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Harvest: 'Yields are fantastic'

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe "It's dried down and goes right into the bin" said Jim Russell, Bigelow. as he harvests corn on his Bigelow Township farm Tuesday afternoon.

WORTHINGTON -- Greg Ponto of rural Reading is feeling really good about this year's harvest, but it pains him in a way. Other farmers in southwest Minnesota weren't lucky enough to escape mid-season hail storms and late-season drown-outs.

As some bring in below-average yields -- if they have yields at all -- Ponto is harvesting some of the best corn and soybean crops he's seen in a while.

"The yields are fantastic," he said. "The corn moisture, we're actually getting moisture of 15 to 17 percent -- that's just unheard of, and to do this when it's 70 degrees."

Clad in a short-sleeve shirt and jeans, the long-time farmer is usually in the field by 7:30 or 7:45 a.m. and calls it quits by 8 p.m. every night.

"You kind of pace yourself and get ready for the next day," he said.

By 7 a.m., he'll be headed out the door to start harvest all over again, greasing up the equipment, filling the implements with fuel and doing other pre-field maintenance.

"We've got yield, we've got weather, we've got prices -- it's just unbelievable," Ponto said from the cab of his combine Tuesday afternoon. And, like most farmers would admit, said, "I just keep waiting for that hammer to fall."

Ponto finished combining soybeans on Monday, and is about half finished with the corn crop thanks to a good stretch of sunny days.

"Us old farmers, when we die and go to heaven, this is what we look forward to -- it just doesn't get any better than this," he said.

For the most part, soybean harvest in southwest Minnesota has wrapped up and farmers are making good progress on corn.

The Minnesota Field Office of the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service reported Tuesday that 82 percent of the state's soybean crop had been harvested, along with 17 percent of the corn crop. In southwest Minnesota, officials at area grain elevators report farmers have finished with soybeans and started combining corn late last week.

"Basically the beans are done and we're getting a good start on corn," said Dan Schmitz of Schmitz Grain Inc., Slayton. "It's coming fast and furious."

Soybean yields reported to the elevator there ranged from the upper 40s (bushels per acre) to the lower 50s, with extremes in both directions, Schmitz said. He rated this year's soybean crop as average. Yields were somewhat impacted because the beans were too dry -- some arrived at the elevator at just 9 percent moisture. Yield loss occurs when the moisture level drops below 13 percent, he added.

As for corn being hauled in, Schmitz said moisture levels range anywhere from 14 percent to 19 percent.

"In two weeks the majority of (harvest) will be done if we continue to get weather like this," Schmitz said.

As the crops continue to roll in, Schmitz said it's been a challenge to keep up with storage, especially for the soybeans.

"We're still moving beans," he said. "We filled some of our corn storage with beans, and we're trying to get them out of the way."

Soybean yields appeared to be quite a bit better near Bigelow in southern Nobles County, where United Co-op Elevator agronomy salesman Larry Lamb said producers are seeing bushel-per-acre ranges in the low 50s to high 60s and even low 70s.

"The average is 58 to 62 bushel per acre," Lamb said, adding that soybean harvest is about 99 percent done.

As for corn, Lamb said he's seeing moisture levels range from 14 percent to 15.5 percent, with yield data still a bit sketchy as most fields haven't completely been harvested. Early data shows corn yields in the upper-180 bushel per acre range to the low 200s.

With farmers working day -- and some into the night -- to get this year's crops out of the field, there have been some concerns about safety on the area roadways. Though no farm-related accidents or complaints have been reported to the Nobles County Sheriff's Office in recent days, Deputy Sheriff Chris Heinrichs said everybody needs to "give each other a little room and be courteous."

"The farm implements, if possible, should pull as far to the side of the road as they can, and the cars need to make sure it's safe to pass," Heinrichs said. "A lot of these implements are hard to see around. You're going to have to be a bit more patient this time of year because there's a lot of farm implements on the road."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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