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Published April 26, 2010, 12:46 PM

Spring corn harvest progressing

Like a lot of area corn farmers, Randy Melvin is doing double-duty this spring.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Like a lot of area corn farmers, Randy Melvin is doing double-duty this spring.

Not only is the Buffalo, N.D., producer beginning to plant this year’s crop, he’s also harvesting the last of his 2009 corn.

“It’s gone about as well as it could have. But it’s not something I want to do every year,” he says of the spring corn harvest.

Wet fields and heavy December snows prevented farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota from harvesting all of their corn.

Roughly 29 percent of North Dakota corn, 7 percent of South Dakota corn and 5 percent of Minnesota corn wasn’t harvested by year’s end, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmers in all three states subsequently have chipped away at the remaining corn.

In North Dakota, where USDA is tracking completion of the 2009 corn harvest, 9 percent of the crop remained.

New numbers coming?

Updated estimates for 2009 corn acreage, yield and production and stocks in North Dakota and South Dakota may be released by USDA in May.

USDA is resurveying area farmers who previously reported not being able to complete their corn harvest last fall. The updated estimate will be released if USDA decides the new data warrants it.

Dry spring weather has been a big help to South Dakota farmers with corn in the field, says Lisa Richardson, executive director of the state Corn Growers Association.

Unharvested corn remains an issue in parts of the state, most notably Brown County in north-central South Dakota, she says.

But farmers statewide have made good progress, she says.

In North Dakota, 2009 corn harvested this spring generally has a low moisture content, says Tom Lilja, executive director of the state Corn Growers Association.

Corn harvested late last year frequently had high moisture content and needed costly drying.

The greatly reduced cost of drying this spring more than offsets the value of standing corn lost over the winter, he says.

Melvin says about 40 percent of the corn that remained in fields on his farm at the end of 2009 has been harvested this year.

“The corn stood better than I thought it would,” minimizing losses, he says.

He hasn’t been able to harvest entire fields of standing corn, making yield estimates difficult.

Melvin says he’s quit harvesting 2009 corn temporarily to concentrate on planting wheat, typically the first of the region’s major crops to get into the ground. But he’s optimistic of getting off the rest of his corn.

Planting under way

Corn continues to have a bright future in North Dakota, despite the snow and wet fields than kept some of the state’s 2008 and 2009 crops from being harvested until the following spring, Lilja says.

And this summer is unlikely to be as cool as summer 2009, which slowed corn’s maturation and delayed harvest, he says. He’s optimistic this year’s harvest will go more smoothly.

Unlike a year ago, when flooding delayed spring’s work, corn planting this spring is getting started in a timely fashion, he says.

As of April 19, North Dakota’s corn planting was just getting started, USDA says.

Minnesota farmers had planted 13 percent of their corn. A year earlier, they were getting started.

South Dakota farmers had planted 4 percent of their corn. They also were just getting under way a year earlier.