View From the Cab

Mild Fall Boosts Harvest, Fieldwork in Indiana, Western 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 had a strong week of running.”

That’s the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Lane Robinson described harvest progress this past week at his farm outside Cromwell, Indiana.

“We’ve got 160 acres of corn left and 130 acres of beans. We’ve just been putting around waiting for them to take the beans,” Lane told DTN late Sunday. Soybean cutting has been delayed while the buyer of his conventional soybeans makes processing plant upgrades. Lane may bin the beans instead of delivering direct from the field. “We’re going to get done this week one way or another,” he said.

It’s about the same story for his corn crop. The long, cold spring and wet summer made maturity come on slower than usual. Grain moisture content has finally started to drop, which has sped the crop’s passage through the grain dryer. “We’re only taking it down a couple of points now.” But limited storage space is starting to fill up. “We’re going to have to get some trucks in here sometime this week.”

While this year’s bounty has made for some weak basis around the country, parts of Indiana have struggled to meet demand. “We were just talking about sending some of our overage down to the ethanol plant at Bluffton. They have a 28 (cent) over local bid...that’s in an area where they didn’t have much corn,” Lane said.

Overall, it’s been a good crop, but Lane told DTN that high yields of 220 to 230 bushels per acre on lighter soil have been replaced as harvest moved onto darker soils where yields have fallen off. “As soon as you move into that low ground, it’s more like 150 to 160.”

USDA released 2014 ARC and PLC funding last week for farms that qualify. Lane hasn’t seen any money yet. That may be because a color-coded map shows his county with average to above-average yields.

Once harvest is over, fieldwork will begin. There’s chiseling to do on corn ground, and manure pumping at Lane’s 10 duck barns where he raises over 600,000 Pekin ducks each year. It’s been some of the best weather ever for ducks this year, with temperatures trending cooler, aiding feed conversion. “Temperatures got into the 30s last week, and we had to tighten up the auto-curtains (to limit outside air circulation).”

Weather plays a big part in every farmer’s life. Lane noted a bit of Indiana weather lore that states if no snowflakes fall by Nov. 1, an extra snow day is added to the average 30 every day until snow finally falls.

An Indiana weather axiom is that “you can’t have Indiana Summer until you have Squall Winter, or weather that looks like winter. That usually happens in November. We have not had that,” Lane said. “I miss all that folklore our grandparents used to know.”

Meanwhile, outside Gurley, Nebraska, View From the Cab farmer Leon Kriesel told DTN it had been a “purdy decent week.”

Weather was dry after good rains fell the week before, helping winter wheat germinate and making the earth moist enough for other fieldwork -- like allowing Leon to apply anhydrous ammonia and 10-34-0 to winter wheat. Before that, “the soil was so mellow we couldn’t work because it pulled seedlings out by the root.”

Leon shoots for about 60 pounds of N and 25 to 30 pounds of fall-applied phosphorous per acre. He noted that trace elements are generally not in the mix. “Basically, we don’t get a big response,” he said. “You can put ‘em on, but it’s too costly.”

A test cutting of Leon’s milo yielded 17% moisture grain, at least a couple of points wetter than Leon wanted. “We’re going to try it again Monday,” he said. Some neighbors have already begun dryland milo cutting. Dryland corn in the area is close to done. A neighbor told Leon he’d seen corn testing 12% to 28% moisture in half-mile rows from the same field. Irrigated corn is coming out slowly. Generally speaking, harvested fields with wetter grain are going to elevators, while feedlots wait for dryer corn after taking in high-moisture corn earlier this fall.

Sunflower harvest has started. There’s lots of variability in plant stands this year, which affects seed head size and yield. The ideal size for confection sunflowers is about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Thicker populations have smaller 2- to 4-inch heads while thinner plant populations have 10- to 14-inch heads. It’s difficult for farmers to know how thick to plant, because of outside interference. “Prairie voles and pocket gophers were going down the rows eating the seeds this spring,” Leon explained.

Leon told DTN that recently released ARC and PLC payments have been inconsequential. That’s because nothing was paid on wheat, and he hasn’t heard of anyone receiving anything on corn. Recently made CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) payments seem to have avoided sequestration reductions when Congress extended funding last week.

Some precipitation forecast for Wednesday could fall as snow. It hasn’t been cold enough yet to kill volunteer oats and millet.

Leon grows and sells certified seed on about 3,000 acres. Painting on the grain legs at the seed mill is proceeding and will hopefully be done before weather turns sour.

It was reported last week that rust had been found on seedling winter wheat. Leon wasn’t surprised. “Where they found the rust there had been a lot of hail, which would have caused (more than normal) volunteer and rust would have carried over in that, or maybe created an inoculant to the soil so that it might have emerged again,” Leon explained. “We’ve seen mosaic in the fall. That’s a virus. It could survive in the plant through winter, but if you have good conditions, the plant can outgrow it.”

That’s different from rust, a temperature- and climate-sensitive fungus.

“Rust can’t hurt seedlings. Rust likes warm, humid conditions. It just couldn’t live. When wheat goes dormant, its leaves desiccate and rust will not survive,” he said.

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Richard Oswald