View From the Cab

Rain in Iowa, Oklahoma Slowing Harvest, But Progress Being Made

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) -- As the autumn sun slides slowly toward the south, View From the Cab 2017 Farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, rely on a steady mix of helpers to bring in their family farm crops. That's because many hands make light work.

Brent and Lisa work hard in northeastern Iowa, but they can't do it alone. Neighbor and partner Harold Burington helps as Brent's dad, Duane, and part-time helper, Rusty Zey, fill in to keep three combines harvesting and grain carts making circuits between them as semi-trucks wait nearby.

But sometimes weather brings it all to a screeching halt.

"We didn't do anything yesterday (Saturday) or today," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

Two-and-a-half inches of rain fell on the farm last week, but it didn't stop work Monday as Brent reported good harvest progress on corn and soybeans. Tuesday was drizzly and foggy, but corn was picked until a half inch fell that evening, and it rained all day Thursday. Corn harvest resumed Friday until rain came again in the evening and spread across the weekend with 1.8 inches for a weekly total of about 2.5 inches. Rain amounts to the south topped 3 inches.

After the rain-shortened week and with corn moisture levels in the field staying high, slow harvest progress has feed mills and ethanol plants in the area "begging for corn. Three or four places are saying we need some corn," Brent noted.

A wet Wednesday was a "downer day" because Brent's mom, Judy, had open-heart surgery in Iowa City to correct two blockages that stents couldn't cure. Brent told DTN it runs in the family -- her dad and her brothers have had the same problem. She's doing fine and should be home this week, Brent said.

Fall is definitely not all work and no play. Brent and Lisa took time out for Friday-night football at Cedar Falls High School where their youngest daughter, Ellie, performed at halftime with the school dance team. And Saturday evening was Brent and Lisa's once-a-month ballroom dancing.

Some of the Judisches' neighbors wait on corn and pick soybeans first. Progress in the area varies. Brent and Lisa's soybean harvest is around one-third done across the board. Soybeans are yielding about 6 bushels to the acre lower than last year's excellent crop. "In '15 and '16, we had great soybean yields. Corn is going to be awful close to last year's yields, which I didn't think would happen," Brent said.

Corn from the field last week tested about 19% moisture with strong test weights of 60 pounds per bushel, moving up to 61 pounds as corn dries down closer to No. 2 grade. Corn damaged by hail with a 40% reduction in stand is testing wetter at 22% to 23%. Ear retention in those fields is "terrible" as initial losses are magnified by weakened plants. Brent hoped to have those fields out early this week.

In spite of what yields suggest, this year's most profitable crop is soybeans at $9.15 per bushel compared to $3.10 for corn, with one caveat: This year's strong corn APH (actual production history) helps offset the difference.

Last week's rally in corn and soybeans was Brent's cue to begin locking in prices on next year's crop.

The secret to getting ahead during a wet fall harvest is equipment maintenance on down days to keep everything up and running. That's what Brent did Saturday and Sunday when he serviced the semi-trucks. Brent credits his 110-foot by 60-foot heated shop for making that possible. "We had a small shop, 40-by-40, when we had a tornado go through here in 2008 that eliminated that. So we made one big shop. We can get combines in there, planters, we've got a nice warm place to go with that stuff," he explained.

For View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel and his uncle Brent Rendel in northeastern Oklahoma, fall help comes in the form of Zack's dad, Greg, Brent's sons, Job and Isaac, and their hired hand, Terry Warren, to operate two combines, a grain cart, trucks, vertical tiller, field cultivator, canola planter and wheat drill.

"We had a really good week -- barring rain," Zack told DTN late Monday.

Due to seedling emergence worries, heavy rain in the forecast kept Zack's uncle Brent from planting canola last Monday, but 100 acres of soybeans averaging 41 bpa were cut. When the rain came, it turned out to be light on Monday evening and Tuesday with only about three-tenths of an inch. That was enough to allow time for maintenance. "Seems like you always have a bug or two. We replaced a combine sensor and fixed some O-ring leaks while we waited for the ground to dry," Zack said.

On Wednesday, it was still too wet for soybean harvest, making more time for maintenance and checking over the twin-row Monosem planter used for winter canola. By Thursday, things had changed. "Everybody separated." Brent began field cultivating the last of the planned canola fields, while Zack, Terry and Greg cut soybeans. "We were able to roll pretty good. We got 110 acres done, and Brent got all the canola ground opened up. Soybean yields were consistent with Monday in a range from 32 to 60, averaging 40.1 bpa," he said.

Half the remaining canola was planted on Friday and 175 acres of soybeans were harvested. Yields remained consistently above 40 as the best field on Brent's home place averaged 48 bpa. Yield spikes on the monitor ranged from 50 to 80, encouraging Zack to push for higher yields in the future. Winds blew all night for an early start Saturday. Brent finished canola planting and harvest continued. Zack's high-school-aged cousin, Job, manned the grain cart until eight-tenths of an inch of rain fell Saturday night. With close to 400 acres out, soybean moisture ranged from 13.5% to 14% early in the day, down to 11.5% by sundown. "This is the first year I've cut beans with green leaves at the bottoms of the plants and green stems. Guys up north of us are kind of used to that," Zack said. Current yields at 40-plus bpa are profitable on the Rendel farm.

Zack took time on Saturday to help coach his son Nathan's final elementary school football game of the regular season. They won. After a week off, they're headed to the playoffs. Monday was his daughter Charlie's eighth birthday. On Sunday, Zack and family attended a niece's birthday party at a skating rink in town. It was an eye-opening experience.

"I found out I just don't have the moves like I used to," Zack said.

"Sunday was going to be an off day anyway, catching up to our maturities. We spent today (Monday) changing filters on the combines. We fixed a couple of lights. Now we're working on the straw chopper," Zack noted.

Zack texted DTN Tuesday morning to add, "I have a couple neighbors that started drilling wheat late last week. It's time to roll, but we needed to concentrate on the two money crops: canola and soybeans. We've decided that wheat is basically a glorified cover crop for us that can potentially make us money, so our plan is if there's beans to cut, we'll pull off of wheat and harvest soybeans until we hit a maturity break."

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Richard Oswald