View From the Cab

Take Measure of the Crop: Weather Rules Prospects in Iowa and Texas

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Kellie Blair of Dayton, Iowa, and Ryan Wieck, of Umbarger, Texas, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2021 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. (DTN photos by Matthew Wilde and Greg Horstmeier)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Kellie Blair spent the wee hours of Monday morning hunkered in the basement with funnel clouds swirling overhead. Fortunately, the Iowa farm and farm home sustained no damage. In fact, the 2 to 3 inches of rain that came with the storm may be just what the crops need to get them to the finish line, said the Dayton, Iowa, farmer.

The whole event seemed more surreal since it was close to the anniversary of last year's derecho, Blair admitted. "While our farm did not have damage from that storm, it was close in proximity, and we sure had it on our minds," she said.

For those who might have too much rain in their forecast, Ryan Wieck offers himself up as a tried-and-true solution. Ironically, the Texas farmer was in Iowa this weekend to attend a friend's wedding held about two hours south of Blair Farm.

"The skies looked ominous. We showed up and all the rain went away, and the wedding was perfect. We headed back to home to Texas, and soon after we left, it started to rain.

"You need it not to rain? This seems to be my talent. Just invite me over," exclaimed Wieck, who farms in the Texas Panhandle, near Umbarger. "Unfortunately, it seems to be working at my own place too."

Wieck and Blair are participating in DTN's View From the Cab feature, a weekly look at crop conditions and issues that surround farming in their region. This reality that harvest is only a month or so away was starting to sink in for the two farmers. This week, they discuss crop prospects, anticipated yields and why it is necessary to gear up for harvest now.

Read on to learn what's happening in their regions this week.


You can learn a lot when you drive across country, and for a farmer experiencing lingering drought, miles of green corn and soybeans are like the fields of dreams.

"I'm not real sure I know what good soybeans are supposed to look like, but I do know corn. From Manhattan, Kansas, and north into Iowa, things looked amazing to me." On the return trip, he angled through parts of Missouri and Oklahoma and saw some fields that had struggled with too much water.

"Then we got back home to what I'm now referring to as 'Death Valley.' The thermometer is showing 103 (degrees Fahrenheit). We have southwest winds. The big dryland cotton that was looking beautiful, it just looks dead. It's hot, hot, hot, hot ...," he said. "Hopefully, it doesn't chunk all the fruit. It is looking pretty rough."

There's hope in the forecast of a front on the way, said DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick. "That should bring temperatures back down around the 80s and carry some good chances for rain.

"Models are averaging about 1 inch of rain for the area. Of course, showers are likely to be scattered, so amounts may differ, but I'll be surprised if Umbarger doesn't see some appreciable rainfall through Sunday, Aug. 15," Baranick said.

Wieck might want to take another vacation to make sure the models hold. "I got home to find an irrigation rig down. It was great to get away, spend time with the family and see other parts of the country, but I hardly slept the night before I got home thinking about all I have to do," he admitted.

Cotton harvest doesn't begin in this area until October. About mid-September, he should be able to take a yield check on cotton, but because boll size varies by variety and growing conditions, available formulas are mostly estimates, Wieck said.

In the meantime, he'll be breaking in a new-to-him cotton stripper baler this year. "We don't have air conditioning in the shop, so once it cools down below triple digits, we'll be getting it in to make sure it is ready to go," Wieck said.

There's some work to do on the combine for grain sorghum too. "I want to put milo fingers on one of our draper heads," Wieck said. "It requires changing the concaves and a few other things to get the header converted, but I'd rather do that than use our row-crop head to avoid harvest losses," he said.

Getting ready for harvest this year also means making sure he has all the supplies needed. Wrap for the cotton baler, DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) and growth regulator for cotton lead his list of current procurement concerns.

"We are hearing some reports about sugarcane aphids in sorghum, so we're going to be watching really close. We're doing what we can to irrigate and keep the wells going.

"We're doing everything we can to finish this crop out, and hopefully, when the season is over, we can go to the bank and have some dollars left over," he said.


It's been a bit of a rain rollercoaster for Kellie Blair this year. The farm she tends with her husband, AJ, missed a lot of the early events this season. At one point, she wasn't sure if soybeans would close the rows.

Now, the third cutting of alfalfa has been on the ground for nearly a week waiting to dry out. It might be a few more days before baling, as the forecast looks like there could be more rain on the way.

"I'd like to get that hay up, but I'm not going to cry about it. This last rain should pretty much get us to the end of the year to fill the grain crops. Now, all we have to do is get through the rest of the year without a damaging storm hitting us," she said.

The "D" word is never far from Iowans' thoughts of late, especially as this week marks a year after a derecho swept through the state and into Illinois. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center defines a derecho as a swath of wind damage that extends for more than 250 miles, includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph along most of its length, and includes several, well-separated 75 mph or greater gusts.

(For more on the one-year anniversary of the 2020 Midwest derecho, see "Editor's Notebook: 2020 Derecho Showed Midwest Resilience" at…, and to see a special package of DTNPF's coverage this past year on the derecho, visit….)

DTN's Baranick doesn't expect anything of that magnitude for the Webster County area this week, but Blair Farm and central Iowa have potential of rain through Thursday, Aug. 12.

"With hot and humid air ahead of a front that will not move much, thunderstorms that develop could be severe, and damaging winds could result," said Baranick. "We are not likely to see a derecho event develop out of these chances, and especially not this part of Iowa. But wind damage is wind damage whether it comes from a small cell or a statewide system," he said.

Ash trees that were already injured from emerald ash borer lost some limbs in the Sunday/Monday storm that passed through, Blair said. "But we emerged to find all our crops standing."

Summer seems mostly in the rear-view mirror now as children prepare to go back to school. Instead of chopping silage this year, the couple plans to harvest high moisture corn this year. Unless things change dramatically, that harvest will likely start by mid-September, she predicted. They also have some acreage of early non-GMO seed beans (RM 1.8) that will start off bean harvest.

Preharvest yield checks so far indicate an above-average crop, she noted. "I try not to be too optimistic because sometimes when I do yield checks and it looks so good, the monitor in the combine doesn't always agree. I don't want to be pessimistic, but I'd rather be surprised and elated than disappointed," she said.

The month ahead of harvest is filled with optimism, though, in that it is occupied with planning for next year, Blair added. "We're going over rotations, deciding how we will seed cover crops, sizing up fertilizer needs, evaluating grazing opportunities -- all sorts of things that influence what happens next year," she said.

Moisture often dictates how they seed cover crops. The farm works with a custom applicator to seed some acres with a high-clearance sprayer into standing crops. If conditions turn wet, they depend on aerial application. If time allows, some fields get direct seeded with cover crops.

Meanwhile, things are cooking along in back in the beef side of the operation. Blair Farm now has beef placed in three grocery stores, and sales have been promising. "The opportunity to offer a local product in a locally run grocery outlets feels really good, and the fact that people see the value in it is really cool," she said.

Want to measure your corn and soybeans for yield potential? Here are some simple formulas to follow:….

This week, DTN is conducting a digital yield tour that includes Iowa and other Midwestern states. Find the landing page for all the coverage here:….

Find last week's View From the Cab entry here:….

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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Pamela Smith

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