View From the Cab

Bumper Crops Leave Illinois Farmer Short on Storage

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) -- View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of Newport, Pennsylvania, told DTN that come January, he'll be taking orders for '57 Chevys. That's because after the first of the year, Jim is headed to Cuba.

Jim won't really be buying and selling classic cars, he was just making the point that there's plenty of room for investment and trade in the Caribbean island nation first embargoed by America in 1961, where classic American cars are still providing transportation. With harvest and fall work winding down into winter, Jim is starting to think about taking a little time off. That's why he booked the trip.

"I like to travel. I'm really excited about it," he said.

This won't be the first trip outside U.S. borders for Jim. He went to Brazil a few years back. "I book with Rupiper Travel and Tours. We drove out in the country and there were 13 combines going one direction on one side of the road and 13 combines on the other side going the other direction," Jim said. It was the scale of farming in Brazil that impressed Jim most. "King Ranch is big, but it's not that big," he explained.

But this year's harvest isn't over just yet.

"Last week I told you I thought we'd finish the corn by the weekend, but we had some trouble with a truck. We'll be done tomorrow (Monday) for sure... We have about 15 acres left over at Tower City," Jim told DTN late Sunday.

Some soybeans remain to be harvested. Full-season beans at the home place are finished. But at the Tower City farm, he has a work-sharing arrangement with a partner who'll harvest those soybeans. Jim said of both 20-inch rows and drilled beans at Tower City, the drilled soybeans look better. "Both of 'em look pretty nice. We didn't start the soybeans over there yet. They're ready. Our double-crop soybeans here are ready too. We'll probably be doing those by the end of the week."

It's been a dry year at Jim's place. Unforgiving weather this year combined with a few irrigated fields have opened his eyes to the value of irrigation in years like this when spotty rain had a big impact on yields. "I'll reiterate the non-irrigated corn is all about the same (with broad yield swings), but the irrigated corn at Tower City is consistently 150 to 200 bushels per acre. When you're doing like we are on a farm with some corn, some soybeans, and some wheat... now I'm having second thoughts (about crop rotations). It's really amazing when you're picking that corn how much difference the water makes," Jim said. Even more confounding to Jim was that in fields next to drought-damaged corn, dryland soybean yields have been very good.

Two hundred thirty-seven acres of triticale and 185 acres of wheat have been planted for harvest in 2017. A shower a couple of weeks ago benefitted wheat. It's a good stand. But with no rain, triticale seedlings in those fields lag behind wheat emergence. "The triticale hasn't had a rain since it was planted," Jim said.

If there's anything Jim doesn't like about farming, it's probably paperwork. At the bottom of Jim's paperwork list is FSA planting and harvest reports. "The state FSA office says you have to do that. We have to do it ourselves. We have 422 fields on 22 maps I have to pull. Then we have to go in there, then they look at it and look at their records. You can always be less than what the government acreage figures say, but you can never do more than the government says."

Occasionally, Jim helps his daughter Stacey and son-in-law Mark with their farmers market and family fun farm. "I was supposed to help this evening but we got a pretty good shower. It made everything wet. Everybody ran under the shelters. It's really amazing to me how people spend a holiday doing something like that. You have kids with their parents or grandparents. It really is amazing to me (compared to) this wacky world we see through the media. There really is a lot of love out there," he said.

When DTN reached View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown at his home last Sunday, he wasn't exactly feeling the love -- at least not for one thing in particular. "I'm trying to watch the Cubs (in the World Series). It's awful," he said.

Chase told DTN that the last of the seed beans grown for Becks Seeds were finished off on Sunday. That leaves "a couple hundred acres" of commercial soybeans to be harvested.

"We would have had everything wrapped up, but we had a quarter-inch of rain on Wednesday," he explained. "We talked about switching back to corn, but the way the wind was blowing we thought those things would dry out in no time. The thing was it was just so humid those things never got below 19% (moisture). So we resumed cutting beans on Friday."

There's still corn to finish. But it'll be slow going. That's because of some good hedge-to-arrive sales with delivery direct to ADM in Decatur. There's no real alternative. "That's going to take a while, but we are out of storage," Chase said.

Uncommonly good yields in soybeans this year have Chase rethinking seed soybean storage in small, 1940s vintage 18-foot diameter, 3,500-bushel government storage bins. "With two combines running in 70-bushel beans, we're moving the auger all the time. We're pretty close on storage. I cleaned out a bin today we haven't used for two years. If soybean yields keep getting better, we're going to have to do something."

Chase said yield monitor readings on one seed field approached 80 bushels per acre. But bigger size comes at a bigger price.

"If these bean yields keep getting better, are you going to keep the same size combine? We were in 3/4-mile-long rows with a 35-foot draper head. You had to go really slow to pick them up. Only about two-and-half miles per hour. Every time you'd think you could bump it up you'd slug the machine. What's the most economical, going slow or spending the money for a bigger machine? At the current price of corn and soybeans, slowing down might be cheaper," Chase said.

Harvest around Decatur is finishing up. Many of Chase's neighbors are done. Now he's seeing anhydrous ammonia tanks being pulled out into the country. But forecast temperatures are too warm for stable ammonia application. "I don't understand why they'd want to put it on (because soil temperatures higher than 55 degrees can lead to leaching away of N). I think that's the nature of a farmer. We aren't going to just sit there and do nothing," he said.

Cover crops are enjoying the warmer-than-normal weather. But forage sorghum in one field has Chase's attention. "I'd love to turn the cows out to pasture the cover crops, but I need a good frost. There's sorghum in it that was turned yellow by a light frost. I am scared to death of prussic acid poisoning. We've still got plenty of grass, so there's no hurry."

With low corn prices and unrelenting input costs, the question of how the Browns could cut back next year's expenses was raised.

"There was a discussion about buying seed corn with fewer traits. After looking at discounts and everything, we decided that for $5 or $10 we'd be leaving ourselves exposed. So we decided to stay with a full trait package," Chase said.

Winter wheat stands look "awesome." And one more cutting of hay is down. Chase says it'll be the last. "Right or wrong, I couldn't stand it anymore. It was too darned pretty. Dad asked, 'What are we gonna do with it? We don't have any place to put it.' I said we'll bale it and take it straight to the sale. It'll be our Christmas money," he said.

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Richard Oswald