View From the Cab

Rain Slows Planting in Oklahoma; East-Central Iowa Appears on Pace for 'Normal' Planting Season

Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
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LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "About 80 degrees, but the wind has been blowing about 30 miles per hour," is how DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel described the post-rain weekend weather at his place outside of Miami, Oklahoma.

"Last Thursday, it got down to 33 (degrees Fahrenheit). I woke up to a patchy frost," he said.

Zack told DTN late Sunday evening that corn planting stopped for the last 10 days when a total of 1.25 inches of rain fell. "The first came slow and soaked in, then it came fast and helped fill the ponds for all the cattlemen down here."

With about 600 acres in the ground and fully emerged, the last 300 acres of corn should be planted by the end of the week. That's if more rain doesn't interfere. Zack's 12-row planter can log up to 175 acres a day. It's just a matter of starting early and staying late. Autosteer coupled to a Trimble satellite receiver helps, though running at night goes against advice handed down through the generations. "My grandpa always told me nothing good happens after dark," Zack said.

If worse comes to worst, a neighbor has offered to pitch in with his 24-row planter. "I've always got a backup plan," Zack explained.

Zack spent much of muddy last week in the shop rebuilding a feeder house on the 9650 combine. He also spent time removing an old fence from a rented field and modified a pickup-mounted range cube feeder for a neighbor. And a late-week foray with the Hagie sprayer saw fungicide applied to wheat. Canola in full bloom was sprayed with a fungicide-insecticide mix to control rust and canola aphids. This week, wheat with newly emerged heads will be sprayed again, this time with a fungicide to protect against head scab.

The Rendels are lone producers of winter canola in their area. This year's crop is their fourth crop. Trial and error "to see what works and what doesn't," along with advice from Oklahoma State University, helped teach them the ropes. One thing they've learned from earlier tests is that too much soil fertility is almost as bad as too little. "Canola has a growing point below the soil. Leaves (that develop after emergence) help protect it in winter." Most fields received recommended fertilizer rates with 200 acres getting a buildup treatment. "Extra fertilizer helped the growing point get above the ground (in the fall) where it froze. We lost 20% to 30% of our stand there. The other fields showed hardly any winterkill," Zack said.

Like the canola fertility experiment, Zack and his uncle Brent Rendel try new things on the farm every year. "You never know what works on your farm unless you try it." Stimulate, a product of StollerUSA that is aimed at speedier emergence and more root growth, is one of the things they're testing on corn now. Comparing treated parts of the field to test strips every day indicates 12- to 18-hour faster emergence. Zack will continue to monitor plant progress throughout the growing season and during harvest.

Milo plant population is another area of interest. Last year, seeding rates of 28, 40, 60, 75, 90 and 120 thousand were compared. "Sixty-five thousand was actually where the yield curve started coming up, dropping off above 70,000. Once we went above 80,000, head populations actually dropped. We're doing that again this year," he said.

Farming isn't the only sport enjoyed by the Rendels. Zack and his wife, Kristi, have two children, Charlie and Nate. "I've been able to spend a lot of time with the family. We spent all day at the soccer park Saturday. I'm surprised I still have a voice," he said.

Meanwhile, about 500 miles northeast outside of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Brent Judisch had rain on his unplanted fields. "It's pretty wet, but not that bad. Wind has been really strong. We had 1.62 inches out of two different fronts. We've had plenty of moisture. About the time we get dry, we get wet," he said.

Brent doesn't use anhydrous ammonia as a nitrogen source, but he reports that neighbors who do were rolling on their fields last Saturday. Two loads of seed were delivered to the farm last week ahead of planting. One more load is due in. Both of Brent's 24-row planters are hooked up and ready. Shop-work odds and ends were also taken care of, like replacing two shorter sprayer boom sections with longer, lighter-weight aluminum ones to increase coverage from 100 to 120 feet. "Now my sprayer will follow both 24-row planters and the 40-foot air seeder and keep all the traffic patterns the same," he said.

"Every spring, we have four or five broken tiles. I got those fixed last week," Brent said. It's easy to spot a broken tile in northeastern Iowa where farmers typically receive more rain than they need. "Either water boils up out of the ground, or there's a hole" where soil falls into the opening. "When tiles run more than 10% to 25% full, that means we have excess moisture. Lately, tiles have been running about two-thirds. (Topsoils) are so deep you have to have tiles to dry the ground. Most years we have too much moisture, so that's how we manage that," Brent explained.

Sunday was dry enough to allow for field-repair scraper work. Highs Sunday made it into the mid-70s. Soil temperatures were about 51 degrees Fahrenheit.

How does this year stack up compared to others? "We did have a normal winter, which will lead to a normal spring," Brent said. "There was some frost, but not that much. Ground thawed out earlier than normal. We normally have a snowpack, but not this year. We're on course with the last five or six springs. Looking at the forecast, I would say temperatures are going to be pretty normal around here."

April 13-15 are typical start dates for corn planting. "Most guys here won't get started until next weekend," Brent said. "We're ready to get going."

In addition to farming, Brent sells John Deere farm machinery for P&K Midwest. How does he manage to service customers during planting time?

"I take off two weeks in the spring," he said. "I may go in at 6:00 or 6:30 (a.m.) and deal with that, but with cellphones and iPads, it's not too bad."

Like every good salesman, Brent knows it pays to keep in touch. With autosteer, it's never been easier.

"I'll call 16 or 17 guys through the day just to see how they're doing," he said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at talk@dtn.com

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald

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(AG/BAS)