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Published October 06, 2009, 12:00 AM

Farmers in a rain delay

WORTHINGTON — Soybean harvest across southwest Minnesota has been spotty the past two weeks, thanks to a crop that is maturing later than usual and an ongoing stretch of rainy weather that has kept farmers out of fields that are ready.

By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Soybean harvest across southwest Minnesota has been spotty the past two weeks, thanks to a crop that is maturing later than usual and an ongoing stretch of rainy weather that has kept farmers out of fields that are ready.

Minnesota’s weekly Crop Weather report, issued late Monday afternoon by the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), showed that just 19 percent of the state’s soybean crop had been harvested as of Sunday, while only 71 percent had reached maturity. In southwest Minnesota, Dan Uttech, grain division manager for New Vision Cooperative, estimates that maybe 20 percent to 23 percent of the region’s soybean crop has been harvested.

“We are definitely behind,” said Uttech of farmers in New Vision’s territory, which stretches west to South Dakota and northeast to near Mankato. “We will usually start getting bits and pieces of bean harvest after Turkey Day, and Sept. 23rd through the 25th is really rolling hard.

“This year, Sept. 28 was the first good harvest day,” he added.

With anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain falling across southwest Minnesota in recent days, Uttech doesn’t expect to see any combines rolling the rest of this week — and perhaps into next week if the weather forecast for weekend showers holds true.

The wet weather is expected to put farmers two to three weeks behind in soybean harvest, he said.

While little has been harvested within a 30-mile radius of Worthington, Uttech said farmers in the Hills and Beaver Creek area had a few good days of soybean harvest starting a week ago.

Jim Willers, who farms with his brother near Beaver Creek, said they were in the field on Sept. 27, and managed to get about 30 percent of their soybean fields harvested before the rains moved in Sept. 30.

“Yields look at least as good as last year,” said Willers, adding that their beans yielded in the low 50s (bushels per acre).

“(Rock) County, as a whole, may be a bit better than average,” he said.

Most of the soybean fields harvested last week were in an area south of Interstate 90, according to Uttech. Better planting conditions allowed farmers in that region to get beans planted anywhere from 7 to 10 days earlier than farmers in Nobles County, he said.Uttech said farmers delivering to New Vision’s location in Hills were seeing average yields of 53 to 55 bushels per acre, with high yields pushing closer to 60 bushels per acre and low yields in the 40s.

In Murray County, Schmitz Grain Inc. manager Dan Schmitz said farmers north of Slayton managed to get about one-third of their soybean crops harvested in between rain delays.

“The yields have been everywhere,” Schmitz said. “West of Lake Shetek, the yields have been in about the lower 40s. They didn’t get a lot of rain up there. Some of the better stuff is in the upper 40s, where we got a bit more rain.”

Schmitz said the first fields were harvested in the Currie area a couple of weeks ago, but it’s too muddy now for farmers to get into any of the fields.

While the rain is making soybean harvest difficult, it’s also adding to the moisture content of this year’s corn crop. That will mean extra drying time once that crop makes it into the bin.

With talk that this year’s corn crop nationwide may be the highest-yielding crop on record, it’s anticipated that southwest Minnesota farmers will also be pleased with their crop. Better weather is needed, however, to boost maturity.

The NASS report showed just 37 percent of the state’s corn crop had reached maturity as of Sunday, compared to 66 percent a year ago. At the same time, corn condition was rated 72 percent good to excellent.

“I think it’s going to be good,” said Schmitz of corn yields in southwest Minnesota. “In 2005, we had a record crop in Murray County. It was really good here, and even in Nobles County. I don’t know if we’re going to beat that.”

But it is possible.

“We think there’s a lot of bushels there,” said Uttech. “It could be a record-setting yield, but this weather that we’re having … isn’t promoting dry-down in the corn.”

At this stage in the growing season, Uttech said corn should be registering at 25 percent moisture or less. This year, however, farmers are hoping the moisture will drop to 32 percent to 35 percent by the time their corn is harvested. While recent rains have added moisture, the cooler-than-usual summer also is to blame because crops didn’t accumulate enough heat units (growing degree days), to boost maturity and dry-down.

“We are concerned that it’s going to be a wet crop,” said Uttech. “Farmers are going to get backed up with their dryers, we’re going to get backed up with our dryers and it has the potential to make the corn harvest … go a lot longer than it should go.”

“Even without the rain, it would be a long, late harvest because of the moisture of the corn,” added Willers. “It’s going to be a costly crop, I think, because of the drying costs.”

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