LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- August, hazy and hot, marks the beginning of summer's slow slide into autumn. But for some, like DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, it may also mark the beginning of harvest.
When DTN reached Zack at home late Sunday evening, he called the last full week of July "a waiting week" of odds-and-ends jobs around the farm. It was warm, and his waiting was rewarded. "We finally got some rain. Thursday morning we had a tenth of an inch, and Friday another thunderstorm rolled through that gave us three-quarters of an inch," he said.
Other than rain, the one thing Zack has been waiting for has been corn harvest. It's close. "The rain on Friday set us back on fieldwork. I started getting trucks ready for corn harvest. I shelled out some ears and they tested 23% (moisture) after the rain. I bet they were 19% before the rain. Corn fields are definitely changing colors," Zack said.
Last week's fieldwork consisted of finishing several jobs, like herbicide applications to soybean fields, cleaning and putting the sprayer away, and hauling the last of this year's canola to market. Potassium was applied to some standing soybean fields, then incorporated with a row-crop cultivator. It's been awhile since the last time. "Dad (Greg) had the planter put away, so he was low man on the totem pole. He did a great job. He said it was just like riding a bicycle. You never forget," Zack told DTN.
Zack also tried something new: a foliar fertilizer application to his milo. "The Stoller reps recommend putting it on at grain fill. It helps pack the pounds on to keep test weights up. It's one of those things they told me wasn't going to increase physical bushels but will increase weight." Bushels are determined by weight. At a cost of $1.25 per pound and a rate of 5 pounds per acre, Zack told DTN that a 2-bushel-per-acre yield increase would cover the $6.50 product cost. "I left a test strip. I'll do a weigh wagon on that," he said.
"Tuesday I taught my cousin Job how to build a terrace with only a bulldozer blade and a five-bottom plow on a John Deere 4440. We've built so many that way we made a cheat sheet to follow," Zack said. Multiple passes with the plow break soil loose that is then pushed into form by the blade. Once the terrace is configured, a pull-type blade is used to finish it. But Oklahoma heat and a breakdown pushed the pause button on terrace-building until repairs could be made.
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"The temperature on Tuesday was 101 (Fahrenheit), not the heat index but the real temperature. It was hot in that cab. The AC clutch had gone out. So we spent part of Tuesday and Wednesday morning replacing the compressor," Zack said.
This week Zack will attend session four of his Leadership Sorghum class in New Orleans where, among other things, he will have a chance to view port operations where grain sorghum exports are loaded and hear experts speak about opening new markets for his milo. He'll also have the opportunity to network with fellow farmers.
"It'll be kind of nice to get to visit with all the guys and see what their crops look like," he said.
Meanwhile, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch didn't have to wait a week for August doldrums to experience their effects. That's because last week was like August in July.
"It was a beautiful day today, but the wind was zero." It was ideal flying weather for tiny insects. "We have a lot of mosquitoes," Brent said. But without water, Brent's mosquitoes may be living on borrowed time. "We had no rain here last week. We didn't have anything," Brent told DTN late Sunday.
Monday was what Brent called a "non-farming day" spent with fellow members of the local corn growers board, preparing for their Aug. 28 meeting by putting up test-plot signs and lining up speakers. On Tuesday he sprayed one last field of soybeans where hail damage opened the canopy to an invasion of ragweed. Wednesday it was time to haul old-crop corn to market. "We just used two trucks. Harold and my dad drove. It's only a 4-mile haul to load a train to go for ethanol," Brent said. Hauling continued Thursday into Friday.
Also last week, fungicide and insecticide was aerially applied to Brent and Lisa's corn. "Thursday the helicopter started spraying. We got done about suppertime on Friday," Brent said. Helicopters have replaced airplanes in the area around Cedar Falls because of maneuverability and because they can land on a portable pad mounted directly on a truck that also carries water and chemical for quick refills near fields they're spraying. "Spray planes can't load at airports with commercial flights like the one here at Cedar Falls. So a spray plane would have to travel 20 or 30 miles to reload," Brent explained.
Brent and Lisa spent Saturday with 17 friends canoeing on the Des Moines River where water levels were "adequate but could have been higher." Brent noted that central Iowa crops are beginning to suffer for moisture. "You could see where the lighter soils are. Corn stalks were firing up to the ear in some fields. I know they've had a lot less rain than us," he said.
Brent's corn is at least two weeks from dent. Growing degree units (GDU) at his place were a little ahead of the 1,583 normal by Sunday, at 1,610. "Pollination is done up here, so we're making progress," he said. Tip back in earlier-planted fields to the south, where rainfall has been lighter, shows more than he expected. He won't know the full extent of tip back in his own fields for awhile yet. "It's Mother Nature's job now. I won't do much yield estimating yet. I'll wait another 10 days or so."
"Beans are looking good. But August makes the crop. I have a couple of fields planted early that are podded well," Brent said.
Brent has been a long-time ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour attendee. However, he likes to jumpstart the experience by estimating yields in his own fields.
Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com
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