View From the Cab

Unseasonable Heat Aids Iowa Harvest; Rain Brings Northeast Oklahoma Harvest to Halt

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) -- September, the month when the Northern Hemisphere officially transitions from summer to autumn, is generally the beginning of cooler weather. But for DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch, this year has been different.

"I got going early yesterday (Saturday) morning. I was already sweating by 7 (a.m.)," Brent told DTN late Sunday. Saturday's high temperature at Cedar Falls, Iowa, was an unseasonably warm 93 degrees Fahrenheit. "Lisa said, 'You need to put on a dry t-shirt.' It was one of those weeks when everyone who thinks farming is easy should spend a week with a farmer," Brent said.

Brent and Lisa work closely together. That's what Brent meant when he told DTN earlier this year, "We are a farmer." In the spring, while Lisa plants with one tractor, Brent plants with another. Now that harvest is upon them, they double-team with his and hers combines.

But that also means they have twice the equipment upkeep.

Monday of the previous week was maintenance day for a vibrating soybean head. Close inspection revealed a problem with the cross auger slip clutch. Disassembly included removing drive belts and chains to reveal structural problems. "We tore all that apart," Brent said. More repairs that day included fixes to a 20-year-old steel grain semi-trailer with cracked welds and rust. A set of bent deck plates was also replaced on Lisa's corn head. "(The cause) mighta been a rock, but it probably was a fence post," Brent surmised.

Tuesday was tool day and also included a trip to town to replenish end wrenches, gloves and combine-cleaning brooms to sweep chaff away. Most commonly, lost wrenches are 24 mm and 9/16 and 1/2 inch. On Wednesday, the 110-volt, 10-gallon-per-minute diesel fuel pump went bad. It was replaced with a 60-gallon-per-minute pump requiring twice the voltage. "We got a trencher and ran 220 to our fuel farm," Brent explained.

Combines, grain carts, trucks: Business-band radios link all of them and everyone on the harvest team together. Brent took two radios to town for repair. One was replaced because it was outdated.

After that, the vibrating bean head went back together and was good as new.

Friday's sweltering heat saw an unlikely evening reprieve when Brent and Lisa attended the Cedar Falls High School football game where their youngest daughter, Ellie, performed with her dance team. The team performs at every Cedar Falls High School home game, held on the campus of University of Northern Iowa. "It was hotter than all get-out," Brent said. "But the game was in the (climate-controlled) UNI-Dome. It was 72 degrees there."

Saturday was when 2017 corn harvest officially began, starting with a 92-acre field. The harvested field of 105-day corn lost only one point of moisture in the field last week in spite of excellent drying weather. "It was good corn, very good yield. It just didn't dry down," Brent explained.

Saturday was also new-help day. Brent and Lisa's latest hire is a retired over-the-road trucker who'll be driving a farm truck during harvest. Brent spent time teaching him the ropes. And a friend of Lisa's learned how to run a grain cart for the first time from long-time helper Rusty Zey.

With Mom and Dad in the field, Ellie was stuck at home doing laundry and housekeeping. Her reward came later that evening when Brent and Lisa took her out for supper. On Sunday, the Judisches did more corn-picking, this time 60 of 140 acres. End rows were wet at 20% moisture, but the field average was 16%.

Later-planted corn is wetter. Soybean stems and pods are too green for harvest but are coming along. One neighbor who tried to harvest said his soybeans tested 20%. Brent saw lots of harvesting near Des Moines last week. Soybean harvest has also started around Waterloo, but there's not much harvest activity 50 miles north of Cedar Falls. Where harvesting was underway, soybean yields were ranging from 55 to 68 bushels per acre.

A weather front that is forecast to pass across the area could slow harvest and crop dry-down early this week. "I probably won't do any more corn the first part of the week unless I get bored," Brent said.

Meanwhile, near Miami, Oklahoma, where View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel raises corn, soybeans, milo, wheat and canola, harvest has hit the pause button. "Not a lot went on last week, but yet a lot was accomplished," Zack told DTN Monday afternoon.

Rain last week -- 2 inches -- was perfect for improving soil conditions so that Zack could resume field repairs with a scraper while his uncle, Brent Rendel, planted winter canola with their twin-row Monosem planter. "That 2 inches of rain was the saving grace for everything we wanted to accomplish. Brent was going to start planting today, but he jumped the gun and started yesterday. He got 80 acres planted, and with rain holding off until Wednesday, he will probably get 80 or 90 today. We couldn't ask for better planting conditions," Zack explained.

Hot, dry weather had left soil hard. Rain softened it up for preparing more canola seedbeds ahead of the planter. Zack's dad, Greg, is still spraying fencerows like his father before him, paying special attention to a nemesis of Southern farms: Johnson grass. "That's something my grandpa was really serious about," Zack said.

Zack and Greg took turns bush-hogging (rotary mowing) around their farmsteads one last time, getting things "spruced up before winter." More fertilizer was spread with Zack's cousin Job discing it into planned canola fields. And hired man, Terry, switched out a worn set of tires on the rear tandem axle of a 10-wheeler using a Blue Cobra tire tool that Zack discovered through an internet search. The tool works on both steel and aluminum wheels to de-mount any tubeless tire in about 20 to 30 seconds or less.

One long-running conflict continues to dog the Rendels. "Brent has been fighting a beaver war in a couple of fields where beaver have been damming up waterways and putting water in the fields. They back water up into our terrace ridges. He's been taking a tractor and loader out to break them up. I'll have to go back out this week to check them," Zack noted.

Wheat seed is ordered. Planting begins in October, but an agronomist at Oklahoma State University has cautioned about planting into high soil temperatures that can damage germination. Wheat likes 75 degrees, but Zack's soil checked out at 87 degrees last week.

With corn and milo harvest out of the way, soybean harvest is closer as group 4.7 and 4.8 soybeans drop leaves "like crazy." Two fields could be ready late this week. Later-planted groups 4.9 and 5.2 are just now turning from green to golden yellow. Possibilities of a crop-damaging early frost seem remote now, even more so with abnormally warm temperatures last week.

Zack's son Nathan plays on his grade one and two elementary school football team. "The boys pulled off another win. They're 3-0. Friday was 96 degrees here. The heat index was over 100. It was hot at the football field too. They learned that sweating -- and water -- is a good thing," Zack pointed out.

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Richard Oswald