View From the Cab

Record-Breaking Heat in Pennsylvania

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) -- "This was the hottest August on record." That was the conclusion of DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover, based on recent weather reports about his home state of Pennsylvania.

Jim farms outside of Newport, Pennsylvania, where he grows wheat, triticale, corn, soybeans and turkeys. He expects this warmer-than-normal trend to continue. "You know it's (high temperatures) going back up to the 90s this week. We thought we were in pretty good shape on the turkeys, (juvenile birds tolerate heat better than larger ones) it's normally only in the 80s this time of year, but the turkeys are getting bigger."

That's the type of year it's been for Jim, with hotter, drier weather that has affected his crops in varying ways. Yields and prices for wheat and triticale harvested for seed and straw made this one of the best years ever for those crops. But row crops have had a tougher go of it.

"We took a drive last night after going out to eat. I can't believe the variance in quality that 1 inch of rain over 10 days, or 2 1/2 inch rains over two weeks can make. One farm in the area is no better than mine, but boy does he have some beautiful corn. And yet I went to another farm nearby, he's just as good a farmer, and his corn looks terrible. I don't think it's hybrids. Everybody has two or three good ones. After a while you get tired of trying to figure it out," Jim told DTN late Sunday evening. He sees the same variation on his own farm.

"I went over to Tower City to one of the farms over there"... a rental farm 45 minutes away ... "the corn and beans are certainly better, because not only did we get more rain there, but we also did some irrigation," he explained.

Jim said his soybeans could still use some help. "No rain last week. And nothing scheduled for the next eight days. I can't believe the soybeans are doing as well as they are. Even the double-crop (planted after triticale) -- half don't look too bad. The last time we did any digging you couldn't find any moisture a foot down."

It gets drier east of Jim's place where light payloads make freight costs expensive. "My truck driver said the moisture situation in New York state is so bad they're hauling silage to those dairy cows up there -- and you know silage doesn't weigh anything -- from Canada, Ohio and Pennsylvania," he said.

Must-do chores are being wrapped up ahead of harvest. The last two loads of triticale straw have been delivered to a buyer. "Our customer sent us a real nice note thanking us. They make a first class product, (straw mats) we can be proud of our part in that." Both Deere combines have been given a once over ahead of corn harvest, which begins this week. "We're gonna start harvesting on Tuesday. That's because the dealership takes off on Monday. I'll have the service technician ride with us on both combines (to be sure both are operating properly). So Tuesday is the first day he's available."

When harvest begins, Jim will finally get the chance to evaluate his corn crop's performance in the face of challenges this year. "This deer damage thing is really getting bad. I've been reading some articles on Wisconsin and how bad it's getting out there. I spent three or four days on the tractor mowing up field borders and things, and you just can't believe how many deer there are ... the argument is that's what you have crop insurance for ... I like to see the hunters do a good job and get them out. That helps me out," Jim explained.

Jim also spent part of last week helping his daughter Stacey deliver peaches to her farmers market. "I don't know how my daughter sells all that stuff, especially considering the time she spends educating her customers." It's canning season, and demand for sweet corn is still strong.

"Now we have a whole new group of moms and grandmas asking about deformities of crops due to dry weather. She'll spend 10 minutes telling a lady why her sweet corn looks that way," he said.

Outside Decatur, Illinois, DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown told DTN from his home late Sunday that corn harvest is getting closer. "On Monday, I was curious and checked some corn. It was 29%, probably 31% on the field. We're at least gonna give it another week before we check it again. There are rumors of some guys getting started in the state, mostly in the south, where corn is testing 25%," Chase explained.

Chase spent part of the week hooking up grain carts and checking out bins ahead of corn harvest. A service technician did his part by looking over a couple of drying bins. "Dryers are our biggest bottleneck during harvest. Bins with stirrers in them. End of the day and you're ready to go home, but there's a cable off or a belt burned up. It gets a little frustrating when your neighbors are all going and you're still sitting. But we checked into the cost of a continuous flow dryer, and it looked like it was going to be just too expensive," Chase said.

Two 35-foot draper heads got cutter bar makeovers with new sharp sections replacing older worn ones. "We laid the sickles on our gooseneck trailer and used impact wrenches with one guy taking sections off and another guy putting them on. We can rebuild a sickle pretty darned quick." It looks as though sharp sickles might be a requirement for this year's soybean crop. "The beans are kind of a matted up mess. We're concerned about getting them out," Chase said.

It's looking more like autumn in a few fields. "Soybeans are starting to turn. A neighbor who planted group 2s has a whole field turning yellow. Early 3s are starting to turn now."

Weeds are a concern in some fields of soybeans where herbicide resistance is commonplace. "A local fertilizer plant had a pre-harvest meeting. Several seed company district sales managers came in to talk. The biggest talk was what are we gonna do about all these weeds. There is concern about dicamba approval in time for next year. Farmers are fed up about weedy fields. There's talk about Liberty soybeans. We've got a lot of velvetleaf here this year." Chase also said that regardless of post-emerge treatments, the general consensus was that a pre-emerge herbicide for soybeans is going to be a necessity.

Before harvest starts, it's time to sow. "We have a Great Plains no till drill we use for wheat, but it's getting more use with cover crops. We're gonna try to get the cover crops on wheat ground this week. We had a light shower on Tuesday. We're dry enough now. We have a whole lot of equipment sitting out ready to go."

Hay harvest is ongoing. Second cutting grass is on now. And a field of alfalfa was mowed a little ahead of bloom to get it out of the way ahead of corn harvest. Calf weaning was postponed a week because "one cow who doesn't want to be caught took them all to the far side of the pasture."

"I did my last farmers market Saturday. We timed it just about perfect." That's because Chase and his wife Ashley are all sold out of beef and most of the pork they had for sale. "Ashley and I will probably use up the pork we had left this winter. It was a great learning experience -- and we made money!" Chase said.

DTN asked if there are new products in the making for next year's markets. Chase said it is possible, but they'll have to be profitable.

"We talked about doing chickens or turkeys. Turkeys might be OK. Chicks cost $2.50 plus feed and the rest. If I'm going to put all that work into something, I'm not going to do it for $200 or $300. The problem is people don't want to pay $15 or $20 for a chicken," Chase said.

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Richard Oswald