View From the Cab

Put the Planters Away, It Is Time to Make Hay

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Our weekly reports highlight the many activities on the farm. Genny Haun reports in from Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier details farm life from Claflin, Kansas. (Photos courtesy of Genny Haun and Kyle Krier)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The seed may be in the ground, but the work has just begun. DTN's View From the Cab correspondents report they made big leaps in planting progress this past week, but it's time to turn up the heat on other jobs. Diversification helps spread risk, but it also adds to the workload.

Scouting for weeds is topping the chore list for the coming week at Layman Farms, said Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio. She's got her eye on common waterhemp, which seems to get wilier each season.

Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, is making ready for the first hay cutting -- while keeping a wary eye open for alfalfa weevil.

On the wish list for both young farmers was a smidgen of rain. "But mostly we are looking around us and feeling blessed," said Haun.

Krier couldn't agree more. States to the south and west of him can't buy a drink and there are some desperately dry conditions in parts of Kansas too. "A week from now, I might be singing the need more rain blues, but right now, I just feel grateful for what we've had," he said.

Here's what's happening in their parts of the farming world:

GENNY HAUN -- KENTON, OHIO

Good chunks of Ohio are still doing the backstroke and struggling to get seed in the wet ground. The Kenton area was forecast to get those showers too, but they skipped north of Layman Farms. "We hit it hard all week and never did let up," Haun said. "By the weekend, we were 80% planted on corn, and about 40% of the beans were in."

The family farms just shy of 5,000 acres in a 50/50 rotation between corn and soybeans. Some farmers talk about the Mother's Day curse -- working on that hallowed Sunday is said to taint the rest of the season.

"I'm not sure we adhere to that superstition," Haun said. "But we do try very hard not to work on Sundays unless absolutely necessary.

"Our crews put in some long hours last week, and because of that, everyone got Mother's Day off to spend with families. It was welcome and well deserved," she added.

With others wishing rain away, she hesitated to mention that the seeds they most recently planted could actually use a little moisture. A dribble -- about 35/100ths of an inch -- had fallen at the farm since May 9. "Emergence on early-planted corn looks good," she said.

Weather delays push planting to Father's Day or beyond some years, so she's feeling good about the season so far. "Our biggest struggle here is getting heat units. We have a lot of overcast days, and even with a perfect spring, fall can sometimes be a long way off," she said.

As seed dealers, Haun said some customers have begun moving to shorter-maturity hybrids and varieties to gain more flexibility.

Specialty crops are factoring heavily into the Layman Farms lineup in 2018. They have two separate contracts to supply non-GMO soybeans and planted some non-GMO corn for the first time in several years. In addition, they are also growing Roundup Ready and Liberty Link seed beans for Ebberts Field Seeds.

Premiums for food-grade soybeans can tack on as much as $2 per bushel over Chicago. As enticing as that seems, Haun noted the premium must be carefully weighed against possible yield reductions, extra storage/handling costs and additional input costs for weed control.

This year, the family rented another 700-acre farm in an adjoining county that was ideally situated for non-GMO acres. The fields are close in proximity and have grain bins located on the site. The location also drastically cuts transportation to their delivery point at Marysville, Ohio.

"We have 12 different soybean varieties this year," she added. "There's a lot that goes into keeping it segregated from planting through harvest and delivery.

"But those are things we are willing to do to remain profitable," she noted.

KYLE KRIER -- CLAFLIN, KANSAS

There will be no dumping of Gatorade. Nor did Kyle Krier have time for a victory burnout on Monday to celebrate the soybean planter and herbicide sprayer crossing the finish line almost simultaneously. There's hay to mow. And rake. And eventually, to bale.

"We actually lucked out and we have not had to spray for [alfalfa] weevil. This is the first time in many, many, many, many years that we've not had to spray for them," Krier said.

"I hope we get a boatload of rain soon, as that will assure we won't have to treat for weevil. We've been checking daily, and we just haven't found them this year.

"There's a little bit of aphid pressure, but not enough to warrant spraying at this point. I'm hoping we can keep the insecticide in a box," added the Claflin, Kansas, farmer.

He expects the first cutting of alfalfa to be ready for swathing in the next week to 10 days.

"If it doesn't get rained on while in the windrow and the quality looks good, we'll give strong consideration to putting it into large square bales.

"If it looks like fully bloomed, lower-quality, very large-stemmed alfalfa, we will often round bale it. Round bales equal grinder/feedlots, and a square bale gives us at least an attempt to go to a dairy."

Krier's hay business is split between his own production and the custom work he does for others. Custom work involves swathing, raking and baling, and in most cases, the marketing. He also manages pest scouting and treatments on some custom acres.

Cutting starts on the field that is most mature. That first cutting generally dictates the order fields are handled for the rest of the season.

Winter wheat is still struggling to come along. Krier said there are some fields fully headed, but others that are only 25% headed. He said it would likely be mid-June before many combines roll through wheat.

He worries that a super-late wheat harvest could bump up against the second cutting of alfalfa. "That gets more than a little challenging," he said.

Fortunately, Krier said he has extended family that hold up their hand to help through such labor crunches. "They do just enough of it each summer to think it is fun," he said.

The farm is also sponsoring an intern arranged through Ohio State University this summer. The matching program is designed to provide the intern real-life working experience and provide the employing farm a worker for the summer into fall.

Read earlier installments of View From the Cab here:

https://www.dtnpf.com/…

https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(BAS/AG)

Pam Smith