View From the Cab

Nebraska, Indiana Farmers Have Seen Roller-Coaster Weather Conditions Lately

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) -- "More rain, rain, rain. But it could be a whole lot worse."

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

Lane traveled by train to the nation's capital last week, leaving on Tuesday and returning Sunday. What he saw confirmed that wet conditions are spread across a large area. "From Cleveland to the Indiana border, it's just nasty, nasty. Water everywhere all the way across Ohio," Lane told DTN late Sunday. "You could tell they've had plenty of water all the way to the coast."

But while Lane's farm is wet, precipitation reports are heavier nearby. "We had rain, but it dodged around us. I had an inch and a half. That puts us at 6.3 inches for the month. Fort Wayne is over 12 inches," he said.

Is the recent run-up in corn and soybean prices a weather market? "No doubt about it," Lane said. But he feels that the full effects of crop damage won't be reflected in prices "until the combine runs." He's well aware of market physics; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. "A guy and I were talking (about this). Every day it goes up just takes away from the ARC payment for 2014," he said.

Fields are becoming weedy, but it's too wet to spray. Once it dries, he and his partner Eric Strater agree that soybeans and corn will both need fungicide treatments to preserve full yield potential. With corn rows closing, in spite of mud, side dressing of 28% nitrogen solution had to be done on Saturday. "It was getting too big. Row middles were wet, but soil in the rows was dry because root balls hadn't moved out to the middle." That's Lane's explanation of excess moisture slowing root development.

Even the grounds surrounding Lane's duck barns -- he raises more than 600,000 head of Pekin ducks each year -- are too water soaked to mow. Replacement duck populations in the barns are being reduced by 5% to 10% in anticipation of the two hottest months of the year. That helps the birds stay cool, improving feed conversion. "Once temperatures cross 75 to 80 degrees, there's not many birds around the feeders. Then when it drops back to 65 (in the evening), they begin to eat," he explained.

Area wheat harvest is still days away. July 10 is the usual start date. Disease caused by wet, cool conditions is a concern. "Vomitoxin in wheat will be a problem for guys that get it," Lane said. Once wheat is harvested, nearby dairies will be under the gun to pump manure lagoons, applying manure to freshly harvested fields. "I need to pump some (duck manure) myself," Lane said, "but right now there's not a field solid enough to get a tank across."

Reading DTN Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson's long-range forecasts gives Lane hope that a change is in store. "Maybe after the Fourth of July it will dry out some," he said.

Meanwhile, out west, with wheat maturity coming later in July, Leon Kriesel of Gurley, Nebraska, isn't concerned about vomitoxin, but a fungus called scab. "I saw eastern Kansas has pretty bad scab," Leon told DTN late Monday. "We're in the hard-dough stage right now. I still think the 15th of July (for harvest beginning). Usual harvest date is the 15th to 18th."

Last week was drier at Leon's place; rain amounts varied from 0.52 inch to more than an inch of rain Thursday afternoon. Neighbors reported amounts as high as 2.4 inches. Leon's total precipitation for the year now stands at 18.32 inches. That's well ahead of typical average annual rainfall of 13 to 14 inches per year.

Leon grows and sells certified seed from about 3,000 acres each year. That means grain bins used to separate and store different varieties must be cleaned and readied prior to harvest. That's something else he did last week along with checking quality of carryover wheat and moving excess oats. A center pivot was started to apply 15 to 20 pounds of N to a field of barley after shutting down earlier on wheat. "Water it too much and it might start to fall over. Moisture we have now would finish it, but I might have to put some more on. Things right now are pretty decent here," he said.

Some neighbors are still drilling millet fields. Earlier-planted millet and grain sorghum have all emerged. Leon was able to plant his wildlife food plots last week, but terrace repairs were delayed by rain -- again. Each time it rains, the contractor making repairs leaves to work on other projects. When he returns, rain comes along. "I thanked him for moving back over there; we were getting pretty dry," Leon said.

The arid, higher-altitude Nebraska panhandle produces more small grains than corn along with dry edible beans and oilseed sunflowers. Leon noticed a neighbor tearing out a stand of sunflowers last week. But why? "I thought they looked pretty good. But ground squirrels or gophers had gone down the rows and pulled enough plants out that they went ahead and destroyed it," he said.

Rain has been good for foxtail germination in fallow fields. That's bad for farmers who must now spend money to kill it before it can make seed while soaking up reserve moisture needed for next year's crop. It's at the optimum stage for control right now at about 1 to 4 inches tall.

It wasn't long ago that post-emerge weed sprayers, hard pressed to do their work, were cutting 6-inch ruts and getting stuck. While checking fields last week after a short dry spell, Leon was barely able to get a soil probe into the ground. After a half-inch of rain, he was able to push it down a foot.

"We kind of went from monsoon to drought," he said.

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Richard Oswald