View From the Cab

Planting Done in Pennsylvania; Only Soybeans Left to Finish Up in Illinois

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) -- "Since Thursday it's been go, go, go." That's the way View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown described farming at his place outside Decatur, Illinois.

Chase told DTN late Sunday that corn planting officially ended on Monday of the same week soybean planting officially began, once weather offered a reprieve from rainfall. "We finally got started planting beans on Thursday," he said.

Chase farms with his father David and Uncle Joe. In addition to wheat, corn, and commodity soybeans, they raise seed soybeans for Beck's Seeds. "We've been focusing on getting seed beans in. This year we're raising dicamba beans. Currently we'll just use Roundup (for weed control) unless the dicamba gets (regulatory) approval. In the past if the seed company didn't take the beans (because of low germination/quality) we'd take them to the local elevators, but the local elevators don't want anything to do with them. The seed company says they'll take them," he said.

Chase also began the haying season on 25 acres of alfalfa, followed the next day by 10 acres of orchard grass. "We've been putting in some long hours. We started mowing on Wednesday and baling on Friday. We're having incredible haying weather right now. With low humidity, the hay just looks beautiful," he said. That helps protect hay quality and saves some money to boot. Chase told DTN his baler is equipped to apply a preservative, but using that costs $10 to $25 per ton. "You don't get paid to use it but you have to to get your hay put up. I didn't need to turn it on." But that might change with the weather. "It looks like a pretty wet week. We aren't going to mow any more hay."

The "little" 8-row planter is being used along with the Browns' 24-row machine to get as many soybeans planted in as short a time as possible. That complicates things. "Problem is the tractor pulling the 8-row is kind of my favorite haying tractor. It's a 140-horsepower utility model, front-wheel assist, that has the wheels set in so it turns shorter. We've been hooking and unhooking," Chase explained.

Haying offers many challenges. "The missing link in our hay operation is storage. If we had a dedicated shed it would be easier. We love everything about the big square bales except you can't leave them outside." The solution is selling hay direct from the field, netwrapped big round bales that shed water, or loading square bales on hay racks in case of rain. "We like to have our hay mobile so we can get it inside."

The Browns' seed wheat has been sprayed with a fungicide to protect it from head scab. The crop is developing nicely. How about soybean planting? "I haven't heard of anyone being done. I would say we're about 50% done. Guys that didn't have (drainage) tile had to wait awhile. Everybody is running now. They'll go in pretty quick. We could get done with soybeans this week if the weather holds." Corn conditions? "Corn is looking better by the day. This weather is helping it snap out of the yellow. I've seen some rotary hoes out. (Loosening crusted soil for improved emergence of corn). We have some corn to replant. There are guys that are hoeing and guys that have corn to replant who planted the same day," Chase said.

Four pigs and a steer were delivered to the locker plant where they'll be processed in time for Chase and his wife Ashley to sell farm-to-consumer packaged meat. "The farmers market opens two weeks from Saturday," he said.

"Everybody wants to own land in Macon County, Illinois." That's the short explanation Chase gave for an 80-acre land sale last week netting the seller $11,000 per acre. A second farm of 225 acres was no-saled when the per-acre bid fetched a paltry $7,250. "He wanted closer to $8,000 out of it."

Chase stopped fieldwork for the day on Saturday. It couldn't be helped. "I was best man in a good friend's wedding. I gave my buddy a hard time. He works for a fertilizer plant and her folks farm. I asked him, 'Who plans a wedding in May?' But it was good to clean up and go to town," he said.

Meanwhile in Newport, Pennsylvania, Jim Hoover of Hoover Turkey Farm has an important announcement: "We're done!"

It's been wet and it's been cold. In spite of that, corn and soybean planting are finally finished. Corn has come up fairly well, soybean emergence has been slow. It's getting better. "We've had a lot of rain. It's raining here now," Jim told DTN late Sunday. "It started Friday night, about three quarters to an inch ... it certainly has made the soybean fields look better than they did. Corn is turning green. No more of that yellow stuff. That makes a guy feel pretty good," he said.

Jim does most of the corn planting. His son Craig does the spraying, and Jim's grandson Mason runs the soybean drill. "We finished the corn and brought the planter home on Thursday. Mason got done Saturday morning. Craig got everything sprayed. We're in good shape." Farming in a highly populated eastern state can be challenging. "We couldn't move the drill because the traffic was so bad. They got the drill home today," Jim said.

Jim grows wheat and triticale for seed. He likes to mow field borders and roadsides to dress things up before crop inspectors evaluate his crop. While mowing, he noticed field areas close to trees looked different. "One or two or three rows in, almost 75% of the ground that was in the shade didn't come up or if it did it was a poor stand. Once you get out of the shaded area into the sun the stand is perfect," he observed.

"We're getting ready for the hay business. For the weather we've had here it's gonna be a heavy crop." The Hoovers don't use the hay they grow. "We just do it for the landlords. Mason does it. We've gotten everyone converted over to big bales. He does a nice job of watching the moisture," Jim said.

The best markets for hay are dairies or horse people. "Both use a mixture of grass hay and alfalfa," Jim said. "We like a mixture of Timothy and brome grass. You can end up selling that for $100 (per ton) and make a little money. Alfalfa can go for $250 to $300," he explained.

Weed control in corn fields has been excellent. "I am really pleased with this new herbicide we've been using. We don't see a weed anywhere." Jim and his partners have put a high priority on grass control. "We have very little grass problem because we've been on top of it," he said, adding that the most difficult weed they face is dock. Morning glory crops up from time to time, and pigweed used to be a problem, but crop rotation and a late-summer herbicide application to maturing corn fields in early autumn has kept those in line.

After hitting a rough patch with the most recent group of turkey poults, the strongest have survived and thrived. Jim and Craig raise a total of about 130,000 turkey hens every year.

"Turkeys are doing fine. We'll have more babies here in a couple of weeks. Some will be going out and some will be coming in," he said.

Weather affects everything from livestock and crops to the people, like Jim, who grow them.

"The rain is cool. I noticed this morning when it was raining we had 51 to 52 degrees. We're still getting a lot of 40s and 50s. If we get some warmer weather these things will really take off," he said.

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Richard Oswald