INDIANA – Maple Leaf Farms
“I did not expect it to take off like this. We have Montana weather — 40% or 50% humidity.”
That was the initial reaction of DTN View From the Cab farmer Lane Robinson, returning home from his Michigan vacation last week to find soybean harvest underway. “After six to seven days of powerful sunshine and low humidity, by Friday everybody just took off,” he said.
Though soybean pods are crispy, yielding 11% to 12% moisture beans, stems remain green. That meant trouble for the harvester. “For whatever reason they’re wrapping on the reel some,” Lane explained to DTN late Sunday.
The first 50-acre field Lane and his farming partner Eric Strater ran was a custom job for a neighbor where this year’s excessive rain took its toll. “It had a lot of water,” Lane said. The average yield came in at 34 bushels per acre, but it got better from there. “One-hundred-thirty acres of our own averaged 54. Another 40-acre field that’s pretty sandy, gravelly ground made around 48,” he added.
“I have some 3.8 maturity beans that still have leaves on them. They’re going to need the full time between now and our average first frost date of October 15,” he said. How do yields compare to previous year’s production? “I think it’s going to be a standard year.”
And the corn crop? “We haven’t run any corn, but guys I know who have, have done two separate fields. The first made 185 bpa and the second 215. Those were both dryland fields on lighter ground. They didn’t say, but I’m guessing moisture in the low to mid-20s,” he said. That compares to Lane’s own proven corn production last year of 204 bpa, which was 25 to 30 bushels above his five-year average.
Some neighbors drilled cereal rye cover crops in wheat stubble last week. Local hay markets are actively trading with strong demand coming from southern and central Indiana where hay supplies were affected by difficult summer weather.
“It was a good week to do just about anything. We pumped a little manure. I tore up a hay field and we’re going to drill wheat on that tomorrow. We’re just past the hessian fly free date so we spread the manure on the areas around the lagoons (where Lane will seed his wheat) and we’ll sow it back to alfalfa next year after the wheat comes off,” Lane explained.
Lane grows over 600,000 Pekin ducks each year. That’s where the manure comes from. Heating duck barns and drying grain with propane became cost prohibitive as high oil prices drove up the price. That’s why Lane is in the process of converting to natural gas. But progress by the gas company laying gas lines into the farm has been slow. “I’m still waiting for the utility to do their thing.”
It’ll be a busy week at Lane’s duck barns where a total of over 11,000 head will be shipped this week. Easing feed costs of $160 to $175 per ton have made it easier for him to realize his goal of ninety cents per live weight pound net revenue. “A seven-pound duck has average feed conversion of 1.8. That duck will consume about a dollar and ten cents worth of feed.”
Lane doesn’t actually pay for feed used in his ten-barn facility, but he is accountable for feed use and conversion through the pricing formula used to determine his compensation for contracted production — and at least one other unknown.
“USDA condemned birds come out of my check. It doesn’t matter if you send them a perfect flock, they’re going to condemn some because that’s why they’re there. You’re just going to have 2% to 3% condemned, so you’d better figure that in,” he said.
NEBRASKA – Kriesel’s Certified Seed Farm
Meanwhile, outside of Gurley, Nebraska, View From the Cab farmer Leon Kriesel’s harvest is wrapping up. “We got our millet all harvested. The crop ranged from 25 to 42 bushels per acre,” he told DTN late Sunday evening. How does that stack up to other years? Quality and test weights were good, but wet planting conditions contributed to stand loss and summer heat may have affected yield. “It was an average crop. It had a lot of things that weren’t perfect. Most of the millet here locally was in the thirties.”
The only crop left for Leon to harvest is a field of irrigated milo. A final water application was made last week ahead of crop maturity. But a problem has surfaced that has to be fixed before next year. “It looks like we’ll have to pull the pump on the well … it was lower than normal water pressure.”
Leon’s fall planting is finished. The swather used for windrowing millet can be put away as well as grain drills and the tractors that pull them. Everything gets a checkup and a wash job before going into the shed for winter.
Other millet harvest in the area is finishing up. Most dry beans are harvested and final cuttings of alfalfa should be over. Corn picking hasn’t started yet. “Some dryland corn should be getting pretty close. I’ve seen them starting to pick some high moisture stuff in the valley (Platte Valley). Sunflowers aren’t ready yet. Sugar beets won’t be until later. Milo — I wouldn’t get too excited for a month,” Leon said.
Leon grows and markets certified seed from about 3,000 acres. He loaded out more seed to customers last week who are still planting winter wheat. A few may be replanting due to heavy rains earlier this month. “There’s a lot of spotty fields. A lot of guys dusted their wheat in, mostly on tilled ground. A heavy rain crusted it,” he explained. “We’re going to go ahead and clean some of our reserve wheat this week so we can service our customers.”
While some areas had heavy rain, others found rain to be spotty, which has led to delayed germination and uneven stands. “In conventional tillage, if you don’t get that stand, there is some concern it (soil) might blow. With no-till, that isn’t a concern,” Leon explained. But on those spotty no-till fields where in some cases soils have dried five inches below seed placement, what then?
Failure to emerge during the fall will result in fewer tillers, so higher plant populations are in order for late seeding or replanting. But Leon will wait until late February or early March to decide if stands are adequate. That’s because in most years, winter snowfall delivers enough moisture and the correct temperature to vernalize wheat seed, setting it up for spring rains and better growing conditions. If not? Then there’s still plenty of time to replant to a spring crop.
“Vernalizing is the process of the seed imbibing water to start the germinating process, a combination of temperature and water absorption. If it absorbs water and swells, it will produce a plant and make grain. It used to be we thought we had to be done planting in September, but now we know better. You can actually plant winter wheat by the first of March,” Leon said.
Winter wheat is well suited to the arid Nebraska Panhandle where rainfall is typically no more than 14 inches per year. It is a scenario Leon has seen play out over decades.
“If 85% of what you planted is growing, you’re OK,” he said.