By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor
DECATUR, Illinois (DTN) -- Ashley Andersen needs more than a few sunny days and they can't come soon enough. The Blair, Nebraska, farmer has a mostly mature corn and soybean crop standing in muddy fields and a cold, wet forecast on the horizon.
"As of Monday we hadn't harvested a thing as it seems to rain every other day. We finally broke open some fields on Tuesday, but we are racing against more weather," said Andersen, who farms with her husband, Jarett.
Andersen has been reporting from her portion of east central Nebraska as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.
Also giving voice to the season has been Scott Wallis, Princeton, Indiana. It is the 23rd installment of this weekly series, which has proven to be on ongoing saga of challenging weather conditions.
After two days of drizzle, Wallis Farms finally recorded four-tenths of an inch of rain over the past weekend. Measurable rainfall was non-existent in September in this region of southwestern Indiana. Whether the piddly precipitation will be enough to fill out some late-planted corn and soybeans is still a question.
DTN Senior Ag Meterologist Bryce Anderson says Wallis can expect from one-quarter to one-half inch of rain to fall Friday into Saturday, followed by another half-inch or so next Tuesday and Wednesday. "Temperatures will stay well above the freezing mark. Daytime conditions will actually be very warm to hot Wednesday and Thursday before a cooler trend that accompanies the late-week rain," said Anderson.
The eastern Nebraska territory prediction is for more of the same, Anderson fears. "Rain and then cold temperatures will disrupt harvest. Eastern Nebraska will have from three-tenths to three-quarters of an inch rain Thursday, followed by a cold snap with overnight lows of around the freezing mark, and then another round of light rain of around one-quarter inch next Monday and Tuesday," he predicted.
This week, the farmers review harvest prospects; talk about the piece of agriculture technology that they wouldn't want to live without and discuss why their favorite sports teams both have them seeing red this time of year.
Here's more about what's happening in these regions of the farming world:
SCOTT WALLIS -- PRINCETON, INDIANA:
Don't even think about trying to separate Scott Wallis from his phone. In fact, the Princeton, Indiana, farmer is so used to having it as an extension of himself that it didn't register with him to consider it "essential" when quizzed about technology.
Today, multiple farming partners are only a call away, despite the operation being spread over 35 miles and two states. It's hard to even remember when the parts department, brokers and yes, even journalists, weren't as close as a voice command.
Still, what makes Wallis flinch is the thought of being without autosteer. "There's so much going on in the cab with the planter these days that I'm not sure I could take advantage of all of that if I had to worry about steering too," he said.
All 1,040 acres of corn Wallis Farms planted in early May has been harvested -- averaging 230 bushel per acre (bpa) and 60 lb. test weight. Wallis credits timely inputs with helping the corn hang on to dry matter, despite some droughty conditions late in the reproductive stages.
"We ran some tests in 2018 adding some micronutrients," Wallis said. "Strip tests showed enough of an advantage to boron to run it across all our corn acres this year." Boron was applied at V5 and again along with a fungicide treatment at R2-R3.
He also tried sugar. The theory is that it will feed the microbial population in the soil, thereby increasing the likelihood that the plant will process more nutrients and increase yield. Wallis put out sugar at planting, V-5 and with the late fungicide application. All three applications amounted to a $4.50 per acre cost.
"At that cost, we took a leap of faith on it," Wallis said. "Some studies show it also helps with standability."
Some of the corn he's harvested was remarkably dry at 16% to 18%. "We had about 300 acres where the nitrogen got away from us," he noted. "The river didn't get up on it, but the water table there is so high that I think we lost some nitrogen. That corn was significantly drier than anything else we've harvested this year." Everything else has headed to the drier, coming in at 20% or more.
Wallis cut his first fields of beans this past weekend. Planted June 6 and June 7, they had little rain late in the reproductive cycle. The first field yielded 71 bpa and subsequent fields were averaging around 65 bpa. Moisture levels are running 10% to 13%.
"I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised," Wallis said. "Typically, if we plant beans that late and we have a good year, we can expect 75 bpa top end."
For soybeans to reach 80 bpa or above in Indiana, it requires planting in May or earlier, Wallis said. "So far seed size is a bit smaller this year. While not the best crop we've ever raised, they will pay some bills."
Overall, soybean yields have seen marked improvement over the past decade, he agreed. "We are variable rate seeding so they will stand properly. We put fungicides across everything. We're trying micronutrients. We fertilize beans.
"Today we are paying as much attention to beans as we do corn and yields reflect that," he said.
Wallis was driving the combine when a tire slipped off the rim this weekend -- the second such incident this season and the same tire. "I was so aggravated with myself that I couldn't even use the downtime to take a nap.
"It was drizzling and sometimes before a rain, beans will cut really nice. I got 85 acres cut that day, but I had my sights set on 125 to 130 acres before that breakdown," he said.
A metaphor for this farming season might well be found in Wallis' beloved St. Louis Cardinals as they've battled back from the brink of elimination in postseason play. Wallis gifted his playoff tickets to his sons-in-law on Monday and hopes to get his turn as the team keeps winning.
There were many times this season that the Wallis Farm team felt their backs were against the wall, he admitted. October is the month it all plays out and these farmers have their rally caps on.
ASHLEY ANDERSEN -- BLAIR, NEBRASKA:
"We hardly know what baseball is in Nebraska" said Ashley Andersen. "But you can't feel any more Nebraskan than when listening to the Huskers play football while picking corn." she said.
Sports -- women's volleyball, in particular -- is a passion for Andersen and has been a welcome distraction this fall. An avid player in high school and college, her own daughter has recently begun playing the game.
This weekend, volleyball terms like dump and dig could take on different meaning as Nebraska readies for more rain and the possibility of snow. "I guess the bright side is if it freezes, we might be able to run," Andersen said, while trying to untangle a string trimmer. Yes, she's still mowing the yard, thanks to all the recent rain.
For the week ended Oct. 6, 2019, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service rated Nebraska topsoil moisture supplies as 78% adequate, and 14% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated as 93% adequate to surplus.
Field corn condition rated 56% good and 17% excellent. Corn mature was 74%, behind 91% last year and 85% for the five-year average. Corn harvested was 12%, behind 22% last year and 17% average.
Soybean condition rated 62 % good and 12% excellent. Soybeans dropping leaves was 86%, behind 95% last year and 93% average. Soybeans harvested was 14%, well behind 35% last year and behind a 30% average.
Variability is the word to best describe the crop, Andersen said. "Fields that look like they could be harvested line up next to fields that are as green as green can be," she said.
The same could be said for the yield monitor as the combine chomps through the first fields of the season, Ashley added. "Moisture is at 18% to 20% and yields seem about average, but definitely finding good spots and poor spots within each field.
"We have beans dry enough to harvest, but getting to them is the problem," she said.
The terraced landscape and slopes in this region make fit fields even more important. In fact, when it comes to technology needs, the terrain causes them to name swath control as the technology tool they find most essential. Planter row shutoffs and spray boom section control are critical to input cost savings with the many end and point rows.
While technology to help on the farm side rules, make no mistake that the most used piece of machinery in this family is the washer and dryer. "You can always tell when it is bin clean out time because there's usually a pile of corn or soybeans somewhere on the floor where those clothes came off," she said.
A little dust might now be welcome to mud as this year begins to filter to a close. "We did not want another wet fall, but here we are," she said.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.