DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Farmers have a lingo all their own. This week, North Dakota farmers Chandra and Mike Langseth hope to finish cutting soybeans, so they can start combining corn.
In Missouri, Zachary (Zach) Grossman also hopes to finish up his bean harvest so he can go back to shelling corn. Or will he pick it?
The regional colloquialisms make for some interesting discussions, but the important thing is harvest is progressing in both farming areas. Combines are rolling and grain carts (no, they aren't auger wagons unless used for feed) are getting filled, despite some weather delays.
The Langseths, who farm near Barney, North Dakota, and Grossman, from Tina, Missouri, have been reporting in each week during the 2023 growing season as part of DTN's View from the Cab project. The feature highlights crop-related topics and other rural issues surrounding farm life. This is the 25th installment for the current season.
Read on to learn more about harvest progress, how labor management intensifies during harvest and how cows can eat away at actual production history (APH).
ZACHARY GROSSMAN: TINA, MISSOURI
Spotty rain showers only slowed the combine temporarily on Grossman's family farm this past week. "We've had those kinds of rains that are just enough to be frustrating, but not enough to shut down for the day. We end up checking every hour or so to see if things are dry enough to run and spend half the day doing that," said Grossman.
"I know I should be careful what we wish for, but we could use a rain that gave us a legitimate reason to stop for a day and recharge," he said.
Grossman farms with his father, Curt, and brother, Trent in Livingston and Carroll counties, which currently light up as D1 (moderate) and D2 (severe) drought on the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor. (https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/…) The 2023 growing season has been a long period of living from raindrop-to-raindrop until a deluge of 12 inches fell in August.
Crop yields thus far have been remarkable given the ups and downs of the year, Grossman said. This past week corn came in from some of the best soils they farm and yielding 230 bushel per acre (bpa) to 245 bpa.
"We talk about bottom corn and hill corn here. Hill corn is ranging from 140 to 175 (bpa) -- and bottom corn is 200-plus. I still think we're going to be right around the USDA estimate (173 bpa) for a whole farm average on corn," he said.
Soybean harvest is scheduled to be complete this week. Yields have held mostly in the mid-50 to mid-60 bpa.
A cold front swept across the Tina area on late Wednesday (Oct. 18) and into Thursday delivering light rainfall, noted DTN Associate Weather Risk Analyst Teresa Wells.
But Grossman may get his wish for some downtime next week. "This weekend is shaping up to be mostly dry until Sunday (Oct. 22) night and early Monday morning, where some light rain is possible. Any rainfall on Sunday and Monday should remain below 0.10 in. Temperatures will be mild, with high temperatures approaching the 60s to low 70s," she said.
"The weather pattern will be active next week as rainfall will start to move in on Tuesday with periods of rain showers possible through Thursday or Friday. Rain could be heavy at times. Currently, they could see anywhere between 0.5 to 1.5 in. of rain between Tuesday and Friday," she said.
"But confidence in rainfall amounts for next week is medium as model guidance still shows some discrepancies in how systems will evolve across the central U.S. Besides the rainfall, temperatures will be above to well-above normal throughout much of next week," she added.
To say conditions have been dusty during harvest may be an understatement. "One of the real benefits of newer farm equipment is we're not eating dirt like we used to, thanks to modern cabs. Now, we just have to keep the windshields clean," Grossman said.
Another change at the farm this summer and fall has been having Trent's labor full-time after he wrapped up college classes. "Wow, I can't say enough about what a difference it has made having someone that knows the operation without having to teach it," he said.
"He's the reason I can even wish for a rain day. Having him here full-time has made us so much more efficient as he keeps the combine running all day." Grossman has a full-time job as a loan officer at the local bank that he juggles in addition to farming and raising cattle.
Being busy with harvest helps buffer much of the world's political and social unrest for the young farmer. "My bank job keeps me up on the economy and interest rates. I try to stay responsibly informed and understand what's going on in the world," he said.
"But at the same time, there's a lot of things in this world I can't control. So I try to focus on things I can control -- like lining up soil sampling and fertilizer, so I can hopefully do things again right putting in another crop next year," he said.
CHANDRA AND MIKE LANGSETH: BARNEY, NORTH DAKOTA
Rain delays have continued to push Chandra and Mike Langseth's harvest further back than preferred this fall. After a summer spent wishing for rain and giving thanks for having at least a portion of their crops irrigated, the couple has watched approximately 6 inches fall during the past few weeks.
"We're caught back up on rainfall. The creek even has water in it again," said Mike. "We've had several really good harvest days, but we've also had nuisance rains where we get just enough that it's too wet to cut."
The good news is the end is in sight for soybean harvest with 120 acres left on Oct. 19. The two-combine strategy has proven wise as the season condensed.
"We're going to finish somewhere in the 40s (bpa)," Mike said. "It could be better, but it's hard to be mad about it given we were in a serious drought all summer.
"When you don't start combining corn until Oct. 20, you aren't going to be done by Halloween. Harvest is just going to go a little longer and it will be a little colder when we get done."
Wells said the Langseths should have good conditions ahead to finish up those last few bean acres. "Looking ahead to this weekend, they will see mostly dry conditions, but a few sprinkles cannot be ruled out Sunday. Temperatures will be mild with high temperatures approaching the 60s on Friday and 50s on Saturday and Sunday," she predicted.
The weather pattern in North Dakota could become more active next week as a series of low-pressure systems move near the region. "They will likely get tagged with some light rain showers late Monday (Oct. 23) into early Tuesday, but rainfall amounts should remain light (below 0.25 in.). However, confidence in the forecast for the second half of next week is low due to weather models showing discrepancies in how systems will evolve across the center of the country," she said.
"There's a couple of different scenarios that they could experience later next week. One scenario could involve more rain showers moving in on Thursday and the rain could transition into snow on Friday. The second scenario could have the rain and snow showers stay farther north across northern North Dakota and southern Canada, while southern North Dakota stays mostly dry. For confidence to increase for late next week's forecast, long-range model guidance will need to show more agreement on how the low-pressure systems evolve," she said.
Meanwhile, Mike was dealing with another kind of corn yield problem after some neighboring cows found greener pastures in a Langseth's corn field. The incident required meeting with insurance adjusters -- one for the damage claim and another to document how much the trampling might reduce actual production history (APH) for crop insurance purposes.
The milling herd created more damage than those there for a dining experience. Dealing with these kinds of scenarios is all part of management. This is Mike's first production year to fully oversee the farm after his father, Paul, transitioned out of the role.
The farm also had a longtime valued employee retire last winter. Although a capable replacement has been hired, it left Mike realizing how recruiting, hiring, training, and managing people may be one of the most important skill sets on the farm, or at least one of the most time consuming.
The need for skilled farm labor isn't lost on Chandra, either. She is training students for all sorts of agriculture jobs in her off-farm job as an instructor of precision agriculture and agronomy at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.
"The skill set required to work these kinds of jobs and handle equipment and technology continues to grow," she said.
Finding someone that is handy in the shop, can drive a truck, operate heavy equipment, and doesn't mind terrible hours part of the year isn't easy, Chandra agreed. "But it is also a good gig that might appeal to more if we start changing the narrative of what constitutes a farm worker. There are lots of opportunities and it really is a skilled occupation."
Pamela Smith can be reached at email@example.com
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