Views from the Cab

By David Tollefson, Columnist

Yesterday I turned on my air conditioning in my house for the first time this year. I think the high was in the mid-80s. But the uncomfortable part was the dew point, which at my place read 72. That is in the uncomfortable range.

I spent some hours yesterday on an open tractor with an umbrella, and there was a breeze of over 10 miles per hour, which kept things very comfortable for the time I spent on that wide-open tractor in open fields.  

All of us that live around Pope County, know that the spring has been unusually cool and wet. Our crops went in the ground essentially a month later than last year.

From my observations, I think the planting progress in Pope County is essentially 100%. Any ground that you see in the country that has not been worked, or anyway not planted with anything, is probably not going to see a crop. Some farmers are electing to use “prevent plant,” and get a payment of some sort in lieu of planting a crop.

From my trusty (sometimes) Weather Channel forecast, Wednesday has a high forecast of 79, Thursday 80, Friday 84, Saturday 90, Sunday 102 and Monday 102.  

Overnight I had a little shower of .11 inches, which is ok, but it would have been nice to have a bit more. I have a few soybeans that are laying in dry dirt that have not yet germinated yet – not a whole lot, but they will come when we get more rain.

As you can imagine, the spring has been crazy for planting. My wheat is generally on higher ground, so close to 100% of the wheat acres did get planted.  

For the second year in a row, my wheat planting has been followed by very hard, pounding rains. Last year the wheat was not yet emerged, but this year most of it was up. But both years resulted in rather severe erosion – worse this year. That is unusual, since in previous years the harder rains have come later, when the crops are more established.

For my corn, one field of 65 acres was planted a week before the other field of 95 acres. Generally, we try to plant all the corn at the same time, for the sake of convenience with the 24-row planter.

After the second field of 95 acres was planted (getting 100% of the field, which has some tiling) the low spots that were tiled filled up with water, and a few acres drowned out since the tile could not take the water away fast enough.

Almost every farmer in the area in this planting season has had to deal with low spots, tiled or not, that just did not dry out enough for proper planting. Some of the early-planted corn that drowned out in spots has been re-planted but there the farmer takes a chance that another heavy rain can drown out the re-planted corn also. So it’s a gamble.

For soybeans, on my farm we used the 24-row corn planter to plant some of them, and a 45-foot, 15 inch no-till drill for the rest of them. Some of the fields were planted into tilled ground, while a limited number of acres were planted right into corn ground that was merely disked last fall after harvest. It will be interesting to compare the rates of emergence of the seed in the different areas.  

For the lower, blacker soil in the wet spots, some of that soil gets lumpy and hard as it dries out. So, is it better to plant into the lumpy ground, or directly into the wet soil where you can get the planting unit into the ground, but do you get coverage of the seed from the closing wheels however they are arranged? Time will tell. This has been a VERY unusual year, to put it mildly.  

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In the Wednesday, June 15 column in DTN/The Progressive Farmer, weatherman John Baranick has comments about the above-mentioned heat. Here it is, in part:

After a slow start to the season, planting progress is mostly back to the normal pace across most of the country.  There are still some slow spots including North Dakota for all crops but sugarbeets, Kansas in soybeans, Pennsylvania in corn, and Minnesota in spring wheat. But most of the country has caught up to normal planting pace, quite the amazing feat given the weather conditions during the last couple months. Attention now turns to growth and development and the weather from here on out will be much more tied to the impact on plants than on equipment.

It has been cold across the northern half of the country this spring and growing degree days (GDDs) are behind normal. In contrast, southern areas have been much warmer and are near or ahead of their normal total.

Heat has been needed to rapidly increase plant growth in these areas that are behind either by lower temperatures, later planting, or a combination of both.

Another day of high temperatures occurred June 14 ahead of a cold front that is sweeping across the northern states this week. Conditions will cool down behind the front, but the coolness is still close to normal and only short-lived. By June 18, temperatures will again be well above normal in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, with highs approaching or exceeding 100F.

However, heat and dryness can quickly change the outlook in just a few short weeks. Northern areas of the country, that will be more on the roller-coaster ride of temperatures, should still see periods of showers moving through during the next few weeks. However, those will come with thunderstorms, and coverage is never guaranteed; there are always areas that get missed.

The ridge of high pressure that is causing the favorable heat in the short term, may end up causing more harm in the long-term with increased dryness and drought through the summer.

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Please contact David Tollefson with thoughts or comments on this or future columns at: