View From the Cab

Illinois, Pennsylvania Farmers Report 100 BPA Winter Wheat Yields

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) -- Following the writing of the U.S. Constitution, Benjamin Franklin once told a friend that as promising as the future might seem, nothing in life is certain but death and taxes. But for modern-day farmers like DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois, another reality is depreciation -- especially with timely rain on his corn crop.

"Nice rain today. We had right around an inch. Further north of here, not as much; south a little more. It couldn't have come at a better time. I told a neighbor I'd like to call it a million-dollar rain, but given the way they (markets) react on Tuesday, it may only be a half-million," Chase told DTN late Sunday evening.

With corn 75% tasseled, "This morning was the first morning I could see every stalk was silked. I would say with that rain, everything will be pollinated if we can catch another rain midweek. You can't ask for better weather," he said.

Other than price-discounting rain, Chase told DTN that the "common theme" of last week was "baling." He was talking about harvesting the straw crop from this year's wheat, about 3,000 small square bales of it. Six hundred of those were sold out of the field to the zoo in Decatur. "The new bale accumulator worked beautifully. I had a guy call yesterday who also wanted 200 big square bales of straw. When it's raining, all we do is say we want to work. When it's dry, all we do is work, work, work and say we want rain."

Wheat harvest wrapped up with the second of two fields yielding slightly less than last week's 100-bushel averaging field. "I'm gonna say it was in the lower 90s." Poorer soil gets the blame. "It's a little rougher farm. It's tiled. It's a little wetter. It's got some clay knobs, a little tougher soil."

"No good deed goes unpunished." That was the comment made by Chase's dad, David, after Chase offered to help a neighbor seed his 8-acre forage sorghum crop. "I said sure, I could probably do it in an hour or so. It took me two days," Chase explained. Why? Because forage sorghum has extremely small seed. He'd never planted that crop before, and setting up the planter normally used for larger-seeded corn and soybeans took some doing. Then the blower on the planter, used to push seed from seed tank to planter units, broke down. "Then I scrambled home to get mine done Friday night before rain arrived. Boy was I wrong. I was just bulldozing straw."

The problem was this year's heavy output of straw that is taller, thicker and heavier than normal. "I tried vertical tillage, but that just made it worse." That's because light tillage knocked more standing straw to the ground that hadn't been a problem before. "I'm probably gonna have to bale it off and then plant it," he said.

Soybeans around Decatur have "exploded." Fifteen-inch rows have canopied. Chase told DTN he expects 30-inch rows will do the same, soon. "There's been a big change in soybeans this week."

Chase and his wife, Ashley, have been marketing direct to consumers this summer via a local farmers market. It's turned out to be a marketing 101 course for consumer preference. "This week we sold more higher-end cuts... people getting ready for the (Fourth of July) holiday. I'm amazed at the farmers market. It's interesting, people's buying habits. We have fresh hams because we can't sell a cured product. People only buy what they're familiar with unless you help them... I sold 10 fresh hams when I cut the price and handed out pulled pork recipes. Different nationalities and ethnic groups buy cheaper cuts, people my age buy hamburger and steaks because they don't want to mess with it (long preparation times). We're trying to figure out how we can expand and grow without getting stuck with a lot of (product)," he said.

Meanwhile, outside Newport, Pennsylvania, DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Hoover's Turkey Farm had a "very busy, but good" week.

"The biggest thing of course is we harvested (seed) wheat. It was phenomenal. Almost scary it was so phenomenal. This year is unbelievable in the yield. I've been averaging 70- and 80-bushel (per acre) figures for 40 years. Right now we're on a 40-acre field that's averaging over 100. The quality is just beautiful," Jim told DTN late Sunday evening.

It's always something. No matter how good it gets on the farm, there are problems to deal with. This time it's grain moisture. "Moisture in the middle of the field is average, where it should be, (12 to 14%), but on the outside edges of the fields, it's averaging 19 into the low 20s. So were gonna have to dry it."

As soon as the wheat is off, straw is harvested in 3-by-3-by-6 big rectangular bales weighing about 600 pounds. "That's doing very well too. We've taken off 14 (semi-truck) loads (each load is 36 bales) in the last three days. Dillon (one of Jim's two grandsons) is loading the trucks with a front-end loader equipped with forks, in 10 minutes. It takes a lot of experience getting them on there straight. I've seen Dillon load a trailer with Mason (Dillon's brother) and Kato (a hired helper), strapping them down."

Once the straw is off, "Mason is coming right behind double-cropping soybeans. We'll be doing that on 12 different fields," Jim explained.

With slightly later maturity, once wheat harvest is over, triticale harvest begins. "We're three-quarters done with wheat. We'll be starting on 272 acres of triticale this week," Jim said. Triticale is growing in popularity among dairies where tonnages and feed quality can surpass alfalfa as a forage of choice. That's why Jim grows triticale seed, to meet growing demand.

"My corn is coming along, but when I get out and look at it, it isn't anything to brag about compared to what we've had the last two or three years. Some tassels are emerging. Soybeans really look good. I noticed some blooms on the very first we planted. They have such good color -- we don't use any fertilizer on them."

Double-crop soybeans following wheat have raised an issue with crop insurance. "The insurance company says you shouldn't double crop." That's because under the law, if a farmer elects to use all-risk crop insurance, he is obligated to insure his entire crop. But double-crop soybeans following wheat, insured at the farm's moving average yield, are considered a bigger gamble by risk-averse insurers.

Jim pointed out that Pennsylvania insurers have recently tightened up on another aspect of crop insurance, prevented planting claims, by requiring pre-approval.

Death, taxes, depreciation: Thanks to wildlife, the list gets longer in woodsy Pennsylvania. "All the soybeans look good except one field where deer and groundhogs have eaten them. You know what really hurts the outside three rows in corn fields is squirrels. They eat the ears right off the stalks," he said.

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Richard Oswald