View From the Cab

Rain Delays Oklahoma Corn Harvest; Iowa Farmer Sees "Respectable" Corn, Lower Soy Yield

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
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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) -- "No problems other than travel problems," is how DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel described events around his Miami, Oklahoma, farm last week.

Zack told DTN late Sunday evening that his problems started on the return trip home from a Leadership Sorghum class in New Orleans, Louisiana. After boarding a connecting flight in Dallas headed for Joplin, Missouri, passengers were told their flight had been canceled because a construction crew at Joplin had severed buried runway lighting electrical cables. Zack's flight would be delayed until the light of day.

"I wasn't going to wait until 10:30 the next morning. I learned a plane to Tulsa was delayed until 10:30 (that night). I got the last seat. As soon as we boarded, I called Kristi (Zack's wife) and told her to get to Tulsa and pick me up. We got back home about 12:30 a.m. Then we spent the morning getting my pickup and baggage in Joplin," he explained.

Back at home in Oklahoma, weather has taken a turn toward cooler temperatures with daytime highs in the 80s and nighttime lows of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Rain totaling over 2 inches on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday has delayed corn harvest. Grain moisture percentages remain in the low 20s. Earlier-planted corn has lost its green color. Later-planted fields have green leaves and brown husks. Fifty-five acres of a herbicide-damaged 100-acre corn field, which was replanted on June 20, is in about the V10 stage. Zack's uncle Brent sidedressed that field with additional N last week. "Brent said it is all lush green, no stress at all. We may have lucked out on that," Zack said.

Zack's milo is maturing. It's close to black layer. Soybean post-emerge herbicide is finished. While Zack was out of town, two fields originally intended for soybeans but left fallow when wet weather prevented planting, were worked by Brent and Zack's dad, Greg, to prepare them for planting to winter canola later this year. Terrace construction that was started the week before was finished last week. Terry, the hired hand, continued brush hogging (rotary mowing) ditches and waterways.

Leadership Sorghum class, a program sponsored by the Sorghum Checkoff, means going places, seeing things and meeting people. One of the people Zack met at New Orleans on Tuesday was Hao Xie, the son of a sorghum importer from China. He also met other members of this year's Leadership Sorghum class representing Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska and Minnesota.

While in New Orleans, Zack was able to visit port facilities -- referred to locally as "NOLA" -- including a CHS export terminal with grain capacity totaling 6.5 million bushels, load-out capability of 90,000 bushels per hour and unload capacity of 70,000 bushels per hour. "They can clean 40,000 bushels per hour so that grain meets buyers' standards. Samples of grain are pulled every minute to minute and a half so that it's thoroughly tested. They handle about 1 million bushels per day. That was one of the coolest things I've ever seen," Zack said.

Zack told DTN that a big part of the trip was focused on leadership training by helping participants learn their individual strengths and weaknesses. It will come as no surprise to DTN readers that among the skills Zack possesses is communication, eagerness to learn and an ability to relate to other people.

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During an overview of milo use, Zack learned there are 12 ethanol plants in the United States where milo is used exclusively. He said 12 more are capable of switching from milo to corn, with price the deciding factor. Grain sorghum is used in producing 300 million gallons of ethanol annually. Development of even more ethanol capacity continues. "We were told that the Department of Energy has invested $72 million in sorghum biomass research. I had no idea there was that much sorghum ethanol," he said.

But even with ethanol and exports, some older markets still thrive. "My milo will be used for bird seed," Zack said.

Meanwhile, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, DTN View From the Cab farmer Brent Judisch summarized last week this way: "It was constructive -- we got a few things fixed that needed to be fixed."

On Monday, a broken waterline was fixed after Brent dug it out last Sunday. The hydrant it fed was near a second one. One hydrant is enough. Brent simply capped the line at a 'T'... after using his backhoe to dig a house-sized hole in search of the break. "I tore up a bunch of the yard," he said.

Tuesday there was more waterline work, filling the hole and then placing gravel in the area of the line so that if it breaks again, it'll be easier to find.

The rest of last year's corn crop is finding its way to town with truck-driving help from Brent and Lisa's partner, Harold Burington, and Brent's dad, Duane Judisch. Hauling continued through Friday, complicated by an electric motor failure on the bin loadout. Brent and Lisa's part-time helper Rusty Zey took care of that on Wednesday.

Farmers who don't do anything never have breakdowns. Halfway through last week, it should be clear to readers that no one can say that about Brent, as he dealt with the week's third repair job. That's because, on Wednesday, the cab blower went out on his loader tractor. "I ordered two new fans. They're located underneath the cab, so I had to pull the floorboards out," he explained.

Spotty rains of from three-tenths to seven-tenths of an inch fell on Thursday. The rain was welcome but not critical. "We're doing OK. Rain makes the crops happy," Brent told DTN late Sunday. But weather has been drying out lately. "We had to put in a conservation pond with a pump. The pump in it is still running, so that means we're still not terribly dry," he added.

"Friday I went out and started looking at crops to get an idea where we're at there. I need another 10 days to get a reliable yield estimate. As of today, (corn) is pretty well blistered. When we had cattle, we always chopped corn silage on Labor Day. That normally is when we're in full dent. I'm happy with the corn. I didn't think we'd have last year's crop, but we're still respectable. I checked the ground, there are no cracks opening up yet."

"Soybeans are a sunlight crop. We learned you have to plant soybeans early to maximize sunlight (exposure). (This year) our soybeans are seven to 10 days behind. There are far less pods than there are blooms. I'm used to having more pods than flowers this time of year," Brent said. But spring was a problem this year, especially the cold, wet spell in May. "Whether you planted early or late, you're gonna have to take five bushels off the top," he said.

USDA's weekly Crop Progress report put Iowa corn in dough stage four days behind normal. On Tuesday, DTN asked Brent where his Iowa farm fits in. "About half my corn is normal, (and) about half would fall in that four days behind normal," he replied via text message.

Daily highs last week were 70s and 80s. Overnight lows dipped to the 50s. "We had a bonfire last night (Saturday)," Brent said.

Brent grew up and went to school in the small northeastern Iowa community of Tripoli, population 1,340. Perhaps a rarity among Iowa's consolidated rural schools, Tripoli still has its own K-12 school.

Every year about this time, Tripoli hosts Tripoli Days. Class reunions held every fifth year swell Tripoli Days attendance to the bursting point. "It's mostly on Friday and Saturday with a few things on Sunday. We always have our class reunions on Saturday. Friday, I got the pickup and trailer out and rounded up some chairs for a float Saturday. They had over 130 entries."

"My graduating class (in 1982) had 64 people. Sixty-one are still alive. Thirty showed up. Class sizes now are in the mid-30s. Dad graduated 25 years ahead of me. This was his 60th year," Brent said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald

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Richard Oswald

Richard Oswald
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