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View From the Cab
Thursday, June 20, 2019 2:45PM CDT
By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- One of the most valuable assets on Scott Wallis' farm this season has been having Dad close at hand. "It's comforting to have someone remind you that we've weathered tough times before," said Wallis, who farms near Princeton, Indiana, with his father, his son and son-in-law.

Ashley Andersen's father may farm a few Nebraska counties away from her current home near Blair, but he's never far from her heart. "He gave me a work ethic and passion for agriculture. I can't think of just one thing he taught me because I feel as though I learned so much from him," she said. Likewise, her husband, Jarett, has his father, Tim, by his side daily as they try to decide the best farming moves in a year when all the normal rules of how to put in a crop seem to have floated down the river.

DTN checked in with Andersen and Wallis just as Father's Day activities were winding down as part of our weekly View From the Cab series. Both farms were still plagued with weather issues, but the holiday served as a moment of reflection.

For Wallis, who was still experiencing large rain events and a foreboding forecast, 1983 remains the reference for the worst year on record for his particular farm. "We didn't go into the PIK [payment-in-kind] program that year and it taught us a valuable lesson. While we might wish for this current season to be better, we do have crop insurance that wasn't available back then.

"Dad has always said, 'Keep working hard and make the best decisions you can. If the Lord is willing, those things will get you to the next year,'" Wallis said. As more people join the operation, he hopes his legacy will be to make sure the next generation understands the same rigors and tenacity must be applied to the financial end of farming.

Here's what was happening this week as planting (at least the first round) was winding to a close on their Indiana and Nebraska farms.

SCOTT WALLIS: PRINCETON, INDIANA

Father's Day was bittersweet for Scott Wallis, Princeton, Indiana. The sweet part was he got to spend it with the family he loves. "I guess we're not tired of each other. We see each other every day and still want to go to lunch together," he said.

After church and lunch, he also got in a long nap, or in Wallis-speak: "Visited the inside of my eyelids." Nearly every farmer this year understands the need for a bit of rest as it seems farming hours have been long and oddly timed as soil conditions rather than daylight dictated tractor-seat time.

The bitter part of his holiday came as Wallis woke from his well-deserved nap to watch 5 inches of rain fall at the home farm. The Illinois farm only got 2.5 inches -- woo-hoo!

Wallis Farms finished planting corn on June 10 and soybeans on June 14, with the exception of a really low spot that isn't likely to dry out. Ironically, that June 10 date was the self-imposed deadline he had decided on for making a decision on whether to quit or continue planting corn.

That last corn he planted spiked fast and was off to the races -- even though it is a bit late out of the gate. How much of it survived the pounding soon after emergence is still a question.

"We've been out evaluating fields, and we don't know how big the Patoka River is going to get. That will determine how much flooding we have," he said.

Massive storms swept through central Indiana over the weekend. Wallis was giving thanks for missing the destruction that came with tornadoes, but the water dumped in those central regions of the state will filter down to him via the Wabash and White rivers and make it difficult for the Patoka to drain. "If the staging forecasts are correct, we could lose 100 acres or so," he said.

Wallis would like to say these massive rain events are unusual. But 50 years of rainfall records at his farm show that big rains happen. "It just seems that we are now having these 100-year rains about every other year," Wallis said. "The difference this year is the farm has had 34 inches of rain so far for the year. The five-, 10- and 25-year average for the entire year for the farm is around 50 inches. So we've had 70% of our rainfall already this year."

The USDA NASS Crop Progress report showed Indiana continues to lag behind the other I-States, but corn planting increased from 64% last week to 84% as of June 17. Indiana soybean planting was reported at 64% complete this week compared to 42% last week and 98% last year.

How much late planting will mean in terms of yield sacrifice is still a question. Approximately 50% of Wallis Farms' corn acres were planted between May 12 and May 15. "We don't think we've lost much there -- maybe 1% to 2%," he said. A good chunk of the rest was planted by early in June, and he figures most of those acres retain 90% of its yield potential. Soybeans were all planted behind corn and not into the best of field conditions. Wallis figures he can retain 80% of the yield potential if the remainder of the season cooperates.

So far, the farm has had to replant 180 acres of corn. "Most of the rest of the crop looks really good. We've gotten nitrogen on all the corn that was planted in May, and we've been scouting fields for weed pressure. We had a couple hundred acres planted into a stale seedbed, and we got that sprayed in a timely fashion," he said.

How well some corn is rooted this year is a concern, Wallis noted. "I've seen some corn in our area on some of the clay soils rolling when it wasn't very hot."

When a farmer is over being flabbergasted by unbelievable weather events, it's important to bail yourself out with something positive, Wallis said. When the bearings went out in their tillage tool, a neighboring farmer stepped up and let them borrow an implement for several days. Wallis said they needed it to tear up a cornfield that hadn't emerged well and to work bean ground that needed opened up to allow drying.

"The dealer was working hard to find parts and offered to take some from a new tool, which we also appreciated, but borrowing was faster.

"For me, that's all part of living in an agricultural community. We work together to get through," Wallis said.

ASHLEY ANDERSEN: BLAIR, NEBRASKA

If the Andersen family photos from Dad's Day are any indication, a bigger tractor cab may be needed in the future. Ashley, Jarett and three kids crammed themselves into the cab and celebrated the big day together.

"The kids all made handmade cards for Jarett, but the real treat was to actually be in the field," Ashley Andersen said.

Andersen started documenting their special times in the tractor cab when she and Jarett started dating. They've grown to a family of five in eight years -- making for some tight elbow room in a tiny space. But she says the only time the kids get upset is when it's time to go home.

The little farmers come by it honestly. "Jarett always says he learns from his father, Tim, every day. From his grandfather, he treasures the saying: 'Take care of the farm and it will take care of you.'

"We try to keep that saying in mind with everything we do," Andersen said.

The Andersens will have 180 prevented planting acres on a bottomland farm they rented for the first time this year. They were able to get 160 acres on that farm planted to soybeans. "There were a few wet spots in the field," Andersen said. "However, we were expecting more water releases and didn't think we'd be able to plant anything there. But the Missouri River kept dropping."

The early planted crop looks great, Andersen added. "I know it is hard to believe, but we could actually use a bit of rain. Later-planted crop looks fine, but it is way behind. How the crop fares from here on out depends on the weather."

For the week ended June 16, 2019, there were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA NASS report. Corn planted was 98% compared to 100% last year. Soybeans planted was reported at 91%, behind 100% last year and 98% average. Emerged was 73%, well behind 96% last year, and behind 92% average.

"The guys aren't sitting still just because it is raining -- they are fixing waterways or working in some fashion," she said.

"It's hard to make decisions in a year like this. When you are hauling corn, it seems like you should be spraying. When you finally get to spraying, it starts to rain and you don't want to start to spray and get halfway through a field," she said.

Still, with everything that's happened, the farm is still hoping for yields to reach trend line. The later-planted crop emerged fast, and if it gets heat units, could make up for some lost time.

"We don't have to look very far down the road to see the devastation from flooding for perspective. There's a lot of cleanup still ongoing in our area," she said.

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(AG/CZ)


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