View From the Cab

Pennsylvania Farmer Expects Lower Corn Yields; Illinois Farmer Reports Lodging in Soybeans

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 were bragging about how much rain we were gonna get, but we only got a half-inch. It helped the soybeans but didn't do much for the corn." That's how DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover summed up major weather events at his place outside of Newport, Pennsylvania, last week.

With August sunsets coming earlier each day, summer doldrums have set in at Jim's farm. "All we've been doing is the same thing we were doing last weekend," he said. That's not to say he and his family have been idle. "We have the aragonite (a calcium source) all spread. Turkey manure on the triticale ground is spread. We're going to spray the weeds down on the triticale ground before we spread hog manure because the big floaters we use will mash them (the weeds) down, making them harder to kill afterward." But hog manure, with its higher moisture content, isn't the same as much dryer poultry litter. "We don't have enough weight on the floater we use for turkey manure to press the weeds down," Jim explained.

The longest-maturity corn Jim plants is about 106 days. He's never planted anything much longer. "We don't want 26% to 28% moisture corn. More guys here are going to shorter-maturity corn because it yields just as well. I think the 102-day corn like we have will be ready in a couple of weeks. The DeKalb number I plant is always first unless I have some 90-day corn planted," he told DTN late Sunday.

Jim sees differences between last year's corn crop, when a couple of his best fields averaged about 300 bushels per acre, and the appearance of this year's crop. "I think this will really be interesting. I was talking to a couple of friends who are dairymen. They are really worried about this thing (USDA projected crop size and prices). Their silage corn is only about half as tall as last year, and it doesn't look like they're going to have any corn for grain."

While Jim's corn is grown strictly for grain, lower dry matter content won't affect his bottom line. But he definitely sees a smaller crop in the field than last year's, maybe as low as 125 bushels on his poorest ground. "Some of my rented farms don't have the productivity to yield over 160 in good years," he said.

With some forward sales on corn, Jim wishes he had more. And he expects to receive an ARC payment this fall, which could help boost revenue. But how much? "I think we're gonna get some, but I never really count on that. Whatever I get is what I get. I think crop insurance is the best deal we've got goin'. I usually take 75% or 80%."

Even with less daylight, harvest days leading into October will be long, especially when one family farm operator goes offline to correct serious injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. "My number-one grandson (Dylan) is going to go in for his operation in October. He sure does like to run those tractors. For the last couple of months, he really enjoyed himself," Jim said.

Meanwhile, outside Decatur, Illinois, DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown continues his recovery from a UTV accident that nearly cost him, at the very least, a front tooth. "I started a root canal on Thursday, and will finish it up next Thursday," Chase told DTN from his home late on Sunday.

Chase said a 20-minute checkup turned into full-blown procedure when the dentist took one look and called a specialist who prescribed antibiotic applied inside the tooth. That meant drilling a hole to expose the interior of the tooth and the root. "It wasn't real painful. It was more like fingernails on a chalkboard. Dental work doesn't bother me; my biggest complaint is there's something about Novocain that makes me sick. It takes 24 hours to get over," he said.

Hay mowing plans were canceled on Monday when a drizzly rain fell all day. "It was nothing major," Chase said. Tuesday began with another trip to the state fair -- this time to participate in a Farm Bureau young leader quiz bowl on agriculture. At least 20 counties participated. "They were four-member teams. We did really well in the first round. It covered everything from animal health to soil, ag finances, a whole variety of questions," Chase explained.

Wednesday's work consisted of picking up cover crop seed. "We're really starting to work on the cover crop business, getting our orders organized. The local pilot (aerial applicator) has his drybox back on to spread some seed for us," he said. Chase told DTN that interest in cover crops has picked up recently. He thinks government programs are partially responsible, but he sees younger operators motivated by a desire to learn about alternative farming methods. "There isn't a lot of excitement about it like there was three or four years ago, but there's still a lot of curiosity."

Cover crop seeds most in demand are sorghum, turnips, radishes, new varieties of hybrid rape and clover.

Something unusual happened last week. A pair of Brazilians visited the farm. "We've had Brazilians here before, but these were some higher-ups from a very large farm in Brazil. These guys didn't care about looking at fields or tractors. They wanted to talk about cost of production, taxes and such. They were businessmen overseeing a farming operation consisting of 915,000 acres. When they heard that land here was worth $10,000 per acre, that seemed to spook them a little bit," Chase said. One thing Chase learned from his visitors is that, in Brazil, 10% of newly broken ground must be left untouched, used as a refuge to preserve native habitat.

Chase said he also moved cattle around and "got the bull out and brought him home to separate him from the girls." The bull's been working hard. "We needed to get some weight back on him," Chase said. There's more to do, but it might be too soon. "It's supposed to be really cool this week. I'd love to wean calves, but we have some people coming to look at them, and calves always look rough during weaning."

Maturing soybeans are beginning to show signs of lodging. Plant height is the main culprit. "They're just so darned tall. And the rain helped to push them down even more," Chase said. One neighbor tested a 107-day corn hybrid planted April 8 and found grain moisture levels of about 28%. "He thinks it'll be Sept. 10 before he gets going (with harvest). A lot of guys say as long as it's standing well, they won't get in a hurry," Chase said.

Not everyone is so laid back about harvest. Ashley, Chase's wife, works for a seed corn production facility where harvest began last week. Chase and Ashley have a 1-year-old daughter, Audrey. "Ashley's working and I'm on dad duty. There's been some stress for us, between my daughter and me. I told my wife us guys are not programmed for dealing with screaming kids."

Working parents everywhere face similar issues: what to do with the kids when Mom and Dad are busy. "If our jobs overlap, we have to rely on Grandma," Chase said.

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Richard Oswald