View From the Cab

Iowa Harvest Halfway Done; But Harvest Slowed by Rain in Oklahoma

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) -- It's the best of both worlds -- a full-time life on the land with Sundays off. That's the way it was last week for DTN View From the Cab Farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa. "We had rain last weekend, but we have rain every weekend," Brent told DTN late Sunday.

What's a farmer do on wet Sundays? "The lawn was about 8 inches tall. All three of us jumped on lawnmowers and got that done. Then Lisa and (daughter) Ellie went to town to get groceries," Brent said.

Brent estimated overall harvest at about half done on his farm with two-and-a-half days left of soybean cutting, more for corn. "I bet you'll have to look to find a bean by next weekend," he said. But depending on the area, some fields haven't been touched. Corn is a different matter. Higher-than-normal grain moisture combined with a better-than-expected crop will stretch harvest into next month. His goal is to be done by Nov. 10. "Latest we ever harvested was Nov. 19. That's Lisa's birthday."

Most days Lisa picks corn in the morning until the grain dryer is full. Then she joins Brent and Harold in their combines, devoting three machines to soybeans for the afternoon. Brent sets a goal for each day's work with an eye toward quitting time at sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Brent and Lisa still have their youngest daughter, Ellie, at home. There's family time to consider. But their three top helpers, Brent's dad, Duane, age 78, their partner, Harold, age 85, and Allen, who runs the grain cart, age 80, don't mind those hours either.

The average American farmer is getting older, and it's not so unusual to see post retirement-age farm workers. "We have a neighbor who's 91 years old who farms 300 acres. I see he's done and he's chisel plowing now," Brent said.

Harvest activity has picked up. What Brent calls "weekend warriors" with their "parade of JD 4440's and gravity box wagons" have been out more lately. Working weekdays in town with only weekends for farming, Saturday rain makes their progress difficult.

Corn yields are strong with good test weight. Some fields will be even better than last year, but moisture levels of large, deep kernels are still testing too wet for storage -- as high as 24%. Brent is "a little concerned about where all that corn is going to go." Soybean yields are lower than last year but consistent. Tough, green-stem soybeans have dried with help from windy days so that combines now make faster progress. But one custom harvested field of no-till drilled soybeans had to be cut at an angle due to previous crop BT corn stalks clogging the cutter bar.

Soybeans had a tough go with the dry summer. Brent hasn't heard of any really good soybean yields in his area this year.

Brent's other job is selling John Deere machinery where previously slow markets are heating up. That could be due to the size of this year's corn crop. But ARC and PLC payments from FSA have injected some unexpected capital into farm accounts, too. "We got nothing on soybeans, but ARC paid on corn last year. We had a record crop at a low price," he explained.

View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, told DTN early Monday that despite last week's wet weekend, soybean harvest is moving along. "We got a bunch of beans out (last week) ... but Monday was a rain day because it was still too wet," he said.

Machinery maintenance took up most of last Monday. But when a friend called offering a newborn twin calf -- the cow could feed only one -- Zack "did what everybody seems to do" and built a pen, so his children Charlie and Nathan could have a bottle calf.

Soybean cutting resumed Tuesday, but Wednesday was reserved for a school trip to the Tulsa Zoo with Nathan and his class. Green beans kept combines on the sideline. "The guys decided to do maintenance" Zack said. After good days in the field Thursday and Friday the Rendels had caught up to their maturity line, the difference between planting dates and plant maturities that makes the difference between a little bit green and too green. Then Zack went to help a neighbor cut soybeans ahead of rain. As of Monday, the Rendel's had 1,600 acres of soybeans left to go, and 50 acres of late-planted corn.

The lowest field average yield has been 33.3 bushels per acre. Moisture has ranged from 10% to 13.5%. Most average yields have been in the 40s. The toughest field of beans Zack has harvested was the custom field started on Friday, where chicken litter had been applied as fertilizer. Soybean plants were tall and tough. Rye grass in the field compounded the problem. A plugged feederhouse on Zack's combine turned into a breakdown when a green gob ejected by the feeder reverser collided with the cutter bar apron. "Dad and the old 9650 finished the field," he said.

Saturday night brought more rain -- 1.75 inches with reports of pea-to-nickel-sized hail. Friends who got up to watch the storm returned to their bedroom for an unexpected surprise. "They were watching the storm, and next thing they knew there was a tree in their bed," Zack explained.

Canola planted with a precision, twin-row Monosem planter has emerged. Zack's uncle Brent found perfect stands with 99% emergence. A University of Oklahoma 2-pounds-to-the-acre seeding test plot sowed on the farm with a drill had to be replanted due to uneven stand. The high-rate 4-pounds-to-the-acre plot is good enough to keep. The low-rate plot will be replanted to assess the viability of late-planted winter canola in northeast Oklahoma. Zack told DTN that many things affect yield; "The full yield potential we grow is in the seed bag. That starts dropping the minute you open the bag."

ARC and PLC payments arrived this month in Oklahoma. The Rendels don't normally count on much from those. This year was no exception. But Zack remembers when his grandpa took him to town to sign up in the farm program because he remembered times when, if it weren't for subsidies, he might not have continued to farm. This time around on the farm bill, Zack recalls his uncle Brent poring over the computer for hours, analyzing differences between ARC and PLC potential payouts. In spite of all that, Zack said his county is typically a no-payment county.

It's probably not the size of this year's farm payments that has Zack's John Deere dealer seeing a slight rise in demand for new machinery. Demand for used machines is definitely growing. "He's getting a few phone calls from local farmers saying it looks like they're going to have extra money to spend -- they need to spend some money because this year's crops are so good. Not only did they sell their two new combines (on the lot), but they have four more on order for next year," Zack said.

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Richard Oswald