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Published October 07, 2008, 12:00 AM

Yields, outlook dampened

Rain, prices mar harvest season so far
Weekend rains and the forecast for continued showers this week has put a damper on what already appears to be a disappointing harvest season in southwest Minnesota.

By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Weekend rains and the forecast for continued showers this week has put a damper on what already appears to be a disappointing harvest season in southwest Minnesota.

The rain, however, is desperately needed — and farmers aren’t complaining about having to take a break, so far.

Rural Worthington grain producer Bill Gordon said the rain will help to increase moisture levels in his soybean crop, which isn’t a bad thing.

“The rain will bring moisture back up in the soybean, and that will help put more money in our pockets,” Gordon said Monday afternoon.

By the time rain showers stopped his harvest over the weekend, the soybeans he had harvested contained just 9 percent moisture — 13 percent is ideal.

Gordon said two to three inches of rain would be good for farmers right about now.

“We’ll be able to absorb that,” he said. “There’s a lot of low-ground wetlands that are totally dried up.”

Gordon said soybean yields have been five to 10 bushels below average — yields he said were hampered by a lack of rain in August and too much rain at the start of the planting season.

Chris Hein, agronomist for Eastern Farmer’s Co-op in Luverne, said soybean yields have been “all over the board” in Rock County.

“We can look at soybean yields running anywhere from the mid-30s to the mid-50s (bushels per acre),” said Hein, who attributed the variation to moisture and soil types. Harvest in the Luverne area really ramped up about a week and a half ago.

Very little of the corn crop has been harvested, and what has come out has been for silage and earlage. Still, corn yields look to be about as variable as the soybeans.

“It looks really good — I’ve heard estimates of 150 to 200 bushels, but I think a lot will be on a per-field basis,” said Gordon. “It’s going to be an interesting harvest.”

Lizabeth Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension regional crops specialist at Worthington, said crop yields have come in below average throughout the area. In fact, in west central Minnesota, she heard farmers hauling in anywhere from two bushels to 50 bushels per acre on soybean fields. A yield-robbing hail storm was to blame for the really poor yields in some areas, she said.

While a lack of moisture during critical times in the growing season gets much of the blame in southwest Minnesota, Stahl said aphids were also an issue.

“This was an aphid year,” said Stahl. “We had a lot of spraying going on for that.”

For many farmers, multiple treatments for aphids were needed — adding to the cost of production. At the same time, farmers are watching the markets continue to drop the limit down. On Monday, corn closed at $3.90 per bushel at New Vision Cooperative in Worthington, while beans closed at $8.44 per bushel.

“All of the inputs have gone up … land rents have gone up, it’s going to be tight,” said Stahl. “Bottom line is there’s pretty eye-opening land rents in the area, and you just wonder how people can pencil that out. People need to work with their landowners. We can’t expect above-average yields all the time and above averages prices — that kind of defies the term of average.”

Gordon said cash rents have become “extremely horrible.”

“At $4 corn, it will take 217 bushel per acre to break even this year,” Gordon said. “Landlords are getting greedy.”

According to the Minnesota Weekly Crop-Weather report issued Monday afternoon, nearly 40 percent of the state’s soybean crop was harvested last week. The crop was rated at 61 percent good to excellent, 27 percent fair and 12 percent very poor to poor.

As of Friday, 66 percent of the corn crop was rated good to excellent, with 24 percent rated fair and 10 percent rated very poor to poor.

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