DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- If Wednesday is hump day, then Aug. 1 seems a logical calendar date to declare the crop has climbed the proverbial hill to get through the season.
While DTN's View From the Cab correspondents aren't exactly willing to call the 2018 crop made, they remain cautiously optimistic about current conditions in their farming area. Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, have been filing reports each week throughout the growing season.
"I'm afraid I'll jinx us if I keep saying the crop looks good," said Haun of northwest Ohio. "But this year, while not perfect, has seemed like a dream compared to the past several years."
In central Kansas, the number of times the precipitation map has gone green this past week has left Kyle Krier in near wonder. "The weather models will be calling for 10% to 15% chance, and we'll get a half inch. It makes it a little tricky if you have hay down, but the row crops are loving it," he said. "In Kansas, we're used to July and August being hot and dry."
This week, DTN asked the young farmers to comment on what has been the most challenging issue they've dealt with this season and what would fix it.
Read ahead to learn their answers and what is happening in their parts of the farming world.
KYLE KRIER - CLAFLIN, KANSAS
Kyle Krier is working hard to learn to juggle. Family instantly goes to the top of his list of priorities in life. Yet when hay needs to be baled or weeds are inching upward, the work hours can easily stretch into precious family moments. With a second child on the way in October, the need to better balance work with family time ranks as his No. 1 challenge.
Every parent faces similar questions. However, self-employment and farming add another layer of complexity into finding a work-family balance, he noted.
Krier and his father, Kirby, farm together. They also have their own farming enterprises. Plus there are side businesses that include oil-well leasing and crop insurance. Krier's wife, Melanie, also works part time as a nurse.
"I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and number-crunching to assess the profitability of each enterprise and how our labor availability matches up," he said. "I'm really hoping we can hire another worker and/or figure out how to spread out operations, but that's easier said than done."
While more frequent rainfall has been good for crops, it often adds hours to the workload. There's more hay to swath, rake and bale, for example.
"But the big thing this year has been keeping fields clean between crops. We used to spray wheat stubble once in July and maybe again and be done.
"But Palmer amaranth has kept us in the sprayer this summer," he noted. "That's become not only time-consuming, but costly."
Those summer showers also promote volunteer wheat and a place for the notorious wheat curl mite to live until it can move into newly emerging winter wheat. Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV), a disease that can devastate stands, is directly tied to the control of volunteer wheat. There's no treatment to control WSMV once established.
Worse yet, the mites are mobile critters, and controlling volunteer wheat on your own acreage isn't good enough to keep the problem at bay, Krier said. Issues can also arise from as much as half a mile away from fields left for cattle to graze or a neighboring field that was left untended.
"I've seen whole fields zeroed out -- not because of what the grower did, but because their neighbor didn't take care of the volunteers," he said.
Although he doesn't have any corn, he said conditions look favorable for yields to be above average.
Milo is also shaping up for good yield, but he's especially excited about the potential of soybeans.
"Right now, we're on pace for some really exceptional soybean yields. We still need to capture a few more rains, but I think we have some dryland soybeans that could go 60 [bushels per acre].
"We're not there yet -- I think we can say we've secured an average crop, but we'll need a few more rains to hit that top-end yield. We'll need favorable weather over the next 30 days," he said.
This year's first cutting of hay was 1/2- to 3/4-ton below average. However, subsequent rainfall increased second-cutting yields, and he's anticipating a good third-cut yield.
GENNY HAUN - KENTON, OHIO
Layman Farms, Kenton, Ohio, hedged their profitability bets this year by taking on several contracts. Included in those contracts are four different varieties being grown as seed beans, none of them dicamba-tolerant.
"One of the challenges we've faced this year is growing soybeans in what is increasingly becoming a dicamba world," Haun said.
"It's become difficult to know where to put other types of soybeans on the landscape. We're fortunate in that a lot of the acres we farm are contiguous, so we can kind of protect ourselves. But it still didn't protect us this year," she said.
This past week, state investigators were looking over injury in one of their fields, she said. "We didn't really feel the applicator had done anything wrong, but unfortunately, we still had injury as a result of the product being applied in a nearby field.
"We're not against the dicamba technology -- in fact, we strongly feel we need additional herbicide tools. However, we also felt that making a formal claim was the only way to add information to help figure out how to make all of these different types of technologies work together."
Haun said the family also planted some Xtend soybean varieties this year, but they did not spray dicamba postemergence.
"We're in a part of the world where farm fields are sometimes smaller. We have a lot of rural homes near our fields. There are gardens and bushes and trees and ornamentals to worry about," she observed.
"So, again, we think we need all the technologies. However, we're very supportive of labeling that keeps applicators thinking and doing the right things. With all the other issues that agriculture is facing, we want to tread lightly."
A few well-timed showers had Haun feeling good about crop potential. "We'll take a little more rain, but I'm not complaining, as we've been getting some when we need it," she said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
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