View From the Cab

'Phenomenal' Sorghum, Corn Yields in Northeast Oklahoma; East-Central Iowa Corn Still Drying Down

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) -- Fall is the time of year when luxuriant, green fields are painted earth-toned yellow, orange and brown. But for farmers like DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, fall harvest numbers paint the prettiest picture of all.

Zack and his family have finished the best corn harvest their farm has ever seen. This year's 132-bushel-per-acre crop topped last year's 123 bpa by a wide margin. Now milo numbers are in, and they look good, too!

"We finished milo harvest Tuesday (Sept. 12). All we had left Monday was our National Sorghum Producers yield contest plot. I narrowed my plot down to 2 acres. One and a half is the minimum. Our field average this year was 114 bushels per acre. On Tuesday when we harvested it, my plot blew me away. It was good -- 161.2 bpa. This is our farm record. The best Brent (Zack's uncle) has had is 154. For northeast Oklahoma, that is phenomenal," Zack told DTN late Sunday.

One negative number in this year's milo crop came from flocks of migrating birds. Zack told DTN that their feeding begins at the tips of heads, and then they work their way down. Ten-inch heads were pecked down to eight. "It would have been better if the blackbirds left us alone. I probably lost 20%. That's what really pulled the yields down," he said. Adding to feeding pressure was a scarcity of supply. "Ours was the only milo within 75 to 100 miles."

This year's sorghum seeding was lower than usual for the Rendels. Three- to six-hundred acres is closer to normal than this year's 25 acres. But heavy sustained rainfall for two weeks stopped Zack's planting progress dead in its tracks. Once planting resumed, it was all about soybeans.

Last week, Zack put in field time with a scraper, smoothing and leveling. Hired helper Terry continued discing, and Zack's dad, Greg, sprayed trash trees in fence rows, and Johnson grass wherever it was found. Brent manned the office, tending to bills and yield data of this year's corn crop.

Autumn in Oklahoma is both harvest and planting time. With milo and corn in the bin, it's time to go full-bore into canola planting on this year's corn ground. About half the total planned acreage had been prepared for seeding as of Sunday. But soil moisture profiles were declining in fields worked with a disc harrow to cut up stalks and prepare a seed bed. Then a welcome rain fell. "It started this morning (Sunday). Thankfully, we got 2 inches. One probably soaked in and the rest helped fill ponds," Zack said.

Since canola seed is small, if young plants are to emerge, shallow planting of about one-half to three-quarters of an inch deep is a must. Rain on worked ground creates a crust that preserves topsoil moisture for near-ideal planting conditions.

Soybeans with a maturity range of 4.8 to 5.3 are maturing. Some fields are turning yellow while others remain green. That's partly because of this year's wide planting window lasting from April to July. Harvest will likely start before the traditional first frost date in mid-October and possibly beyond.

Over the weekend, Zack saw his son Nathan's elementary school football team score another big win. Brent and his family traveled to Kansas City to enjoy one prominent Midwestern fall color: Kansas City Chiefs red. They had a good day with a 27-to-20 win over the Eagles.

"Uncle Brent enjoyed Sunday afternoon. That sort of sets the tone for the way things go around the farm all week," Zack said.

Meanwhile, outside Cedar Falls, Iowa, where View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch live and work, a little thing like corn harvest can turn into a spectator sport almost as popular as a football game.

"We started picking. My phone has been blowing up with people who saw me, asking 'What's the moisture?'" Brent told DTN late Sunday.

The week started out quiet enough with the Judisches clearing out the last of the 2016 corn crop and attending last-minute fall grower meetings. At one such seed meeting on Monday, about 30 farmers in attendance compared notes on rainfall. The conclusion was that no one has had rain since Aug. 21, with spotty-at-best rains prior to that. Some felt that soybeans might still benefit from a good shower, but it would have little effect on the corn. Wednesday was another meeting day, this time about fungicide options for the coming year. And, on Thursday, Brent and Lisa and their partners, Harold and Charlene Burington, attended an ag supplier customer appreciation dinner.

There was more harvest equipment prep work on Friday. On Saturday, Brent and Lisa tailgated with family before the Hawkeyes game in Iowa City, where their youngest daughter, Ellie, performed at half-time with other high school dance team members.

By Sunday, after checking a soybean head, identifying issues with the drive, and confronting a code-throwing variable-displacement turbo (code throwing means computer fault codes on the operator's display) on one grain cart tractor where an actuator switch was to blame, it was time to wake up the neighbors.

"I got a corn head on and opened up 5 acres behind the house here and another 5 acres down the road. I'll knock the stalks down so we can drive out there (for machinery parking during harvest)," Brent said. Moisture of 111-day corn was 24% with some green color left to the plants. One-hundred-five-day corn was totally brown and tested drier at 18.5%. Brent told DTN that his corn is "standing perfect." Corn cob quality is "very solid. Not spongy at all." That allows clean shelling and a high-quality sample and indicates good plant health.

Harvest work on farms south of Highway 20 where rainfall has been lighter started earlier in the week. Silage harvest in the area is just finishing up.

With no soybeans close to harvest and corn testing on the wet side, Brent will take this week to finish up final touches to harvest and tillage equipment before the big push nest week. Once harvest starts in earnest, a total of three combines will be deployed.

Rainfall on the Judisch farm has turned around with a half-inch overnight Saturday into Sunday. "It was pretty much gone by morning. It'll help the green soybeans," Brent noted. Another two-tenths inch fell on Sunday night, and more than soybeans benefitted.

"Lisa actually mowed the yard today," Brent said.

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Richard Oswald