View From the Cab

Rain Delays Harvest, Planting in Oklahoma, But Not in Iowa

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) -- No trait symbolizes the American family farmer more than motivation to get work done even when circumstance stands in the way. In the case of DTN View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, going back to the drawing board on rainy days simply means making sure his equipment is ready for round two.

"Last week was fast-paced until it came to a screeching halt due to rain," Zack told DTN late Sunday.

It's both planting and harvest time in northeastern Oklahoma, where Zack farms with his uncle, Brent Rendel. Zack has checked and rechecked his combine, made sure the grain drills are ready for wheat planting and fixed the vertical-tillage tractor after it blew a hydraulic solenoid.

An inch of rain at the farm slowed fieldwork last week, while some communities like Stillwater, Oklahoma, reported as much as 6 to 7 inches. In the interim, the Rendels have been attempting to seed their winter canola crop amid stop-and-go weather.

Rain replenished soil moisture, so the Rendels were able to begin canola planting two weeks ago. But rain has been interspersed with fieldwork and planting delays ever since. "Brent started planting again at 7 a.m. last Monday. I took over at 10 a.m. (Brent had tickets to Monday night football in Kansas City) and planted all day Monday until I had to change over seed in the planter (to a different canola variety). Then, I shut down. We got 120 acres done that day, which doesn't seem like much, but for a 15-foot planter, that's rolling," Zack said.

Planting resumed last Tuesday when Brent picked up where Zack left off. Rain came again that afternoon with 160 acres of 550 left to plant. One very long day would do it. But with possible heavy rains in the forecast, Zack told DTN via text message Monday morning that planting remained on hold.

That's because small-seeded canola is subject to emergence problems in crusted or waterlogged soil.

Emerging canola stands have been good with the exception of a University of Oklahoma test plot seeded on the farm last week with a grain drill. Depth and seed placement are critical to good canola stands. The Rendels' Monosem precision planter pays big dividends with even crop emergence.

Time is growing short. The planting deadline to qualify for full-coverage Risk Management Agency all-risk crop insurance is Sunday, Oct. 15.

"We're the only farmers growing canola in Ottawa County. We have to write a letter explaining our practices and typical yields. We also have to send in our wheat yields. But we have no problem getting RMA at 80% on our canola. For canola seeded after the 15th, the highest level we can insure is 40%," Zack explained.

There's plenty of time left before the wheat planting deadline of Nov. 30. Zack and his family sow theirs with grain drills. But an increasing number of Oklahoma wheat farmers have been broadcasting seed with dry fertilizer spreaders, then incorporating it with shallow tillage. Zack told DTN that farmers choosing that route are subject to field inspection and stand counts by RMA adjusters who must establish crop insurance eligibility.

While on a family outing Sunday, Zack told DTN he saw soybeans harvested for the first time this year near Afton, Oklahoma. By Monday, Zack had begun cutting his own soybeans. "We started soybean harvest today. So far, yields are in the 40s and moisture is running 11%. Fifteen- to 20-mile-per-hour winds make for good cutting and no green stems, so things are flowing really nice," he told DTN in additional text comments Monday afternoon.

Cash rents are under pressure from low prices and high input costs, but Zack prefers crop shares. "I like a more personal relationship with landlords, sitting down together so we can visit about their farm. With cash rent, you just sit down to write them a check, and that's the last time you see them until next year."

There are potential landlords who feel the same way.

"My farm may be growing. A neighbor got ahold of me last week and asked if I would be interested in farming some ground for him," Zack said.

View From the Cab Farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, relied on ample soil moisture reserves combined with limited rainfall to produce this year's corn and soybean crops. Now that harvest has arrived, rain has too.

"It finally started raining. It rained Monday, Tuesday afternoon, Thursday night, all day Friday and all day Saturday," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

Rain amounts remained light enough most of the week to allow headway on harvest with two combines on soybeans and one dedicated to corn. But it wasn't easy. "Monday we did corn all day. It rained about a tenth (of an inch) in the morning. Tuesday, we ran beans, and Lisa ran corn until about 11 a.m. and got the dryer full. She switched over to beans, and we got that field done. It started raining about 5 p.m., and sure enough, we got rained out with about quarter of an inch," he said.

Much of the corn in east-central Iowa has been slow to dry down, and some farms don't harvest corn until soybeans are out. The slow harvest pace may have temporarily created extra corn demand. "On Thursday, a grain elevator with a large hog operation called. I talked to them and they asked if we had any corn. We ran two rigs and took them about 15,000 bushels," Brent said.

A steady drizzle on Friday left Brent and Lisa with time on their hands and a neighbor's health problems on their minds. They decided to drive to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was hospitalized in search of a second opinion on his condition. It was sad news. "We saw him and his family. He has stage 4 cancer. He was already in hospice," Brent said.

Brent told DTN that crops he saw near Madison and along the way were still in the field, including crops within 40 miles of Cedar Falls. He's heard a lot of standing corn still tests 30% moisture. Quality of his corn is high and has ranged in moisture from 18% up to 21%. Test weights are strong between 58 and 60 pounds at 18% to 19% moisture. "We've seen over 300 bushels per acre in places," he said.

While soybeans he's cut are averaging about 11.5% moisture, they are variable. It's not unusual to see 30% pop up on the yield monitor. Wettest soybeans are on better soils where they held on long enough for beneficial late rains that helped yield but also slowed maturity. Yields in the upper 50s and lower 60s are definitely lower than last year's crop. Poorer soils and later-planted fields are still a question mark. "My only concern is, around here, guys are saying later beans have less yield. The early beans were made before it got dry," he said.

Overnight rains from Friday into Saturday delivered 2 inches with another half inch during the day Saturday for a week's total of 3 inches. Brent and hired helper Rusty Vey took part of the day Saturday to rebuild two rippers with new discs and replace worn bolts. Later in the day, Brent and Lisa visited their middle daughter, Madie, where she attends graduate school at University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Brent told DTN that fields remain firm but "slimy." Harvest is behind normal, but there have been others that were worse. It's one of those years where variations in soil, weather and planting dates have the most dedicated farmers wondering what's next.

"We're about 30% done with soybeans and 25% on corn. Some people in our area are done with soybeans and some haven't started," he said.

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Richard Oswald