Minnesota Farmer

How does your harvest go

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.



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