View From the Cab

More Rain, Hail Make Fieldwork a Challenge 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) -- Tornado warnings, hail and rain -- those were the weather conditions at DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel's place near Miami, Oklahoma, over the Memorial Day weekend.

"We got rain Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, an inch and a quarter altogether. It was better than the last rains we've been getting," he said. Rain amounts weren't enough to cause flooding, but they were accompanied by nickel- up to quarter-sized hail. "Some corn leaves have a little bit of shred on them."

Wheat within a few days of harvest was spared hail damage, but canola drying in windrows waiting to be threshed was a different story. "Some canola was shattered out on top of the swath. I swathed it down two weeks ago. It was dry. We were planning on picking it up today or tomorrow," Zack told DTN Monday afternoon. "My wife (Kristi), as the hail was thumping on the house, said that was her first time to witness my anxiety during a hailstorm."

Adding to Zack's anxiety was a weather alert set off on his father-in-law's phone. "Saturday my in-laws had come over. It was a tornado warning. I have a security system in my home that also warns about severe weather. National Weather Service radar indicated rotation. We started looking and could see the funnel clouds coming down." That's when Zack and his family went down the road to the old home place and its tornado shelter cellar. With women and children safely underground, Zack and his father-in-law kept watch. "We could see the rotation, but the wind was calm. It was an eerie feeling. There was no damage anywhere. I took some pictures and sent them to the National Weather Service in Tulsa," he said.

Despite weekend rain, Zack told DTN that progress was made on all fronts last week. "Tuesday we water-tested the sprayer ahead of side-dressing. Brent (Zack's uncle and farming partner) ran some Tuesday night. He got all the corn side-dressed by Saturday. I swathed canola Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning." Swathing was complicated by a white mold on canola plants that plugged cooling radiators on the swather. "I had to blow them out every two hours." Then a hydraulic pressure sensor failed and drained the reservoir of oil. And late Friday night, with the end in sight, everything went dark. "About 11:30 (p.m.) I lost all my lights. I couldn't even see to drive back, so I had to leave it (the self-propelled swather) sit in the field and walk back."

But all's well that ends well. Zack finished the job Saturday well ahead of the storm.

The Rendels' farming efforts were fueled by the return of Zack's father, Greg, from sick leave, and by the addition of Zack's uncle Brent's two sons. "Dad came back and ran the planter. He got 220 acres of soybeans in. We've got two additional workers now, Job (age 17) and Isaac (age 14)" are out of school for the summer, Zach explained. Job ran the field cultivator ahead of the planter, and Isaac helped the hired man, Terry, load and unload soybean seed.

A newly seeded waterway shows the effects of heavy rains earlier this spring along with terraces draining into it. "I'm getting a little erosion on a 2% slope. We're close to 26 inches of rain on these terraces this year. I think spreading a little wheat straw on those will stop that," Zack said.

Zack has pointed a time-lapse camera at one field of corn just to watch it grow -- he estimates it grew 10 to 12 inches last week.

"I like corn because you can see it grow. Sorghum is the same way. Wheat looks pretty like it is right now, before harvest. But wheat is like having a baby. You have to wait nine months before you know what you've got," he said.

Meanwhile, outside of Cedar Falls, Iowa, where DTN View From the Cab farmer Brent Judisch farms with his wife, Lisa, last week was a wet one. "We had some rain all week," he said.

Brent told DTN late Monday that spring has been wet, but not saturated, and cool. It has been that sustained period of low temperatures that has hampered farming activities this spring by not allowing fields to dry quickly following moderate rain events. "We had very normal rains that came very often in smaller amounts, so we haven't had any flooded-out areas at all. The wind was really gusty last week. It was cloudy and cool. Winds were blowing so hard I couldn't spray."

Brent isn't worried, though. Pre-emerge herbicides still seem to be working.

"There's a few weeds coming, but because of the cool soil temperatures, they aren't coming very fast. Everybody wants to get started spraying, but it's a little early. We normally get started about June 1," he said.

Brent was able to begin the conclusion of soybean planting by Friday. "Beans are all in. We got done Saturday. Lisa took over for me until Rusty got here, so I got the 24-row coulter tool bar out, and tonight I got done side-dressing (liquid nitrogen on corn) about 4:30."

There was one hiccup. "I took out a u-joint on the front axle of the tractor I was using on the toolbar," Brent told DTN.

The 60-foot-wide toolbar is combined with an 800-gallon tank capable of covering 130 to 140 acres per fill. Refills are accomplished with a nurse tank that shuttles 32% N from storage tanks on the farm to the field. Corn-on-corn rates reflect a 220-bushel-per-acre yield goal, with per-pound N rates 90% of yield. Corn-on-soybean rates reflect added credits for residual N.

Corn following soybeans receives one pre-emerge N application, but corn following corn is side-dressed with about 50 to 60 additional pounds of actual nitrogen. "I've been doing this 30 years. The later you put it in, the more available it is."

A positive side note to this year is that with moderate precipitation, nitrogen loss through leaching is not a problem. Brent noticed that several neighbors are also hooked up to their side-dress rigs and ready to go.

Temperatures warmed into the 70s last week. That helped corn color turn from yellow to green. One field was hit by nickel-sized hail about eight days ago. Defoliation set it back a week. Luckily, the growing point was still underground. "People who own a house over there had to get a new roof and siding," Brent said.

Brent said that most planting is finished in his part of the world, but seed-corn producers appear to be about 10 days behind normal. Fields of emerged corn show varying growth rates according to soil type. Areas of warmer, light-colored soil have taller corn than darker areas in the same field, but there is uniformity within those areas. His agronomist tells him earlier-planted corn grows faster than later-planted corn as it accumulates more growing degree days. In other words, give it time. His first-planted corn is 7 to 8 inches tall.

Soybeans are emerging evenly with the exception of fields planted during a particular two-day time frame. "Beans we planted those days haven't been coming well at all. It's the same for anybody who put beans in those days. It was very cold," he said.

Weather in northeast Iowa remains unusual, and somewhat unpredictable. "Saturday morning we had dense fog until 9:00 a.m. That's weird. We just never have fog this time of year," Brent said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com

(AG/CZ)

Richard Oswald