View From the Cab

Hail Damages Iowa Family's Crops; Moderate Weather a Welcome Change for Oklahoma Farmer

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) -- DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel's corn needed a drink last week. "We're in a crucial time here for pollination," he told DTN late Sunday evening. Luckily for Zack's crop, the need was answered. "Thursday night we got six-tenths of an inch of rain. Friday I had right at an inch and a quarter. Then last night we got a half inch."

The newest crop to be grown on Zack's Miami, Oklahoma, farm is conventional canola. It's become a proven profitable replacement for profit-challenged wheat.

Planted in the fall, canola comes off in late spring in time to plant full-season double-crop soybeans. Moisture content is a critical factor for storing harvested canola. Mowing it with a swather before combining allows more even drying. But this year's harvest has been complicated by spring rains that delivered close to three-fourths of the expected annual rainfall for eastern Oklahoma. That much rainfall coupled with severe weather slowed canola harvest with at least one negative impact on yields.

"We finished up canola harvest (last week). Our best canola was 47 bushels per acre. Typical range for all fields but one was 20 to 47. My last 40-acre field had gotten hailed on and shattered out. It (shattered seed) grew up through the windrows. Picking it up (with the combine) should have taken about an hour and a half. It took three hours. I got 80 bushels off of 40 acres. It wasn't worth picking up, but I had to get the windrows up just to let the planter get through there," Zack explained.

Because of its density, varied moisture content and extremely small size, canola seed is difficult to store in conventional grain bins. That's why the Rendels store their harvested canola in giant 10-foot-wide by 200-foot-long plastic grain bags. Using a special machine built to load bags forces out air, putting the grain in an almost oxygen-free environment where spoilage is kept to a minimum. When it's time to deliver canola to buyers, another specialized machine is used to unload the sealed bags with little or no waste.

Last week's weather with lower wind velocities was better for spraying. Pre-emerge spraying on soybeans was finished up last week by Brent Rendel, Zack's uncle and partner. Zack reinstalled Y drops on the sprayer to sidedress N on emerged milo later this week when fields are dry.

Soybean planting is moving ahead. As of Friday, the Rendels had 1,380 acres to go. Normally, Zack's father, Greg, does the planting, but two, 15-foot drills on a tandem hitch are out of the shed and ready for Zack to give soybean planting a boost. "The plan is to get me on that as soon as we can free up one of the tractors to pull it. On a good day we can get close to 300 acres with me and Dad running," he said.

Planted soybeans have emerged. Areas crusted by heavy rain where stands were thin are thickening up now that rain has softened them. "Beans are curling up out of the ground where we didn't have any."

Moderate weather has been a welcome change.

"Dad has been no-tilling some beans. We haven't had any pounding rains since then," Zack said.

If there's such a place as paradise for corn growers, View From the Cab farmer Brent Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, must live on the edge of it. "It's supposed to get down to 54 (degrees F) tonight and stay in the 50s tomorrow night and Tuesday. Monday it rained six-tenths of an inch. We were kind of needing it, so that was a good deal. Tuesday it rained four-tenths. It all soaked in nice. Wednesday it rained seven-tenths and that soaked in," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

But Thursday was the kicker.

"Thursday we had hail on 450 acres of our best dirt. On 220 acres of that, golf-ball-sized hail took all the leaves off. That stuff was really looking awesome," Brent said. He told DTN that another half-inch of rain Friday coupled with 70-degree daytime temperatures should help damaged plants heal by reducing stress.

Rounding out the week's rain total was another quarter-inch on Saturday. "We're very moist right now," he said.

"We've only ever had hail one other time. That was seven years ago right at pollination. This is only the second time in 30 years. We carry enterprise units on our crop insurance (that prevents breaking out individual field losses) because it's a lot cheaper on premium, so we carry a hail rider on top of that," Brent said.

Adjusters won't be around for a few more days, but he feels soybeans and lightly damaged corn will recover to make a crop. He's uncertain about his defoliated corn, but is sure that fungicide applications will be a must due to wounds and bruises to plants caused by hailstones.

"We always spray beans anyway. We always spray corn on corn as well. We'll spray all the corn, this year, that's injured."

Earliest-planted corn is at the V10 stage, about waist high. Hailed corn was closer to V6 to V8. "Everything else looks great. Everything is evened up. We have some spotty bean populations. Every field has spotty issues because of cold soils and trash issues," he said. Corn herbicide has all been applied. It's time for a post-emerge treatment for soybeans. Waterways and ditches were mowed last week. Drainage tile is still running, a sign of adequate soil moisture.

"We were dry for two weeks, but we got our roots established," Brent said.

If badly damaged corn is totaled, it's too late for replant, and soil-applied herbicide prevents switching to soybeans. "We've got atrazine there," he explained. "Our only option would be cover crops just to get something out there," he said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald

(AG/CZ)

Richard Oswald