View From the Cab

More Rain Keeps Illinois, Pennsylvania Farmers From Finishing Planting

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
This year's View From the Cab farmers are Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois, and Jim Hoover of Newport, Pennsylvania. (Brown photo by Pam Smith; Hoover photo by Edwin Remsberg)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "They're calling for a pretty wet week here. We'd really like to have gotten done (planting), but a broken hose on Sunday isn't good." So goes corn planting for DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois.

Sunday looked like a working day until a hydraulic hose burst underneath the planter tractor's cab. "Those hoses are a challenge," Chase told DTN late Sunday evening. "It's still a little wet. We got going Tuesday... had to hunt and peck to find (a field) that would work. We still have 80 acres to plant."

Chase noted that corn emergence has sped up with warmer temperatures. "We finally got some heat we desperately needed. Corn that was up was just so yellow. What we've seen is that the farmers who used starter fertilizer, their corn greened up a day or two sooner. You could easily drive down the road and say, 'Yep, he uses starter.' We'll see if that equates to yield. We certainly think so."

Till or no-till? That's the question on lots of farmers' minds these days. "I no-tilled (corn) into standing cover crops and it was awesome," Chase said. "I saw quail. I saw rabbits. There were mushrooms growing out there... the soil was mellow. When I think of fungus and mushrooms, I think of organic matter. We had a lot of volunteer wheat. They really struggled to get it killed timely. I lowered the (planter) trash wheels down and there was plenty of moisture. Radishes planted after wheat (last year) winterkilled and rotted. There were these great big holes in the ground where the radishes were." Chase mentioned cover crop crimson clover, blooming in field corners, which offered other indirect benefits: "I saw three or four different kinds of birds," he said.

No-till is popular with various insects and cutworms too. That's why Chase added Capture to his in-furrow starter fertilizer in addition to Poncho seed treatment.

"I had an interesting conversation with a local fertilizer plant manager. There's a lot of soybeans going in around here, and I asked him, 'When did we get so far behind?' He said that in the last three or four years, we got guys who could plant all their corn in three or four days... most corn can get planted in seven days once the first seed drops. It's mind-blowing how fast this crop goes in," Chase told DTN.

What accounts for speedy planting rates? "We have a lot of guys who have switched to high-speed planters. Some run around the clock (until they've finished)." That course of action may not be for everyone. "I was talking to Dad, and we agreed we don't want to get all our corn in the ground at the same time." That's because modern hybrids with fast dry down can lose yield due to low grain moisture or crop standability. A steadier planting pace and calendarization of the crop reflects the reality of slower harvest time frames. On the other hand, "you don't want everyone saying you're the last ones done," Chase said.

Wheat has headed out. There is some leaf rust, but not much. "We did not put on a fungicide for leaf disease, but we're scouting now for head scab. If it's still wet when it's flowering, since it's for seed production, we'll probably spray it for head scab," he said.

When it rains it pours. Wet weather that delays planting helps speed hay crop development. "The grass is still growing like crazy." Something else is growing too: "We've got some weed pressure but no leaf hoppers. At some point, we'd like to harvest it and get control that way. We have some orchard grass ready. We'd like to get that off and get a second cutting. Alfalfa has stayed pretty clean other than one spot where what we call yellow rocket (wild mustard) has come in," he said.

"I've enjoyed reading Jim's (View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover) comments on vegetable farming. I have a neighbor who raises 80 acres of sweet corn and other vegetable crops. I like reading about those specialty crops... but boy they work for it," Chase said.

Meanwhile, at his place outside Newport, Pennsylvania, DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover is done planting corn at home. That's only the halfway point with over 600 more acres to go at the Tower City farm. It hasn't been easy. "Four-and-a-half days of six working days last week were rain. We ended up with a couple of inches," he said.

Jim's last field at home was a river bottom field where soil is better than his uplands, but impediments other than soil quality exist. "I was worried it was going to be too wet because we got two-tenths of an inch of rain overnight. That's the deepest (soil) I have. The critters (wildlife) are heavy down there. They hammer me pretty good -- I'm only 75 yards from the river -- so I never can do small grains there. (That's why) I did 25 acres of corn on corn and used the vertical tiller. It really did work nice," he said.

Soybean planting is well underway with grandson Mason running the drill. Jim is concerned that soybean seedling emergence is slow. It might be the weather. "Temperatures are warming now through the day, but overnight lows have been in the 40s," he said. His emerged corn looks great. "Corn is absolutely beautiful. We have 300 acres up now. It's starting to green and stands are just perfect."

Seed crops are also doing well. "We're looking at some really nice-looking triticale and wheat," Jim said.

With no-till, rocky soils and heavy loads, implement tires -- especially on planters -- can take a beating. While some stand up fairly well, others may not. Jim explains: "We pulled the planter into the shop because it was raining. We had little pinholes in all six tires." Jim said the holes weren't due to stubble damage, but that the nearly new OEM tubeless tires were seeping air. "We use a lot of Firestones. (Some) other brands seem to just keep getting poorer and poorer," he said.

Farmers see it every once in a while: inexplicable differences in crops or livestock affecting production and profits. Sometimes it's caused by weather variations or other outside conditions, but many times we never really know exactly why.

"We had a poor group of (turkey) poults," Jim said. "You get a bad bunch and they just don't have resistance... maybe two flocks in five years." This flock represents about 28,000 of Jim and Craig's annual production of 130,000. "They're coming up two weeks old. It's one of those things where the weak ones die off," he said.

Water quality issues have had an impact on farming operations like Hoover Turkey Farm, where nutrient management and regular soil testing in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are mandated by law. Because of those requirements, on Jim's farm, 310 soil samples were taken this year alone. It can be costly, but there are definitely winners and losers. "At $10 a pop (not including labor or recordkeeping), that's a pretty big expense. One of the things that's happening now is this (soil sampling and analysis) is making these guys a pretty profitable business." Jim is glad to see EPA's waters of the U.S. rules under scrutiny. "I'm glad they got set back a little. This deal about all water, that's a lot of power," he said.

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Richard Oswald