DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Chandra Langseth figures she can't do a lot about the weather, but she can be proactive about scouting for other crop challenges. This week, she found the first soybean cyst nematode (SCN) females of the season hanging out on soybean roots.
The North Dakota farmer also had her eyes peeled for white mold, weed escapes and anything else that looks funky as she scouted fields.
Meanwhile, her husband, Mike, finally got the temperatures he needed to make a clean-up post-pass with glufosinate -- only to have the sprayer boom break. Some in-field welding patched the problem, but as almost every farmer knows: "It's always something."
The Langseths farm in the southeast corner of the state near Barney. They are teaming up this season with Zachary Grossman, a Tina, Missouri, farmer, to contribute weekly assessments of how the crop is faring as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.
This week represented a first for Grossman as his family farm hired a custom drone applicator to apply fungicide to corn. With tar spot popping up around the state, he was feeling good about the timing and the coverage the drone offered.
Weather continued to be a struggle for both areas, and the variability of the crop from field to field is becoming increasingly apparent, the farmers said. While the crops are mostly showing resilience to dry conditions, the need for additional rainfall is a theme that won't go away.
This past week, German-based Paltow Brief, a banking and finance publication, hinted Bayer might be considering divesting its crop science division. Bayer responded to DTN's inquiries on the rumor saying the article is "based purely on speculation." Read on to learn the reaction from these farmers.
And just for fun, they reveal what the summer garden is producing and why this time of year makes for some special eating.
ZACHARY GROSSMAN: TINA, MISSOURI
While Zach Grossman hates to sound like a broken record, the old song, "I Wish it Would Rain," has become a soundtrack for the 2023 season on his northwest Missouri farm.
"It seems as though I'm rotating each week between reporting that we are in need of a rain, or we've just gotten enough to kick the can down the road for another week," said Grossman.
"I try to stay positive, but this is starting to become an agonizing summer. It grinds on you to always be hanging by a thread and waiting for each rain event," he admitted.
Unlike other droughts he's experienced, this season stands out because of this uncertainty. "Typically, by this point in the summer, we know we have the moisture to make a decent corn crop, or we don't.
"But unlike other years, I'm having a hard time getting a read on the potential of this crop," he said. Every year and season have variability, but the spotty nature of the rainfall events is resulting in vast differences within very short distances.
The fields Grossman farms in Livingston County, have received more rainfall. But conditions become progressively drier heading south into Carroll County where the skies have been less generous. Those Carroll County crops are showing the result of hot, dry days, he said.
"Even the soybeans in those areas are showing stress, especially in clay soils and on hill ground," Grossman noted.
Still, pollination checks in a field near Bogard, Missouri (between Tina and Carrollton in Carroll County), found ears surprisingly well filled. "That's our most southern field, and it's received the least rain of the acres we farm. It is also some of our best hill ground, but it has been so stressed by lack of rainfall that we had made an early decision not to apply fungicide to that field because it wouldn't pay," Grossman said. He farms with his father, Curt, and brother, Trent.
"So, it's exciting to find that much potential. But we need to catch a decent rain within the next few days for that grain to keep filling," he said.
DTN ag weather risk analyst Teresa Deutchman said the Tina area should see a few chances for scattered rain showers and thunderstorms this weekend. Up to 0.25 inch of rain was forecast for Friday (July 14) evening with another 0.10-0.25 inch on Sunday (July 16) evening. Higher amounts of rainfall are possible, depending on how the thunderstorms evolve, she said.
For the first half of next week, the area of Missouri will be under the influence of being stuck between a trough to their northeast and a ridge to their south and west. "This pattern could lend to chances for thunderstorm complexes to form across their area that give them some more rain," Deutchman said.
"But by the second half of the week, a ridge across the southern U.S. will try to expand north and lead to drier and warmer conditions. Also, temperatures will remain right around average for them into early next week, with above average temperatures settling in by the middle to end of next week," she added.
Clear skies gave the custom drone operator time to work this past week. Grossman was impressed with the efficiency of the operation.
"Honestly, it's pretty darn neat and much more efficient than I expected with regard to keeping the drone filled and flying," he noted. Field sizes here tend to be somewhat smaller and are often tree lined.
For example, one 12-acre parcel of bottomland is rectangular but has a curve, trees and other obstacles. "The drone was painting to the edge of the crop and no further -- keeping the product right where it needed to be," Grossman said.
Japanese beetles have made an appearance, but so far, have been more attracted to soybeans than corn and haven't reached an economic threshold, he noted.
While Grossman hadn't heard about the rumor regarding Bayer, he finds the ag chemical and seed landscape a moving target. Several years ago, his father started selling AgriGold seed and since then, has added Donmario soybean seed. But the farm plants test plots and looks at many genetic packages.
"I tend to shop where I can get agronomic information that supports my farming situation and look for the traits within those lineups," he said. For example, he plants both Enlist and Xtend soybean trait technologies and tries to fit technology to the acre and problem, rather than buying because of the trait provider.
While he's hopeful rain stalls baling this week, he has plenty of it on the calendar. The custom baling business makes it a summerlong activity, but drought is now adding CRP acres to the schedule.
Summer also means fresh garden produce, which Grossman looks forward to each year. Sweet corn and homegrown tomatoes are favorites, but it is fried zucchini that stirs the nostalgic tastebuds. Dredged in an egg wash and cracker crumbs, the vegetable is fried to a golden brown in butter.
"I'm not much of a cook. I just know I like it how grandma always made it. Basically, you take something healthy and make it taste really good," he said.
CHANDRA AND MIKE LANGSETH: BARNEY, NORTH DAKOTA
Chandra is the primary gardener of the Langseth family, but Mike willingly participates in the results. Sweet corn is still a few weeks away for this area of the country. Tomatoes aren't quite ripe either, but soon BLT sandwiches will be a staple. "It's the only time of the year I eat them," said Mike.
Zucchini and cucumbers are already in good supply, and Chandra's favorite summer treat is a quick pickle. "Combine some sliced cucumbers, salt, vinegar, and jalapenos in a jar. Throw it in the fridge for a week to marinate. I can eat a whole jar of them in one sitting," she said.
Cool, drizzly and cloudy days have dogged this area of late. It's great scouting weather for Chandra as she looks for pests and other conditions in the field. They remain under abnormally dry (D0) conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Without much measurable rainfall, the cooler conditions have helped preserve crop conditions, Chandra noted.
"Things still look really nice, but I think crop conditions are a bit delayed compared to last year," she said. Hail hit to the north near Fargo on Thursday. Thankfully, it missed the Langseths' farm, but so did the rain.
"I'm not quite to the point where I'd take a hailstorm just for the moisture, but another couple of dry weeks and I might," Mike said.
DTN's Teresa Deutchman said radar-estimated rainfall and actual rainfall observations showed scattered rain fell around the Barney area during the past week. But again, that shows the sporadic nature of the weather this year.
"This weekend will feature daily chances for isolated to scattered thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening, with the best chance of storms Friday (July 14) afternoon/evening. Generally, rainfall amounts will be under 0.25 inch with each possible round of rain this weekend," she said.
"For early next week, a ridge from the west will move across their area, keeping conditions drier. By the middle of the week, a trough from the Canadian Prairies will move into their area and offer them another shot at seeing rain and storms late Tuesday into Wednesday. More isolated showers could linger through Thursday as the trough exits east into the Upper Midwest. However, by the end of the week, dry conditions should return. Temperatures currently look to remain near to below normal through next week," Deutchman added.
Cool temperatures have been great for waterhemp, but not for getting the last pass of glufosinate (Liberty) over the top of soybeans. "We finally hit 81 degrees and I couldn't wait any longer," Mike said. Operations were halted temporarily by a break in the spray boom. That was resolved by a call to a welder who came immediately to the field for the repair.
"I was impressed. He'll get another call," he said. In fact, that call happened. The following day a separate issue beset the boom. Sigh ... this time the new welder wasn't available, and it required Mike's own fixing skills to keep rolling.
As field operations stretch out and drought requires management of irrigation, the time for going over machines becomes limited. There's always something to do, but the couple was hoping weeds will go on permanent vacation for this season to give them a chance to catch up on other projects.
One problem they have mostly been able to get to take a hike is white mold, or Sclerotinia stem rot, in soybean. Often considered a wet-weather issue, the Langseths have taken white mold yield hits in irrigated fields in the past.
Fungicide against white mold involved some tricky timing and was not as successful as they wished. So, several years ago they moved to applying Contans WG, a commercial biological control product that contains a fungus that controls the sclerotia structures that cause white mold.
They apply the product through irrigation water in corn crop to control the sclerotia waiting to infect the soybean crop the following year. University studies had shown good efficacy with the product, and they have had similar experiences.
But they are watching closely this year since the irrigation units have been running full tilt. In the past, they've been able to water deep and let soils dry out between irrigations to also help break the sclerotia germination cycle.
Meanwhile, while scouting this week, Chandra found SCN females beginning to dine on soybean roots. It's the time of year when these troublemakers are visible. Seeing them requires digging up the soybean root (don't pull) and looking for little white granules much like grains of salt or sugar. They will be about one-tenth the size of healthy nitrogen-fixing nodules.
These little white dots are the SCN maternity ward waiting to give birth to another generation while they feed on soybean roots. Early discovery of these SCN mothers offers clues to next management steps.
"Unfortunately, our options to diversify away from PI88788 varieties is limited in these northern maturity zones," she said. "But we know if they are reproducing on a variety that even switching to another source of that resistance might help."
All the Langseth soybean acres are devoted to seed production for Bayer this year. That makes the Bayer rumor hit close to home.
If true, it doesn't necessarily mean additional industry consolidation. But that's Mike's biggest concern since herbicide discovery and trait development are already concentrated.
"Competition is important. Farmers need and want options. But mostly, we want to make sure research and development continues in agriculture," Mike said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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