View From the Cab

Why Farmers Need Date Nights

Pam Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Each week Scott Wallis and Ashley Andersen report on current field conditions and life on the farm. (DTN photo courtesy of Wallis Farms and Andersen Farms)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- When the going gets tough in the farming world, the answer to the problem is often to work harder. "Somehow we always feel if we just do more, everything will work out," said Ashley Andersen, who farms with her family near Blair, Nebraska.

That hasn't necessarily been the case in 2019. The planting season has been dragging along for three months or more, depending on the region. The constant worrying about the crop can take a physical and emotional toll.

This past weekend Ashley Andersen decided enough was enough, and she kidnapped her farming husband, Jarett. His sister and brother-in-law went along on the short overnight outing to a concert in Kansas City while five cousins ranging from age 6 to 1 camped out with the grandparents.

Scott Wallis, who farms near Princeton, Indiana, also decided to escape the farm and the muddy mess of the season. He and his wife, Julie, took in a movie on Saturday night. A movie seemed the best way to remove the temptation to constantly analyze the worrisome weather scenario.

"Date night is important to keep reminding my wife why she puts up with me," he joked, admitting that this harried season has caused them to skip some regularly scheduled together time.

Andersen and Wallis report in each week as part of DTN's View From the Cab series that reviews family, farm and crop conditions throughout the growing season.

"Jarett pretty much had to be kicked out the door, because he felt like he should be at the farm spraying," Ashley said. "But I felt like we just mentally needed a break."

The Andersens don't have to drive far to see flooded acreage in Nebraska. They have one farm with portions that remain unplanted due to Missouri River flooding. However, their drive along Route 29 from Omaha to Kansas City, through Iowa and Missouri, offered a sobering view.

"We enjoyed getting away, but seeing all the rotting grain spilling out of split bins, destroyed homes and flooded acres was sobering," Ashley said. "I couldn't help but think about all the lives disrupted -- the pictures and birth certificates and small things that you can't put a price on that are lost along with people's livelihoods.

"We came home feeling a little better about our own crop and feeling very fortunate," she said.

Here's what is happening on the Wallis and Andersen farms this week:

SCOTT WALLIS: PRINCETON, INDIANA

Pass Scott Wallis some water wings. Another 3.9 inches of rain fell on the homestead this past week. The smaller rivers that feed into the Patoka River are making it rise, but how much land he'll eventually lose to flooding remains a question as flood stages continued to swell.

Corn planted in early-to-mid May continues to looks good, Wallis noted. "But we have some river in our big corn now on a few acres and we are seeing some deterioration of the crop in the really low spots in the field," he said.

Corn planted June 5 has endured 7 inches of rain on it and the soils are saturated. "Those conditions are pretty hard on a little corn plant. It's surviving, but it is hard for it to look healthy under that kind of moisture," he said.

With a forecast of sunny skies and no rain for the rest of the week, he was hoping to give that late-planted corn a kick by finally getting in to sidedress.

Wallis said the early corn roots aren't stretching over to reach that nitrogen applied in the 2 X 2 band at planting. Some of the late-planted corn is beginning to show the need for additional nitrogen.

Wallis doesn't let his optimistic nature get in the way of realistic expectations. He does a weekly analysis of how he's going to reach yield goals.

This week, he lowered his whole farm yield prognosis for corn by 10 bushels. There are many hurdles for the crop to clear yet, but at this time, he is figuring a 150-bushel-per-acre (bpa) yield on late corn. He believes his early-planted corn still has the potential to clear 200 bpa.

"The river situation isn't likely to resolve itself for another couple of weeks. We've got 150 acres of corn and 120 acres of beans in the Pakota River bottoms and all but about 80 acres of it is covered with water," he said.

Bean planting could continue in this area of southern Indiana for a few more weeks, Wallis said. He's planted as late as July 15 and still averaged 30 to 35 bpa.

Too much water doesn't seem to deter weeds and spray days have been limited. "Even when we get a good day, we're trying not to tear up the fields too much.

Idled acres and drowned out spots will prove to be a summer-long weed challenge, he predicted.

It costs something to care for those weedy spots -- whether you are planting a cover crop, mowing them or spraying chemicals," he said. However, the biggest cost may come by ignoring those weedy areas and letting the seedbed built up.

Fall is already on Wallis' mind. He expects wet grain to be the story this coming harvest and the farm's grain dryer needs a good checkup and possible tune up.

"We're also contemplating running a second combine this fall," Wallis said. "We know the crop is going to be late and good harvest days when you get past Oct. 15 are rare."

ASHLEY ANDERSEN: BLAIR, NEBRASKA

Rain also continues to be a theme in eastern Nebraska for Andersen Farms. The good news is there's no reason to turn on irrigation units when the crop is getting a constant natural watering.

Last week they received a total of 3 inches of rain, with the bulk of that coming hard and fast on Sunday. "Thank goodness we haven't had any severe weather, such as the hail and high winds that some of Nebraska has experienced," she reported. "We've just had consistent rains and everything is saturated."

Jarett confirmed that most of the crop looks really good and normal compared to reports from other parts of the Corn Belt. "Half of our crop is pretty much on schedule. The corn planted last is behind, and we need heat units to help it catch up, but we are expecting some hot sunny days this coming week," he said. Getting an extra shot of nitrogen to some fields using Y-drop applicators was also on the agenda this week. "We've been wanting to try it and put on an additional 50 lb. of nitrogen and some sulfur on 210 acres of our bottom, straight-row, really good-running ground," Jarett said.

They also apply a slow-release nitrogen/micronutrient combination and fungicide between V3 and V5 on all corn acres.

Frequent rains have made spraying for anything a challenge this year, but Jarett said he was hoping to finish up postemergence herbicide applications in corn this coming week and start on spraying soybeans.

One thing he's battling is volunteer corn in late-planted soybean fields.

All those pretty painted lady butterflies that were flitting around eastern Nebraska earlier in the season have now come home to haunt soybeans in the form of the thistle caterpillar. The insect doesn't overwinter in Nebraska, but migrates from the southern U.S. and Mexico.

The brown-black caterpillars with a yellow stripe down both sides of the body have spiny hairs. They often feed on thistles and sunflowers, and this year, have a particular hankering for soybeans. Jarett said they were aggressively scouting for the pest and control may be necessary.

One thing the Andersen family has not had to worry about so far this year is irrigation. While most of their 2,250 acres is dryland, they have one irrigated bottomland farm.

"Most people don't realize how demanding irrigation is," said Ashley. "We are told when we can and can't run water."

That often means night shifts minding pumps and missing family events.

"My biggest memory of growing up was spending time with my father checking irrigation wells. It was what we did all summer," she said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith