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Tough summer has crops limping into fall

XtremeAg farmers Chad Henderson, Lee Lubbers, and Dan Luepkes are ready to end a very tough 2021 season as their crops face hurricanes, hot temperatures, and wind events in the final weeks before harvest.  

Chad Henderson – Madison, Alabama

Chad Henderson is a part of a five-generation farming operation in Madison, Alabama. Henderson Farms operates over 8,000 acres of dryland and irrigated corn, dryland soybeans, wheat, and dryland and irrigated double-crop soybeans. When not farming, Chad can be found carrying on another proud family tradition as a drag racer for Henderson Racing.

We are keeping a close eye on the path of Hurricane Ida as it continues moving inland after making landfall on the Gulf Coast. We are projecting 2 to 3 inches of rain from the storm, but the winds that hurricanes bring are of the most concern. We’re praying for less wind this time. The amount of rain we end up getting will determine when we can get in the field and harvest corn.

Grain bins on Chad Henderson's Alabama farm
Photo credit: XtremeAg

The last of our wheat is being hauled out to make storage space for the incoming corn. We’ve scouted our cornfields, and they are ready to harvest; moisture levels are between 22% and 24%. The combines are ready to hit the field as soon as Ida moves on through. 

A John Deere combine getting ready for harvest
Photo credit: XtremeAg

Lee Lubbers – Gregory, South Dakota

Lee Lubbers of Gregory, South Dakota, grew up in the farming tradition, and remembers well using leftover scholarship money as the down payment for his first tractor and rent for 200 acres. Today, he farms more than 17,000 acres of dryland soybeans, corn, and wheat. Lubbers says one of the most important things to him is to always be learning and challenging himself to build an operation and a legacy that the next generation can be proud of.

Lee Lubbers' daughter in a roll of black tile line
Photo credit: XtremeAg

The South Dakota summer is winding down. The girls started school earlier this week. I think it’s probably harder on Dad than the girls when school rolls around. They love school, but I miss having them with me as we check the fields. One of my favorite parts of summer is riding around checking soybeans and drinking fruit smoothies with the girls. Before we know it, they’ll be riding in the air seeder or grain cart.

Lee Lubbers' daughters next to large rolls of black tile on his South Dakota farm
Photo credit: XtremeAg

On the weather side, it’s been a dry August … well below normal in terms of precipitation and above normal in terms of heat. Our corn crop varies from extremely stressed to just stressed. It’s amazing that we still have some decent corn considering the conditions that the crop has had to endure this summer. Our soybeans are really stressed right now. Any day when the temperature is over 90°F. has the beans turning silver and looking rough in most areas of the field. If we can get a rain this week to help finish filling out our pods, we would be satisfied considering the stress they have been under all summer.

Tiling machine
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We are starting a large tile project this week. It is not something normally seen in our region. We will be tiling the draws and low spots on 1,100 acres of wheat stubble. We have Hodgman drainage from Minnesota installing the tile, and we are really impressed with them and their professionalism. We decided to go with tile from Advanced Drainage Systems. They make a great product and have gone above and beyond to make it all happen in an area not known for tiling projects. It is definitely a large investment, yet we feel confident that the ROI will be there over the coming years. Looking ahead, we plan on adding tile to specific wheat fields over the next few summers. It’s a good time for everyone involved to tie into a large project like this, and my daughters think the semi-loads of tile are the “most awesome play set ever!” Stay safe everyone.

Dan Luepkes – Oregon, Illinois

Dan Luepkes farms in Oregon, Illinois, with his son. Together they farm 1,800 acres of dryland and irrigated corn and soybeans, along with hay. He uses subsurface drip irrigation and pivots on his irrigated crops. He also manages a 200-head cattle operation.

My son David commented this week that this was a bad place to farm this year. We had a frost on May 30 that stunted and killed some corn, then drought conditions all summer, and now winds that have blown a lot of our corn down.

Damaged corn in Illinois
Photo credit: XtremeAg

Our lighter ground has given into the stress; corn and beans are dead or dying in our local area a month before they are supposed to. Our location custom chopping man says he can’t keep up with demand this year because everyone wants to get it chopped before it’s all dead and too late. The better soils held out longer, but even the crop on our better soils is giving up now. It’s in tough years like this when we can see the differences in our management practices vs. some of our neighboring fields. The time we spend focusing on improving soil biology with multiple fertilizer applications is showing up dramatically now.

Harvest is coming fast. Be safe everyone.

Xtreme Ag Logo is a team of the nation’s top producers who have come together to share their experience, expertise, knowledge and farming practices with other farmers. Members get access to exclusive content from the team as well as one-on-one support for their own farming operation. Visit for more information.

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