View From the Cab

By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- With the approach of another fall, farmers across mid-America are scraping the bottoms of their grain bins, making way for another new crop. That's the way it is for DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, as they move their 2016 corn to town.

Brent told DTN late Sunday evening that old-crop corn hauling continued last week, with his partner Harold Burington and Brent's father Duane helping with truck driving. "We're down to the sweep augers in all three bins," he said.

All work and no play does not describe Brent and Lisa. On Friday, they held a bonfire in honor of their daughter Madie before she heads off to graduate school. On Saturday evening, Brent and Lisa attended their ballroom dancing class and the dance that followed. And on Sunday, they took Madie and her younger sister Ellie shopping for school clothes in Iowa City.

Brent and Lisa's oldest daughter Alex has finished school and lives in Pittsburgh.

There's one harvest that couldn't wait for fall: sweet corn harvest. "The Annual Old Time Power Show" in Cedar Falls is this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (August 18-20). Harold and his wife Charlene help with a church, Messiah Lutheran Church, fundraiser in Janesville every year. "I went out and picked sweet corn late Sunday afternoon. On Monday they got a bunch of people together and canned the corn. They'll use it in meals they sell during the show," Brent explained.

On the Jusich farm, machines started getting their seasonal cleaning before being placed in the back of the shed.

"Saturday was a very busy day getting the combine ready (in the morning). I spent the whole afternoon mowing waterways, ditches and field driveways. Mowing driveways makes it easier to see where to pull into fields with the trucks," Brent said.

After a colder than normal May, and a 1-degree-warmer June, later-summer weather at the Judisch place has been typical of August doldrums but cooler, and beneficial rains have been harder to come by. Earliest-planted corn has begun to dent. There is some firing as maturity approaches. A pump in a conservation pond continues to lift some water from buried tiles, but soil moisture is declining and the pump only runs part time. "This will be the first week I haven't mowed the lawn since the last weekend of May. I think there's enough (moisture) for the corn to finish. After all, Labor Day (a traditional bench mark of maturity) isn't that far away," Brent told DTN.

But Brent and Lisa's soybeans are beginning to show moisture stress.

"Beans are starting to struggle. The last rain we had was August 1. (They) are starting to turn white during the day. We have pods and we have blossoms. I haven't seen any aphids. We're very clean as far as insects go. But we're gonna need some rain here pretty quick for the beans to finish," he said.

Brent is a long-time participant of a late-summer crop tour coming up soon. In order to practice his measurement skills, he ventured into his earliest-planted corn for a look-see. What he found was variability.

"I can find 180-bushel corn and I can find 220-bushel corn all within 250 feet of each other. Eventually, combines will hit the field and we'll know for sure," he said.

On Brent and Lisa's farm, 2015 was a good year, but 2016 was better. To Brent, this year's crop "feels" more like 2015.

That brings up the tricky question about pre-harvest accuracy of USDA yield estimates. Brent told DTN, "keep in mind they're going on trend-line yield reports". But he has a different opinion, and it's lower than the national corn yield of 169.5 bushels per acre USDA predicted last week.

"I don't buy the USDA report. I've been thinking 165. But with the dry weather, we may not get there. Maybe 163.5. Big crops get bigger and at the end of the day those crops in 2015 and 2016 got bigger. They aren't that far off on a long-term basis. Reality is that the trade has to trade that number, and as farmers we have to respect that."

"In my estimation, corn is cheap. So if you're a user of corn what are you waiting for?" Brent asked.

View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, saw rain three times last week -- Thursday, Friday and midday Saturday -- for a total of 1.6 inches. He has a problem with that.

"This is the time of the year when I am absolutely never happy with the weather. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. When I complain about it to my wife Kristi, she just turns and walks away," he said.

On the one hand, Zack's soybeans love the rain. "I really like what I see. Beans surprise me. They're short and then the weather turns and we get some rain and they look great. They're just getting into the podding stage."

There is one soybean concern. Zack has found army cutworm feeding on his soybeans.

Corn has matured, but grain moisture readings remain high at 17.5% to 18%. He prefers to begin harvest with readings closer to 16%. As far as Zack is concerned, the sooner it dries, the better it will be for harvest to begin. "It's been a slow week again. Seems like all we do is sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for the corn to dry," he said.

On Monday, Zack and his cousin Job hand harvested a 1/1000th acre sample from a corn test plot where Zack compared results of in-furrow pop-up starter fertilizer from Stoller USA. There seemed to be no visual response of plant color, but plants emerged quicker with the fertilizer, and stand counts seemed somewhat higher. Yield checks indicated a 25 bpa advantage. "I was completely shocked. Now we're going to harvest the entire field and break those rows out to see if I can see it on the yield monitor. I need 4 bpa to pay for the fertilizer. If I see 4 bushels overall, we'll use it on all the corn next year," he said.

To know where you're going, it helps if you know where you've been. Zack keeps records on every aspect of every crop. "Tuesday, I had to go through all my data and get my numbers in the computer. I use an Excel box and column spreadsheet I make myself. If I get some time this winter, I want to get back into it and put down the agronomic side along with price. Everybody wants to know -- did it make more money?" he explained.

On Wednesday, a new purchase arrived at the farm that should come in handy once corn harvest starts. It's a new Demco 850 grain cart. "It took Wednesday and Thursday to build brackets for the scale controls and ticket printer and mount them in the cab. Then we can keep track of everything that comes off all our fields," Zack told DTN Monday afternoon.

Thursday was spent helping a neighbor with a welding chore. On Friday, Zack brought his young son Nathan to work in the shop cleaning tractors ahead of harvest. One was a John Deere 4440 with family history. Later on Friday, Zack did his community service work ahead of the county fair by helping prepare for a demolition derby at the race track. "I was the one in charge, but I know nothing about that demolition derby, so I put a guy who's done it for years in charge," he said. That decision came to him after his Leadership Sorghum training, which stressed the importance of each person being placed in a role that can benefit the entire group.

Also last week, Zack's dad Greg sprayed fencerows. It's a long-time family tradition.

"My grandfather (Mark Rendel) used to like to do that, get out of the shop and cruise on a 4020. He didn't want any shade trees around the field that would affect yield, or for hired hands to nap under. The 4020s had yellow sun shades. You could see those out in the field and tell if they were moving. That way he knew the hired hands were working and not napping. The hired hands all called him Boss Hog. Our 4440 was grandpa's first cab tractor. The top of the cab was green and grandpa couldn't see it in the green fields. So he took the top off the cab and painted it yellow."

When Zack's grandpa couldn't ride the tractor anymore, he put Zack in charge of his favorite job, fencerow spraying. Zack became busy with other chores and never got around to it.

That's when Mark Rendel, aka Boss Hog made a change.

"Grandpa told me, 'Son, you're fired.' He put dad on the sprayer and everything looks good again," Zack said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald

(BAS/SK)