View From the Cab

Frequent Showers Slow Planting in Iowa; Canola, Wheat Ahead of Normal in Oklahoma

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, (left) and Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are this year's featured DTN View From the Cab farmers. (Courtesy photo)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- For View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, success this spring can be summed up in five little words: "We switched the planter over." What he means is he finished corn planting with the completion of a side-by-side test plot Wednesday afternoon in plenty of time before the calendar flipped to May.

However, one more day of other corn planting remained. On Thursday, Zack custom planted 115 acres of forage corn for a neighboring ranch.

Grain sorghum (milo) planting came next -- earlier than usual. "Friday, (my wife) Kristi and I planted 25 acres of sorghum. (In the past), we always waited for 70-degree (Fahrenheit) average soil temperature for a week," he said. That's because grain sorghum germination is more sensitive to cool temperatures than corn. But that's changing. Zack said a friend, Rick Kochenower, a national sales agronomist for seed company Sorghum Partners, told Zack on Thursday that he could plant in cooler soil. "Last year was the first year I planted their (Sorghum Partners') products," Zack said. "Rick said 68 degree average was good enough."

As it turned out, the timing was ideal. "Last night, we had an inch of rain. Everything is all nice and watered in," Zack told DTN late Sunday.

"Perfect spraying days" last week gave the Rendels a chance to catch up on fungicide application to headed wheat fields and early post herbicide for corn. "Saturday, Brent (Zack's uncle) sprayed the milo. Everything is sprayed except the last 300 acres of corn," Zack said.

There's no need for burndown herbicides on this eastern Oklahoma farm. "Everything is tilled, so we never have to go back and spray post-emerge Roundup," Zack said. "Corn gets an application of Corvus and atrazine at the V2 stage. Four ounces of Corvus is all it takes. It's a low-volume product, so you don't have to worry about totes. That saves us time loading the sprayer," Zack explained.

Wheat is pollinating and bloomed canola is setting pods. Zack told DTN that spring came early this year with perfect weather for reproducing spring crops. Canola should be mature in a month and a half. "Wheat will probably be (ready) that same time. It's gonna be really early this year."

While everything has been going smoothly on Zack's farm this spring, not everyone has been as fortunate. Zack said a farmer friend from Hart, Texas, experienced a heart attack and is on life support. Zack said he hopes neighbors and friends will help the family because "they're in their busy time of year." If they need him, Zack said he will go.

If Zack did have to leave town during planting season, who would run the planter back home? "Dad (Greg Rendel) ran the planter ever since I was born," Zack said. "He's had back problems the last two or three years and had to have back surgery. He said you guys are on your own and we said don't worry about that."

That's why Zack has been doing the planting this year.

"My stand of corn looks pretty good, but it's a little uneven. I told Dad I won't have a problem giving the planter back to him. (He) said he might have to run the planter forever then because planting is pretty important to growing corn."

Meanwhile, outside Cedar Falls, Iowa, where Brent and Lisa Judisch grow 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans, it's been damp, to say the least.

"My week consisted of rain, rain, rain and rain," Brent told DTN late Sunday evening.

But, as the saying goes, all things come to those who wait -- eventually. "Today (Sunday) Lisa and I worked up 82 acres," Brent said. "That's all we were able to do. We only had two tenths of an inch of rain last night. It was about 68 degrees and the wind was blowing 15 miles per hour. That's the way it's going to be this year. We're not super wet, but every time we get within a day of going to the field, we get a half inch of rain. Every three days we get a half inch."

The Judisches finally caught a break on Monday in spite of an 80% chance of rain.

"We did field cultivate and plant 220 acres (of corn) yesterday (Monday)," Brent said via text message on Tuesday.

He has little doubt the newly seeded crop will germinate. Under ideal conditions for first planting, soil temperatures should be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Currently, Brent's fields are at 58 degrees.

Despite the continued rains that delayed planting, last week wasn't a total loss. After the county cleaned out a road ditch, Brent took care of the spoil. "We hauled off about 40 loads," he said.

Even when everything is ready, all the prep time in the world can't replace that initial pass through the field. "The first day (of planting) is always trying," Brent said. "You put a planter in the shed, working alright" then something happens like putting too much talc in the seed tanks. "The first 10 acres takes an hour and a half, and the next 70 (acres) takes another hour and a half."

Brent's seed corn comes in 50 unit boxes. "We got two loads of seed in this week. We try to put it in the shed in the order we plan to use it," he said. That helps eliminate mix-ups once planters begin to roll. Using a seed conveyor, it takes about 15 minutes to load each planter. The goal is to plant 600 acres a day once both of the Judisches' 24-row planters are in the field. Corn-on-corn gets a triple-stacked hybrid, while corn following soybeans requires only a single trait. Keeping planters apart in separate fields enhances efficiency and helps keep the right seeds going to the right fields, as well as minimizing road time.

There's a learning curve associated with farming. For generational farmers, the curve is long. Planning plays a big part.

"I've been doing this for 35 years," Brent said. "When you get a pattern that works, you stick to the pattern."

Richard Oswald can be reached at

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Richard Oswald