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Farmers lose holiday, gain early yields

Staff writer

With moisture readings below 14 percent and ground conditions hard and dry, Darcy Nickel saw no reason not to be in the field cutting wheat Memorial Day weekend. A

Along with his father Floyd Nickel, Darcy began cutting Saturday and by Monday was in full swing with the 2012 wheat harvest, even though the calendar still said May.

“This is by far the earliest we’ve ever started cutting,” Darcy Nickel said. “We went June 7 one year, but the way I see it, there is no reason not to be out here.”

Nickel, of rural Goessel, said the ground was just right and the wheat kernels in top shape for high yields.

“You lose bushels if it gets much drier,” he said. “Right now we are up against no discount for moisture, and the display is showing yields anywhere from 78.6 to over 112 bushels per acre.”

A GPS display module inside Nickel’s air-conditioned combine cab digitally displayed instant moisture content and yield estimations as the headers rolled cut wheat through the machine outside.

“We budget for 50 bushels per acre,” he said. “So we are looking pretty good so far here.”

Nickel, 38, said he grew up farming with his dad and always had a special interest in harvest. The two are partners in Nickel Farms, LLC.

“I’ve always rode along with dad,” he said. “I can remember watching fireworks as a kid from the combine cabs at Fourth of July.”

Nickel said the jump in harvest holidays, from Fourth of July to Memorial Day, was explainable.

“There were a couple of things that came into play to make this an early harvest,” he said. “First of all, we planted around Sept. 29 into failed corn acreage, so there was extra fertilizer left over from that. Then it never really got cold during the winter, so everything warmed up quicker from the dormant stage. And this spring, the weather was just right to get the wheat ready early.”

Nickel said the variety of seed planted also might have something to do with early, good, harvest results.

“We’ve been selecting better yield varieties for years,” he said. “The genetics are there for disease resistance, shorter dormant periods, and therefore, less time to have to tolerate the heat.”

With an eye to fall crops, Nickel combined a round on the exterior of one of his wheat fields on Monday, and then began a slash across the middle in a diagonal line plotted by his GPS system.

“I follow this guideline at an angle,” he said. “That way when I get ready to double crop in beans, there won’t be a big windrow of chaff that takes up a whole row of beans.”

Nickel will plant soybeans in straight east-west rows, making the most of wheat stalk groundcover without sacrificing seedling coverage on the beans.

“We are double-cropping more and more,” he said. “Mostly it’s because we can get a double-crop revenue contract from the co-op which guarantees our money back even if the second crop fails.”

Nickel said Nickel Farms also plants milo in the fall, but no revenue contracts are available for that crop.

“For right now I am just happy to be harvesting,” Nickel said. “This is about the only time of the year I get paid, so yeah, it is kind of a big deal.”

Several other combines were rolling in Marion County over the weekend, with grain trucks lining up at local elevators to dump, store, and sell wheat.

Cooperative Grain & Supply grain coordinator Dick Tippin said he expected most farmers in Marion County to be getting into their wheat fields this week.

“It’s early, but we’re ready to go,” he said.

Last modified May 30, 2012

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