View From the Cab

Oklahoma Farmer Sees Best Corn Yields; Late-Season Dryness Takes Toll on Iowa Soybeans

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) -- Families can be groups of people or groups of closely related products. Family farmers such as DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, epitomize both definitions. Zack grew up on his grandparents' farm where he now works side by side with other members of the Rendel family, producing a variety of crops from grain and oilseed families.

Zack began harvesting corn barely three weeks ago. He finished last Thursday on 975 acres. All that remains are 50 acres of conventional corn replanted in late June after spray drift of glyphosate from a neighboring farm wiped out about half the field. The tentative harvest date for that field will most likely be sometime in November. "Brent (Zack's uncle) figures our farm average is 132 bushels per acre. Up to now, our best year was last year with a 125-bushel average. We have a new best," Zack told DTN late Sunday.

Zack sold about 75% of his crop at $3.33, delivered to a local elevator. From there, it will eventually be fed to poultry.

Next, it was on to grain sorghum harvest.

"Friday, I blew off the combine and corn head good enough to put it in the barn, and switched out the concaves from round bar for corn to large wire for sorghum. Then I got all the ends (end rows) cut and made a few passes through the field. I took that load to the local elevator. It tested 14.5%. They wanted it 14% or less," Zack said. Yields were in the 112-to-t115-bpa range. Zack hoped to finish this year's small acreage on Monday after moisture levels drop lower.

Soybeans are maturing slowly with little insect pressure. Planting dates of group 4.8 to 5.5 maturity soybeans range from mid-April to early July. Earliest-planted soybeans are beginning to turn, with pods filled 85% to 90%. But most are still green, in earlier pod-fill stages. Traditional life-ending first frost dates in mid-October could improve harvestability without damaging yield potential. However, persistent talk in long-range forecasts of frost near the end of September might damage all but the earliest-planted crop. "We're a little bit antsy on frost potential," Zack said.

Field preparation for winter canola, consisting of chiseling and discing or field cultivating ahead of the Monosem twin-row planter, is moving along. Sept. 25 is the target to begin. Dry conditions could limit the ability for tiny canola seeds to germinate at their optimum planting depth of 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.

First planting date for wheat will be later, about Oct. 1. Zack told DTN that both wheat and canola planted acres will be larger this year due to improved markets and profitability outlook. At current prices, canola remains the more profitable of the two crops.

With corn harvest finished and sorghum harvest on hold, the weekend was reserved for family and a friend's birthday party. Zack and Kristi also saw their son Nathan play in his first elementary school game of 11-man contact football. After scoring two touchdowns in the first half, Nathan's team won by forfeiture. A father's pride was apparent. "Nathan did his job," Zack said.

For family farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, the long wait for harvest is almost over as dry weather intensifies over eastern Iowa. "We haven't had a sprinkle of rain for over two weeks now. Not even a forecast chance since the 24th," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

Brent, his dad, Duane, and partner, Harold Burington, spent most of the week cleaning out the last of 2016 corn from three bins on the farm. Some of the corn went to an ethanol plant about 50 miles away. With that obligation filled, the rest will be taken to local elevators.

Harvest preparations continue with grain carts and electronic scales hooked to tractors that pull them. One combine in the shop since last week is ready to go with shaker pans and drive chains installed. Both corn heads are ready. And after a closer look, the semi-truck Brent had earmarked for two new tires instead got four.

Besides the lawn, in perhaps the last mowing job of the year, Brent mowed up a patch of CRP last week. "A pond sort of surrounds it. The water was way down, and I was able to mow that. That's normal for late fall," he said.

Cornfields are turning from green to brown, but not all ears are created equal. Some have tipped down and are drying, others are green and point up, and some are in-between. Later-planted corn is still green. Stalk health is good. "In one field that's brown from head to toe, I sampled three ears that tested 20%, 22% and 30%. Ears are still immature in spots. It's been really great drying weather. There are no cracks in the ground. I'm sure we've had enough moisture to finish the crop."

Spotty rains have chosen winners and losers. Neighbors about 10 to 12 miles to south have much drier conditions. Corn benefitted from earlier rains, but soybeans needing August rain for optimum yield have come up short across the region. "There are six to eight beans (in 40 three-bean pods per plant) that are totally flat. Right now, beans seem awfully small. Lighter-soil beans are turning first. One part of a field is yellow, the rest is green. South of here where it's drier, leaves are dropping. A good rain would have finished the bean crop. It's not going to happen now," Brent commented.

Corn is far enough along for Brent to set the combine with a metric wrench. To do that, he shells three ears down to the cobs. Then, using a set of metric box-end wrenches, he finds the smallest hole a cob will pass through. The most common choice is about 28 millimeters. Then, he sets his combine concaves at 2 mm less than an average cob. At 28 mm, the concaves are set to 26. After passing through the combine, cobs should be free of kernels, whole and, when broken in half, the pith should show a cross or star pattern indicative of being lightly squeezed. "I have to help a lot of my clients (Brent's other job is selling John Deere equipment) set their combines, and this is the method I use," he explained.

For an accurate combine setting, he checks cobs from the same areas on three- to four-day intervals until harvest begins.

Friends, co-workers, customers -- all can be like family. Brent and Lisa enjoy once-a-month ballroom dancing. Afterward, on Saturday, they meet friends at Appleby's in Cedar Falls. "A bunch of us usually go there on the second Saturday of the month. Ellie (Brent and Lisa's youngest child) called to say she was hungry, so she joined us too," Brent said.

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Richard Oswald