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Published September 15, 2010, 08:25 AM

Low moisture key to early Nebraska corn harvest

ELLIS, Neb. — Thanks to low moisture levels, some farmers are getting an early start harvesting their crops.

By: Scott Koperski, Beatrice (Neb.) Daily Sun

ELLIS, Neb. — Thanks to low moisture levels, some farmers are getting an early start harvesting their crops.

Jim Brod, who farms near Ellis, said that moisture levels of between 18 percent and 20 percent have enabled him to start picking corn two weeks ago.

“We started up a couple Saturdays ago already,” Brod said. “The corn’s a lot dryer than we figured it would be so we’re going. It didn’t take much to get that dried down.”

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the Nebraska corn harvest already was 2 percent completed.

Brod sports a new bright-yellow New Holland combine for this year’s harvest, with a matching eight-row corn head.

For fields with longer rows, Brod empties the bin every round.

In an age where farm equipment frequently reaches six-digit prices, Brod can easily sum up his new combine.

“It’s pretty awesome, and so are the payments.”

Brod hopes this year’s harvest will make the burden easier to bear.

Paul Hay, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator, is predicting a good crop for 2010.

“From the numbers I’ve been hearing, I would expect this year’s crop to be above average,” Hay said.

Brod said that his crop so far has been showing impressive numbers, yielding around 180 bushels per acre.

“It’s pretty dry for this time of year,” Brod said. “The wettest I’ve tested was 20 percent. That heat we got in August helped dry it a little faster than I would have liked to have seen, but we’re still yielding real well.”

Hay pointed out that while the high teens are good moisture ratings for this time of year, they will get better.

“What I’m hearing from farmers is that the corn is in the low twenties or high teens,” Hay said. “We’re not too far off from getting that down to standard moisture of 15. We’re not far away.”

Compared to some parts of the state that are seeing moisture ratings in the low 30s, southeast Nebraska is drier than most.

The dry conditions are allowing Brod, who’s hauling much of his crop to Beatrice and storing the rest in bins, to start harvesting his 2,800 acres early.

Brod said he is picking full 114-day corn, which he planted in April.

While some farmers like Brod have been picking for weeks, Hay said that the harvest season isn’t in full force quite yet.

“We’ll probably get more into harvest next week,” Hay said. “The week after that is when we’ll get into the higher volumes. I think we’ll be moving into harvest a little ahead of schedule.”

Thanks in part to Thursday rains, harvest season will probably be delayed another few days for the early birds who are already picking.

Brod said he’s started harvesting earlier in the past, but an earlier start isn’t always a good thing.

“We’ve started a little earlier before, but that was in rough years when everything just ran out of moisture,” Brod said. “This should be a pretty good year.”