View From the Cab

Record-Keeping in Indiana Until Harvest, Winter Wheat Planting in Nebraska

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) -- "We'd already decided to go back pretty heavy to corn." That's the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Lane Robinson of Cromwell, Indiana, summed up his reaction to last week's USDA crop reports, which were considered bullish to corn. But it may be awhile before he knows his own yield results this year. "I always figured Sept. 20th to the 25th was harvest beginning. We're slowed back a couple of weeks," he said.

After a wet spring, corn maturity is later than usual at Lane's place. Earliest-planted corn may just be starting to black layer. A few fields of late group 2 soybeans are starting to turn -- "They might go in September," Lane said -- but group 3 soybeans are staying green. And it's been dry lately. "I've been hitting my beans (irrigating); they were put in pretty late. I had to move the irrigator, so I thought I'd water as I go," he said.

It's cooled off. Lane's late-week low temperatures dropped into the 40s with a few scattered showers.

Dairies nearby began chopping corn silage last week. "Everybody dropped hay yesterday," Lane told DTN late Sunday. "Between the Amish and dairies, we have a very active hay market. Cuttings are backed up due to the rain. I don't think anybody got theirs cut on time. It's just a rough year for it."

Lane raises over 600,000 Pekin ducks each year in a total of 10 barns. Normally, he ships one barn-full per week. "We're shipping three barns this week. We've got a full week on the duck farm schedule. And of course the ducks like the weather. They don't like that 90-degree stuff," he said.

Six-hundred-thousand ducks means a lot of manure. "I've been working on my CNMP (certified manure management plan). I have to keep five years' worth of records right here at the farm. I know a lady who has built a full-fledged business on manure application. She does all of my stuff for the year." But CNMPs cover more than manure. "You have to have mortality management as part of your CNMP," Lane said.

Composting is the preferred method of mortality management. New requirements in some places require poultry producers to compost dead birds in a particular way. Lane plans to install an Ecodrum composter because it will accelerate the composting process from months down to a week or two, prevent groundwater contamination, and make it easier for him to remain in compliance with his CNMP. "Some southern states won't allow poultry unless they use an Ecodrum. They raise a lot of turkeys down there that can weigh up to 40 or 50 pounds. It takes a long time to compost a bird that size," Lane explained.

Meanwhile, in Gurley, Nebraska, View From the Cab farmer Leon Kriesel has begun planting his winter wheat crop. "It's getting pretty dry on top. People are worried they don't have enough moisture (for germination). There's not much you can do about that. I got one field drilled on Saturday. Moisture is about 5 inches down. I just set it at 2 inches and drilled," Leon told DTN late Sunday.

Leon grows certified seed on about 3,000 acres each year. This week will be even busier than last week. Millet has been swathed and harvest is getting underway. He has a second wheat drill ready to run, and he'll be loading out seed wheat to customers. "Last week from Tuesday to Friday, we loaded out 55 loads of seed," he said. "We have 500 to 600 acres (of millet) to go. My cousin is coming out to help. We're going to give him a bin and turn him loose. I'll be loading seed and answering the phone. After 5:00, I'll probably go out and drill."

After a spate of cooler weather with lows into the 40s, high temperatures on Sunday returned to the 90s. Dry bean harvest has begun. "They look pretty decent, but there's some green spots out there. They desiccate them to even up the crop," Leon said. Sunflower heads are starting to droop, a sign of maturity. But heavy rain on heads can spoil the seed. "If heads turn upside down, rain fills them with water and the head will rot."

As fall approaches, Leon said bird migrations haven't begun, "but sparrows are bunching up and wasps are looking to get inside."

Leon's milo is starting to turn. He's been irrigating that. Dryland corn in a neighboring field is dented. "We had pretty good rains early. I don't think it'll make 100, but some may go 80 (bushels per acre)." Lower grain prices have put the squeeze on. Is 80-bushel corn profitable with today's input costs? "Their biggest increase in cost is seed. It's Roundup Ready; a couple of applications of Roundup keep herbicide costs down. Milo is cheaper to raise, so people are trying that."

After last week's USDA reports, Leon feels that "corn is a buck too low and two on wheat. Some guys are looking for alternatives. That's why they're turning to peas." In western Nebraska where average annual rainfall is only about 13 to 14 inches, normal summer fallow cropping systems produce two crops in four years. Farmers are experimenting with adding a crop, so that they have three crops in four years, or even continuous cropping. Cover crops have been tried. "Evapotranspiration rates are so high, we just can't do it. It's very disheartening to see the crop come up and dry out."

But the Nebraska Panhandle isn't the only place where crop moisture is limited.

"We have a contact in Argentina. They buy proso millet seed from us. What they (USDA) report is not always what they see. One year, they left the seed in the container because it was too dry to plant," Leon said.

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Richard Oswald