Keep those combines rollin’ is the theme song for many of the nation’s farmers this week. There’s no time left to worry about rain, wind or weather. It is simply go time.
Perspective on this long 2019 season is only a few states away for Scott Wallis. As of Oct. 14, the Indiana farmer had harvested half of the 3,100 acres he and his family farm near Princeton and across the Wabash River into Illinois.
And he feels lucky. Getting rained out this past weekend and traveling to St. Louis to witness his beloved Cardinals lose a playoff game wasn’t enough to dampen his spirits when he considers some southern farmers are facing crippling drought, and crops in the Plains states were blanketed by an untimely blizzard.
Ashley Andersen is also counting her blessings. Snow sidestepped the farm she and husband, Jarett, operate near Blair, Nebraska. While some rains have hampered their harvest progress, they have been able to find moments to harvest, and predictions indicate skies may be clearing for the coming week.
Wallis and Andersen have been participating in DTN’s weekly View From the Cab series since May 2019 — documenting the roller coaster crop year and giving personal insights into their farming lives.
Both regions of the country are likely to see some rainfall early next week, said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson.
“Things are looking better for eastern Nebraska,” Anderson added. “There will be some shower and thunderstorm activity early next week (Oct. 21-22), but total rainfall should be less than a quarter-inch.
“That’s it for rain over the next two weeks for that portion of Nebraska. My assessment is that Ashley’s operation will be able to get some harvesting done.”
In Indiana, Wallis will have to dodge a few more drops. DTN’s Anderson expected to see around .40 inch fall midweek and then dry conditions until another half-inch of rain arrives on Saturday.
“Thunderstorms in that region are expected Monday and Tuesday next week with totals around .80 inches,” Anderson said. “Another .30 inch is in the forecast for the following weekend (Oct. 26-27). Southwestern Indiana is almost 4 inches below normal on precipitation since Sept. 1, so it could be that a lot of that moisture soaks into the ground quickly,” he added.
This week the farmers give a harvest update; admit grain cart drivers get no respect; discuss field repairs; and talk about farm kids.
Here’s what’s happening in their farming worlds this week.
ASHLEY ANDERSEN — BLAIR, NEBRASKA
Four-year-old Eli Andersen woke his parents before the sun was up this past Friday to inform them it was time to get to the field.
“It wasn’t even six o’clock and he was dressed like a miniature version of his father with hat, boots, jeans — and the matching leather pliers holder,” Ashley Andersen said.
“He had a good pout that day upon learning it had rained enough to stall field work,” she said.
One-year-old Kasey already has the farming fever too. “He stands at the sliding glass door, which overlooks the farm and screams at the machines working below,” she said. “Honestly, sometimes it’s a bit much. Is it because they hang out all day with Mom that they so desperately want to be with Dad? Or is Dad just that much more fun?”
That is an age-old question voiced by nearly every exasperated mother at one point or another. But both Ashley and her husband, Jarett, grew up yearning to be involved in agriculture and understand the allure of the outdoors. After a year of flooding, drought and more wet weather, that passion may be temporarily battered a bit, but farming as a family remains their focus.
“Our children are young enough that we try to protect them from shouldering any of the worry that comes with a less than perfect crop year,” Ashley noted. “Still, it is impossible to shield them from some of the realities of bigger things like flooding. Haley, who is seven, has a firm grasp of what it means when it rains too much.
“This year has caused me to think more about my own childhood and realize how much our parents sacrificed or did without during some tough times,” Andersen noted. “We both have some really good role models in our own parents.”
Jarett points out that having crop insurance is a safety net their parents didn’t have back in the day. “Access to those kinds of tools puts me more at ease if agriculture is the path our children choose to take,” he said. Diversification into trucking has also provided financial stability for the Andersens.
Windy conditions have helped to dry soils from the most recent rains and allowed harvest to get underway. Corn and soybean yields have been running right at historical average for the farm with considerable yield variability within each field.
“We finally were able to start harvesting beans this week and prefer to take them out first, before they start to shatter,” Ashley said. “Right now, we’re just choosing what fields to harvest by soil conditions as most of the crops are dry enough to harvest.”
When operating the grain cart, Ashley takes a good share of good-natured ribbing from the rest of the farm crew for folding the auger in after each use.
“That’s one less thing I have to worry about if it is folded,” she said. “I realize that means probably fold it 500 times a day. I’m fine with that.”
Thankfully, the ability to finally harvest has flipped some attitudes, she said. “Farming suddenly seems kind of fun again — now that we are back in the field and actually accomplishing something.
“That uncertainty of if and when harvest was going to happen was really stressful,” Ashley said.
SCOTT WALLIS — PRINCETON, INDIANA
It’s been soybeans filling the combine tank this week for Scott Wallis, Princeton, Indiana. The one thing that stands out from the experience so far is calendar date.
“There’s a significant yield difference between May and June planted beans,” Wallis said. “From what I’ve gathered from neighbors and comparing to our results, there’s about a 15 bushel per acre (bpa) advantage in this area to those planted in May versus those planted early to mid-June.”
Predictability, other things mattered to yield too. For instance, a 160-acre soybean field he finished cutting on Monday was averaging 60 bpa. Those beans were planted in early June on clay hills when it was too wet. Another field on some better soils with better stands averaged 71 bpa, despite the fact they were planted June 12.
Going back over the season in his mind, Wallis is convinced a second planter must be in the farm’s future to gain timeliness. With the addition of another farming partner this year, they have the manpower to roll more machines.
“I’m not saying that we could have found enough dry ground this spring to get 1,100 acres of soybeans planted in May, but we would have had 600 to 700 acres,” he said.
While the soybeans themselves are dry enough, some of the stems are still green as a gourd, he said. “We’ve cut a lot of green soybeans in our time. It sure slows things down, but you just have to take your time and make sure your knives are sharp,” Wallis said.
Constant wetting and drying of the soybeans either from heavy dew or repeated rainfall leads to shattering. So the goal now is to cut all the soybeans that are ready before switching back to corn.
The farm purchased a used dirt pan this summer. Son-in-law and farming partner, Brad Winter, has past construction experience and he’s been repairing waterways and areas of fields that suffered water damage this spring.
“I think we could run that dirt pan 24/7 until Christmas of 2020 and not get done with those jobs,” Wallis said. Cereal rye is being seeded into repaired waterways to hold the soil.
The yield monitor is painfully pointing out the sins of the past planting season, he noted. Spotty soybean stands are especially apparent.
“Next year, if Mother Nature will let us, we need to make sure the soils are right. As one of my neighbors said this week: We need to be over equipped to be efficient when you get that one week to go like gangbusters.”
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
Source: Pamela Smith, DTN
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