View From the Cab

Farmers Face Chaos and Comedy in the Cornfield

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Weather and a few other snafus temporarily slowed harvest for North Dakota farmers Chandra and Mike Langseth, but so far yields remain surprisingly good. (Photo courtesy of Chandra Langseth)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- There are harvest days when everything rolls smoothly. Then, there are days that don't.

North Dakota farmers Chandra and Mike Langseth had a taste of the latter this week. As inclement weather loomed, they received a different kind of delay when the snout of the corn head was flipped back to do some routine service work. It connected with the combine windshield causing the front panel of the cab to shatter.

"It's a new-to-us head and apparently, it is just a little longer than the previous model," said Mike. A second combine kept the gears of harvest turning, but it's the kind of oops that throws schedules askew and puts patience to the test, especially as the season starts to compress.

Open station harvesting wasn't a good option. Only three new windshields were found available in the entire United States. and they were far, far away. Fortunes finally started to turn when a suitable replacement was located and purchased from a salvage yard a few hours from the farm. Whew ...

Missouri farmer Zachary Grossman also had momentary chaos come to call this week. All the farm partners are chuckling about it now; but it wasn't all that funny when a door latch seized up and locked his father, Curt, inside the tractor cab. Dad finally exited by crawling through the back window of the cab.

"Then came the realization that we needed to move that tractor and the door was still locked from the inside," said Grossman. "I ended up having to crawl back through the back window -- the same way he got out."

A pair of pliers and some choice words removed the latch cover. Repair parts were located and retrieved from a dealership a few towns away, and order was restored ... except for the buckets of rain that put a halt to harvesting after all farm acrobatics were over.

Grossman and the Langseths are participating in DTN's View From the Cab series, which highlights agronomic insights and the many daily aspects of farm life. This is the 26th article featuring these young farmers who volunteer their time to reflect on the season and realities of the occupation.

Read on to learn more about how harvest is progressing and why, despite the crazy, this season of bringing in the crop is special. Both farms raised soybean for seed this year and talk about those requirements. And, with one eye on the weather, they are starting to focus on 2024 as they begin to pull soil samples and contemplate other operations.


The nearly 4 inches of rain that fell on Grossman's acres in northwest Missouri in two days (Oct. 25 and 26) could have been timed better. The farm still had about 400 acres to harvest between their own land and some custom work.

"I think we're on par with most in the area. There's some standing crop, but almost everyone is winding down," Grossman said on Oct. 26. "Harvest is about 85% complete here."

Low temperatures, including widespread freezes, are headed to the region next, noted John Baranick, DTN ag meteorologist.

"Temperatures should rise for the back half of next week and the forecast is drier, which should be helpful.

"Those recent rains should ease drought conditions across a wide area of the Corn Belt. We need to start building soil moisture for next season," Baranick said.

Grossman couldn't agree more. Still, he's been amazed by the resiliency of this year's crop given dry conditions. This week he harvested corn from some creek bottom land that was hitting right at 200 bushels per acre (bpa) with moisture of 15.1% and test weights between 62 to 63 pounds per bushel. The field had very limited rainfall through most of the growing season but benefited from a big drink in mid-August.

While soybeans have generally been yielding in the mid-50s to mid-60s bpa, Grossman still has one 40-acre field of double-crop soybeans to harvest. The beans followed wheat and made it to maturity but have been slow to dry down.

"I'll be tickled if they make 20 bushels (per acre)," he said. "That August rain we got really got them going and spurred on vegetative growth, but then we didn't get a rain the rest of the summer. More moisture in September was needed for those double-crop beans."

This was the first time the farm has grown soybean for seed. This year they contracted to grow a 4.3 relative maturity (RM) soybean for AgriGold. Beyond specific cleanout of the combine and trucks to maintain purity, the arrangement requires that they haul those beans to a collection point about an hour from the farm.

"We've had a great first experience. We were handed great yielding variety that went on some of our most productive soils. Add the premium into the equation and it's been a good deal for us," Grossman said. He farms with his father, Curt, and brother, Trent.

As harvest winds down, he's eyeing input costs for the next crop. Top of the list is anhydrous ammonia as prices have been creeping up this fall. DTN's surveys showed anhydrous climbed 6% on average to $809 per ton this week. (See…)

Lower temperatures may tempt some farmers to rush to apply anhydrous, but Grossman prefers to wait until soil temperatures are consistently 50 degrees Fahrenheit or below. "We can still get some warm temperatures in November. Putting gas (anhydrous) on in the fall is important in our system. It helps tremendously in the spring since we don't have to wait between application and planting.

"However, it doesn't do the crop, the environment or our pocketbooks any good to rush the season and lose what is applied," he said.

For now, he's concentrating on getting that remaining bit of crop collected. "I love spring and putting a seed in the ground. But harvest brings a sigh of relief to what we do. We get to finally see what we've been working for," he said.


That first whiff of corn drying is a scent Chandra Langseth looks forward to all year. This week the sweet smell is back.

She and her husband, Mike, finished gathering soybeans and have moved to corn harvest. Hopes of finishing harvest by November have been amended, but that's how harvest goes, particularly in these northern states.

They dodged the 6-12 inches of snow that fell in northwest portions of the state, but they aren't going to avoid the cold. Baranick said Barney, located in the southeastern part of North Dakota, is expected to see highs in the 30s F and lows in the 10s F this coming week. "The cold may also produce some light snow early in the week, but accumulations should not be significant," he noted. "They'll see temperatures slowly rising for the back half of the week but could be in line for additional precipitation as well. The latter stages of harvest are getting tough for a lot of folks out there with work yet to do."

This production year has been a rollercoaster ride for the Langseths. Drought dogged their efforts most of the summer. Irrigation helped soften the blow on a portion of their acreage, but the couple remains pleasantly surprised that even dryland acres are yielding better than expected.

All the soybeans were devoted to two Bayer seed varieties this year. The Langseths supply on-farm storage, so that means having enough bin space to separate varieties. There's also a long list of protocols for growing and storing seed.

The premium makes it worth the effort, but Mike said he sees another benefit. "Seed production typically means we get to experience varieties a year or so before commercial release," he said. "I like being on the front end of what's being released."

With the 2023 soybean harvest complete, Chandra worked this week to hand pull soil samples. Besides looking for details on soil nutrients, the couple is diligent about testing for soybean cyst nematode (SCN).

Between rain and the previously mentioned windshield snafu, corn harvest has been slow going. "It's easy to get frustrated when things like this happen, but that's not very productive either," Mike said. "We just put our heads down and keep moving forward."

Being able to roll with setbacks and manage downtime is all part of being a manager. Problem solving becomes even more important during crunch times, such as harvest, when additional labor is waiting for direction.

With one-quarter section of irrigated corn in the bin, Mike isn't quite ready to report yield results. "I still need to stitch the data from the combines together, but I can say it is better than what we expected and that includes the corners," he said. He's looking forward to nosing into dryland acres, which tend to be on heavier soil types.

Good yield surprises are what farmers live for, especially after a summer of wondering what might be. "I love harvest. I enjoy all the jobs connected to it," Mike said.

"But my favorite part is when the day is just going so smoothly that my phone doesn't ring. When no one is calling me and everything is good, then I really enjoy it," he added.

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Pamela Smith

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