View From the Cab

Schedule the Harvest

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, of Kenton, Ohio and Kyle Krier, of 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, Illinois (DTN) -- There's more to harvest than putting a combine in the field. DTN's View from the Cab farmers would prefer to go into the gathering season with a plan in mind.

Obviously maturity matters, said Genny Haun, who farms near Kenton, Ohio. "Prioritizing harvest around here seems to hinge mostly on what is ready.

"But we prefer to run beans first and have the advantage of having our fields fairly close in proximity. We can skip around and hit fields that are ready and leave those that aren't without a lot of road time," she said.

Harvest is also a good time to evaluate how disease, insect and weed control practices worked or didn't work during the growing season. Weedy breaks, in particular, are easy to see from the vantage point of the cab, said Kyle Krier, who farms near Claflin, Kansas.

Although his soybeans are fairly clean this year, he'll be watching to avoid weedy patches since the combine can easily spread weed seeds throughout the field and to neighboring fields. If there is a field with outbreaks, the plan is to save it until last, if possible.

Haun and Krier have been reporting in each week from their respective farming regions. Here's what's happening this week in their farming world:

GENNY HAUN -- KENTON, OHIO

Harvest efficiencies are top of mind at Layman Farms. The farm team goes into the season with the idea of limiting downtime as much as possible.

They are currently running two combines -- using 35-foot draper heads in soybeans and 12-row corn heads. Two 700-bushel capacity grain carts, five trucks (four grain hoppers and one dump trailer) finish out the harvest fleet.

"We prefer to run all beans first so we don't have down time switching machines," Haun said. "We also don't have enough trucks and labor to run corn and beans at the same time."

Of course, Mother Nature holds the cards. "We won't sit and wait for beans if the corn is ready," she said.

One thing that helps harvest run more smoothly is a modern grain set-up. The old one was destroyed in tornado-like winds two years ago. "That allowed us to rebuild with a better traffic flow and other efficiencies," she said.

They know there will be slowdowns for machine cleanouts and segregation procedures since the farm is growing five non-GM bean varieties and two soybean seed varieties this year. Some of these beans will be trucked straight from the field to the elevator.

"But we are storing a larger amount this year," Haun said. "The same is true for non-GMO corn. One of the contracts we have is a buyer's call in May of 2019."

Another slowdown could come because of anticipated storage crunch. There are 450,000 bushels of storage at the home farm and another 75,000-bushel bin space on rented farms that can be used. So far, they've been able to rent an additional 125,000 bushels of storage capacity from other farmers who had it available.

"Trucking will come into play more for us this year and some of the grain will have to be handled twice, as it is run through our dryer or stored at the home farm for time savings before being moved to another location," she said.

The higher yields expected this year are good news, but they put a strain on available labor, especially during corn harvest, which takes more grain carts and truck drivers.

In a normal year, Haun and her mother, Cindy Layman, typically watch over the office, run meals to the field or triage people/equipment. However, this year they fully expect to become equipment operators. Of course, for Haun that's dependent upon a doctor's approval because she and farming husband Matt are expecting their third child.

Beyond harvest, there's the quick turnaround to plant cover crops. "So we have a plan, but it is a tight one and not a lot of options for change," Haun said.

KYLE KRIER -- CLAFLIN, KANSAS

Late-season warm weather has meant rapid dry-down for many crops this fall. Krier didn't plant corn this year, so stalk quality is off his worry list. However, he is watching soybean moisture levels closely. The difference between 9% and 13% moisture can mean the difference of several bushels in yield and the loss adds up fast, especially in a high-yielding year, he said.

When it comes to scheduling harvest, soybeans may cut better on hot, dry fall afternoons, but again, Krier wants to keep moisture levels in mind. The last thing he wants is to lose yield at the header after battling all summer to protect soybean yield to bring it to this point.

"Most guys don't like to cut green, ropey beans and are convinced they are ruining the combine doing it," Krier said. "I'll take my chances and can pay for a few repairs to keep that yield."

Krier was seeing a few area farmers that have finished corn harvest already bringing in some early maturity soybeans this week. "I'd say we are a week to 14 days from really taking off here in soybeans," he said. "I've seen a few milo fields cut."

Krier planted more full maturity varieties this year and some of those are still fairly green. Varieties in the area can range from 3.6 to 3.8 relative maturity. "A lot of our later maturity beans are 4.2 to 4.4. We saw those flowering much later in the season and with all the rain we received, I'm hoping for a little yield bump on those later beans," he said.

"We've not seen any difference when planting wheat behind a 3.8 or a 4.2 (relative maturity). However, we have seen a yield lag on the early maturity soybeans over the past five years," he said.

"So, we've been trying to push those maturity ranges out some. I'm sure we'll probably find a place where wheat will sacrifice, but we haven't seen it yet. Protecting that wheat yield is important too, especially given the recent uncertainties in the soybean market."

Meanwhile, he's got the drill out and it's full of phosphate and seed wheat and it is ready to roll. "Dad and I are having lively discussions about when that starts," he said.

Like Haun, storage issues continue to be a concern. Krier said cooperatives and private elevators abound in his part of central Kansas. However, many of them are full of wheat and are already piling corn and milo on the ground. He said current rate for most grain storage in his area is 5 cents per bushel, but he wonders if that might climb as harvest progresses.

The limited storage capacity, oversupply of commodities and tariffs run through his mind constantly. As a young farmer trying to establish a foothold, he knows the marketing side of the equation is where the money is made and lost. But making those decisions with the many uncertainties at hand is challenging, he noted.

"Right now, I'm weighing selling the rest of the 2108 crop and buying some paper, rather than incurring storage fees," he said. "If it's going to take six months to work through these market issues we're currently facing, I'm wondering if I might be money ahead and to not have worry about having to hold on to that physical commodity," he said.

"The fact that there's nowhere to go with it (grain) is concerning. The word oversupply haunts me more than tariff," he said.

Switching to more alfalfa next year is an option for Krier since he's already in that business. "What scares me is looking at the size of soybean crop you have to raise at $6.80 to $6.90 bushel per acre," he said.

"Specialty crops and diversification to something else sounds good, but what? What fits our environment?"

What apparently does increasingly fit on the Kansas landscape (and other many other places) is Palmer amaranth. Krier fought the weed all summer in wheat stubble. He experienced good control in soybeans by using a weed control program approach -- getting clean early through burndown and pre-emergence residuals and then, following with a post-emergence application of dicamba.

"We've got a few escapes, but the beans were so tall that it was hard to get into the fields this summer to hand weed.

"So we plan to skirt any weedy pockets as we cut beans. If it's just a plant or two, we'll be stopping and hand removing those from the field," he said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith