View From the Cab

Those Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer

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 by Pamela Smith and Nick Scalise)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Scott Wallis will tell you downtime on a farm is a rare commodity. And the 2019 growing season has made planning anything more difficult this year.

"Scouting has been something else with all the staggered maturities," said Wallis, who farms near Princeton, Indiana. "We've got May crops and June crops and really late crops. Then there are different scenarios within each field depending on drainage and soil type."

Ashley Andersen understands. Typically, all the family's attention would be focused on the county fair this week and that event is still stealing most of their evening hours. However, crop insects continue to be a concern. Scouting fields and lining up aerial applicators made the top of the chore list this past week on her Blair, Nebraska, farm.

Wallis and Andersen are participating in DTN's View From the Cab, a weekly series that details current field conditions and family life on the farm. This is week 14 of reporting during a season that has served up more than a little uncertainty.

The need for rainfall seems more than a little ironic for both farmers given the deluges endured earlier this season. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said the forecast for southwest Indiana appears dry for the remainder of this week.

Eastern Nebraska should see some benefit from the southwestern U.S. monsoon interacting with an upper-level cool trough in Minnesota and Iowa, Anderson said. "Eastern Nebraska should see some decent rain chances from now through Saturday, Aug. 3, with precipitation totals coming in just over an inch," he said.

Temperatures will remain similar in both locations -- with highs in the low to mid 80s and lows in the low to mid-60s. "These late crops will just keep trundling along in the late season," Anderson said.

Still, no matter how serious things look or seem, it is those odd, head scratching, lighter moments that help keep work and life in balance. This week we also asked our correspondents to comment on what crazy thing happened this week.

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

Ashley Andersen: Blair, Nebraska

Need a little excitement -- just head to the county fair. Beyond the corn dogs and cotton candy, Ashley Andersen and her husband, Jarett, could be found cheering on children in the pedal tractor pull, helping with the barbeque contest and staring down a loose steer running through the fair's beer garden.

"Our crop conditions seem kind of boring compared to a runaway steer," Ashley said.

Actually, the couple continues to feel blessed when it comes to their growing crop of corn and soybeans. Yes, it is a tad later than they would like. But they only had some bottomland that had to be designated prevented planting due to flooding and they were finally able to get a cover crop of oats seeded on it this past week.

"We feel good about that because weed control across the farm has been good. Our pre-herbicides held well and posts worked great. Planting in 15-inch rows really helps with weed control.

"But that one field was getting pretty tall and we were worried about it going to seed. So it's all disked down and planted now," Ashley said.

Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report showed Nebraska's corn crop still lags compared to previous years. The state is estimated at 70% silking compared to a five-year average of 88%. Dough stage was pegged at 12% compared to 22% average.

In Nebraska, 66% of the soybeans were considered blooming compared to 83% in an average year and 34% were beginning to set pods, compared to 43% in a five-year average (2014-2018), with the majority of the crop rated fair to good.

Receiving some nice gentle rains was another blessing last week, Ashley said. "Our fields look really beautiful right now. Some of our soybeans are starting to set pods, so those rains will really help there."

The Andersen soybeans required two insecticide treatments to control thistle caterpillar this year. Aerial applications of fungicide have gone out on corn and Japanese beetles were clipping silks enough that they added an insecticide to those treatments. "We're watching the soybeans and hoping we don't need to control beetles there," she said. An agricultural spray helicopter crashed in their area this week -- injuring the pilot and grabbing news headlines.

"Boring is fine. We don't need accidents," Ashley said.

Staying safe is something she thinks about a lot when life gets hectic. That's a big part of her role -- watching and sometimes nagging to slow down and remember that life can be fragile and needs to be enjoyed.

"The next few weeks always seem to be the time to take a deep breath and just watch and prepare for the next of what happens.

"Life is always going to be a little crazy on a farm, but I think sometimes we feel too guilty for taking these moments. It's important to savor a little bit of what is left of this crazy summer," she said.

Scott Wallis: Princeton, Indiana

The wacky 2019 crop season has kept Scott Wallis busy and close to home and farm. So it was a treat to finally take in a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game this past weekend. He's part of a group that shares season tickets and it was the first time he'd been able to take advantage of the deal.

"We're standing outside the stadium before the game starts and what do you know, the neighbors walk up," Scott said.

Likewise, his son and his family headed to Cincinnati last weekend for a much-needed getaway. They pulled into the hotel parking lot and immediately saw someone they knew from home.

"I guess it's true that the world is a small place, but we just shook our heads and said we might as well have stayed home because it seemed as if home came with us," he chuckled.

If the neighbors want to continue to show up, the middle of corn and soybean fields is where he's been spending most of his time lately as the farm team keeps combing the crop for production issues.

Last week they picked up a bit of southern rust on corn in one field, but have not found more. The need for rain was starting to show this week, particularly in any field where roots have been compromised, he noted.

Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress Report pegged 25% of Indiana's crop as very poor to poor, 39% fair, 31% good and 5% excellent. Only 40% of the crop has reached the silking stage compared to a five-year average of 88%.

"Our late planted corn crop is tasseling and we should be through pollination by the end of next week," he said. "But it could use a rain.

"Corn planted mid-May has all been sprayed with fungicide and is well on its way. Better corn always seems to have more moisture, perhaps because roots are capable of reaching for more moisture. Fields that had held water or were wet for long periods and/or have rooting issues are rolling during the day and showing stress," he said.

Wallis figures it will be a race to black layer. So he's been anxiously tracking growing degree units (GDU). "Temperatures barely made it to 80 degrees last week and we only picked up 157 GDUs last week (Monday through Sunday) compared to 203 GDU the week prior.

"We're enough south that we should accumulate enough, but I keep thinking about those farmers above me and wondering how much of that corn will make it," he said.

The average temperature for the week in Indiana was 71.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees below normal, according to the Crop Progress report this week.

Soybean planting was late for Wallis Farms this year. "Our oldest beans were planted June 6 and are about knee high with 10 trifoliates. In this area, we typically get 18 to 20 trifoliates on soybeans planted in April or early May," he said.

The farm utilizes LibertyLink herbicide traits. The distinct puckering indicating dicamba herbicide injury has shown up around his area, but so far injury in his fields has been physical drift along field edges. However, Wallis said there was some late spraying in the area and dicamba symptoms take 10 to 14 days to be visible.

The 10 acres he wasn't able to plant this year is still under water and the water is trapped. However, Wallis said around his fields there are many acres of failed crop or prevented planting acres, especially in the Patoka River and White River bottoms. "This week I'm seeing some of those fields are freshly tilled, some mowed, but many remain unattended and knee high in weeds," he said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(CZ)

Pam Smith