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Very tough year presents learning opportunities

Still a few days from harvest, XtremeAg farmers Dan Luepkes and Lee Lubbers are eager to get into the fields and start collecting crop performance data, while Chad Henderson learns from his hybrid trials.

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.

Our combines are running full speed harvesting corn this week. We’ve got 2,800 acres of corn to finish in the next few weeks. We are happy with the yields we are seeing so far, and we have not even gotten into the contest fields yet. We are seeing 180- to 210-bu/ac yields on our dryland corn, which is about 40 to 50 bu/ac above average. While a lot of the country is experiencing drought conditions, we have had a good amount of precipitation this season. The moisture helped with the yield boost, but at the same time, the increased cloud cover this year kept the yields lower than they could have been if they had received more sun exposure.

Red grain cart at harvest on Chad Henderson's Alabama farm
Photo credit: XtremeAg

Our double-crop beans are also looking very promising because of the rain. We are seeing 65 to 70 bu/ac in some areas with a farm average of 40 bu/ac. That is our goal for a double crop that is planted in late June after we harvested our wheat.

Field at harvest in Alabama
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We are cutting our hybrid trial field with eight different corn varieties. We will use this data to make decisions as to which hybrids perform best in our area and which ones should be on our irrigated or nonirrigated land. We will go big with the best performers next year.

There is no rest for those of us who farm in the South as we are already looking at our wheat varieties for this fall. As soon as we finish harvesting one of our corn fields, we are wasting no time taking fertility and soil data and getting ready to plant our winter wheat in October. 

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.

We attended the Farm Progress show in Decatur, Illinois. It was a good event, and I had the chance to talk to many suppliers and farmers about their season. I always learn something at these events and made a few purchases. 

From there I went to Pontiac, Illinois, to visit with Precision Planting’s Jason Webster at the PTI (Precision Technology Institute) farm. Jason is a heck of an asset at the farm, and he is conducting numerous trials, including an innovative system that uses a Netafim drip irrigation system from Netafim that is supplied using water from the drain tile lines. It looks like the difference between the drip-irrigated and non-irrigated land will be close to 100 bushels per acre on corn. If you ever get a chance to visit this farm, I recommend taking the opportunity since there is a lot to learn there.

Corn in Illinois September 2021
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We finally got back home to our drought-stricken crops. As we drove back home from the PTI farm, it became very clear that we are in one of the worst areas in the Midwest for moisture stress. Non-irrigated crops are either dead or dying, and yields are going to be well-below average this year. The worst area is not that large of an area, but we are farming right in the middle of it.

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.

As September rolls in, the mornings are getting cooler, even on the days where it is 95°F. at lunchtime. The cool mornings help take some of the stress of a very stressed crop. 

Our soybeans are turning yellow, and harvest will start sometime after September 20. We are happy with our corn and soybeans considering the lack of precipitation this season. It’s been a very dry and hot season, and we’ve been reminded just how much good crop management pays in drought years like this. Plant health looks really good in our fields right now.

Corn in South Dakota fall 2021
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We are still working on our ADS tile project and expect to have it finished this week. We are happy with the quality of work from the Hodgman Drainage installation team. As soon as they are done installing the tile, they will head over to Minnesota and run flat out until the ground gets too frozen 1 foot deep. The install crew has a long fall ahead of them.

Drainage installation in South Dakota
Photo credit: XtremeAg

We are back hauling wheat to the terminal again. We sat for over two weeks on that project as we waited for a freighter to arrive. Harvest season is in full swing for the Southern members of our XtremeAg group, and it is getting close to busting loose up here also. We are very interested to see how well the crop did in a very difficult year. Stay focused and stay safe everyone.

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