View From the Cab

Triple-Digit Heat Pushes Oklahoma Corn Toward Early Harvest; Cooler Weather, Rain Bring Relief to Iowa Crops

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 farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch saw rain last week at their place outside Cedar Falls, Iowa. "We hadn't been suffering, but it was sure nice after all the heat. It finally cooled off today (Sunday). The high was about 82 (degrees)," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

"We were in the low 90s the bulk of the week with lows in the 70s. On Saturday, we got a half-inch of rain ... north of us they got 4 to 6 inches that night all the way to Wisconsin and Illinois. Friday morning we woke up to thunder and lightning and heavy rain between 3 and 5 a.m. We ended up with an inch and three-quarters out of that. So we ended up with two-and-a-quarter inches last week. South of us didn't get near that much. The rain we got came slowly. We have been fortunate not to have any gully washers," Brent said.

Before the rain, Brent told DTN, corn on lighter soils had begun to roll. Early morning fog and mist have helped keep stress to a minimum. But heat stress can affect pollination and ear fill. If damage was done, he feels it will show up in a couple of weeks. As of Sunday, all corn fields had tasseled and most were pollinated.

One crop is maturing and coming to market. "I'm seeing all the little pickups in town selling sweet corn." Fifteen-inch-row soybeans are joined in the middles. "Beans are really starting to grow now. But north of us they are starting to struggle after all the rain," he said.

Harold Burington, Brent and Lisa's partner, sprayed fencerows last week. Then, on Saturday, Brent sprayed some himself by driving the tractor and sprayer to their farthest field. "We have a strong presence of giant ragweed here. We spray every year and we still have some. We have a field 10 miles away. You have to go through town to get there, so Saturday I drove over and sprayed fencerows there," he said.

It's time to apply fungicide and insecticide. The applicator of choice is, to say the least, high clearance.

"Close to town there are a lot of power lines. We have a lot of 80-acre fields and a lot of powerlines. It's really hard for a spray plane to get every corner of a field. Helicopters can actually stop, turn around, and go back," Brent explained.

Thanks to vertical landing and takeoff, reloading is a breeze. "With an airplane, they may have to go 20 to 30 miles to load. A helicopter can land and load right by the field. But they only hold about 200 gallons. At 3 gallons per acre, they have to fill a lot of times," he said.

Fungicide application across all his soybeans has meant changes to the varieties Brent plants.

"We used to plant 3.1 to 2.9 (maturity) soybeans. Eight years ago, I don't remember spraying any fungicide. Now we plant 2.7 to 2.5 (maturity). (Because soybeans now take longer to mature), it is the application of fungicide that keeps the plant healthier, longer. There's three to seven days difference in maturity between soybeans treated with fungicide, or none. Fungicide helps plants get through hot August weather to September (and more favorable weather). The longer they stay healthy, the larger beans they make," Brent said.

Meanwhile, outside Miami, Oklahoma, View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel told DTN late Monday that the weather has been "sticky."

"It's been hotter than all get-out. We've been in the hundreds; 'real feel' has been 101 to 104 all last week," he said. Zack told DTN that subsoil moisture has been adequate for developing soybean, corn and sorghum crops, but heat stress was "ungodly."

Normal beginning harvest date for corn should be late August to September. Zack expects this year's harvest to begin in two weeks.

Last week's work consisted of Zack's uncle and partner Brent Rendel spraying more post-emerge weed killer on soybean fields. They're about 70% done with that. The last of this year's canola crop will be loaded out this week. As of Monday, there were just three truckloads left. And two wheat stubble fields intended for double-crop soybeans but switched to winter canola after wet weather delayed planting were prepared for seeding later this year.

"I showed my two cousins (Job and Isaac) how to burn off wheat stubble. It took about 10 minutes to burn 160 acres. At first, the wind was just 6 mph. But then it jumped up to 10. I had the tractor and disc on standby (to control the fire just in case)," Zack explained.

"On Tuesday, I spent the morning with a Progressive Farmer reporter talking about practices to improve yields on soybeans and other crops to push them beyond yield barriers. Tuesday afternoon I spent with an agronomy salesperson from my ag supplier. We took tissue samples from some of our soybeans to check for nutrient levels of N, P and K, and micronutrients zinc, sulfur, boron and manganese. From that I'll get recommendations of what foliar products I can apply to help the plants. This is the first year I've done that," he said.

Wednesday and Friday were spent doing odds and ends. Zack's dad, Greg, replanted soybeans for a neighbor. Zack loaded seed for that, and later on, Zack and Greg loaded canola onto trucks for shipment.

Thursday was spent at a summer crop school put on by Oklahoma State University where Zack listened to presentations on weed control, nutrient practices for wheat and cover crops for weed control or grazing. Dr. Tom Royer also spoke on a relatively new grain sorghum pest migrating north out of Texas: sugarcane aphids.

One topic that seems to be taking farm country by storm is dicamba. "I'm in an area where dicamba damage is not a new thing," Zack said. "We've dealt with this for years." That's because dicamba has replaced 2,4-D as the herbicide of choice on many pastures. "I think these pasture guys are finding that 2,4-D isn't the answer to everything. I guess you could say we've got a little bit of a chip on our shoulders because we've had so much (dicamba) pasture spraying."

There are two groups of farmers Zack knows who plant dicamba-resistant soybeans: those who want to use dicamba for weed control and those who want to protect themselves from off-target applications. Zack told DTN that at least three commercial applicators have said they will not allow dicamba into their sprayers. That being the case, area farmers who want to apply dicamba to their fields are renting or buying sprayers for self-application.

But the dicamba damage Zack is familiar with nicks only parts of a field or a buffer area. "What's really got me is when I hear a report and see pictures of fields, it can be the whole field. Normally, a 100-acre field may only have 10 acres damaged. It's just curious how whole fields can be damaged."

"It can keep people talking for hours," he said.

(GH\SK)

Richard Oswald