View From the Cab

Rain Needs Continue; Drones Deliver Inputs and Crickets Congregate

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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It's baling season and Zachary Grossman never tires of this view of the sun setting over the hayfields of northwestern Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Grossman)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- July sits in the middle of knowing what a crop has gone through and trying to protect it against what might be left to come. For Tina, Missouri, farmer Zachary Grossman that means watching for waterhemp breaks, getting ready to spray fungicides by drone and mostly wishing for more precipitation.

North Dakota farmers Chandra and Mike Langseth know all about mentally seeding clouds with hopes for additional rainfall. Their southeast area of the state near Barney has been surviving on small showers supplemented with irrigation. Meanwhile, the farmstead has become saturated with crickets -- not necessarily a typical crop pest, but too many to be welcome guests.

The Langseths, who farm in the southeast corner of North Dakota, and Grossman, who farms in the northwestern part of Missouri, are participating in DTN's View from the Cab feature. They are reporting on crop conditions and address other rural issues each week from their respective growing regions.

Weather has dominated the young farmer's narratives this year. Unfortunately, that situation may not change anytime soon. DTN's ag meteorologist John Baranick said the weather patterns could turn rougher for both areas in the coming week.

Read on to learn more about how their crops are faring. Despite some droughty conditions this season, the farmers confess there is no other place on earth they'd rather call home. Still, there are a few places they might like to roam just for the experience.


By Jiminy, crickets were keeping things hopping on the Langseth farm this week. So far, they aren't chewing on crops, but seem to be having a field day dining on decaying crop residue in no-till fields. The farmyard and grain bins were crawling with the critters. And yes, they are singing for their suppers and making for some loud living conditions for the humans surrounded by the cacophony.

If chirping crickets aren't enough to contend with, Chandra continued to observe Group 27 or HPPD herbicide carryover in some bean fields this week. "The beans are starting to come out of it, and it is erratic enough that I don't think it's going to cause any yield issues," she said. "But with this dry year, it is something we want to understand to avoid next year."

The spotty showers they received a week ago were joined by some cloudy days that didn't produce much rain. "Rain keeps teasing us," said Mike. "We had maybe two-tenths on Tuesday (July 5). Cool temperatures are slowing the crop down a little bit, but it is also giving it a chance to really root down and find some moisture. If we were at 85 or 90 (degrees), our crops would be showing more stress."

Those 70-degree temperatures the Langseths have been experiencing may sound delightful to those sweltering under a heat dome, but Mike still has glufosinate to spray on soybeans.

"With Liberty (glufosinate), I really need 80 degrees to make it work right," Mike said. Sunlight influences the plant's glutamine synthetase, which in turn, influences the effectiveness of Liberty, a glutamine synthetase inhibitor.

DTN ag meteorologist John Baranick said several cold fronts will be dropping through the Barney area over the coming week. "There"s a question about the coverage of any precipitation that comes along with them," he noted. "Temperatures will be nice and mild with days mostly in the 70s and a few might climb up into lower 80s with overnight lows in the 50s. At least crops will get a break from any heat stress."

USDA's July 2 Crop Progress Report put the state of North Dakota as 4% very short, 25% short, 68% adequate and 3% surplus for topsoil moisture. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 6% very short, 27% short, 64% adequate and 3% surplus. Richland County, where the Langseths farm, was first to show up on the U.S. Drought Monitor, but a good chunk of the eastern side of the state is now showing D0 (abnormally dry).

Soybean condition rated 1% very poor, 7% poor, 35% fair, 54% good and 3% excellent. Soybeans blooming was 10%, near 7% last year and 8% for the five-year average. "Beans are short, but most of ours are blooming and I've found a few pods starting to form," Chandra said. Early-planted corn is just beginning to shoot some tassels.

Across the state, corn condition rated 1% very poor, 5% poor, 32% fair, 59% good and 3% excellent. "In general, I'd say most of our crops look good, but it depends on planting date. The later planted crop is having a tougher time," she added.

Chandra will wait a few days after Mike finishes the second post-herbicide application to scout soybeans again for weed escapes. Mowing roadsides and some other cleanup around the farm is also on the agenda for the coming week.

While the couple took a few days over the July 4 holiday to visit relatives in Wisconsin, Mike's mind never left the farm. Right before departure, the spray boom mistakenly hit and broke off an upright PVC standpipe connected to an irrigation well. He knew the chore of fixing the mess awaited his return.

"I wasn't happy with myself for the error. It cost a couple hundred bucks and a day and a half of time to repair. I know it could have been worse. But those are the kinds of mistakes that are just annoying. Plus, I probably used up my quota of curse words for the year during the repair," he admitted.

Truth be told, it's also the kind of chore that separates the real from the romanticized picture of everyday farm life. Despite these occasional uncomfortable reality checks, Mike said this is the place he chose to live and work.

College took him to Minneapolis and city life suited him fine. He made a conscious choice to return to the farm. Serving as a director with the North Dakota Soybean Council has provided additional perspective through experiences here and abroad.

His ancestors left Iowa and journeyed to this part of the Red River Valley to establish farming. "I think they picked a good spot to farm -- it's a region that still offers both challenge and opportunity," he said.

For her part, Chandra's travel bucket list includes far-flung places such as Thailand and Chile. A transplant from the western part of North Dakota, this eastern portion of the state is now home. "I really can't imagine living anywhere else now. Yep, we are very rural, but we have two college towns nearby and everything we need right here," she said.

Although ... she wouldn't mind seeing the crickets depart for parts unknown.


A total of 2.5 to 3 inches of much-needed rainfall found its way to Zach Grossman's Livingston County fields last weekend. Carroll County fields accumulated around 1.0 to 1.5 inches. It couldn't come at a better time since most of the corn is tasseling and pollinating.

But just 25 miles to the south, farmers in the southern part of Carroll County saw very little of that relief. "They went from wet the pavement to at most 3/10ths," Grossman noted. Weather is almost always the topic of conversation in the rural area where he farms and works as an ag loan officer. But this year, the fickle nature of rainfall events has everyone talking.

The rich, river bottom farmland that surrounds Carrollton are some of the driest fields in the region this year. Grossman said irrigation is helping those farmers who have it, but those without are feeling the heat in that growing area.

"Around here, we call the richer soils in the bottoms 'made dirt' and some of those are hanging on. But there's tighter and sandier soils mixed into those bottomland fields and those areas are really hurting," he said. "If the tables were turned and my fields had the small amounts of rain they've had in the bottoms, we'd be in really rough shape."

Even the fields that got more substantial servings of moisture were already starting to roll again in the 90-plus degree heat this week. John Baranick said the best chances for rain around Tina came last weekend, but there should be more opportunities with fronts dropping south through the area.

"We'll be watching some disturbances move out of the west that may connect with these fronts. If they do, we could see some significant rain. If they don't, rain would likely be more spotty. Temperatures will be mild, but still in the 80s, maybe a 90-degree day between fronts. These temperature drops will not be as stress-relieving as farther north, so the rain will be more needed here," Baranick said.

Grossman still feels good about prospects for his crop. "We have nearly perfect stands and while there have been times it has needed just a bit more to drink, I still feel we've got most of the potential left in corn if we can keep getting rains now and then," he said.

One thing is for certain, he's not concerned about soybeans getting too leggy this year as they are shorter than usual. This week Grossman said they held off spraying the latest planted field as preemergent herbicides had done their work and tiny waterhemp seedlings were only just beginning to germinate. Rain will be giving those weeds a shove. Hopefully, spraying that field this coming week would carry it to canopy, he said.

Weather willing, this Monday will kick off a first for the farm as a drone applicator will be flying on a tank mix of fungicide, insecticide and boron onto corn.

"A local person has started a new business and I want to support that. My other thought is a drone will likely do a good job on our irregularly shaped fields and be able to get into those tight corners and along tree lines. The cost is comparable to aerial application," he said.

Grossman is excited to see the process and will be analyzing whether it fits other operations, such as topdressing nitrogen on corn. Aerial applicators and spraying by high clearance sprayers have been amazing tools, but he's hopeful that drones will work even better for their field sizes and shapes.

As predicted, Grossman spent most of July 4 in the hay field baling. He's not complaining. More than 94% of Missouri is experiencing some level of drought, with nearly 20% of the state experiencing extreme drought. He figures every bale of hay will be important this year.

This week Missouri lawmakers asked Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to immediately allow emergency haying of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres due to drought. The primary nesting season typically delays use of CRP ground until after July 15 in Missouri.

"I know a lot of farmers are hoping it will all be released this year. I already have requests to bale for others if it opens up," Grossman said.

The rolling Missouri grasslands and the sun setting on a recently baled field make Grossman happy. Legacy equals a loyalty to this land that makes it hard for him to imagine living elsewhere.

"I am drawn to the western regions of the United States, and it has nothing to do with the show Yellowstone," he said. "Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and the Dakotas -- I love those wide-open country-kind of places. I also like learning how farmers grow crops different from what we have here."

This week he didn't have to travel far to find plenty of country excitement. Each year he helps young (under age 21) exhibitors find their way in and out of the show ring at the Carroll County Fair. "I'm just a helper, but it is something I look forward to every year," he said.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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