View From the Cab

Storage Crunch Time

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Farmers will tell you the crop isn't made until it is in the bin. This week DTN's View From the Cab contributors Genny Haun and Kyle Krier have a slightly different take on that old adage.

With an eye on harvest, both farmers are wondering if there will be enough bin space to hold the crop in their regions. Sluggish market conditions coupled with tariff concerns and a whopper crop could make for tight storage conditions locally, they both said.

Haun reports in from Kenton, Ohio, and Krier, from Claflin, Kansas. The two young farmers have been detailing growing conditions in their regions during the 2018 growing season and sharing thoughts about farming in general.

Both farmers don't have to look far to find natural crop disasters for perspective. High winds and sizeable hail took a toll on southern parts of Ohio this week and while Haun's location in northwest Ohio got soaked, it escaped the extreme conditions. Krier sits in a sea of green compared to neighbors only 30 miles away who are struggling with drought, but the high heat and winds were factoring in.

In other words, it's not over until it is over. "I feel like I've been holding my breath all summer wondering if this weather pattern holds for us," said Krier, who was swathing his fourth cutting of hay for the summer and anticipates another cutting before wrapping up the hay season for the year. "Because honestly, this is not a typical Kansas yield for us."

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

Kyle Krier -- Claflin, Kansas

Weary, but oh so lucky, is how Kyle Krier has felt all summer. Long work hours have accompanied good growing conditions, but his hay, milo and soybean crops have never looked better on his farm near Claflin, Kansas.

That bounty is yielding another potential concern, however. "With combines only 30 days or so away from rolling, we face a very real question on where are we going to go with this stuff," he said. "Many of the bins in this area are chock full of wheat."

That's made the importance of marketing soybeans and locking in contracts even more critical this year -- particularly on soybeans, he noted. "With all the current uncertainties in the market coupled with tight storage, selling across the scale could be ugly," he said.

"I don't want to think about what happens if China doesn't come back to the table and start taking beans, especially with the soybean crop we appear to have coming in."

The hot and windy conditions more typical of Kansas in August arrived this week. That weather was putting a crimp in the schedule for spraying wheat stubble -- which has been a summer-long job this year.

Krier has made four burndown applications on most of his wheat stubble fields. Keeping Palmer amaranth from setting seed has been his major focus, but volunteer wheat is in his sites at the moment.

Volunteer wheat provides a "green bridge" for wheat curl mites that vector wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV). Controlling the issue in your own fields isn't good enough, though, since the virus easily moves from neighboring fields. In the past, stand losses of up to 80% have been experienced in Kansas due to WSMV.

"Seeing a neighbor put up a temporary electric wire is enough to strike fear in wheat guys like me," Krier admitted. "It means they intend to graze that volunteer wheat and that doesn't always do a complete job of destroying it."

Volunteer wheat must be completely dead and dry for two weeks before planting a new wheat crop. Wheat and other grassy weeds can be removed with herbicides or tillage, but it is necessary to allow time for the herbicides to work. There are wheat varieties with some level of resistance to WSMV, but there are no insecticides to control the wheat curl mite or fungicides that stop the disease.

Keeping wheat stubble clean this year has added about $40 to $50 per acre to Krier's costs. "I'm not sure whether you apply that cost to this year's crop or the 2019 crop, but it sure has chipped away profits," he said.

Fourth cutting baling of alfalfa should begin this week, depending on dry down conditions -- cue a silver lining to the hot winds. This cutting will likely have to sit covered in the field for several months Krier said, so getting it dried down well before baling is especially important.

He'll also start prepping land for new alfalfa seeding this week. "We actually could use another shot of rain to finish out the soybeans and keep the alfalfa growing. But I have to say this fourth cutting of alfalfa looks amazing and to think that we'll be able to take a fifth from many of our acres is really something," he added.

"One thing for certain, this year we've yet to run out of things to do!"

Genny Haun -- Kenton, Ohio

Rainfall and unusually sunny conditions remain the story for Genny Haun, Layman Farms, Kenton, Ohio. Layman Farms, where she works in her family operation, has received 6.3 inches of rain in August.

"That's about four inches above normal. But most of it has come for us in manageable amounts and we feel very fortunate," said Haun.

About mid-to-late July, DTN crop disease models, which monitor for gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight in corn and frog eye leaf spot and brown septoria leaf spot in soybeans, started glowing red for this region of northwestern Ohio. (DTN customers can monitor disease risk at www.mydtn.com).

"So far, corn stalk integrity looks pretty good here. We are seeing a little sudden death syndrome (SDS) pop up in soybeans. The soybeans grew so quickly this year that lodging could be an issue," Haun said.

Hybrid and variety selection is an important part of fighting crop disease and other agronomic problems. Haun said they prefer to use fungicides only when absolutely necessary because the region has a history of cloudy days and wet falls. Plant health applications tend to prolong the growth period and can provide harvesting challenges, she noted.

As seed dealers, it's no surprise picking numbers that pack inherent genetic resistance is a strategy. This week the farm hosted an evening plot tour for Ebberts Field Seeds to help customers consider seed selections for 2019.

You might as well make the best of it when you're cleaned up for company. This past week the farm also held what they call "the pond party."

The appreciation dinner for customers, landlords, input suppliers, neighbors and friends started 22 years ago at the farm pond and cabin. But it has grown to 125-plus people and is now held in the farm shop.

In rural tradition, the farm supplies the location, the meat and drinks. From there on, the event is a potluck that would challenge the best buffet line, Haun said.

"People love it -- they have their special foods that they like to show off. I make things I enjoy, but my family won't typically eat. The potluck aspect is all part of the sharing and togetherness," she said.

That philosophy also mirrors the reason for the event. "We realize we couldn't operate as successfully as we do without the cooperation of these people. Plus it's a good reason to have a party," Haun said.

It's good to get those days in now because the farm crew will be buckling down to a different pace when harvest arrives. The latest USDA NASS crop progress report showed corn and soybean maturity running slightly ahead of averages. An estimated 79% of the state corn crop was rated in good to excellent condition. Soybeans in the state are dropping leaves and rated 80% good to excellent by NASS.

If there's been a surprise this year it has been the consistency of the weather, Haun noted. "We have had more consistent rains, more sunlight than we usually get and more growing degree units.

"Our yield checks are showing a big crop and as I've said before, I don't want to get my hopes too high," Haun said. "But some of our biggest challenges going into fall will be basis levels and storage availability."

A new farm rented this year came with a set of bins that they intend to fully utilize. "We're still a little nervous about whether we'll have enough space, given the crop we're anticipating.

"Another issue is finding enough truckers to make sure we can haul it out of the field," she added. The farm has been fortunate to have a core group of employees for the past decade, but as they begin to retire, that adds challenges.

"We're trying to get a plan in place for those situations, but it is hard to find people and especially hard to replace those that have become the equivalent of family," Haun said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(CZ/BE)

Pam Smith