DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Reid Thompson was hanging onto his cap and anything else he could pin down as winds came gusting through the Midwest on Tuesday. Tropical Storm Cristobal's long reach was just one more strange challenge to the 2020 crop season.
Nearly 820 miles due south and sitting much closer to the Gulf, Ryan Jenkins was finding blessed relief from the same weather event. Parts of the South endured a lashing, but the storm resulted in much-needed rain to the Jay, Florida, area.
"Tropical storms are a way of life for us," said Jenkins, whose acreage hugs the Florida and Alabama state line. "They are unpredictable, but this time, it delivered just what we needed in the nick of time."
Thompson and Jenkins are participating in DTN's View From the Cab project. The weekly reports detail crop conditions and a variety of aspects of farm life each week.
Despite being miles apart and having completely different cropping scenarios, both farmers are now eyeing the skies for clues as to when opportunities might open up to spray for weeds and sidedress nitrogen.
"We just haven't had many good spray days this year," Thompson said. "It's always something -- wind, heat, cloudy days. It seems a constant battle -- perhaps because we are now pushing more operations through our sprayer."
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said Thompson's central Illinois location should receive rainfall total of around 0.60-inch Tuesday and Wednesday this week. "The next week to 10-day period looks mild with highs in the mid-70s to mid-80s and lows in the low 50s to mid-60s -- cooler in the Wednesday through Friday time frame and then warming up," Anderson says.
The western Florida Panhandle has shower and thunderstorm activity forecast through Thursday this week, Anderson added. "That area should see total rainfall in the area of a half-inch, then drier conditions. Temperatures will mainly range from the low to mid-70s for overnight lows to the upper 80s to low 90s for highs," Anderson said.
Here's what's happening in these farmer's farming regions this week:
REID THOMPSON -- COLFAX, ILLINOIS
The 2020 soybean planting calendar is actually challenging the tumultuous 2019 season for Reid Thompson. He still has 500 acres of seed beans to plant because the seedstock has yet to arrive.
"I've been told the seed will be delivered this week, but of course the rain forecast isn't very favorable for planting," said Thompson. "I'm not worried yet. We finished up last year on June 11 and those beans did fairly well, despite struggling with some late-season drought conditions."
Last weekend was a good example of how rainfall patterns can differ. Much of his portion of central Illinois took a pounding, but Thompson's fields in western McLean County received nary a drop. His fields situated in eastern McLean and Ford counties received anywhere from 1 to 3 inches.
"We were actually starting to get a bit dry, but we didn't need 3 inches in one day," he said.
Prior to the deluge, it was hard to find a farmer in central Illinois who wasn't patching in wet holes, and Thompson was right there with them. "We spent several days last week filling in drowned-out spots -- five acres here and 10 acres there, mostly," he said.
In some cases, corn stands were simply reduced and instead of completely ripping them up, they patched in over the top. "I'm sure we'll regret that at some point. Thank goodness our corn is going to be tall enough we won't have to look at those spots soon," he said.
And some of those drowned-out areas had just been planted when rains came hard and filled them with standing water again. "We now have a tile map for next year," he said with a groan.
Overall, though, the Illinois corn crop is well ahead of last year at 98% planted compared to 65% last year, according to the most recent USDA NASS Crop Progress report. Soybeans were reported at 88% planted compared to 41% last year. Corn was rated 65% good to excellent and soybeans were at 67% good to excellent.
"Corn is boot high or taller, so we'll easily hit 'knee-high by the Fourth of July,'" Thompson said.
"What is up and growing looks really good. Most of the replanted is already coming up or has thickened the stand."
Soybeans are also benefiting from the heat of recent weeks. "We had a little bit of bean leaf beetle feeding, but not enough to warrant treatment," he said.
Postemergence spraying of soybeans is underway when conditions allow. Waterhemp that was an inch tall on Monday quickly skyrocketed to 4 inches and beyond by Thursday, Thompson noted. Herbicide labels often dictate spraying weeds when they are 6 inches or less, but the weeds don't listen to labels.
The prolonged season has jumbled the logical sequence of field chores. The sprayer will soon be rotating between corn sidedressing and postemergence spraying of late-planted soybeans.
"We'll be doing a pre-sidedress test in the near term to check what we're seeing in the field against the nitrogen models before we go out and squirt some more juice on," he said.
The farm utilizes a variable rate for the second sidedress application of the season. The first application was streamed immediately after planting. "This time we'll be adding 60 to 100 pounds of nitrogen (per acre), depending on the farm and the yield target.
"If we stay warm and get plenty of moisture, we'll be able to realize more out of the soil, and the model will adjust down. If it stays dry, the rates increase to make up for what will mineralize," he said.
RYAN JENKINS -- JAY, FLORIDA
"I feel like a load has been lifted," said Ryan Jenkins. The Jay, Florida, farmer had actually halted planters during the month of May due to severe drought. Cristobal may now be degraded to the status of depression, but the storm system delivered Jenkins a sense of elation when it dropped 4 to 8 inches of much-needed rain across his farming region.
"That rain even came right -- not too fast. I couldn't have ordered it any better," Jenkins said. Soil structure, cover crops and strip-till are the keys to getting back on those acres as soon as possible.
Knowing rain was finally on the way, Jenkins pushed hard to plant the rest of his peanut and cotton crop. "I have one field left when the rains rolled through that we are now waiting to dry out," he reports.
"If I don't get cotton in by June 20, I'll likely switch to beans."
Last Friday, Jenkins harvested the last of his wheat crop, which is grown as a cover crop and left to mature for replacement seed. "I was combining the wheat, and the rest of the crew was following right behind me with the strip-till rig and the planter.
He has a tiny bit of replanting and touching cotton fields up where emergence was less than ideal or where grasshoppers took too much of a toll.
On a whole, Florida farmers are running slightly ahead of last year and the five-year average with 88% of the cotton crop and 97% of the peanut crop planted, according to the latest USDA NASS Crop Progress report.
Don't ask about weed pressure. "We're behind on post spraying in cotton," Jenkins admitted. The first fungicide pass on peanuts will follow on the heels of getting over acres for weed control.
It's also nearly time to sidedress cotton with urea. "Cotton is very nutrient sensitive and as a crop has to be babied the whole time. But we're trying to do everything we can to do that in the most cost-efficient manner," he said.
Prior to planting, Jenkins utilizes grid sampling to come up with a prescription for phosphorus, potassium and lime. Once planting it done, he'll pull tissue samples to see where the crop sits.
"I'm a spoon feeder. I feel like I'm not happy getting one meal a day; I like to get two or three. So, I do the same with cotton," he says.
"It is nothing for an afternoon thunderstorm to come through and drop 3 to 5 inches on any given day. If it does, there goes part of the nitrogen through our sandy soils."
He likes to do at least two sidedress applications across all cotton acres using some combination of urea or ammonium sulfate. Depending on the soil type of the field, total nitrogen for the crop is usually 90 to 120 units of nitrogen. On the final sidedress trip, he might add some boron and/or K-Mag (potassium magnesium sulfate), depending on what the crop is demanding.
"Peanuts are scavengers. I'll grid them and will tweak if a nutrient is way off. But a lot of times peanuts use the fertilizer and nutrients left over from the year before and don't need any additional," he says.
Planting is always one of the most stressful times for his operation, but Jenkins tries to keep it in perspective. "If you are going to do this, you have to be fluid and comfortable with being able to be flexible," he said.
"I can't tell you how many breakdowns we had last week. It was one after the other, and of course, it all seems to happen when we are at the farm where we have no cell service and are far away from the home base.
"So certain times do get stressful for the minute, especially when I start asking myself what I'm going to do next. But I try to concentrate on the big picture and what is important," he said.
For Jenkins, part of the secret of maintaining that perspective is to take time away from the farm to regroup with family and celebrate the victories such as the finish of planting season.
"We have a place rented to escape to next week. We'll regroup and reset before coming back to battle whatever pest is next," he said.
July is all about scouting and spraying, he said. "Then, corn shelling starts in this area the end of July or first of August," he said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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