View From the Cab

Corn Planting Almost Done in East-Central Iowa; Rain Slows Fieldwork 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 of Zack Rendel; DTN photo of Brent and Lisa Judisch by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, MO. (DTN) -- "We've pretty well been in the field most of the week." That's how DTN View From the Cab farmer Brent Judisch summed up the last seven days at his farm outside of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

But there were exceptions.

"Six-tenths of rain on Wednesday kept us out on Wednesday and Thursday. We were dry. Some guys were starting to (rotary) hoe (to alleviate crusting problems). But that 0.6 inch pretty well solved that problem," he told DTN late Sunday.

Brent estimated corn planting in his neighborhood at 97% done. "A few guys are left," he said.

He puts soybean planting approaching two-thirds complete. Delays are inevitable. "Lisa has been running the drill to keep it going a little longer. Mother's Day, graduations, I think every weekend the next three weeks, everybody has something."

It was a busy week of spraying, vertical tilling, drilling beans, picking up rocks and even some drainage work. "I spent 4 hours on the backhoe," Brent said. He was clearing silt that blocked the flow of water through a waterway, which was making the field wet on both sides. "It took quite a while, but it went according to plan. It'll dry up fast."

Along with the rain has come wind. Gusty breezes have kept weed control on hold. "Spraying is getting to be an issue because of wind. Guys here are getting a little frustrated," Brent told DTN.

Brent said that a field check on his Gator showed all but two fields of corn have emerged. Recently planted soybeans are just now starting to come up. "They've been in the ground two weeks," he said. The weather has warmed. "Heat is really pushing them out of the ground."

Soybean drilling is taking a little longer than normal this year. That's because Brent and Lisa will have a few more acres than usual.

The Judisches also do custom drilling. "We picked up some more ground, and guys we drill for have a few more. We started custom drilling in 1992 with two John Deere 15-foot, 7 1/2-inch-spacing, 750 drills," Brent said. Now they have a 40-foot, 15-inch-spacing, Deere 1990 drill. (The width is identical to a 16-row planter). "They're a very low-cost machine to operate. They have half the moving parts of a planter, a simple drive mechanism, air delivers seed to the boot (from a central fill tank). You can run about 8 miles per hour, which gets the same amount done as a 24-row planter at 5 miles per hour."

Farmers rely on test plot data to keep them in the loop of what to plant next year. Brent will plant plots containing 13 corn hybrids and five soybean varieties, all from Beck Seeds. "We've got quite a few fields along major highways. We plant eight-row plots with a four-row planter. It's kinda set up for test plots, and we use it to plant sweetcorn too," he said.

Modern, high-tech farm machinery only breaks down if it's being used.

"Yesterday we had a tractor tire pick up a fence post, (punctured). We lost about an hour. Today a tractor was throwing weird error codes. That turned out to be dirty fuel filters."

Error codes -- those tractor computer indicators of what's wrong -- can be elusive.

"Newer tractors have emission standards they have to meet. (To identify problems like improper fuel pressure), you need to clear the codes, write it down. Lisa's pretty good at that. Rusty, too. Technology is great as long as it's working good," Brent explained.

Meanwhile, outside of Miami, Oklahoma, last week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were nice days. "We could actually get out in the field and do something," View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel told DTN late Sunday.

Brent Rendel, Zack's uncle and farming partner, did some weed spraying on canola fields where harvest will be getting under way shortly. And a hired helper ran the VT (vertical tiller) across intended soybean acres. He also ran the VT across what should have been the last field planted to milo on Thursday.

"Wednesday we had an inch and a half of rain. Thursday the total was 2.25 inches. So that put milo planting off again for three or four days," Zack said. "If rain comes in again this week and we can't get it in, we're gonna pull the plug and go to beans."

Nitrogen sidedressing to corn is a normal practice on the Rendel farm where they typically use their Trimble GreenSeeker to set rates on the go, according to plant needs. But GreenSeeker relies on "enrich strips" fertilized at a higher rate than the overall field, to determine benchmark NDVI (normalized difference vegetative index) for the field. Without an established NDVI, GreenSeeker lacks a basic benchmark for its variable rate. This year's extremely wet weather interfered with creating enrich strips. "We're getting some yellow strips (low nitrogen availability). We'll apply the old-fashioned way without GreenSeeker and put on 15 to 25 additional units of N. That'll put our total N units between 115 and 125," Zack explained.

Wind-whipped and rain-beaten milo fields looked dead after heavy rains earlier this month. "The milo I have in has completely surprised me. It came up normally, then we had 10 inches of rain. It laid down and turned brown. I was ready to replant." Then the sun came out. "It re-sprouted. Normally, I shoot for a stand count of 60,000. I planted 65,000 seeds per acre, and I have 62,000 plants," he said.

Zack reports excellent conditions in this year's wheat crop. "It's turning fast." Another summer-harvested crop, canola, is ripening as well. "We're going to check tomorrow to see if our earliest-planted fields can be swathed." Swathing canola "desiccates the crop," stopping the growth cycle and allowing it to dry more evenly. It also protects against shatter of the extremely small oilseed caused by harvest with a conventional grain head or weather events like wind and rain.

But, first, the Rendels must fix the swather.

"We hit a road block on the swathing. We pulled it up to the barn to wash it up and had an engine oil code pop up. We called a John Deere tech out, and it turns out the ECM (electronic control module) is out." There may be an explanation. "After we bought it three years ago, lightning struck the radio antennae and came in through the radio," Zack said.

A newly rented field, plowed with a moldboard plow to alleviate weed problems, has offered a new problem Zack had avoided so far in this wet cycle.

"I sent our hired hand out to vertical till the field we took over this year. Everything went great until his third pass when the bottom went out from under him. Water was standing under the fresh-plowed ground. We had to unhook the VT, pull the tractor out, and hook chains to the VT. It took two tractors to pull it out."

They hooked back up and tried to go home.

"On his way out, he got stuck again. I pulled the VT out a second time; that time I didn't stop till I got to the road," Zack said.

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Richard Oswald