View From the Cab

Assessing the Crop and the Business

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Genny Haun and Kyle Krier represent the new crop of agriculturalists. They stepped up to welcome readers into their homes and onto their farms this season. (Photo courtesy of Genny Haun and Kyle Krier)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- There's nothing like hot, sultry summer nights to stir thoughts of what's ahead for the farm business.

This week we found DTN's View From the Cab contributors feeling upbeat about their crop prospects, but watching closely for sneaky diseases and insect invaders that could nibble away at potential yield. And while there's still plenty of growing left on this crop, Kyle Krier, from Kansas, and Genny Haun, from Ohio, are already thinking ahead to the next year and weighing every input and option with an eye toward profitability.

The two young farmers have been filing weekly reports about what is happening on their farms this season.

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

KYLE KRIER - CLAFLIN, KANSAS

A flight to see the in-laws in St. Louis allowed Kyle Krier a bird's-eye view of crop conditions this week. "From Wichita headed east there was a lot more brown than green. East-central Kansas looked pretty tough, as were parts of Missouri," he noted.

That elevated perspective left him more positive about his own central Kansas crop near Claflin. "We caught some rains and we're hanging on. Alfalfa is a little slow growing, but it's fairly typical for this time of year. If we catch a couple of additional rains, we'll have a decent third cutting," he said.

"We just need to get rid of the heat. It's been 96-plus degrees for the past two weeks. At night we are staying near 80 degrees, and it really needs to be closer to 70 degrees," he added.

Krier didn't plant any corn this year, but he said farmers in his area are already reporting some tip-back and possible pollination problems due to high heat. "Some of the irrigated corn looks like it has a decent chance, though," he said.

However, soybeans seem to be enjoying the unusually muggy conditions the region is experiencing this year. "We've had humidity hovering around 45%," he noted. "Usually, we're super dry right now."

While the increased moisture in the air may benefit beans, it complicates making hay. "Balers often can't start until noon or later," he said.

That high humidity has him concerned about soybean disease, and he's scouting to determine if fungicide treatments might be needed.

He didn't see an abundance of soybean plant growth early this season, so has been working with the local cooperative to trial foliar-applied nutrient products. "I'm considering an additional application, and if I do that, will likely include a fungicide and do some side-by-sides to see if we see some advantages," Krier said. Some additional management can push soybeans to 40 to 50 bushels per acre, but rainfall over the next 30 to 45 days will make or break this crop.

"The heat has really pushed this crop along, though," he said. "We're seeing a quick trip toward maturity right now, but it's not something we can do a lot about or worry about. In this part of the world, we always seem to be 5 minutes away from burnout. Somehow it always works out and we get a little shower to pull us through."

New genetics are increasingly proving their stuff to Krier when it comes to fighting tough conditions. "Where ordinarily we might have been burned up, these new varieties often allow our crops to hold on another week to 10 days before the fire sale begins.

"That's changing things -- allowing us to explore different cropping rotations," he said.

This year he has soybeans planted following wheat, corn and milo -- all planted in close proximity -- that should give him a good look at what rotations provide an economic edge. With the 8 to 10 inches of rainfall that typically falls in-season, milo will consistently yield 90 bushels per acre. If soybeans yield well following it, he may shift to more milo acres in 2019.

Sugarcane aphids scared a lot of producers away from grain sorghum, but new varieties and planting earlier is offering hope, Krier said.

"We're just looking, testing and assessing right now. The main thing is I think we need to keep asking ourselves if we are doing the right thing and not doing the same thing out of habit."

GENNY HAUN - KENTON, OHIO

Genny Haun and her mother, Cindy Layman, were holding down the Ohio farm fort this week as their husbands attended an agricultural peer group meeting in Kansas City.

"We're hoping that Matt and Dad are really digging in and brainstorming," Haun said. "Of course, we know they won't get as much out of it as if Mom and I had gone," she added with a chuckle.

Layman Farms has been active in the Moving Forward Advisory Council for the past few years. Haun's father, Jan Layman, became acquainted with many of the other farms in the diverse group when he attended The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) and the Association of Agricultural Production Executives (APPEX) programs.

The peer group operates through the Kansas-based Ag Progress Inc., a firm founded by DTN contributor Lance Woodbury (www.agprogress.com). Haun said networking in this way offers both educational and business opportunities.

"We're always looking for ways to move the operation to a more professional level. New strategies and behaviors are easier to implement when you have support from those who have been through it," she noted.

Estate and succession planning is also part of the peer group focus. In fact, Haun said she feels a special bond to the group because they helped her parents see how she could fit into the family farm business.

"The one big benefit I see is every farm involved in our group is multi-generational," she said. "The mix of experience levels is invaluable, and we're always learning something."

Reports of frogeye leaf spot in soybeans in central Ohio have them on alert and watching. "As a rule, we try not to spray fungicides unless we have to. Beyond the added expense, fungicides tend to keep our crop super green.

"Last year we applied them on one cornfield and just could not get that to dry down. We ended up taking it at 27%, and we just do not like to do that," she added.

The region is noted for cloudy days. However, the sun has been out in full force this year, and breaking a sweat has been easy as temperature records are also shattering. What that means to pollination is still being determined in some cornfields, she noted.

"Some of the later-planted fields are just beginning to tassel, but the bulk of the crop is looking good, and we'll know at harvest how things fared.

"Meanwhile, we're doing normal housekeeping things such as mowing waterways and road ditches. We're checking bins and making any repairs needed to be ready for harvest," she said.

When it's just too hot to be outdoors, there are always bookkeeping and tax report jobs waiting.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith