Ag Weather Forum

A Cold Wrap-Up

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, of Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, of Claflin, Kansas, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. (DTN photos by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Multiple snows, icy rain and frigid conditions are not what Genny Haun would have ordered to close out what had otherwise been a super crop season.

But the Kenton, Ohio, farmer is also pragmatic. "Late harvests are common here and we have learned the need for patience. Still, we'd like nothing more than to finish this season," she said. Haun farms with her husband, Matt, and parents, Cindy and Jan Layman.

Kyle Krier drove across Kansas and into Nebraska to pick up parts on Tuesday, Nov. 27, and was surprised how much milo remains unharvested. "I feel for those guys and feel so lucky that we were able to get everything done in a relatively timely fashion," he said. Krier, farms with his father, Kirby, near Claflin, Kansas.

Haun and Krier have been reporting each week from their respective regions throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. The series, which began May 2, ends with this segment. Here's what has been happening in their parts of the farming world this week and a brief review of the season:

Genny Haun -- Kenton, Ohio

Although Layman Farms has more than 1,500 acres of corn left to harvest and a day's worth of soybeans still in the field, Genny Haun was still counting her blessings this week.

A four-generation gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday and a new baby due to arrive in the next few weeks had her concentrating on family and the benefits of holding those you love close. News of the tragic accident and death of a neighboring farmer made those feelings all the more poignant. "It puts a delayed harvest into sobering perspective," she noted. "Our prayers and deepest sympathy are with the family, as they work through this."

Timely rainfall and more sunlight had kept yield hopes running high all summer, but the soggy harvest trend the farm has experienced the past few years continued and has dampened expectations somewhat.

"This has been one of our better crops yield-wise and so far, yields are still exceeding averages," Haun said. "Quality has been hanging in there, but we also know the condition of that crop is not going to get better as it sits in the field. We sell most of our corn into a swine feed market, so quality is important," she said.

Haun said combines were able to run briefly last week, but that it was often necessary to use tractors to pull trucks in and out of the field. Finding ways to load safely along busy roadways is nearly impossible, she reported. While the rest of the world may be rooting for a warmup, a hard freeze presents the best harvest situation they can hope for with saturated soils.

The latest USDA-NASS Crop Progress Report indicated 86% of Ohio's corn is harvested -- the same as last year, but slightly behind the 93% five-year average. Soybeans in the state are 90% harvested compared to 99% for both 2017 and the five-year average.

A decade ago, all of the soybeans raised by Layman Farms were non-GMO. Haun said the farm has increasingly switched to GMO hybrids and varieties to access better disease packages that stand up better to the prolonged harvest scenario.

In practice, the farm partners like the idea of capturing value through segregating and growing specialty grain and juggled several non-GMO contracts this year.

"However, we are going to be looking hard at those contracts for 2019," she noted. "It may just be regional to us, but we are experiencing some yield penalty with those genetics. If the premium isn't large enough to compensate for the yield drag or we can't deliver on the quality because of weather to receive the premium, then we need to consider that in our decisions for next year."

Labor costs and equipment are another part of the specialty crop management decision. The extra handling helps keep the labor force busy, but it stretches farm equipment and storage needs to the max. Discussions on how to reduce overall labor requirements through mechanization are also in the works as they continue to hone efficiencies.

Being part of an organized agricultural peer group keeps the entire family constantly questioning and evaluating all aspects of the farm operation. Beyond harvest, the family is focused on lining up continuing education opportunities and networking opportunities for the winter months.

"Management needs and challenges increase with more family members in the operation. These educational sessions help build our skill set and expand our view," Haun said.

In August, Haun was installed as president of the Hardin County Farm Bureau. That has put her in the middle of debates that reach beyond her own farm -- such as recent state actions to deem several Ohio watersheds in distress. Those discussions have long-term implications for fertilizer use and farmers need to have a voice in those decisions, she said.

Meanwhile, she'll soon have her arms full with a new baby. "No matter how much we plan, there are always surprises and this new addition is definitely one of them," she admitted. "But growing this family while being surrounded by extended family and doing work I love and believe in is a dream come true for me."

Kyle Krier -- Claflin, Kansas

When Kyle Krier reviews the last seven months and the most recent growing season, the only word he doesn't come up with is "dry." And he will be the first to tell you that drought is typically the first word known to any native Kansan.

"When I look at our historical rainfall totals compared to our in-season totals this year, we are close to double our normal amount," he said. "It's been crazy. I've never experienced anything like it."

The adage that "rain makes grain" definitely came through for the dryland farmer this year. While early snowfall had him close to pushing the panic button, he was able to find enough harvesting windows to finish before two more snowfalls came in November.

"I keep hearing about soybean seed quality issues and it is too bad seed suppliers didn't come to central Kansas. We have both the best soybean yields and quality I've ever seen," Krier said. High input management, particularly fungicides, paid off in soybeans this year, he added.

Milo yields were also exceptional and he achieved five hay cuttings on nearly every acre of alfalfa this season.

Weeds also enjoyed the abundant rainfall and Krier said any spare moment this summer was eaten up by the need to spray. Palmer amaranth is the weed driving decisions in his area. "It just keeps on coming and I'll admit, making sure it does not gain a foothold has become something of an obsession," he said.

Additional sprays mean added input and application costs. "We've got some information to put through -- not only local trials, but our own on-farm trials looking at specific treatments. We know all inputs costs have increased and we will be weighing all of that this winter," Krier said.

Muddy conditions also increased harvesting hours and machine costs. "But just the volume of the material going through the machine this year was influencing that, too," he said.

The latest USDA-NASS Crop Progress report showed Kansas harvest was nearly complete across the entire state. Sorghum (milo) was 83% harvested, slightly behind 93% last year and a 95% five-year average.

"Talk to milo growers and standability is top of their list of what they are evaluating, followed by aphid tolerance and then, yield," he said.

Winter wheat acreage remains another question. Recent condition reports rated 3% very poor, 13% poor, 38% fair, 37% good and 9% excellent. Winter wheat emerged was 87%, behind 93% last year and 96% for the five-year average.

"It's going to be interesting to see what stands look like. We have snow insulating most of the acreage, except where it blew off. If we get a good week of warmup and some sunshine down on it, then we'll see what actually sprouted," he said.

Continued snow cover is a good thing in wheat country. "It's when temps drop low and we don't have snow that we start to worry about winter kill," he said.

Tearing up acres due to winterkill gets trickier for Krier because he put down a full rate of Finesse herbicide this fall. That locks him out of corn. A STS (sulfonylurea tolerant) soybean variety could be an optional replacement if wheat acres look dicey, but even switching 20% of his wheat acres to soybeans would push Krier's crop mix further into soybeans than he's comfortable with.

"If that all worked out like it did this year, maybe that wouldn't be so bad," he said, indicating how high yields, tariff incentives and early pricing opportunities have all worked to make soybeans shine for some growers this year.

"It's easy to second guess decisions. In hindsight, those that summer fallowed could be asking themselves if they lost some opportunity this year. But we've had a lot of surprises in the market.

"That's farming -- what makes it both fun and frustrating. You make the best decisions you can and hope you learn along the way."

Krier and his wife, Melanie, added another son to their family this fall -- right in the middle of harvest. "Planning is fine, but sometimes you just have to roll with what happens," he said.

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(SK/CZ)

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