Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, frost, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather
The frost of last week Saturday changed the picture in our farm fields here in southwestern Minnesota. Soybeans that had some green or yellow leaves lost them all in a few days, so Monday we turned our attention to the soybean harvest.
The weather has not been good for an even drying of our fields so our soybeans had been looking a bit splotchy. Areas of dry soybeans were mixed in with beans that still had green leaves on them. The average of the fields was for low moisture soybeans, but averages are not what you are looking for in seed stock. To the seed buyer, looks as well as genetics are important, thus no soybeans that are destined for the seed market can be harvested until the whole field is mature, so we waited.
By Monday all of the soybeans looked ready so we made the switch. Yes, our soybeans were dry, most were about 10% moisture when we want to see a 15% moisture. The yield was very good for the small amount of rain we had, not excellent, but good enough. The dust was flying and we spent many hours a day getting our beans either in to town, or into the bin while we could. Now our bean harvest is over and we are back in corn.
It seems that news of the close to normal soybean harvest has reached the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where the prices are set for our crops. The soybean price has been tumbling. I did sell some of our soybeans, but ever the optimist, I have quite a few left to sell. Harvest is not the normal time to sell your crop. Everyone knows you have a crop to sell, and they all hope you will take less money for it eventually. We’ll see if we can get a price bump later.
This is so different than the doom and gloom that the drought brought on. It is a testament to the varieties of crops we buy now. I’m sure we would not have had as much to harvest with so little water only a few years ago. My combine monitor showed a high yield in the upper 60 bushels per acre several times, but the fields were only averaging from the upper 30′s to the lower 40′s. What a year!
So it is back to corn. What a difference a week can make. Moisture in the corn has dropped from 18% to 12%. I don’t mind the 18% moisture, I can get the water out of the corn by blowing air into the bin, but 12% is a bit low. It means we are selling less water within the corn kernels than we would like. Oh well, we’ll live with it. Now back to harvest.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Soybeans, weather, wind | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, Soybeans, weather, wind
The conditions of our crops and the weather have me wondering, what should I do?
The last two days have been windy and hot. Todays high temperature was 93 degrees, 20 degrees hotter than normal. The high temps and the strong winds are really drying down our corn and soybeans. Tomorrow the temperatures will be more normal and there is a chance of rain. Both our corn and soybeans are in that in between stage.
Corn is easier to handle. We are used to drying down wet corn in this area, but it is September, and this is very early to be harvesting corn. If I wait a few days I do not have to use the dryer, I can just put it into the bin. The problem is that as the corn gets dryer it is more likely to fall off of the stalk, thus there will be less to harvest.
Some of our corn is dry, under 20% moisture, and could be harvested. The problem is that many of our corn stalks are still green with a grain moisture of over 20%. You can even find spots where the corn is very green with grain moisture of over 30%. With a grain moisture of under 20 % I can put it in the bin, turn on the fan and it will keep for the winter. At 20% moisture it might not keep for the winter, it is the corn that is over 20% moisture that must be dried down. What to do?
I decided to try harvesting some corn. I took about 28 acres out of a field that was contracted for fall delivery to the cooperative in town. As I got further into the field the corn got wetter, so I stopped. I’ll have to give another field a try.
So far the corn is yielding about 75% of last year. It sure would have been nice to get another rain or two in the last few months, it would really have boosted the yield. I’m just thankful to be harvesting a crop, some are not so lucky this year.
Soybeans may be a bit easier to decide on. Usually we harvest our soybeans first, since they are usually ready for harvest in late September or early October. Corn is rarely ready for harvest before soybeans. This year is different.
We have areas in our soybean fields where the ground was sandy and had little water where the beans are ready for harvest now. Just a few feet away from those dry spots are green soybeans that will not be ready for harvest for 3 or 4 weeks. The dry spots are too small to go into and take out the beans so we will have to wait for the rest of the field to get ready.
The high winds have been blowing anything loose around. Corn leaves from our fields are heading down wind. Branches and leaves are blowing off of trees. It has been a crazy day.
Filed under: cold, Fall, Farm, frost, Minnesota, pond, seasons, Trees | Tags: autumn, falling leaves, farm, frost, leaves, Minnesota, pond, trees, wind
With all of the cold we’ve had lately most trees have been shedding their leaves quite quickly. The lack of rain has meant that the leaves have remained dry and light in weight. Some trees, like the catalpa shed their leaves mostly in one day, its large leaves dropping like rain as the frost went out one morning. Many leaves in our area blew off in the wind and made piles in sheltered areas, or blew into the water. A few leaves are still hanging in there. Here’s a few pictures for you.
Only a few leaves remain on this maple. The leaves have been turning from red and gold to brown as they wave goodbye to fall.
While most of the leaves are gone from our trees, this maple has hung on to its leaves. Oak also are waiting to shed their summer glory as their now brown leaves cling to the branches. Locust have compound leaves, and so may shed a leaflet or two before the whole leaf drops.
The pond has been a leaf magnet. Leaves hit the water and stop. I have scooped wheel barrows of leaves out and still the water is brown with leaves. It’s a wonder that the fish can swim in it sometimes. The leaves dam up our little creek and cause the water to run places I do not want it to go.
As the temperatures cool we will lose more of the leaves, a little at a time, as each leaf lets go of its summer hang out and drifts to the ground. It has really been a colorful autumn here in Southwestern Minnesota. Perhaps one of the most colorful I have ever seen. Just 44 more days to winter.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, Minnesota, rain, School bus, tillage, weather | Tags: farm, machines, Minnesota, rain, trees, weather
My area of Minnesota has been without rain for over 90 days now. This in an area that averages about half an inch a week. Well, we’ve had a few sprinkles, but nothing that amounted to anything. Lucky it came at the end of the growing season, if the drought had come earlier it would have been a disaster.
The dry has effected fall tillage. When you try to turn over the soil you get huge lumps. These lumps are not easy to break up. There have been reports of broken machinery from trying to break up the soil. I watched a neighbor try to get his subsoiler into the ground. When it went in it worked well, when it did not it just skidded on top of the ground.
I took the ATV out into the field. It was a really wild ride bumping over all of those hard chunks. I even got hung up once when some hard dirt got under the center of the machine. It took a little pushing around to get it off of the lump.
I planted a few trees yesterday. The ground came up in large chunks. It took a lot of water to soften the dirt up enough to refill the hole.
I’ve been watching the river on my morning bus trips. This spring it was over the banks from the rain of last fall and this spring. Now it is mostly mud and sand bars. There are ponds that border the river that are dry now. I watched the herons and crows clean up the fish that didn’t get out in time.
We do have a chance of rain this week, but when you dig into the facts, it looks like another little teaser with just enough to get the bottom of the rain gauge wet. It will be interesting to see if this will continue into winter. I let you know when the weather breaks.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, fertilizer, Minnesota, tillage, Uncategorized | Tags: Corn, farm, grandchildren, machines, Minnesota, tillage, weather, Weed control
The harvest may be done, but there is plenty more to do.
I’ve been spending most of my days lately in this rig. The tractor is a JD 4650 rated at about 180 horse power. It’s pulling a 14 foot Wishek deep tillage disk. With the dry conditions it has been turning over some really hard chunks of earth. The last two years were wetter and did not allow me to till as deep as I would like to. Now with drier conditions we’re sinking the Wishek in and really doing a good job.
On the left you see the corn stalks before they are disked, and on the right is the after. I like the Wishek because it can go through the standing stalks without any other preparation. It leaves a good amount of plant material on or near the surface to help control erosion without leaving too smooth of a surface. The rough surface creates ponding areas to hold water on the surface and let it go into the soil not run off. The old plant material and rough surface will also help keep down wind erosion. I have one field that I only worked part of the field. Those areas that were too steep or too sandy I left untouched. That will protect them during the harsh winds of winter.
This field will be corn again next year so we broadcast most of the fertilizer next years crop will need and work that into the top 8 inches of soil profile. Next spring we’ll smooth this off a bit and plant it. I like to keep at least 30% cover after planting to reduce erosion and promote water infiltration.
I also spent some time burning off the grass in a road ditch that is too steep to mow. Burning removes the stems that could catch winter snow and keep it on the road. It also helps to keep down weeds that are unwanted. Burning tends to promote the growth of grasses over things like trees and broad leaf plants. It also allowed me to spend some time reshaping part of the ditch so that I can get my mower down into it.
I also want to spend some time with these two young ladies. Being a grandfather is such hard work you know.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, seasons, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather
So, for us the 2011 harvest is in the books, and it was a good one.
The crop year in our area of Minnesota started out bad with rains and flooded fields that kept us out of the fields for the usual April 22 start of planting date. We did get started on May 1, a date that is considered late, but not exceptionally so. Our corn was all planted by May 10 and we started planting soybeans almost a week later due to more rain. Our crops were all planted in the optimal time frame according to the U of MN. Many others in the region were not so lucky and continued to struggle to plant until the end of June.
The spring and early summer continued wet and cold. It was a challenge just to get the work done. When the change came it was dramatic. First came the heat, as steamy day after steamy day gave us tropical conditions. We even had days that were more hot and humid than those experienced in rain forests. Then the rains stopped.
They called it a flash drought. One day it was hot and humid, the next it was hot and dry, and it stayed that way. In a time period when our crops needed one inch of rain per week, we were getting none. If we did get rain it came in very small amounts. August rain fall totaled under one quarter of an inch, and September was less than half of an inch. The ground became hard and cracked. It was amazing that the crops looked so good.
When harvest came, it came with a rush. One day the crops were not ready, the next everything was ready. Usually we get to harvest our soybeans and then begin harvest on corn that is 20% to 25% moisture. This year not only the soybeans were harvested at under 15% moisture, most of the corn was also. We not only started harvest earlier than normal, we finished in record time.
Corn coming out of the field at those moisture levels is something I have never experienced before. Yes, I have put a lot of corn straight into the bin, but usually I do that at 18% to 20% moisture and air dry it. More likely, I would spend time and money drying the corn to get it to a salable moisture level. We prefer to harvest corn at about 25% moisture to reduce harvest losses. The higher harvested amount helps to cover the drying costs.
So how did this years harvest turn out. On a field by field average, we had soybean yields of between 28 and 40 bushels per acre, nothing spectacular, but yields I have come to expect for our fields. Corn was a bit better with yields of 145 to 183 bushels per acre. I know that the lower yields were on fields that had sandy areas and ponding water, both things that will hinder good yields. The early wet and late dry really cut yields in some areas. Our best fields had no areas of either sand, or areas where water stayed for any period of time.
So what was my impression of the crop yields this year. I found the soybeans yields to be disappointing. It is obvious that the weather did reduce our soybean harvest. Harvest losses from harvesting the crop at too low of a moisture level will indeed be part of the problem, but not all of it.
Corn yields went from expected to very good. I was not surprised to get corn yields in the 145 to 160 area, but to have two fields that topped 180 bushels per acre was totally unexpected. Add to that the bonus of not having to dry the grain to store it and I am very happy with those two fields. I would estimate our harvest losses at about 5 bushels per acre, an amount that is not welcome, but well within expectations when you harvest corn that dry.
So we have finished harvest in a very challenging year. With all of the weather extremes it is a wonder we got any crop harvested at all. I can remember years in the past where we did not face as many challenges, and had much worse yields. It is indeed a testament to the newer varieties and farming methods that we did get so much.
So now we start work on the next years crop. There is one thing that is for sure of future crop years, none of them will be exactly like this year.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, fertilizer, harvest, Minnesota, nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, seasons, tillage, weather | Tags: Corn, fall, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, weather
Harvest is over, but farm work is not. Many seem to feel that when a farmer finishes his harvest, the year is over for him, in a way it is, but it is not. When we finish harvest, we start getting ready for the next year. This is especially true here in Minnesota where the cold sets in and stops all cropping activity. I can usually plan on the ground freezing solid the first week in December, the most common date, December 5th. We will not get enough warm weather to melt snow and start field work until April. If we can get into the field by April 20, we are happy, this year rains kept us out of the field until May 1. It is possible for us to get some warm weather that may start field work early, but that is rare. We had one year where some farmers were able to plant oats and wheat in January, but that is the exception. So, contrary to popular myth we do not have 6 months of winter here in Minnesota, with 6 months of tough sledding, we have only 4 months of winter, and March can, at times, be very nice.
So what are we doing to prepare for the next crop? For most farmers this includes some type of tillage to help bury the residue of the last crop. This not only makes it easier for the next crop to grow, it buries the plant material so it will not blow away over the winter, and allows plant material to start to break down so it will provide nutrients for the next crop. This tillage can include chopping, disking and moldboard plowing in the extreme of one end, to just letting it lie on the other. We are somewhere in between, where corn was planted in the spring we use a heavy disk to turn over the top few inches of soil, yet leave much of the plant material near or on the surface. In soybean stubble we use a strip till rig to place fertilizer for the next crop and leave most of the ground undisturbed.
Fertilizing for the next crop is a big part of our planning for the next year. Phosphorus and potassium, plus a few micro nutrients, can be expected to stay put in the soil, so we will place most of those nutrients in the soil now. They tie to plant and soil particles and don’t move until a plant uses them. Nitrogen can be a bit of a different story.
I like to place a little nitrogen down in the fall, and the rest in two extra doses in the growing season. Nitrogen is only somewhat stable in the soil. Cold weather helps to keep it from going off into the air or water. When you have a very wet spring like this last one, much of your nitrogen can leach out into the ground water. Most years this is not a problem, so many farmers take the chance and put down their nitrogen in the fall when it is less expensive. For me, I have found that I can use less nitrogen and get a better yield by applying it later, even though it will cost me more. This year that approach payed off, but that is not always the case.
Livestock farmers have extra chores to take care of after harvest. These chores include cleaning barns and spreading the manure and used bedding, and harvesting some of the left over plant materials for winter bedding. Manure tends to break down slowly, and will act like a slow release fertilizer. It is rarely possible to spread livestock waste on standing crops, thus the extra spring and fall rush for livestock owners.
We also have some cleaning to do of our machinery before storage, and a few repairs that could not be, or were not, done during the harvest. Cleaning out the dust and litter from a machine helps to keep out mice who want to have a warm winter bed (and who chew on wires and hoses), and also helps you to identify possible repairs before they get worse. Having harvest end early really assists in the cleaning and proper storage of our machinery.
So today I’ll have an easy Sunday. I’ll do a little yard and garden work, then I start getting ready for the harvest of 2012. It is only 11 months until the next harvest after all.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, spring, summer, weather, wind | Tags: Corn, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, spring, summer, weather, wind
It’s harvest time here in southwestern Minnesota and all farmers are busy. We’ve had no rain to speak of in over two months. The wind blows everything around. I’m not getting enough sleep. Hmmm….. must be why I missed a few days of postings.
So this is what I’ve been looking at for the last several days, except for when I switch off with dad to unload a few loads, or stop for a meal, or to get a few hours of sleep, if it’s daylight we’re harvesting.
So sometimes we dump into the grain cart when is not moving, and sometimes we dump into it when we are both moving. It’s a way to get a lot done if you have enough people. Since there are only two of us, we don’t dump on the go that often. The grain cart does make a good way to keep one truck on the road. The combine dumps into the grain cart when it gets full, and when the truck gets back you refill the truck. It helps keep everyone busy.
So when both the combine and grain cart are dumping into the truck at the same time, you can really fill it up fast.
So when I’m not looking where I’m going, I will glance at the monitor to see how much crop I’m harvesting and what the moisture level of that crop is. Now this is OLD tech, it must be almost 10 years old by now, I cannot even imagine what the new machines do. Still it’s pretty cool to this old guy to be able to get an idea of how much you are harvesting before you haul it into town.
It’s really interesting to see the areas where the corn didn’t grow so well, the weeds just take over. Is shows how critical early weed control is. Once the crop is up and shading the ground the weeds don’t get growing. Let a little sunshine in, and instant weed patch.
Sometimes the wind knocks down the corn before we get to it. In a year like this, when the corn dried out so quickly, it can happen much more than we would like. If you can get the snouts of the combine under it, maybe you can get it into the combine. Many times though, the ear will drop off, or the stalk will break off, and you get nothing. It’s a long slow process in down corn.
So this years planting started out late, we had a lot of rain for the first months of the growing season, and it was cold. Then in a flash, it all changed to dry and hot. Amazingly the plants still held on and managed to produce an average, to better than average crop. Not only did a late, cold, planting season turn to hot and dry, all that heat made our harvest season early for us. We are harvesting a dry crop and putting it right into the bin, which is very rare in my lifetime. What a year.
So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m finishing harvest.
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans | Tags: farm, harvest, ice water, machines, Minnesota, repairs, sandwiches, Soybeans, tomatoes, wind
For my dad and I the 2011 soybean harvest is finished. I spent most of the last 5 days looking down the rows of soybeans. Dad spent the last few days driving and unloading trucks.
Actually I rarely looked this high, my eyes were usually down where the action was, down on the sickle making sure the beans were feeding into the machine properly. Then if something went wrong it had to be fixed.
Yeah, I did this a few times. Once in a while something would get into the sickle that could not be cut. Something would have to give, and it was usually the bolts that held a sickle section on the bar. Then it’s get out and replace it. Hammer out the old bolts, insert a new section, tighten the bolts, put away the tools and off we go again.
Keeping windows clean enough to see out of was a job. The dust from the plants stuck to everything. The windows got washed down at least twice a day. Dust covered everything unless the wind was blowing enough to move it off. Blowing dust at times can make it hard to see what you are doing, especially just before sundown. I’m glad I have A/C in the cab, but dust still got in somehow.
I didn’t stop for much once I got going. My lunch bag was there beside me. Every morning I put in two sandwiches, some small yellow tomatoes, two quarts of ice water and some fruit. There was already a can of peanuts in the cab. That kept me going until I decided to quit for the day.
For us, this years harvest was only average. The bean plants were dry so they threshed out well, and the soybeans themselves were a little on the dry side.
So tomorrow it’s clean up the combine and get ready for the corn harvest. Still plenty to do.
Filed under: church, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, weather, wind | Tags: farm, fire, harvest, machines, Minnesota, repairs, Soybeans, wind
I finished combining soybean field number three today, that leaves one to go. If everything hangs together we will be finished on Wednesday.
It has been quite a harvest. We started harvest on Thursday due to the unexpected arrival of our local tree service. I had called him earlier about some trees that were in the wrong place. He removed branches that were hanging over buildings and several dying trees that I did not want to tackle because of their location, trees dropped on houses and other buildings are not appreciated. We most likely got a two day late start on soybean harvest because of his arrival.
Thursday was a VERY windy day. We had sustained winds of over 30 mph with gusts exceeding 50 mph. As I am working I see what seem to be fires both east and west of me. When I checked my facebook page that night I find that two of my fb friends had fires in their fields. One fire was most likely started by spark from a combine, the other was sparked when the combine caught fire. There were so many fires in the area that all fire crews were out several times Thursday. It was not a day to fight a fire. The winds made the fire move fast, and gave plenty of air to really make for some big fires.
The newer diesel engines have extremely hot exhaust systems. They heat the exhaust up to make sure that all of the pollutants are fully burned. Unfortunately when the wind blows dry plant material onto exhaust systems that are over 1000 degrees a fire can start instantly. To see pictures of new combines turned to junk is very upsetting. These new machines can cost over $400,000. That is a very significant loss of money and harvest time.
Luckily my problems this week were smaller. That twisted piece of metal in the picture above is the divider that should keep the soybeans from messing up the end of the sickle on my combine. A 2X2 channel iron broke off right at the hinge and twisted the remaining pieces that were still holding on to the combine head. That meant that the first order of business after church this morning was to straighten and weld the pieces. By 3 we had the iron all put back into almost perfect order and could finish the field we had started Saturday.
Soybean yields have so far been better than expected. We’ll see if that translates over to the corn as well.
Tomorrow morning I make a trip to pick up parts, little things that keep breaking but do not significantly affect the performance of the combine, then we get the machine ready for the last field of soybeans. Fingers crossed, here we go.