View From the Cab

Farmers Race Weather to Continue Harvest

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Harvest is underway for Mike Langseth, who farms with wife, Chandra, near Barney, North Dakota. (DTN photo by Joel Reichenberger)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The anticipation of harvest is almost always followed by a mid-season period of "Are we done yet?" DTN's View From the Cab farmers were feeling the push this week as the dance to bring in harvest included sidestepping weather, equipment glitches and full elevators.

In northwest Missouri near Tina, Zachary (Zach) Grossman had switched back to picking corn this week as the farm's few remaining soybean acres proved difficult to harvest following small rain events.

"We can't really complain about the harvest conditions we've had so far, and I'm amazed by the resiliency we've seen in the crop yields," said Grossman.

"But we all know tougher weather is coming and conditions don't typically improve as the calendar advances," he added. "It lights a fire under us to keep at it."

In southeast North Dakota, Mike Langseth was eyeing a forecast of rain while trying to bring in seed beans on Oct. 12. Heavy morning dews and/or frost have kept combines idled most mornings -- putting pressure on harvest crews to finish fields each night to allow equipment moves during the morning downtime.

"That's the theory on how it is supposed to work, but I'm learning that the most important trait of a farmer is patience and knowing how to adapt when things don't exactly go as planned," said Mike, who farms with his wife, Chandra, near Barney.

"Sometimes that means some deep breaths and admitting that we did the best we could," he added.

The Langseths and Grossman are participating in DTN's View From the Cab project. The farmers have been reporting on crop conditions and other aspects of rural life and this is the 24th week of the season.

DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick said the heavy rains that moved through Barney late in the week (Oct. 13), may leave the North Dakota farmers waiting for fields to dry out.

"Only limited rain was forecast for Tina, Missouri. But there were wide swaths across the Corn Belt that saw heavier rain with the system that went through," Baranick said.

"We've got another system moving through this coming week, but as of Friday (Oct. 13), they're all over the place on how to develop it, and when, where, and how much precipitation to produce in each area," he said.

"There is a chance for rain, but nothing now that looks heavy for either Tina or Barney," Baranick added.

Read on to learn how harvest has progressed and some early season yield observations. This week the farmers talk about some changes they are contemplating for 2024 and what they think about winter temperatures. And, there's even a nod to remembering that sometimes, there are things that go right.


The early harvest jitters have worn off and there's been no time to waste on the Langseth farm. A good harvest window is counted in weeks rather than months in this northerly growing region.

Temperatures have been routinely dipping below 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night and rising to near 60 degrees during the day. The problem is the soybean harvest generally can't commence until the damp has burned off, which is typically early afternoon on a good day.

Growing seed beans also complicate logistics since there's the need to segregate between varieties. Cleaning equipment, moving augers, jockeying things around or waiting to dump are not preferred activities for the precious few hours the combine can be running, Mike noted.

Irrigated soybean harvest is now complete for the Langseths, though. Mike estimated yields from those fields tallied around 50 to 55 bushels per acre (bpa) with non-irrigated corners added to the total.

The importance of that added water was quickly realized as combines nosed into dryland soybeans. Although the heavier soil types associated with dryland acres helps, it wasn't enough to compensate for the miserly 5.5 inches of total rainfall that fell here during the growing season.

This week they finished harvesting a field the couple purchased several years ago. They have worked to clean up old fence rows and improve surface drainage on the acreage, but the field is of highly variable soil types. Soil texture also tends to vary with elevation -- low lying soils contain clay and elevated knolls are sandy.

"Bean yields in that field were bouncing from 15 bpa to 65 bpa," Mike said. He anticipated a 40-bpa average, which he wasn't thrilled with, but remained impressed given the season and length of growing season. Most varieties here rate below 1.0 relative maturity.

Chandra, who teaches precision agriculture and agronomy classes at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, likes to expose students to the latest in precision tools. But when it comes to dedicating dollars to their farm improvements, the couple has remained focused on protecting against weather extremes.

"This year has really emphasized our strategy to tile all the ground we can and irrigate all the ground we can because it makes the biggest difference," said Chandra. "Everything else we do from a management perspective matters but is minor by comparison in how much difference it makes."

They are considering abandoning anhydrous for 2024 and substituting liquid nitrogen (28%) and possibly some urea. All the nitrogen on the farm is applied in the spring, so there's still time to iron out the change. Chandra said the decision is based on safety and the number of people within their workforce comfortable with anhydrous application.

With the bulk of the harvest still to go, the Langseths aren't lobbying for colder weather anytime soon.

"Winter can be brutal here," Chandra said. "A nice snowy day with some sun is nice for a walk or cross-country skiing, but those days are few and far between.

"We endure long stretches of minus 10 degrees or worse. So no, I'm not real anxious for that," she said.


For Grossman, cold weather generally means it is time to hang up the farmer cap and turn cowboy. He purposefully avoids fall calving to avoid harvest conflicts.

"The beauty of spring calves is they are out on pasture living life. They don't care whether they see me or not right now," he said. Come November, weaned spring calves go on feed for about 60 days. Bred heifers start calving in early February.

"There's no rest for the wicked. Cattle consume all my free time through the winter, and I love it," he said.

Grossman spends his day hours as a loan officer at a local bank and farms with his father and brother after banker's hours.

As the daylight shrinks and harvest stretches on, that means he gets to see plenty of brilliant red harvest sunsets, whether the view is from the cab of the combine, the semi or the tractor pulling the grain cart.

Swapping out the bean head for the corn head seemed a solid bet this week. "Our last remaining soybeans were just a little questionable on being ready," he explained. "At the same time, one of our best corn fields sits in a river bottom that tends to get wet. So, it seemed like a good time to grab it in case we did get significant rainfall," he said.

"I haven't heard any yield totals on that field yet, but it's good enough that I'm having a hard time keeping up with the combine," he said, as he loaded a truck on Oct. 12. Soybeans have been averaging between 55 bpa to 65 bpa, he noted.

Grossman said local elevators are starting to fill up and hauling distances are getting longer. The family has waited to fill the grain storage built on the farm this year and that strategy looks like it will pay off, he added.

He also seeded 60 acres of wheat this week. That's a smaller acreage than he's had in the past, but prices made him cautious. The only wheat acres he seeded were those where terraces will be built next summer.

"I wish the price was stronger as wheat is a good rotation crop and we can produce good wheat here. But I can't afford to produce it when it doesn't pencil," Grossman said.

On the morning of Oct. 8, Grossman surely had reason to be humming singer Van Morrison's song, "Days Like This." A bracket cracked that holds up the flywheel on the combine's reverser belt, but remarkably, like the song goes, everything "fell into place like the flick of a switch."

"I know we always tend to talk about things go bad or we can't get parts," Grossman said. "But we called the John Deere dealership's after-hour parts phone number. It's not a common part and I couldn't believe they had it. We had everything torn apart and back together and running by Sunday at 5 p.m."

Sometimes it is important to remember there'll also be days like this.

See a recent Reporter's Notebook video about this season's View From the Cab participants at….

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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