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View From the Cab
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 2:22PM CDT

By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Almost anywhere sky and earth meet, farmers grow crops for a hungry world. That's the way it is for View From the Cab farmers Jamie Harris of Madison, Fla., and Karen Johnson of Avoca, Iowa, as they watch it all come together.

Normal highs at Jamie's family farm, Jimmy Harris and Sons, would be in the 90s, with sunny skies and a persistent chance for rain almost every day. Jamie has seen as much as an inch of rain fall from sunny skies. "They always say if you don't like the weather in Florida, wait 30 minutes," he said. But while the past week was cloudy, with highs in the mid-80s and good chances of rain each day, precipitation still managed to pass him by. "Everything fizzled out before it got to us," he told DTN late Tuesday. "We've been watering peanuts and double-crop soybeans pretty heavy."

Corn fields that blacklayered last week should have dried enough by now for harvest. Clouds and cooler temperatures might be one reason why corn harvest is delayed. As it is, grain moisture levels seem stuck in the upper- to mid-30s. "It usually drops to 28 in a week," Jamie said. But while Jamie's harvest hasn't begun, he said a neighboring farmer has been picking corn.

Pumpkin planting is complete. A spiked wheel was used to punch seed holes into plastic covered beds. Then seven part-time laborers placed seeds in the holes by hand. Drip irrigation tubes laid under the plastic will keep soil favorably moist.

Iron clay pea planting is underway now that fields are worked and fertilized with a homogenized dry blend of 4-14-30. Homogenized means that each pellet contains an identical analysis, so spread patterns aren't affected by varying densities of ingredients. Soil moisture should be adequate for even germination. Peas usually emerge from a planting depth of one-half to 1 inch deep, in about three days. About a day after planting, a pre-emerge herbicide application of Valor, Prowl, and Dual goes down. After that, weed control options are limited. "The only post we have is Pursuit," Jamie said, "and it's only effective when weeds are small." So far only one field has pigweed resistant to ALS-based herbicides, while three other fields show glyphosate resistance. "That's why we have to pull pigweeds in those fields by hand," he explained.

Soybeans are being sprayed for Kudzu bugs, not because of feeding damage -- they really don't eat that much -- but because they can spread Asian rust from nearby Kudzu vines. Jamie's fields are far enough south that frost doesn't interrupt the lifecycle of Kudzu, which allows rust to overwinter. Even so, only one of Jamie's soybean fields has been affected by Asian rust since it was discovered in the southeastern U.S. several years ago. That's because regular applications of fungicide accompanying insecticide applications hold it, and other diseases, at bay.

Another factor in rust management is that soybeans in Jamie's area of the Florida Panhandle aren't grown intensively. Wide spacings of soybean fields, sometimes as much as two or three miles apart, keep rust from spreading from host to host. "It would spread much easier in the Midwest," Jamie said.

Peanuts in the reproduction phase are still receiving applications of fungicide and micronutrients. "They're getting manganese, sulfur, and boron, plus a little nitrogen to perk 'em up. I like it from a plant health standpoint," Jamie said. "It only costs about $12 (per acre)."

All Jamie's corn is fully mature now regardless of whether it was a 116- or 111-day hybrid. Southern rust infection is prevalent in every field with browned foliage. Soybeans are blooming, but Jamie hasn't noticed any pod set. "They're really loaded. We have one of our best full-crop soybean crops," he said. And all field borders have been mowed without additional encounters with bumblebees. "We used a small cab tractor to finish up," he told DTN.

It's been a clear week and starting to get dry at the Johnson's Iowa farm as Karen and Bill watch the skies for rain. A nice soaker (nothing in the forecast yet) would be nice to see.

Iowa skies aren't always sunny. A hail adjuster has been to the farm to check corn and soybeans damaged by hail several weeks ago, in May and June. Because severe stalk bruising is apparent, a settlement has been postponed until just before harvest so plants that break over throughout the summer can be included in the adjustment. That was on Monday of last week. Later in the day, a summer intern from the Johnson's ag supplier, Crop Production Services, stopped by with field scouting results and questions about their satisfaction with CPS services.

When evening workloads permit, there's time to watch the tube. Karen was disappointed to see a young Iowa farmer eliminated from competition on the Bachelorette TV series. Was the farmer's public image a problem? "The show did not portray Iowa or Iowa farmers in a very positive light," she said.

Bill and son Jerod took an open cow to the Dunlap Livestock Auction in Dunlap, Iowa, on Tuesday, and came home with 20 times as many. In this case, the return trip included 10 cow-calf pairs. Depending on size, pairs are bringing about $2,100 to $3,200. The young cows with 300-pound calves at their side will replace older cows on the Johnson farm to be culled at weaning time this fall. Cow demand is good in southwest Iowa, where small herds are still popular and well supported with prices from $1.10 to $1.20 per pound for cull cows all the way up to $2.25 for 800-pound yearlings. One thing always leads to another. More cows mean more bull power. On Saturday, Bill traveled to the Denison Livestock Auction and came home with a new 2-year-old Angus bull.

Weeds and grass grow every day. That means Karen has plenty to do keeping the farmstead spiffy. And markets require daily reading just to keep up. While Bill continues hauling the last of their corn crop to a local ethanol plant, Karen has been watching corn prices. "Market news says bids in North Dakota for corn are in the $2-and-some-cent range," she said.

Soybeans are blooming, showing small pods near the bottom of plants. Corn pollination is moving along with about half the silks brown. Some corn on bottomland is looking better, but is shallow rooted due to excessively wet conditions earlier this summer.

Movie theaters were once common in rural communities where weekend summer entertainment always included going to the "show." Harlan, Iowa, still boasts a theater. That's where Karen and Bill went on Friday evening to see the movie "Jersey Boys," a rock-and-roll group popular when they were teenagers. "A good flick about '60's singers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons," Karen said.

News last week of a jetliner crash in the Ukraine reminded Karen of something other than rain falling from the Iowa sky. That's because July 19 was the anniversary of an airplane crash at Sioux City Iowa in 1989.

"One hundred and eighty-four survived and 112 didn't make it. Today was part of three days of events and memorials for the deceased and the survivors. A very sad accident that many who were involved said they would never forget," she said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at

Follow Richard Oswald on Twitter @RRoswald


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