View From the Cab

Illinois, Pennsylvania Farmers See Beneficial Rains

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) -- "I walked out of the house and smelled pollen." That's the way DTN View from the Cab farmer Chase Brown described last week's growing conditions at his farm near Decatur, Illinois.

When DTN reached Chase at his home late Sunday evening, he had a hard time remembering all he'd done the last few days. "I bounced all over the place," he said. Rain interrupting fieldwork was the culprit. "Rain kind of put a damper on stuff." Chase received "collectively an inch" on Monday and Wednesday last week. That's when corn tassels met emerging silks on ear shoots, greeting the rain with that sweet smell of success loved by corn farmers such as Chase. "It was perfect timing. Temperatures are beautiful. It's been kind of humid. Dad says 60 degree nights are good as rain," Chase said.

Other than planting, pollination is arguably the single most important step to raising a good corn crop. But there can be other pitfalls along the way such as leaf rust and gray leaf spot infections. "At this time, probably 75% of our (fields) are going to be sprayed with fungicide. If we hadn't caught the rains we probably wouldn't have done it, but the way things are, we're probably set up for a pretty good crop."

Thirty acres of cover crops needed to be sown behind wheat last week. "We really wanted to get that done last week so we'd have a place to put cows in September. I sort of cleaned out the warehouse (of leftover seed)," he said. "We ran out so I'm gonna have to get some more. I only got 15 of 30 acres done before rain came up and I ran for the shed."

Last week's problem with dry fluffy wheat straw residue plugging the planter was cured by showers. "We worked late to get our forage sorghum in. One of the first rains we got made the straw damp enough to work through the planter. I got the seed into pretty good moisture so we should be set," Chase said.

Other fieldwork took a backseat to rain. "I baled a little straw and mowed some hay. We were doing pretty good but now we're backed up again." That's partly because new demand has surfaced. "I've got a guy who wants all our straw in big squares (3 feet x 3 feet x 8 feet). He has a confinement cow operation and wants to use it for bedding. He doesn't like sawdust on his fields, and baling corn stalks is too hard on equipment." Chase agrees. "I refuse to custom-bale corn stalks because it will literally rub holes in the bale chambers," he explained.

One thing is for sure, with corn pollinating and 30-inch soybean rows close to canopy, it's time to put the big planter away. Last week, between rains Chase winterized the planter, fixed a broken hay rack, and replaced missing baler pickup teeth damaged by hayfield potholes. "For whatever reason, I'm always the guy who has to crawl under the baler. It's a benefit of being the young guy I guess." Chase farms with his father David and uncle Joe. Some things are even hard on young guys. "After 10 minutes you don't have any feeling in your legs" he said.

A couple of heifers came in heat again last week. One last attempt was made at artificial insemination and the bull was turned in for backup. Chase told DTN they've had 75% success with artificial insemination this year. "It's a nice feeling knowing you don't have to babysit them anymore," he said. Hormone shots for in-vitro fertilization began on Saturday. Eggs flushed from donor cows will be transported to Texas for fertilization before being implanted back into cows. "Last night, I spent about two hours trying to get two cows in because they know what's going on. They don't like getting stuck with a needle three days in a row. They're not crazy cows, sometimes I can just throw a bucket of feed down and walk up behind and stick them. I'm a big believer in the Farmer's Almanac. There's just days when they're gonna fight you," he said.

Meanwhile outside Newport, Pennsylvania, DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover is putting in overtime. "It was a long day but a good day," he told DTN late Sunday. Hearing bumps in the night don't always signal something bad. But hearing a bump in the combine followed by silence isn't good. "Something happened to the newer combine. I heard a big bang and everything stopped. I'm running the older combine now."

A technician will be summoned to diagnose the problem.

Wheat harvest is over. "I'm in the triticale now. The straw is just beautiful, and unbelievable in the amount I think Mason (Jim's grandson) baled around 400 to 500 bales today. This straw has a golden color. You see a truck load going down the highway and it's gold as gold can be," he said. "The triticale, where we had such a great year with wheat, is not doing as well, maybe 75 to 85 bushels per acre. I'm not sure because we're loading straight into the truck."

Setting a combine is a balancing act between getting a clean sample and grain damage caused by over threshing. This year's abnormally long triticale grain heads have made those decisions harder. "We're breaking off 1/4 to about 1/2 inch pieces (of grain heads). You just can't get them in there (the threshing chamber) because we're set (concave clearance) so close," Jim explained. That means a few unthreshed portions make their way into the grain tank. But higher cylinder speeds and tighter settings to remedy that might damage harvested grain grown for seed. In the end, Jim's buyer told him not to worry about a perfectly clean sample; seed plant equipment could take care of that, but there is no solution to broken seeds.

Adding to threshing problems is the height of plants, and volume of straw that must pass through the combine. It's slow going. "You're sending a lot of stuff through the machine. We're having great weather, but we probably won't get done this week," Jim said.

"We had a real nice rain the other night (Friday). Instead of being gigantic, it was about an inch and two-tenths. Of course, it made us re-handle a lot of straw. This'll be the first we've seen that was rained on. Corn tasseled overnight. It was unbelievable. Maybe a tenth had started before the rain. I'll bet now almost nine-tenths has tasseled now. Soybeans enjoyed the shower too. They're in pretty good shape, about 18 inches tall, but the corn is what has really shot up," Jim told DTN.

Jim will be trying something new with a recently purchased grain dryer -- low-temperature drying to protect germination of his wheat and triticale seed crops.

Jim's daughter Stacey and her husband Mark grow and sell farm produce direct to consumers. Mother Nature threw them a curve a few weeks ago when the frost damaged the cherry crop consumers count on for pie filling.

Always loyal to their customers, Stacey and Mark found an alternative supply and brought it to the farm.

"I drive by the farm and the amount of business they're having is unbelievable. She (Stacey) went out of her way to get sour cherries to replace those that were frosted. She put up a sign at 8:00 in the evening that the sour cherries are here and starting at around 8:00 the next morning people came from all around," Jim said.

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Richard Oswald