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View From the Cab
Thursday, May 23, 2019 12:03PM CDT
By Pamela Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- There's an adrenaline rush that comes with finally getting in the field. At least Scott Wallis is fairly certain it is more than all the Diet Mountain Dew he's been drinking to keep caffeinated during long hours in the tractor seat over the past week.

"Attitudes lift when you're finally doing something," said Wallis, who farms near Princeton, Indiana. "Not everything we've planted this year has gone in exactly as we like, but we have been able to keep moving this week and have seen some uptick in corn prices. It's important to keep focused on positives."

"For farmers, spring and the act of planting a seed symbolizes an act of faith and hope," Ashley Andersen, Blair, Nebraska said. While the prevented planting option is a financial decision available to some if and when the calendar runs out, the act of idling productive land can also be emotional.

"We farm. It is what we do. It defines us," said Ashley.

Wallis and Andersen are reporting from their respective regions as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.

Here's what's happening in their part of the world this week:


The coming weeks will be important ones for Scott Wallis, who farms with his family in southwestern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. Every planting season serves up a few curve balls, but 2019 has been more schizophrenic than most.

Things finally kicked into gear for the Wallis farm team last week as they slotted in 1,050 acres of corn using one 60-foot planter to bring them up to 50% planted as of May 20. They've yet to plant soybeans.

The most recent USDA NASS report said Indiana only had three days suitable for fieldwork this past week. Indiana recorded 14% planted, compared to a 73% planted five-year average for the week ended May 19.

So far Wallis said his emerged corn has spiked in 5.5 to six days -- and most within a 48- to 72-hour window -- to near-perfect stands. "I'm not going to say that it is going to yield more or less than the corn that was planted early in our area, but that April-planted corn took three weeks to emerge and stands look inconsistent," he said.

Over the last few days, Wallis Farms moved equipment to fields in Illinois where there have been fewer rain events, and the soil types tend to dry faster than those they farm in Indiana. The importance of field tile this year cannot be stressed enough, he observed.

A second planter to plant beans at the same time as corn would have been a convenient option this year given the compressed season. But convenience comes at a cost. His current planter cost $350,000 after adding fertilizer units and hydraulic down-force.

"The planter has all the bells and whistles except the high-speed option," he said. "We've all agreed that simultaneous planting will be a necessity if the farm grows more. With additional family members joining the farm this year, we have the labor to do it."

Rainfall to the north has farmers in this region on edge that the Wabash River might overflow and flood bottoms. The crop insurance option he elected to take doesn't include prevented planting, but he expects there will be acres in his area that will utilize the provision if conditions don't improve.

"Of what we farm, there's only about 20 to 40 acres that we might not be able to get to," he said. "Even then, we've planted soybeans fairly late into July in an emergency situation and still had respectable yields."

What defines this season so far is the inability to get any kind of game plan, Wallis added. "In a normal season, we farm one field and move to another and stay in areas. This year is a patchwork of going to whatever field is mostly fit and doing what you can within it.

"Our efficiency has certainly been reduced," he noted. The clay hills just haven't dried like the slightly rolling ground, he said.

That work-adrenaline-and-caffeine combination isn't foolproof, though. "We got some rain on Sunday that shut us down. I sat down in church that morning, and suddenly those long nights and early mornings hit me and I darn near slid right out of the pew," he said.


Andersen Farms doubled the total amount of acreage they have planted this week. Of their 2,250 acres, 75% of the corn is planted and 45% of the soybeans. "There's still a lot to plant in the area, especially in the bottoms," Ashley Andersen said.

"The crops have been slow to emerge, but they are looking good. There's been a couple of 90-degree days and that really helped, but we need more warm weather."

The farm's planting rate so far this year echoes that of the most recent USDA NASS planting report for Nebraska. For the week ended May 19, there were 5.0 days reported suitable for fieldwork. Nebraska farmers managed to plant 70% of the anticipated crop. That's behind 86% planted last year and for the five-year average. About 27% of the corn crop was reported as emerged, which is significantly behind the 49% last year. For soybeans, 40% of the crop was reported planted, behind last year's 64% and the 54% average.

The farm received 1.3 inches of rain this past week and several more inches are forecast, casting a cloudy view for any additional fieldwork this week.

Prevented planting is the phrase of the month, but Ashley said the family has never taken that route before, and hope remains they that will get the rest of the crop in the ground. The plan is to wait until the first part of June to decide whether they will switch some corn acres to soybeans. They'll wait until the first part of July to see if there's anything left before deciding to take prevented planting.

The first fields to emerge are often a lure for pests, but so far, they've not seen issues. Looking for other silver linings from this uncertain season, Ashley's husband, Jarett, showed his appreciation for the corn rallies this week by selling a little corn.

"We've been keeping busy with end-of-school activities and dance recitals," Ashley said. Meanwhile, 1-year-old Kasey is showing signs of becoming an escape artist. "Being on the run is going to take an all-new meaning this summer," she said.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


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