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Published October 24, 2013, 09:59 AM

Weather temporarily halts harvest for some Minn. farmers

As snowflakes floated to the ground Wednesday morning, farmers in the Worthington, Minn., area used the forced weather break to work on equipment, waiting for Mother Nature to ease up and allow them back into the fields.

By: Julie Buntjer, Forum News Service

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — As snowflakes floated to the ground Wednesday morning, farmers in the Worthington, Minn., area used the forced weather break to work on equipment, waiting for Mother Nature to ease up and allow them back into the fields.

Near Edgerton, Minn., Cal Spronk of Spronk Seed Farm said he was working to install a camera on a loading wagon Wednesday morning. The camera will monitor grain going into the wagon — a feature that aids farmers during late night harvest when it’s too dark to see if kernels are spilling outside the box.

“If you spill, you have to spend 20 minutes cleaning up your mess,” Spronk said.

His family finished soybean harvest on Monday and is waiting to get back into the field to combine corn. Spronk said the soybean crop this year was “very good,” with yields in the mid- to upper 50 bushels per acre. They were harvested at 12 to 13 percent moisture, which he said is ideal for the family’s seed business.

Approximately 90 percent of the soybean crop has been harvested in the Edgerton area, Spronk estimated. This year’s drier summer seemed to favor the soybean crop, he said, adding, “It’s got to be close to one of the best yields we’ve had in soybeans.”

Meanwhile, Richard Fellows, owner of Ocheda Seed Farm south of Worthington, said there was a lot of variability in soybean yields in this area. With an average of 45 to 55 bushels per acre, he noted the soybeans are of better quality in comparison to a year ago.

“Things are looking better than they have for a while,” Fellows said.

As he worked in one of his grain bins during Wednesday’s snow flurries, Fellows also waited to get back into the fields to harvest corn. He has more than half of his corn crop yet to combine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report, published Monday for the first time in three weeks because of the federal government shutdown, reported 80 percent of the state’s soybean crop had been harvested as of Sunday, while just 19 percent of the state’s corn crop had been harvested. It’s quite a bit different from a year ago, when a dry fall allowed farmers to stay in the fields and get the crop in. Last year at this time, 100 percent of the state’s soybean crop had been harvested, with 95 percent of the corn crop taken out of the field.

“If there is such a thing as average, this year is average,” said Spronk, who has farmed in the Edgerton area for 34 years. “Last year was abnormal — it was extremely early.”

Still, the crop coming out of the field is at a good moisture level and won’t require much drying — at least if farmers wait for this latest precipitation to dry off the stalk.

“We had plans to be out there, but about the time we were ready to go, it started snowing,” Spronk said. “The weather forecast is for better things down the road.”

Spronk estimated that just a quarter of the corn crop in the Edgerton area has been harvested for grain — a considerable amount had been chopped earlier for silage.

“Corn moisture is around 18 percent,” he said. “That’s actually lower than average for this time of year.”

From what’s been harvested thus far, Spronk said corn yields look good.

“We haven’t got any whole fields out yet, so we don’t know … but we’ve got 56 to 57 pound test weights, which is OK,” he said. “Yields, as you go across the fields, the areas that were stressed, it shows up. The lack of rain we had in July — that took the top off our yield in some areas.”

Fellows said his yield monitor has shown tremendous variability in the corn fields, ranging from 0 bushels to 260 bushels per acre, depending on the soil.

“Each farm has been different,” he said, adding that yields have typically been in the 150- to 185-bushel per acre range for dry corn. Moisture levels are right around 22 to 23 percent.

“The corn, I think, is going to be a little better than last year and better than the years before that,” he said. “This is going to be a pretty good crop for us, what I’ve harvested so far.”

Considering the weather during the growing season, Fellows said many farmers are surprised by the results coming out of the field.

“Everything that could go wrong went wrong this year as far as weather,” he said. “Yet, we’re pulling out yields that truthfully shouldn’t be there, by most people’s thought process. Most people are scratching their heads wondering, where did it come from?

“The new genetics have helped considerably,” he added. “We had the good Lord smile upon us this year and help us pull out the crop we did.”

And while that crop isn’t entirely out of the field yet, Fellows said he wasn’t concerned — even as he watched the snow fall.

“It’s soaking in and giving us the moisture for next year’s crop already,” he said. Meanwhile, “we’ve got equipment we’ve been fixing, we’re working on tillage — the rain and snow hasn’t slowed that down much — and we can start fertilizing the first of next week again.”

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