View From the Cab

Soybeans Faring Well Despite Little Rain; Corn Harvest in Full Swing

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
In spite of a lack of rain this year, View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover said his soybean crop has fared well with the first acres harvested last week at an average of 55.8 bushels per acre. In Illinois, View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown is harvesting a good corn crop, even though a bit late.

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Since Aug. 17, DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Newport, Pennsylvania, has seen only a half inch of rain on his fields, but casual observers couldn't tell it from his soybean yields. "I am really amazed at how well the soybeans are doing in spite of the amount of rain they've had," he said.

His first 125 acres of regular-crop soybeans harvested last week averaged 55.8 bushels per acre.

Jim's soybeans may be peaking early, though. That's because of conditions across dry parts of Pennsylvania where the Susquehanna River is near record-low levels. "Our double-crop won't do so well unless they get rain," Jim told DTN late Sunday evening.

Planted with a drill, recently harvested soybeans were a Pioneer variety Jim is especially fond of for its reliable production. "It's always treated me well. The stems are green, but they don't make the combine grunt. They're (the beans) not small, but they vary in size. I guess that's because of the drought," he said.

So far, corn yields seem more affected by Pennsylvania's dry conditions. "I haven't done any corn that's been over 22% or 23%. Most is 19% to 21%. The average yield is about 130 bpa right now, but I think that's a little unfair, because I think there's some fields that will take that down," Jim speculated.

That could be partly due to wildlife pressure in some fields.

"We picked one 30-acre field with two small five-acre fields attached to it. The 30-acre field yielded 115 or 116 bpa. But one of the small fields went 14 bpa while the other one was about 30 bpa" Jim said.

Manure spreading from Jim's turkey feeding operation at Hoover's Turkey Farm is ongoing on summer-harvested triticale ground. As if there isn't enough to do -- two combines in the field, manure spreading and deliveries of seed wheat to Jim's buyer -- hen turkeys will be picked up this week at lighter-than-usual weights.

"It puts an extra amount of stress on us because someone has to be there all night while they're loading." Why slaughter lightweight birds? It's consumer demand." Housewives haven't learned yet that a 10- to 12-pound bird doesn't have the finish on it, it should." While housewives see birds that are $3 cheaper, Jim sees his profits cut short as consumers settle for a less succulent product. "Fourteen to 16 and 18 to 20 (pounds) are the best finished hens," he said.

Cover crops are gaining in popularity. But at Hoover's Turkey Farm, as quickly as corn fields are picked, Jim's grandson Mason brings up the rear with the minimum-tillage vertical tiller. "With about 125 acres out so far, he's maybe 15 or 20 acres behind us. If we leave most of the stubble intact, then that's our cover crop. I'm kind of glad I never got into that, mostly because of the high cost of cover crop seed." DTN asked whether N-fixing cover crops pay for themselves. "That's why I'm a great one for manure. I don't buy N except for a little (urea)," Jim explained.

With harvest underway, newly exposed fields will soon be planted to seed fields of wheat and triticale. If planted today, Jim told DTN, those crops might not germinate. "Right now, when Mason gets in with the vertical tiller, he says 'Grandpa, I can't see where I'm going.' It's that dusty, and there's a lot of corn stalks there."

But Jim knows that, eventually, the weather will change. "I'm not worried about the moisture for the crops we have to plant. The old-timers say just get it in the ground," he said.

In Decatur, Illinois, DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown had a "good, productive" week. "We got to picking corn. So did everyone else. A lot of corn came out this week." Those fields don't rest for long. "Guys are chasing combines with chisels," Chase told DTN late Sunday.

Chase described early yield results with one disclaimer: "I never want to be that guy who says he has corn better than everyone else." That said, early results from one field of 108-day corn that did not have a fungicide applied came close to averaging 240 bpa. "We're having 200 bpa to 270 bpa and everything in between," he said.

Moisture levels on the first field of 108-day corn were 19% to 20%. The field of 113-day corn where fungicide was applied tested 23% to 24%. "We've got two 10,000-bushel dryer-(bins) and we filled those up. Then we went to some rented ground ... and filled up the bottoms of some bins," Chase explained.

In the past, Chase has viewed fungicide applications as something to prevent corn from becoming too dry in the field. His belief was that healthier stalks prevented yield loss mostly by keeping grain moisture levels higher, longer. This year is different.

"In another field planted just a mile away, we're seeing a 20 bpa to 30 bpa yield increase on the same hybrid just for using fungicide." Chase told DTN that where scouting found no need for fungicide applications, even those fields are showing yield increases when fungicide was applied. "Technically, he shouldn't have needed it, but a neighbor said he could see to the exact row where he sprayed and didn't spray. I wish we'd sprayed everything. If we'd thought it would make us 10 bpa or even 15 bpa, we would have. Eight bushels would have paid for it," he said.

Chase reports no soybeans are harvested in his area where maturity has come on slowly. "We had a rain on Friday that really knocked a lot of leaves off. I think someone will probably be harvesting here by the end of the week."

Chase weaned his purebred Hereford calf crop on Monday. Farmers Almanac pegged the Saturday before as "the perfect time." Though his timing was a little off, Chase said it went pretty well. "I believe in following the moon signs," he said.

Chase sells seed, including cover crop seed. Business has been good. "It's about two weeks later than I'd like because of the logistics (of harvest time)." That's because Chase delivers seed as a service to his customers, to the aerial applicator and loads it on the airplane. "It's kind of nerve-wracking. He lets the engine run because he wants to get back into the air as soon as possible. I have to back the seed tender in to the plane. It's loud. And you don't want to hit the plane," he said.

Reports of damaged corn are coming out of western Illinois, with some fields having up to 70% losses. "Thirty percent is not uncommon." Chase said some are calling the culprit severe Diplodia. "Fungicide won't prevent that, but a healthier plant resists it better. I've heard it's worse in a couple of specific hybrids ... one elevator is bidding 13 cents under for good corn (to blend with damaged corn for a higher grade)." That may be a good price for an interior Illinois grain elevator, but it doesn't offer Chase an incentive.

"Decatur bids are 3 cents over," he said.

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Richard Oswald