LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "We ended up with a total of one inch of rain. (That's a) little more than the tenth expected..." was the early Monday morning text message from DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma.
Zack and his family are experiencing difficulty planting their 2017 spring crops. That's because actual rainfall amounts have almost always exceeded expectations this year. With soybean planting lagging and summer harvest pressing forward, Zack told DTN late Sunday, "The clock is ticking (on soybean planting). We decided to go around the wet spots and keep going."
Counting both single- and double-crop soybeans, following winter wheat and canola with those crops yet to be harvested, the Rendels have more than 2,100 acres to go.
Recent rains have complicated things by putting a hold on wheat harvest. One neighbor's test cutting showed moisture levels too high at 16.5%, while another neighbor cut close to 50 acres testing 14% until rain shut him down. Canola, swathed and waiting for the combine, is too damp, because rain and lack of drying winds are keeping it that way.
The good news is corn and milo crops are thriving. Digital footage from a time-lapse camera focused on one of Zack's cornfields confirms it. "Monday's corn in that field measured 4 feet 10 inches tall. Saturday it measured 6 feet 10 inches. So it grew exactly 2 feet in five and a half days. Corn is absolutely doing great. The sidedress is all on. Corn doesn't have a problem in the world with all the rain," he said.
Milo seems to be almost as good. Side dress nitrogen is due on it in a week or two -- weather permitting.
One hard-to-kill nemesis of southern farmers, Palmer Amaranth, also known as pigweed, likes rain too. "I went out to examine all our ground soybeans are going to. Any field with pigweed over 4 inches tall we decided to break the discs out and work all those fields. That was the only way we could combat all the weeds," Zack explained.
Even with the best of plans, complications are never far away.
"When we started working ground on Monday it was working decent. Then we got a freak rain Monday night. We worked in the shop Tuesday. Wednesday, we got all the tractors out to disc. (Two, 2-wheel-drive JD 4440's, a 4450 mfwd, a 8285R, and the 8230 on the planter). We got another rain Wednesday night, about 1 to 2 tenths of an inch. Thursday, our hired man took a 4440 out and it broke down with hydraulic leaks. Then I got a call that our 4450 was down with a broken radiator hose. Friday morning, the hired man took the other 4440 out and got stuck. We've got a hydraulic problem on the 8230 planting tractor. We've been working through that. I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off."
Success is sometimes measured in acres. "We were able to get 160 acres planted before the rain on Saturday," Zack told DTN late Sunday.
There's been no labor shortage. Zack's Dad, Greg, is back from sick leave to run the planter. And Brent's (Zack's uncle and farming partner) two sons, Job and Isaac, are out of school for the summer and ready to work. "We've had plenty of help. Isaac is learning to run a tractor he's never run before and learning to get around in the mud and watch the disc so it doesn't ball up."
Zack's cousin Job is scheduled to leave on an educational trip to Belize. If soil prep work isn't finished soon, that will leave them short a driver. But for Zack and Kristi's 7-year old, vacationing with her grandmother and other family in an ocean-front beach house on Dolphin Island, the time away almost isn't worth it.
"My daughter (Charlie) wanted to stay and watch the corn grow. There's a cornfield across the road from my house. On the other side of that, you can see my dad's house. We could see the windows, but now all we can see is the roof. She's afraid the corn will be so tall she won't be able to see papa Greg's house when she gets back," Zack explained.
Outside Cedar Falls in northeastern Iowa, View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch saw temperatures swing from morning lows in the 40s Tuesday and Wednesday to about twice that later in the week. "Weather was dry all week; we had a chance of rain the first three days but didn't get any. It's hot, and dry here. Yesterday was 91. It was 92 here today," Brent told DTN late Sunday.
"Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I sprayed postemergence corn. Didn't spray on Thursday, because it was too windy," Brent said. Spray drift onto susceptible crops is one reason, but nearby housing developments with their gardens and ornamental plants are also a concern. "It's been ideal weather for spraying. Weeds were wilted hard yesterday."
Soybean postemergce spraying is at least three weeks away, Brent said. So far, he's been pleased with how pre-plant treatments are holding.
"We have a number of waterways we can't get to once the corn gets tall. We've been mowing those. We picked up some rocks out of a couple of bean fields last week. Also, we had a windstorm that blew some trees down a few weeks ago, so I went around five or six fields with the tractor and loader and pushed those back. Corn is starting to grow now, because we're getting some heat. First planted corn is about 10 inches tall. It must be getting into the nitrogen now, because it's really starting to green up. Late-planted corn is really small. Beans have been really slow to grow too."
On the to-do list this week is replanting a small amount of corn with a four-row planter on Monday. "We had a hail storm come through here. I need to touch up some rows," Brent explained.
"Almost every year I can remember, we've had knee-high corn by the fourth of June, but we don't have any this year. The last six or seven years, we've planted early and picked early, but that's hardly the norm. Are we behind normal? Define normal. We've been spoiled the last four or five years, able to get out early and get done," he said.
Farmers around Brent's place have been mowing hay. Brent told DTN there is a county-sized area north of him where thousands of acres of corn are being replanted. "They had a heavy 2 and 1/2 inch downpour as the corn was ready to emerge."
While slightly later planting dates and slow plant growth along with moderate rains have been the new normal for Brent this year, soil health has been the beneficiary. "The ground is very mellow. My sprayer was cutting in pretty good in a couple of spots." That has allowed this year's moderate showers to soak away. Loose soil helps the crop root down, but the weather has been warming up.
"We need a rain shower now. We haven't had a major rain in nine or 10 days," he said.
Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com
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