View From the Cab

Rain and Cold Slowing Planting in Oklahoma, Iowa

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 of Zack Rendel; DTN photo of Brent and Lisa Judisch by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "The corn will survive but it doesn't like it at all." That's the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel described crop conditions at his place outside Miami, Oklahoma.

"Friday it (rain) started here. I've had 5.76 inches the last week. In the past 24 hours, I've had 4.8 (inches)," Zack told DTN late Sunday evening. "Soils in the area are saturated so there's ponding in low areas, including level terrace channels with standing water in most fields. "We've been hit pretty hard but not as hard as some others."

Zack said flood watches and warnings on overflowing creeks and rivers would remain in effect until Thursday. He heard of one town across the state line in Missouri that had been completely flooded.

Corn planting on the Rendel farm began in late March. All their fields had fully emerged before last week's rains. That helps young plants survive the wet spell, but less-hardy milo seeded after corn is another matter. "I'm giving my milo the benefit of a doubt, but I think I'm going to replant. Since it's (the seed) been in the ground, it's had over 8 inches of rain. I've gotten so much rain it's hard to keep track of. I'm looking at one (milo) field right now that's had over 9 inches."

"My first-planted corn field (March 20th) has had 10.76 inches since the day I planted," he said. That's about 25% of total average annual rainfall for the area. Plants in that field are at V4 stage. "It looked really good, but now it wants some sunshine and heat."

Zack said that wet weather has slowed herbicide spraying and put some of his neighbors behind. "They got their corn in but didn't get the pre-emerge on." Aerial applicators have been called, but some irregularly shaped fields are a challenge for accurate placement. "There are some weedy spots" in corners. "Some fields have pigweed so big they're not going to control them," he said.

Zack's Uncle Brent sprays while Zack plants. Putting in a little overtime on the Hagie sprayer has paid off. "I'm thankful every day that Brent stayed with it and got all our pre-emerge on."

Following the cold wet weather that brought snow to western Kansas, Zack has seen soil temperatures drop from a 66 degree average to 57 at a 2-inch depth.

There are always things to do around the farm, even during wet spells. Monday's canola field day on the Rendel farm went well with plenty of interest in growing canola as an oilseed or for poultry rations. Thursday there was time to attend a retirement auction at Parsons, Kansas. "We didn't buy anything. It helped us know equipment values. We have some old equipment we'd like to get rid of without taking scrap prices," Zack explained. That's where he saw a Deere 9760 combine with 2,000 hours bring "a little over $60,000. It went really cheap." And Zack's sister will be getting married next Sunday at the farm. It's cleanup time for that, and one other cleaning chore.

"I was putting a grain vac gearbox back together in the shop. I got tired of having to clear an area off to use, so I said it's time to clean" he said.

In northeastern Iowa outside Cedar Falls, rains have been lighter, but soil temperatures have gotten lower on View From the Cab farmer Brent Judisch's farm. "Last Monday, we planted corn and got to 70% done. That night we parked the planter." he told DTN late Sunday. Brent stopped because wet forecasts left him concerned about cold water imbibition damage to freshly planted corn seed. Soil temperature on Monday was 58 degrees. By Tuesday, the temperature was 56. On Wednesday, it was rainy and the soil temperature had dropped to 53. Rain amounts were about one tenth of an inch and by Friday, soil temperatures at the crucial 2 inch depth had dropped to 44 degrees, with more light showers. More meaningful rain arrived on Sunday evening with three quarters of an inch.

"We haven't done any spraying yet (because) burndown isn't going to do anything when it's 32 to 33 degrees at night. We got down to 30 Thursday morning but it didn't kill anything. I don't think we set any records," he said.

Some of Brent's neighbors planted on Tuesday and Wednesday just because they hadn't planted anything yet. From his place north, no corn has been planted. To the south, he estimated planting progress at about 75% complete.

Planted corn seems safe from the cold. First-planted is only just-sprouted. Later-planted fields have stayed relatively dry. "Up until tonight we weren't that wet. It's supposed to warm into the 60s by Wednesday," he said.

Is it getting late for corn? "We're only looking at the first of May. That gives us from the 3rd to the 10th to get done. A lot of guys can get finished in three or four days. North of us it'll take them a week," Brent told DTN.

With two 24-row planters, Brent and his wife Lisa can get more than 18% of intended corn acreage per day.

On Tuesday, Brent planted the first soybeans. "It was too cold to plant corn, and we had a couple of fields worked, so we did 48 acres just to be sure everything is ready. We try to plant the beans into worked ground first because worked ground tends to be a little colder," he said. Worked fields are corn fields where a vertical tiller has been used in the fall following harvest to help break down crop residue ahead of soybeans. "The stalks break down real nice, so they don't bother the bean head," Brent told DTN.

Earliest-planted soybean seed is treated to protect against cold weather ills. That costs about $12 per seed unit. Brent said treatment will no longer be necessary when the soil warms. "We don't have a lot of issues of white mold or sudden death here," he explained.

Besides farming, Brent's other job is selling John Deere machinery. He's seeing stronger demand and prices for used machinery. "There's less and less used machinery for sale every day. Things are looking a lot better than it was. 2017 is better than 2016. Bargains like we had -- a lot of that stuff has already gone out the door. Farmers always have a need."

It's about looking ahead to the future. You can't keep a farmer down for long.

"Part of being a farmer is being optimistic," he said.

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Richard Oswald