By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent
LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- As daylight hours go, summer solstice marks the great divide in seasons where April and August are only foothills in terms of light. Just as April's 13-plus hours of sunshine led up to summer, now the same 13-plus hours of August sun has View From the Cab farmers Karen Johnson of Avoca, Iowa, and Jamie Harris of Madison, Fla., headed down the other side.
Jamie has one more thing to do before fall: It's time to plant broccoli. A new Monosem planter in six-row-wide configuration has been set up with special seed boxes and twin-row units on 40-inch centers about 8 inches apart. The specially modified low-clearance planter, designed for small-seeded vegetable crops, requires a finely tilled seed bed for adequate seed placement. A knife similar to those used on anhydrous ammonia applicators serves as an opener on the planter. Seed is planted only one-fourth inch deep.
To create a good broccoli seed bed, corn residue was burned, leaving behind only cobs. Those will be disced under. "That's the worst thing about specialty crops," Jamie told DTN. "Most require heavy tillage. The planter can't have any debris."
Iron clay peas are all planted as of Friday, followed by a just-in-time Sunday rain of 0.9 inch to spur germination.
Pumpkin and watermelon plants are starting to run. Pumpkins could begin to bloom this week. Honey bees are important to their successful pollination. Toward that end, 50 bee hives -- that's about one hive per acre -- will be set out this week. Native honeybees aren't too common, but there are a few. "Truthfully, I haven't seen that many honeybees naturally, but I've seen more the last two or three years than before," Jamie said.
Soybean and peanut fields missed most of the rain last week. "It's been spotty," Jamie said. Irrigation on those fields continues. Half the fields got some rain while the rest received nothing at all. A second fungicide application is planned for soybeans. Before that happens, Jamie will scout for velvet bean caterpillars. If numbers are high, an insecticide will be added to the fungicide.
Earliest soybeans are up to chest high, podded, and filling. Double-crop soybeans are up to thigh high, partially podded, and blooming. Jamie told DTN that despite a two-week dry spell which caused pod abortion, he expects the best dryland soybean crop of his life. "They might have been 80 or 90 bpa," he said. "They still have potential for 50 to 60, which is extremely good for dryland."
Peanuts are three to four weeks away from harvest. Equipment is ready to go when they are.
Jamie and his partners at Jimmy Harris and Sons family farm moved about 20,000 bushels of new-crop corn last week. It took two semi-trucks two days to deliver it to a local feed mill where it will be processed into chicken feed for Pilgrim's Pride. A merchandiser in Texas handled the purchase, offering $0.50 over basis for a net price of $4.12. "That's better than $3.12," Jamie observed.
About 100 acres of dryland corn were picked last week, averaging 105 bpa.
Fall is traditionally the time when feeder calves are weaned and sent to market. Southern calves lead the way. Jamie's dad Jimmy sold their Brangus-cross calf crop last week. Steers weighing 600 to 650 pounds brought $2.75 per hundredweight. Heifers 100 pounds lighter averaged $2.24. "Feedlots in Oklahoma and Texas are generally where cattle from our market go," Jamie said.
Meanwhile, in Avoca, Iowa, Karen, her husband Bill, and their son Jerod have been making third-cutting hay while the sun shines -- and sometimes when it doesn't. "It's been very hard to get the hay made because there is so much dew each morning and it doesn't go off until 10 or 11 a.m.," Karen told DTN via email.
High humidity and less-than-perfect drying conditions had third cutting on the ground for nearly a week. After being mowed last Friday, Jerod was able to begin baling at 9 p.m. Thursday night. "Bill stayed in the field to touch up windrows. They both quit shortly after midnight when the baling was done," Karen said.
"We always bale at night, just after the dry hay has toughened back up a little from dew. The leaves don't all shatter off ... it's important to save as many leaves as possible because the leaves contain a lot of valuable protein," Karen explained. After mowing, raking and then tedding hay twice to fluff windrows for better drying, the rain-free end-product yielded a respectable 1 1/2 tons per acre.
Earlier cuttings in big round bales were initially stacked inside in single layers on wooden pallets. The pallets improve air circulation for more thorough drying and less spoilage. Once cured, Bill restacked bales three high in the hay shed to make room for more. "I helped move the pallets out of his way so he could move the bales out and helped put the pallets back in proper places for him to stack bales back in the shed," Karen said. Beginning at daylight Saturday morning, Karen helped haul in new bales with her 7000 Ford tractor hooked to a hay trailer. Bill moved the bales inside. They finished before noon.
After getting off to a late start, and struggling through numerous heavy rains, this year's corn crop may not be the best for everyone. Karen has read two analysts' accounts of trouble spots across the Corn Belt where weather has negatively affected yield. She's hopeful prices will recover in the fall. "I know some areas were incredibly dry and some have still missed rains; some got planted late or not at all; some had lots of water and ponding to deal with; some had hail and high winds that did some damage. We don't think we'll be combining any corn until Oct. 1 or after, a couple weeks late for us," she said.
Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Karen lost one of her favorite stress relievers with the death of Robin Williams. "(He) was certainly good for our souls." A sense of humor helps with country living -- especially in deer country. "We went to a Harlan repair shop this afternoon to get an estimate to repair the deer damage to our 2012 Chrysler 300 from hitting a deer on the highway Saturday night -- it's to be a whopping $3,200; another reason I do not like deer!" she said.
Hot spots for bean leaf beetles and aphids are showing up in soybeans along with grasshoppers. A helicopter sprayed the Johnsons' soybeans last week. Soybeans are between knee and waist high with pods beginning to fill as blooming continues. Fields most severely burned earlier by Cobra herbicide applications show podded branches closer together than usual.
Goss's wilt is apparent in the edges of corn fields with brown leaves showing up. Yield effects are uncertain. Rains in the area have been patchy from sprinkles up to 6 inches.
On Thursday, Bill, daughter Kris, and grandson Dakota attended the Iowa State Fair while Karen stayed home to mow. On Sunday, Bill and Karen had noontime dinner at a Staleys Fired Chicken fundraiser for their Lutheran church in Shelby. Karen noted that in their part of farm country, lunch is dinner while the evening meal is "supper."
With better cattle prices and plenty of forage, Bill has been enlarging their cow herd via recent purchases of bred cows. Those purchases have lengthened this year's calving season -- along with problems that sometimes come with it -- into late summer. The vet's diagnosis of a three-day-old calf that hadn't been doing well was that the calf had a birth defect and had to be put down.
"Needless to say, Bill was disappointed that it turned out this way -- Bill loves his calves," Karen said.
Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com
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