DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- It is the year for weather whiplash. Worries about getting the crop in the ground have been replaced with the next nagging concern: When will it rain again?
Ohio-based Genny Haun and Kansas-reared Kyle Krier grew up on the farms where they work and have witnessed seasonal uncertainties before. However, that stress takes on additional meaning as the farm and crop now represent an occupation and way to sustain their own young families.
DTN is following Haun and Krier through the 2018 growing season with weekly reports. Although the season appeared to be off to a slow start, winter moved right into summer heat for both growers.
The state of Kansas set a record for the biggest differences between average April temperatures and average May temperatures -- a 23.3-degree-Fahrenheit swing. "It feels more like late June or early July," said Krier.
In Ohio, Haun has gone from wishing rain away to needing a shower. Whether we like it or not, keeping an eye on the weather is one constant in this business of farming.
Here's what's happening in their parts of the farming world:
KYLE KRIER - CLAFLIN, KANSAS
The heat is on in Kansas and it is making the wheat turn more quickly than Kyle Krier would like. "Some guys in southern Kansas have started harvest.
"The rapid way the wheat is ripening is probably going to cost us some test weight and bushels," he reported. "But we're at the mercy of Mother Nature and we're hoping she gives us some rain on the Thursday forecast to calm things down." The long-term forecast was for 95 F or better.
High temperatures are typically associated with hay baling and that's exactly what Krier did all last week. He still has one field -- a young stand of alfalfa that needed a little extra bloom time -- left to bale this week.
"We had some really good quality on the first cutting that was a little lighter stemmed and in the 175 RFV [relative feed value] range. And we had some that was of grinding quality. But, for the most part, everything got put up in pretty good shape.
"We had a little hay that got rained on," he added. "But we also need the rain to guarantee we have further cuttings."
One thing he is marveling at is there were no mechanical breakdowns during the first hay cutting.
"Gosh ... don't think I even want to say this out loud, but once we got started, everything ran like a top," he said. While they make maintenance of swathers and balers a priority, anyone that has ever baled knows something invariably goes wrong.
They will bale straw following wheat harvest, so they'll soon get another test to see if the lucky no-breakdown streak holds. They do some custom straw baling in addition to their own.
Krier and his wife, Melanie, farm with his parents, Kirby and Kathy. The Kriers started planting milo this week. They're only devoting 250 acres to the crop after including more soybeans in the planting mix this year.
"We're catching our breath a bit after all the work last week, and it sure feels good to have that first hay crop put away," Krier said. "Now if we can just get a rain."
GENNY HAUN - KENTON, OHIO
The last of the seed is in the ground at Layman Farms, Kenton, Ohio. "We have one little patch of corn that got an overspray that might require replant, but that's still a maybe," said Genny Haun.
While finishing soybean planting the first of June is later than they'd like, Haun said they feel fortunate compared to other Ohio farmers who are still doing the backstroke and trying to mud in a crop.
Genny farms in the northwest corner of Ohio with her husband, Matt, and her parents, Jan and Cindy Layman.
"We're in a disturbing weather pattern right now where the rains come right at us and then disintegrate at the county line," said Jan. "I've seen that pattern before and it is worrisome."
While they waited for raindrops to kick seedlings into gear, the farm employees were hauling 2017 grain to fulfill the last of the grain contracts.
Fields are also being scouted to determine where pre-emergence residuals might be breaking with when to begin post-emergence soybean weed control.
Post-emergence weed control isn't something they typically do in corn, but one 300-acre corn-on-corn field is getting a harder look. It's the fourth year that field has been in corn, and some grasses and perennials were breaking through this week. Cool weather and lack of rainfall at the appropriate time reduced efficacy on some of the pre-emergence residuals, they said.
"We got a wonderful stand and a wonderful start in that field, and we've decided we'd better take care of it," Jan said.
Sidedressing corn continues this week. They put about 20 gallons of 28% nitrogen (N) through the planter and typically follow with another 45 to 55 gallons of 28% for a total of about 200 lb. of N per acre. They use a nitrogen stabilizer with intentions of not making further nitrogen passes.
As soon as field operations slow, the farm team will start on custom tiling and constructing the several waterways they have been hired to do this summer.
Incorporating cover crops into the rotation requires nearly year-round planning, so they are already talking about what to do this fall. Getting good establishment has proven a challenge, especially when rainfall doesn't immediately following seeding.
Only a dribble of rain came after they used a highboy to seed into a standing crop last year -- resulting in "virtually nothing coming up." Seeding by air was slightly more successful -- mostly because rains fell soon after the seed drop. The drill provided much better seed-to-soil content and better stands, but it was extremely late and tied up a driver and equipment.
Although they seeded 2,500 acres of cover crops last year and are four years into the practice, the family feels they are still testing the system.
"We're interested mostly in erosion control and improving water infiltration," Jan said. "Given our geography, we can't seem to harvest the nitrogen benefits from things like crimson clover and vetch."
Cereal rye better fits the pocketbook and has given them good stands even when seeded late. It is also relatively easy to control in the spring.
"It's easy to get $20 to $30 per acre wrapped up in a cover crop, especially if you go with some of the mixes," Jan said. "Margins are tight. So it is easy to get discouraged if you don't get a good stand."
For Jan, it is interesting to see practices that her father depended on come back into play. The farming daughter has already learned the two things that have never left are the need for timeliness in both operations and rainfall.
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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