By Richard Oswald
DTN Special Correspondent
LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- The 1968 surfing documentary "The Endless Summer" asserted that by jetting around the world, it's possible to make one season last forever. But for View From the Cab farmers Lane Robinson of Cromwell, Indiana, and Leon Kriesel of Gurley, Nebraska, it seems to be spring that never ends.
"We were on the final run last week, and I think we're still on the final run," Lane told DTN late Sunday. "They're still finishing up tile on 90 acres." Once the custom tiler has drainage work done, probably this week, Lane and his farming partner, Eric Strater, will finish planting.
How are the neighbors getting along? "Some guys got done and some are still going. We're down to 9% or 10%," Lane said. Last week was dry with virtually no rain. "It's starting to dry out, but certainly nothing is stressed by any stretch of the imagination. It's been a good spring. I haven't run into anyone who has any complaints."
In addition to row crops, Lane raises over 600,000 Pekin ducks each year. Avian flu has been a concern throughout spring. Coverage by one national TV network caught Lane's attention when they reported that the rapid spread of avian flu left experts "flummoxed." "There's a word you don't hear very often," he said. Lane told DTN that as spring transitions to summer and temperatures rise, illness should subside. "At 85 degrees, the virus is essentially dead."
Some hay is being made in the area. "It looks good. It doesn't look as thick. It's not the same cutting last year's was. I'd call it an average crop," he said. That's because last year's long, wet spring accounted for more growth by delaying first cutting into June.
The local FSA office has been reviewing aerial photos of farms going back to 1985, checking for violations to Wetland Conservation compliance, also known as Swampbuster. Lane said the local NRCS was being "inundated" with reviews. "It's hard to see anything on those first grainy black-and-white pictures. But quality has improved in the last 10 years. You can't hide anything now," he said.
Once soybean planting is done, the next big thing is side-dressing N to the corn crop. Sandy Indiana soil won't contain anhydrous ammonia. "That's the very reason why we have no fall application at all," Lane said. First N application takes place with about 3 gallons of 28% liquid applied through the planter. Then comes a soil test followed by more 28% side-dressed to emerged corn fields. "We're still 10 days away on that. Since we use so much manure, I always nitrate test so we don't over apply." Maximum N target from all sources on irrigated land is 250 pounds per acre. Dry land N ranges from 160 to 175 pounds.
In addition to a manure credit, Lane allows for about 25 pounds N from previous-year soybeans.
Will summer ever come? "I talked to somebody in Winnipeg. It snowed there last week," Lane said.
Meanwhile, in western Nebraska, wet, cold spring weather has Leon and his neighbors on hold.
"Basically, it rained again. We had about an inch and a half," he said late Sunday. Then via email on Monday an update: "Add another 1.44 inches rain yesterday and today. North of Alliance around Hemingford, they received 3 inches, saw lots of water on my way home (from there)."
Leon heard radio reports of heavy rain near Nebraska's border with South Dakota as storms built to the north last week. "There was flooding along Highway 20 this side of Valentine," he said.
"Maybe sprayers will be able to roll. I don't know that ground could be tilled. Everybody's ready for a break in the rain, but nobody wants it to stop."
Last week wasn't a total loss for field work. Leon was able to spray fungicide on about 200 acres of wheat. "I talked to different people who said striped rust is coming north. They haven't found any in Nebraska yet, but it's going to be there." With wheat harvest just six weeks away, his biggest concern now is protecting the flag leaf from disease as wheat heads begin to emerge. That's because that one leaf is responsible for about 80% of the energy that goes into grain fill. "When you lose half the flag leaf to frost or disease, that's about 10% to 15% loss of yield," Leon said.
Besides striped rust, other diseases to be watched are common leaf rust, powdery mildew, tan spot and septoria. "Somebody said they thought they had barley yellow dwarf. We're having more disease than normal. It's because of the wet weather; we're not drying up between showers," Leon said.
It's not just rain, but cold conditions, too. Leon noted that, "about 70 miles north near Hemingford, wheat fields have a gray-white look. Up here near Crawford, they were in the 26-degree range from Monday into Tuesday. You know they've been hurt, but not how bad."
"Some corn hasn't gotten planted, dry land and maybe under some pivots. They could still go to sunflowers or proso millet. A hay crop. We can't really raise dry beans here. Irrigated land could go to pinto beans. Soybeans have been tried, but shorter-seasoned varieties combined with disease don't make them a good choice."
Some irrigated soybeans have seen good yields, perhaps as much as 60 bushels per acre. But without nearby buyers, delivery is a long haul. "They have to truck them close to 200 miles," Leon said.
Thanks to the endless spring, most weeds remain small, only about 1 to 3 inches tall. Cheat grass is headed. But once weather clears, catch-up spraying won't take long.
On the other hand, traditional summertime hay crops have some catching up of their own to do.
"Grass is really slow, I have not heard of any alfalfa yet," Leon said.
Richard Oswald can be reached at Talk@dtn.com
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