View From the Cab

Variable Corn Yields in Pennsylvania; Cutting Beans in Illinois

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) -- DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Newport, Pennsylvania is a man of his word.

"I told you last week we were moving to Tower City to pick corn and that's what we did," Jim told DTN late Sunday.

With corn harvest finished at the home place, the move to rented land a little farther away came next. It's been a rough year for corn yields due to drier-than-normal weather, with the home farm averaging 91.4 bushels per acre.

"The best field I did was a 25-acre field along the river. It averaged about 145 bpa. In a good year, it would have made 200 ... when you have it all done, you realize you had a pretty rough year -- 90 bushels isn't gonna pay all the bills," Jim said.

Is the rented land any better?

"If there's any consistency in what I've done this year it's in variability -- yields are ranging 30 to 150. I'm just amazed," he said.

A bright spot in this year's crops has been single-crop soybeans that averaged 55 to 60 bpa across the entire farm. Now, after last week's frost, double-crop soybeans following wheat are turning. "Pods are filling and there's pretty good size on the beans. They filled better than I thought they would, but I wish they were 6 inches taller," Jim said. "My son Craig said they look pretty good. I told him he's just trying to cover up that he said 'I'm going to lose my shirt on them.'"

Jim finished planting 185 acres of winter wheat grown for seed and straw. Next he'll plant triticale. But Jim's grandson Mason reported problems with GPS guidance in the area around high-tension electrical lines and the steel towers supporting them. "We know something's happening. We had skips of 2 inches on the south side of towers and 4 inches on the other side".

Family Fun Farm is an enterprise accompanying Jim's daughter Stacey and husband Marks' farmers market. Visitors pay $7.50 apiece so their children can play in mounds of shelled corn, try their hands at a "Turkey shoot" (but not with real guns or live turkeys), slide down bales of straw, and go to a farm animal petting zoo. "Kids play in corn spread on concrete like it was a sandbox. Mothers sit in lawn chairs and watch their kids for hours. To me it's just amazing the people who come out to that. If the Family Fun Farm was a corn crop, it would be like they had a 200-bushel yield," he said.

USDA said there would be ARC and PLC payments, and there are. Jim got his last week, but not without some talking. "I got a call in the combine last week. When I heard someone call me James, I got suspicious. It was a lady from an FSA office 75 miles away. She said she'd tried to make a deposit to such-and-such bank and I didn't have an account. I told her my FSA office had my banking information and she could get it from them. They said the payment was for price loss coverage," he said.

DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois received a payment as well. He got it for corn and soybeans in Logan County and just for corn in Macon County, Chase told DTN late Sunday evening.

How's harvest going?

"We got pretty heavy rain this morning. I'm guessing we had over half an inch. It came quick. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed," Chase said.

"We cut beans all week. These mornings are cloudy and misty. Yesterday (Saturday) we didn't get cutting until 1:00. When we did get going, those first loads tested 15.5% (moisture). We've lost the green stems. They're cutting pretty well. But you're constantly fiddling with the reel (because of lodged plants)," Chase said.

"We have a 30-foot Great Plains Turbo Chopper. First we ran that, then put the fertilizer down and gypsum on, then planted wheat on Friday. With that 30-foot drill, it doesn't take long," Chase explained.

However, it was nerve wracking in two respects. "The worst thing is you only get one chance for a good stand. I was constantly getting out of the tractor and checking the drill." And the other thing? "Plus everybody else was cutting beans".

Breakdowns have been minimal this year. A 2-inch hydraulic line ruptured on a grain cart tractor, and the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) filter plugged up on the drill tractor. "It takes four hours for it to plug up. When you shut the tractor off, it pumps DEF out of the line back to the tank. The hired man figured out we could shut the tractor off and it would backflush. Then start it again and it would run four more hours," he said. It's a problem farmers are learning to live with. "Our pickup trucks use DEF, the big tractors, little tractors, we're down to one tractor and one semi tractor that doesn't use it".

Chase sells seed, including cover crop seed. "I joked with my wife, I think Monday was 'national plant-your-rye day.' My phone rang for two hours straight". He told DTN that farmers have been increasing their cover crop acreages above earlier plans. "My cover-crop seed sales have been through the roof".

EQIP and CSP are two government programs Chase credits for rising cover crop acres. "If you're in the watershed for the Upper Sangamon River or Lake Decatur they pretty much find a way to get you paid," for buffer strips or waterway projects.

Grain from the Brown Farm has been bypassing local markets. "We've been trucking a lot direct to Decatur. There's been no waiting. We can go direct about as fast as we can go to the elevator. Word is there might be a strong basis increase this winter. Everybody has been putting their corn in the bin. There hasn't been a lot of trucks coming or going."

Chase credits expansion of on-farm storage as one reason that farmers aren't selling.

Chase has a herd of purebred Hereford cows. He worked his calves last week, sorting off three of the best young bulls. "They're going where we bought our bull, New Mexico. A trucker is hauling them sometime this week. I had to give them another round of shots and tattoo their ears."

Making a long one-way haul to New Mexico from Illinois can be expensive.

"The good news is I bought a bred heifer out there I really like. I bought her on the online production sale. The trucker is happy now that he has a backhaul," he said.

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Richard Oswald