of a long summer drought are showing up in Bob Birdsell's corn harvest, where yields are only averaging 100 bpa, well below USDA's state average estimate of 138 bpa. "The corn looks good, but you'll be going along and there will be a lot of blank stalks," he said.
2019 SEED SELECTION UNDERWAY
Early season seed discounts are bringing many farmers to the seed dealing table this fall. Honebrink can save 12% on seed orders in October and 10% for orders booked by December.
"They give you some flexibility to change your order later, so I am comfortable booking now," he said. "I also figure that I can't make 10% on my money anywhere else, so I might as well buy something I'm going to need anyways."
The savings and flexibility were a common appeal for many farmers. Peters puts in "pretty generic" seed orders now, and tweaks them after he has his harvest results in hand. Likewise, Werries has already bought and paid for his 2019 seed. "We meet before harvest to put together our initial order," he said. "We then adjust the order at or near the end of corn harvest."
The wide range of herbicide-tolerant trait technology available in soybeans next year makes for some tough choices -- especially as growers await the EPA's decision on the availability of dicamba herbicides to use over-the-top of Xtend soybeans and cotton.
See the DTN story on these choices here:
Werries is sticking with Xtend soybeans on all his bean acres. He was pleased with the trait's weed control and yields, and credits his retailer for drama-free dicamba applications this past summer. Peters is also locking in Xtend seed and "hoping we keep dicamba."
Others are exploring the LibertyLink platform this year and in particular, the LL GT27 varieties that boast tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate (Liberty) and a (not yet available) HPPD/Group 27 herbicide.
Both Wallis and Miller like that LL GT27 beans keep them within the LibertyLink platform, but allow them to diversify their weed control by using both glyphosate and Liberty postemergence.
In corn, Werries typically prioritizes insect and disease protection -- a decision that paid off big in 2018.
"We go after yield and standability," he said. "We had over 2,200 acres of 100% standing corn this year and the highest yielding of my 54 years."
Likewise, Peters is going with pyramided Bt rootworm hybrids to protect his second-year corn acres. "Quite a bit more expensive, but much needed on corn after corn," he said.
Not everyone is ready to lock down seed orders, however. In northwest Missouri, Birdsell prefers to let the dust settle from the combines. "We wait till harvest is over so we can see how everything performed," he said.
Magnussen said that mindset is prevalent where he farms in Iowa, too. "I think most farmers in my area are going to try and kick the can down the road as long as they can in committing to seed, as money is tight and they are hoping for a good deal," he said.
Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org
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