View From the Cab

Farmers Talk Rain, Harvest, Precision Tools, and Land Sales

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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There's no shortage of shop chores to do while waiting for harvest to start, but North Dakota farmer Mike Langseth is anxious to get the combines rolling. (DTN photo by Joel Reichenberger)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- If harvest season had a theme song, it would surely be from the Western television series, Rawhide. In northwest Missouri everything is "rollin', rollin', rollin'", according to Zachary (Zach) Grossman, who farms near Tina, Missouri.

The inch of rain received last weekend didn't leave the streams swollen, but it did settle the dust and give the cows on pasture more to chew on. "It was a perfect rain ... just the right amount for a good drink and soaked in so fast that we hardly had any downtime," Grossman said.

That was a drizzle compared to the slurp Chandra and Mike Langseth got on their Barney, North Dakota, farm. Rainfall received this week is coming close to the total accumulation experienced in this southeastern corner of the state since May. While the thirsty soils left little in the way of puddles, the lower temperatures and cloudy days that have come with the storms are slowing plant maturity and delaying harvest.

The Langseths and Grossman are participating in DTN's View From the Cab series that runs from planting through harvest. This is the 22nd installment of the feature this year where they report in on crop conditions and other aspects of rural life.

Weather is likely to continue to dominate thoughts for these farmers, noted John Baranick, DTN ag meteorologist. "A strong cold front will go marching through the country Oct. 3-5. While temperatures are currently well-above normal in both Barney and Tina, we are expecting a big change to those temperatures by the end of the week. It will go from feeling like mid-summer to fall in a hurry. Frost isn't completely off the table in Barney, either, but is not in the current forecast as of Friday morning (Sept. 29)," said Baranick.

He said the front will also come with significant rain chances west of the Mississippi River. Rainfall of more than an inch is forecast for both farms. "Harvest delays are certainly on the table, and with the cooler temperatures, may make the drying process a bit slower. But we'll see some drier conditions following that system so it may not take that long to be able to get back out there," Baranick said.

This week, the young farmers tackle the topics of harvest prospects, recent land sales in their region, their own views on land acquisitions and how technology is shaping decisions and the farm.


The closest weather station to the Langseth farm recorded only 5.5 inches from May 15 to Sept. 25. So, the recent rains on the tail end of the season are adding on to the random nature of weather this year. "Obviously we needed moisture. We're still several inches below normal rainfall, but the timing for these rains isn't ideal -- although it is allowing me to get projects in the shop done," said Mike.

The couple feels as though they have been counting down the days to harvest for weeks. Recent field checks revealed crop maturity hasn't changed much from the week prior. All their soybeans are grown for seed, so moisture matters. "We still have some areas of the field dropping leaves. We think we are a week away from harvest, but we said that last week," said Chandra.

Corn here still hasn't reached black layer. "Every day that it doesn't freeze, we are gaining more test weight," Mike added. "But I'm excited to start harvesting it."

The creek has water in it for the first time since spring and the late rain has spurred alfalfa growth. The Langseths leased their alfalfa acres to a local dairy for chopping this year. It is past the normal time to cut alfalfa for those wishing to retain a stand, but they intend to put that field in row crops this coming year. "We're going to be killing it anyway. The dairy doesn't need it, so we're looking for someone that might be interested in cutting and baling it on shares," Mike said.

Perfect land and perfect growing conditions aren't something this couple counts on. Instead, they set their sights on resiliency, management and saving up to take advantage when opportunities arise. A 160-acre quarter section purchased in 2020 is a good example of their strategy. "It was close to the farm base and in a prime spot across the road from the county drain and had good water availability from an existing aquifer. There is three-phase power running down one side of it," Mike said.

"Only problem is there was about 30 acres of trees and miles and miles of barbed wire," he added. "Now that we have it mostly cleaned up and draining well (surface drainage), it needs about 120 acres of tile and a pivot on it. When that's done, there will be no finer land in the county, in my opinion. The soil productivity index may not reflect that, but we're working on that too."

Land near their farm recently sold for $9,000 per acre in an online auction. That purchase price is steeper than what they are accustomed to seeing in their area. But instead of seeing it as a negative, it doubles their resolve.

"We're not really hard in the market for land as much as we are in the market to do everything we can with the land we've got. That doesn't necessarily mean tiling every acre or irrigating every acre," Mike said. "It means making sure systems such as drainage, irrigation and fertility are fine-tuned."

Yield maps are driving those decisions, and the yield monitor is Mike's pick of precision that he wouldn't want to farm without. Yield maps have shown the value of tile, for example. "We've gone from: 'That's a lot of money. How can we afford that?' to 'Whoa ... that's a lot of money left on the table. How can we afford not to do that?'"

Chandra's pick of technology game changers is RTK guidance. "It sounds simple, but it is the foundation for so many of our operations from strip-till to planting right now the center of those strips. RTK helps with sidedressing nitrogen in-crop and no-tilling soybeans to avoid the corn rootballs left from the previous crop," she noted. "It allows me to concentrate and do a way better job of watching the planter or drill and making sure everything is running smoothly."


When it comes to necessary ag technology, Grossman choice is his mobile phone. "I'm old enough at 30 to remember when we didn't have them and can't imagine today how we functioned without them," he said.

The ability to be instantly connected is a big factor in juggling a full-time job as an ag loan officer and farming. Harvest days can be particularly long from sunrise to well beyond sunset. Cell phones and cell service have become invaluable in everything from calling for another truck or harkening a grain cart driver to calling for repairs or a sandwich or just checking on a co-worker's safety.

This week the family team, which includes his father, Curt, and brother, Trent, started harvesting soybeans. The first yield totals were estimated around 55 to 60 bushels per acre (bpa). "I think that will be about middle of the road, yield-wise for us. It was a good solid start, but I'm hoping to see some better yields as we roll along and we'll likely see some differences in those areas that got more in the way of later rains," he said. Moisture content was averaging between 13% and 14%.

So far, other than a few waterhemp waving a reminder, there's been little excitement in the soybean field. "We're just getting it done," he said.

What has caused some excitement is a recent record-setting land auction in west-central Missouri not far from where Grossman farms. A 115-acre farm near Malta Bend was purchased by a Carroll County farmer for $34,800 per acre. Grossman has fielded numerous questions about the transaction because of his role as a loan officer, a farmer and a friend of the family who purchased the property.

"There's no question that's a big number," he said. "What I will say is I'd put this farm up against any in the country. The soils are deep and as productive as any available in Missouri and maybe the U.S. This is a special case where the land lies close to the purchaser's property. The man wanted it. He had the resources. He bought it."

While this purchase may have been a unique situation, overall, land and cash rent prices haven't shown much sign of weakening in his area. Cost of inputs have improved in some cases, but Grossman has his on eye the price of anhydrous as fall application season nears. According to sellers surveyed by DTN, the average retail price of anhydrous was 21% higher than last month at $763 per ton. (See DTN story…)

As a farmer looking to continue to grow his operation, Grossman finds himself in a position much like the Langseths. He tries to use his desire to farm and willingness to work hard as a competitive edge to find expansion opportunities. For example, some acres the family currently farms were enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for decades. When the owner of the property died, the heirs were faced with cleaning up property of overgrown brush and years of neglect.

"We've worked very closely with the heirs and have seen an amazing transformation of those acres. High organic matter is often realized after the first few years coming out of that program," Grossman said. "But we've been very diligent about not just farming the goodies out of it but continuing to improve it. We continue to see yield improvements there," he said. One of those farms is rented on cost-share basis, which he likes because it fosters a working relationship with the landowner.

"Share arrangements put the farmer back in the equation and allow me to prove myself as a young farmer," he said.

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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