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Lance Renner tackles his soybeans with a 2011 New Holland CX88, a conventional combine with a 42-foot-wide header. It’s not as fast as more popular twin-rotor styles, but Renner sells a lot of his cereal grain straw to area ranchers. “They come right behind and bale it,” he says. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

Farmer faces 'In-between' harvest choices

MANDAN, N.D. — Many North Dakota farmers have had trouble getting into wet fields for harvest in late October, but Lance Renner was going after the soybeans southwest of Mandan on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

"I don't know if it's the right thing to do: take 'em off when they're a little wetter, but what do you do? It could get wetter," Renner says. "You could get snow, and then you can't get in there anyway. At least the corn and sunflowers you can combine them, they're standing up, but the beans, (when they're flattened by snow) you've got to scrape them off the ground."

Renner, 27, went to a two-year agronomy program at Bismarck State College and then for the past four years easing into management from his father, Dennis.

The Renners have a cow-calf beef enterprise. The farm crops are diversified into malt barley, sunflowers — both oilseeds and "conoils," hybrids with oil-type and confection sunflower parentage. They had emergence issues on some canola this year, so converted those acres to sunflowers.

The Renners have 120 acres of grain corn for a cash crop, as well as 110 acres of silage corn. They typically keep about 40 acres of chopped corn for their own cows and sell the rest to a nearby feedlot.

The Renners weren't able to get into the fields in a timely manner on the silage corn, so were having challenges with frost and corn drying more than wanted for making silage. If it dries too much, it doesn't pack well into piles and the feed value declines.

Cereals are in

Lance says he was "thankful" to have finished his cereal grains on Aug. 31, before the rains came in September. "We had to dry some of the durum to finish it off. We took it off at 18% moisture," he says. "The winter wheat was about 16% moisture, so he ran it through the dryer so it wouldn't have storability problems in the bin."

The Renners planted 340 acres of soybeans this year and were getting to the halfway mark on combining. "We've probably got 200 acres left," he said.

When Agweek caught up with Renner on Oct. 22, he had just put in a full day of combining. Moisture was 15% to 16% and the yield looked to be 40 bushels to 45 bushels per acre, which he says is a good yield for that area, and comparable to 42 bushels per acre realized in 2018.

The 2019 crop seemed to have a good yield, despite the temperatures being cooler than optimal. "We figured we might as well take it and put in the bin," he said. He planned to haul it south to an elevator at McLaughlin, S.D., that would dry it for about 5 cents a bushel.

Corn is wet

The corn is wet, at about 34% moisture. The corn looked good, with nice cobs and possibly a 110-bushel crop. "There might be some snowdrifts in there from when we had that snow, earlier," Renner says. His farm received about 17 inches of snow, so some of the subsequent rain have helped reduce the piles faster — ironically perhaps aiding in getting into the fields, eventually.

Despite the difficulties, Renner was quitting harvest just past sunset, at about 6:40 p.m

No all-nighters here. "You go all night, people get tired, you could have accidents like that," Lance says, of his philosophy.

He's been able to market some of his winter wheat at a profit. Soybean prices had been coming up through Oct. 22. "I haven't sold anything yet, we're just seeing where it plays out, I guess."

He says the Corn Belt states have been having difficulties getting in their corn and soybean crops, too, so that might boost prices — he hopes.