BARNEY, N.D. (DTN) -- It's easy to see planting progress in the Red River Valley. The landscape rolls out flat and nearly uninterrupted, except for the occasional shelterbelt to momentarily break the view.
On May 25, the corn planter and soybean drill were putting the last of the 2023 seeds to soil on Langseth Farm near Barney, North Dakota. Small poofs of dust in the distance indicated neighboring farmers were doing the same. Gravel roads combined with gusty winds to tattle on trucks, seed tenders and tractors moving between fields.
While there are plenty of next steps to manage a crop, planting timely is the first critical step, observed Mike and Chandra Langseth. "Getting planting wrapped up by Memorial Day is always a goal and the fact we are going to make that deadline feels really good," said Chandra. Their farm lies along the southwestern edge of this region, which is not truly a valley, but a floodplain made of an ancient glacial lakebed.
The Langseths are reporting in as part of DTN's View from the Cab series this season. Farmers from two different geographies provide updates on crop progress and other aspects of rural life.
Northwest Missouri farmer Zachary Grossman is also contributing to the series. He had temporarily halted soybean planting last week to wait for rain. The gamble paid off as rain showers materialized and allowed a strong finish to soybean seeding operations on May 23.
"With the warm temperatures we're going to see, I expect to see those beans will come on and catch up fast," said Grossman.
Read on to learn more about why soybeans are rolled by the Langseths and why Grossman will check planting depth settings even closer next year. This week the young farmers, all in their early-to-mid-30s, also talk about living in wide open spaces and how they break away from the farm occasionally to gain perspective.
ZACHARY GROSSMAN: TINA, MISSOURI
There's nothing quite like getting a pop-up shower right after you put the last seeds in the ground to feel you are living right, said Grossman.
This week the farm crew were faced with just 160 acres of soybeans left to plant. Grossman farms with his father, Curt, and brother, Trent.
Spotty showers fell soon after they finished. "It was a weird pattern -- we caught a half inch at my house and on another farm two-to-three tenths. Down the road another mile got nothing," Grossman said.
"Those little showers were very welcome. Subsoil moisture was good when we planted, but we were getting thirsty on top," he noted.
"I have a feeling that's going to be a theme this year," he continued. "If we can get a shower every week to 10 days, life will be good. We're not dealing with a moisture surplus and will need a drink regularly this summer."
DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick said that this region of Missouri continues to be on the edge of drought, if not in it. "Rain will be harder to come by this coming week," said Baranick. "Any chances look to hold off until Wednesday, and then they're around for the rest of the week, but not at any widespread nature."
Chances for these hit-or-miss rains last well into the following week though and temperatures may be a little lower (80s Fahrenheit are forecast) than in North Dakota, he added.
The latest USDA Crop Progress Report on May 22 pegged Missouri topsoil moisture supply as 11% very short, 27% short, 59% adequate and 3% surplus. Subsoil moisture supply rated 12% very short, 32% short, 53% adequate and 3% surplus. Corn emerged was 88% complete, compared to the five-year average of 65%. Corn condition rated 56% good-to-excellent. Soybeans planted was 74% complete, compared to the five-year average of 37%. Soybeans emerged was 54% complete, compared to the five-year average of 19%.
With planting complete, Trent has been in the sprayer and corn acres have received a postemergence herbicide pass. The local cooperative is hired to broadcast polymer-coated urea and those sidedress applications began this week.
Grossman said a few acres in his area were being replanted after crusting led to spotty stands. "One thing that has really been working for us is to use subsoil ripper to break up compaction, while hardly disturbing the soil surface," he said.
He has been holding his breath regarding the emergence in one field, though. Grossman said he's nearly neurotic about checking seed depth, especially as he changes fields. "I had just started planting a new field in the bottoms and crossed a shallow drainage ditch cut with what we call a 'whirly ditcher.'
"Apparently the planter bounced as I crossed that ditch and ended up knocking the planting depth on one outside row three notches deeper. I'm always getting off and checking to just make sure everything is going right, but that was clear on the far end, and I didn't check that outside row," he said. In fact, it wasn't until the next day when he changed fields that he discovered the error.
"I called my agronomist, and he advised me to wait to see how it emerged. One row throughout a whole field is hard to fix. Fortunately, I planted into near perfect conditions and it's coming up fine. But it was a valuable lesson -- monitors will tell you almost anything -- except that you are planting three notches deeper on one row. I think the fact that we have really worked at avoiding subsoil compaction and had a good seed bed saved me," he added.
With hay and wheat harvest also coming on, Grossman isn't looking at a lot of downtime this summer. He likes to ride horses but finds it difficult to fit it in regularly. His dog, Sadie, does insist on some fetch each day.
"We're a real big farming community here and I have a good network of friends of all ages. Farming is what we all do, and it drives almost everything we do. I guess I'm lucky because I like it that way," he said.
He is planning a vacation this summer of beach time at an all-inclusive resort -- a first for this farmer who loves to farm. "That's going to be interesting to see what that kind of downtime is like," he said.
CHANDRA AND MIKE LANGSETH: BARNEY, NORTH DAKOTA
It was all hands on deck late this week as the Langseth family made a push to finish planting. Mike Langseth manned the corn planter in fields that had previously been too wet. His father, Paul, was drilling the remaining soybean acres. Chandra, who also teaches agriculture at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota, had finished putting in college test plots and was busy starting to check crop emergence on the home farm.
So far, she's pleased to find corn emerging fast and uniformly in spring strip-till fields. Their Yetter strip freshener doesn't build a berm. Instead, coulters move the crop residue off the row and gently till the strip to about 2-to-3 inches deep. Rolling baskets lightly cover the row.
Liquid fertilizer (10 gallon of 28% nitrogen) goes down while making the strip and corn is planted into the strip the next day. Anhydrous is applied as a sidedress operation between the strips starting when the corn is about 4 inches tall.
Last week, when their GPS unit temporarily went down on the strip-till tractor, the couple switched to no-till corn instead of taking the chance of losing the planting window. Those acres will be interesting to track to see if strip-tilling is indeed an advantage.
Statewide the latest USDA Crop Progress Report put North Dakota at 32% planted on corn, ahead of 18% last year, but behind a 50% five-year average. Emerged was 4%, near 1% last year, but behind 11% average. Soybeans planted was 20%, ahead of 6% last year, but behind 33% for the five-year average. Emerged was 1%, near 4% average. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 1% very short, 12% short, 69% adequate, and 18% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 4% very short, 11% short, 73% adequate, and 12% surplus.
"We tend to complain about it being too wet until we get planted," Chandra said. "It's a rare year when we lose substantial yield to drought. Yield losses due to too much moisture is more common."
Baranick said most of the forecasts suggest showers stay off to the west of the Langseth farming area until Memorial Day. "Likely hit-or-miss type of showers will be around through Wednesday, if not later in the week. Unfortunately, it's one of those coin-flip type of forecasts. It will stay quite warm there all week with temperatures approaching 90 if the rain holds off," Baranick said.
Putting the heat to the crop will push other field operations onto the calendar. Weeds such as redroot pigweed and waterhemp seedlings are already showing up in many fields. Most of the fields here are big and square, but those rare irregular areas where it is hard to fit a sprayer boom or water prone areas that escaped good burndown or preemergence coverage are giving a good sample of the weed spectrum. Common lambsquarters are relatively each to control, but there are tougher adversaries such as field horsetail (Equisteum arvense) and scouring rush.
There's also the need to get rolling on recently planted soybeans. Land rolling is a common soil-finishing practice in this region. It's been used for decades in alfalfa and grass seed production to improve germination and to manage rocks. There are no rocks on this farming operation, instead they pull large rolling drums immediately after no-till planting to crush soil clods and corn rootballs. Chandra said the practice helps break down corn residue, but the main purpose is to improve harvesting efficiency and allow the combine to be set lower to the ground.
Beans can be rolled after emergence, but need to be just the right size. It's also best done during the heat of the day when the stems are more flexible, she noted. "I don't like doing it after emergence as there is crop injury risk if you don't hit the growth stage just right," she said.
There's not much time to worry about nights out or social calendars with their schedule. Chandra gets her social time by teaching.
"I'm probably the one more isolated since I spend more time in the tractor cab," said Mike. Fargo is a hub of cultural activity and provides a nice easy getaway that doesn't require straying too far afield. But the couple is contemplating a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters this summer.
Mike has been active in the North Dakota Soybean Council and enjoys regularly visiting and comparing notes via Snapchat with a group of farmer friends gathered from that experience.
The Langseths also enjoy canine companionship -- even though this week, their two dogs, Daisy and Finn, managed to tangle with a skunk.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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