View From the Cab

Harvest, Fall Seeding Progressing in Fits and Starts

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) -- DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel was all ready to start planting canola early last week on his farm outside of Miami, Oklahoma. The weather had other plans.

"Mother Nature just told us to stand back," Zack told DTN late Sunday. "Terry (the Rendels' hired man) made a pass around the outside of the field with the VT and wasn't going as fast as he normally does. The tractor was spinning, so we called him off."

We were rolling and prepared on Monday, but it started raining Wednesday morning. I had 1 inch at the house," Zack said.

Canola offered a new rotation and a chance to do more tillage, which has helped break the mounting cycle of spring weed pressure, especially in soybeans. After first trying genetically engineered varieties, Zack and his family proved they can grow conventional winter canola successfully by doing just that over the past few years.

Due to its small seed size, canola can't be planted more than an inch deep. Abundant moisture has helped with fast germination and emergence. When Zack's uncle Brent checked it, last week's first-planted canola had already emerged.

The Rendels plant canola with a Monosem twin-row planter. They also grow winter wheat. They're ready to begin sowing that crop with their tandem hookup of two John Deere 15-foot drills.

Following Wednesday's rain, Zack and his dad, Greg, checked out the tender truck, which is used to deliver fertilizer to the drills for about 30 pounds total of in-furrow placement of pop-up P and K. The Rendels have scaled back fertilizer amounts after they discovered that heavier amounts seemed to be slowing germination and emergence. "Now we spread half (including nitrogen) with a buggy and half with the drill," Zack explained.

By Saturday, soil conditions had dried and vertical tillage resumed. But only briefly.

"We thought we could get going, but a solenoid on the independent front axle of our Deere 8285R blew out and was leaking oil, so we had to shut down. That's our biggest tractor and the only one we have that will pull the VT rig," Zack said. That's when Zack phoned a friend whose smallest tractor is a Deere 9460R. He offered Zack the use of it. "It has almost twice the horsepower of our tractor. I gladly accepted it. I got it from his place, and Nathan (Zack's son) and I spent the day getting it set. It's a lot different beast on that (28-foot) vertical tiller. It sure pays to have neighbors like that."

Half of this year's corn acreage will be sowed to canola, along with two fields fallowed following wheat. About half of that was planted as of Sunday. In a phone text sent Monday afternoon, Zack told DTN that, with rain forecast this week, planting would go full speed ahead in hopes of beating the storm. "The cards are dealt. We'll see what we hold come Friday," he said.

The other half of this year's 900 harvested corn acres will be sowed to wheat.

Soybean crop maturity is progressing. Two fields of late group 4s are close to harvest. "After the rains quit, we might be able to get those out. These rains are welcome, but they slow things down. I was able to get the weekend off. Normally, I don't. But this year I've gotten several off," Zack observed.

Meanwhile, outside Cedar Falls, Iowa, DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch have been busy. "We actually got something done," Brent told DTN late Sunday evening.

The Judisches normally harvest with three combines. Lisa ran one of those last week, picking corn. "She's been working on smaller fields of 40, 50 or 60 acres. That corn has been going straight to town," Brent said. Next week's corn, harvested with higher moisture from later-planted fields, will probably be put through a dryer at the farm. "Nobody else here is picking corn. Most fields are testing 28 to 30%. What we harvested was planted in Easter. South of here 15 to 20 miles, they're running hard."

This week's harvest plan is to cut soybeans with all three combines. Lisa will harvest corn in the morning, switch heads for the afternoon, then return to corn the next day. "On Wednesday, we did our first field of beans. The first we tried tested 17%. The second field was 17 to 18%. The third one was 11 to 12%. So we actually combined that field. The beans looked dry, but the stems were green. A field we did today ranged from 9.9% to 18 and averaged 11.2%. Samples are clean. But, after all, it's only October 1st," Brent said.

Brent offered that soybean yields are good, but not as good as last year -- perhaps 8% to 10% less. On better soil types, plants seem to be holding leaves longer and beans are wetter. In those areas, yields are better. Stems are green and tough and challenge the harvester's cutter bar. That was borne out when one 35-foot combine head broke a sickle at one of the splices. (Sickles are made with three sections, spliced together.) That's been a problem for at least a couple of Brent's neighbors, too. But harvesting speeds can be maintained at a decent 3.8 miles per hour. More typical harvesting speeds are 4.2 to 4.4 mph.

Boundaries between farms and fields were once marked by fences to keep livestock in. But as row crops become more common in place of pasture, fences have been removed -- sometimes not as completely as they should have been. On Saturday, Rusty's combine head picked up a steel fence post laying in the field. Damage to the harvesting head was catastrophic. The post broke the reel lift cylinder, which then allowed the reel to fall into the cross auger. "It absolutely destroyed it. We ran a grand total of 30 acres with that head after completely rebuilding it," Brent said. After doing a search, Brent found a used head near Ames, Iowa. "We got up at 5:00 a.m. to pick it up. By 11:00, we had three combines running beans again."

Fall vertical tillage or disc ripping are both on hold until rain softens hard soil. "Ground is pretty firm here."

Friday was a no-work day when Brent and Lisa's oldest daughter, Alex, and her husband came home to attend a wedding in Cedar Falls. And their youngest daughter, Ellie, was inducted into the Cedar Falls High School Athlete Hall of Fame during Homecoming.

Brent was looking forward to a full week of harvest.

"We're going to get the dryer running tomorrow (Monday). I think we're ready to go full-bore" he said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at

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Richard Oswald