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Randy Robinson unloads his combine full of beans into the cart operated by his brother, Neil Robinson, as they harvest the field together south of Worthington. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

A happy harvest? Some believe crops may be 'better than expected'

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — A stretch of rainy days may have put a temporary damper on soybean harvest, but local ag experts say it offers a nice break and provides an opportunity to recharge the soil after enduring drought-like conditions in the later part of the growing season.

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Combines began rolling in the Worthington area late last week, harvesting an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the local soybean crop before the rains arrived on Wednesday. As if to mirror the spotty rain showers that fell across Midwestern farm fields this summer, harvest in southwest Minnesota has also been spotty.

“It’s a slow start,” said Dan Uttech, who works in New Vision Cooperative’s feed ingredient/purchasing division.

With what he called a fair amount of harvesting in the Brewster and Worthington areas, Uttech said there has been very little harvest activity near Fulda and Slayton. The wet weather that arrived Wednesday and is expected to stay around through the weekend, in addition to the potential for frost, will help bring the crop to maturity and “even things up,” he said.

“When things dry out next week, I think everything will be ready and then we’ll be in full-blown soybean harvest,” Uttech said.

While he said farmers are reluctant to talk about yields, Uttech has heard some say the crop is “better than expected.”

“With the lack of rainfall and dry growing season, everyone was thinking pretty pessimistic and looking for the beans, especially, to be a fair amount lower than (yields) last year for this area,” Uttech said. “I haven’t talked to anybody that said yields were extremely disappointing versus expectations.”

Although some say genetics in the seed industry gets the credit for good yields in a not-so-good year weather-wise, Uttech isn’t sold on that belief.

“I don’t know if that’s true because then we would see more uniform yields across the country,” he said. “Weather still is a big factor. I tend to say there’s a higher power, rather than genetics, that are driving this thing.”

With it still so early in the harvest season, it is possible the earlier planted varieties that have now been harvested may fare better than those planted later.

“People with lighter soils without that moisture-holding capacity, I would expect they’re not going to see as great of yields as they’d hoped,” said Lizabeth Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension crops educator. “We’ll probably see a lot of variability like we typically do. Over the last few years, that’s been the story of harvest.”

Prior to this week’s rains, Stahl said some soybean fields had been drying down quite well — and in some cases better than their outward appearance might indicate.

“There are still a lot of leaves on some plants and still some yellow, but the bean moisture was 9 to 13 percent,” she said of a plot harvested near Luverne earlier this week. “I do think there are a lot of fields out there that have a lot drier soybeans than we think. It’s a concern when they are so dry — we want to get those out of there before the pods shatter and we can’t harvest it.”

Uttech said beans brought into New Vision this week had moisture levels of 11 to 12 percent.

“Those days of 80 degrees and 20- to 30-mile-per-hour winds — it’s just like a grain dryer out there,” he said. “If we dry out next week after a wet weekend, they’ll take this crop out really fast.”

As for corn, both Uttech and Stahl are concerned about stalk quality as the plants dry down. With the lack of late season rains, the plants may have cannibalized the stalk to put all energy into producing an ear filled with kernels.

“If we get big winds, we could get a lot of breakage and ear droppage, too,” Stahl said. 

“We’re recommending that as soon as the crop is close to being ready — at 25 percent or less moisture — we’re encouraging farmers to go after this corn,” added Uttech.

Harvesting those crops early will lead to grain drying, and Stahl encourages people to view University of Minnesota research and information at www.extension.umn.edu/corn for resources on grain drying and storage.

“Once you harvest it, that clock starts ticking as to how long that can last,” she said. “You want to get it dried down as fast as you can to a storable moisture level.”

While not enough corn has been harvested to give a good yield picture, Uttech said silage and earlage harvest can be a good indicator.

“A lot of guys have chopped silage and harvested earlage, and the tonnage per acre was better than a year ago,” he said. “That’s usually an indicator of what’s coming for yields. I think overall, farmers are anticipating better corn yields than a year ago.”

Much of the corn and soybeans harvested this fall will go into on-farm storage or storage at the elevator. Prices at harvest have been lower than farmers have seen for more than a year.

New crop corn was $4.15 per bushel, cash to the farmer, on Friday morning —a considerable drop from the “ample opportunity” farmers had to market $7.50 to $7.60 per bushel corn in the last 12 months.

“There’s much more available supply than what there was a year ago,” Uttech said. 

The cash price for soybeans Friday morning at New Vision was $12.50 per bushel, which “historically is an excellent price,” Uttech said. “As we went through this year, we had very tight stocks and farmers were able to sell soybeans for $15 to $16 for cash price.”

Now, with market prices down for both corn and soybeans, Uttech anticipates farmers will hold on to their grain and make their marketing decisions “down the road.”

First things first, they need to get this crop out of the field.

“We just encourage everybody to take their time and be safe, because it will be a busy time once the weather clears,” Uttech said. “There’s a lot of work to do yet and everybody needs to sit back, take their rest and be safe out there.”

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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