Late rains could help Minnesota beans, but corn is shutting down

Crop Consultant Jason Fussy of Willmar, Minnesota, who works for Centrol of Marshall, Minnesota, in an interview for the Agweek Corn and Soybean Tour 2021, gives the overall corn and soybean crop a “B-minus” but calls it extremely variable, after a summer of excessive heat and drought or spotty rains.

WILLMAR, Minnesota — Corn and soybean yield prospects in central Minnesota are highly variable, with extremes making it difficult to judge the overall crop.

Jason Fussy (pronounced “FOO-see”) is a crop consultant working with the Centrol of Marshall, Minnesota. He works from the Willmar, Minnesota, area, covering clients in Kandiyohi County and getting into Chippewa, Swift and Renville counties.

Jason Fussy (pronounced “FOO-see”) has about 24 years in crop consulting. He rates the corn and soybean crops at a “B-minus” in the Willmar, Minn., area, but notes it is highly variable, with many fields in the “C” and “D” categories, due to heat and drought. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Fussy’s service area is about 60 miles east to west and north to south. The area is strong in corn and soybeans. The territory includes some large dairies, so some farmers raise a large amount of alfalfa as well.


Many of Fussy’s clients raise sugar beets for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative at Renville, Minnesota, which was starting pre-pile beet harvest on Aug. 24, 2021. There is a strong acreage in dry edible beans.

While some corn and soybean crops in the county are shriveling, Fussy gives the overall crops in his area a grade of about a “B-minus.” Fussy knows this is hard for many farmers who are experiencing a “C” or “D” yield rating.

Corn pollination in the Willmar, Minn., area was generally pretty good, but often kernels didn’t fill to the tip, and some kernels were smaller than expected, cutting yields. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

In a visit with the Agweek Row Crop Tour 2021, corn in this field was about 15 days to physiological maturity. Beans were at the R6 stage. The area often is among the first in the state to spray for soybean aphids, but that pest was “nonexistent” due to heat and drought.

Meanwhile, about 75% of Fussy’s fields this year were treated for spider mites. Some were sprayed twice.

“After 24 years of doing this, I’ve never had to look at beans so late in the season, to … monitor spider mite levels, whether they’re at economic levels,” Fussy said.

Some beans were affected by dicamba spray drift, but impacts on yield are “yet to be determined.”


Corn yields are going to vary, Fussy said.

“There’s good areas of the county that have heavier dirt, have caught a couple extra rains. But there are areas north of Willmar that are drier, on lighter rolling hills. We’re going to see a range of field averages of corn from 100 bushel up to 230 bushel, with an average of 160 to 170 bushels per acre," he said.

Frost typically shows up in this area between Sept. 15 to Sept. 20.

The Willmar, Minn., had outstanding soybean yields in 2020, but will be reduced in 2021 because many top clusters of bean pods won’t develop due to drought. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Soybean yields look to range from 30 bushels per acre to 65 bushels per acre, with an average of about 48 bushels per acre to 50 bushels. Rains came through the area on Aug. 24, 2021, and Fussy thought it was still possible to add yield — test weight and grain fill.

“I would say it’s going to help the soybeans more, if they’re not starting to mature already,” he said. “A lot of the soybeans in the area have a fair amount of ‘green’ out there, and are still filling pods. We did lose that ‘top end’ (of yield potential) when the top, upper (pod) clusters did abort,” he explained.

Corn ‘giving up’

Some of the corn could fill out with test weight but not the ear filling.


“We’re starting to see premature death, early denting and maturity,” Fussy said.

That means the corn plants are essentially giving up when there wasn’t extra moisture to find.

These corn and soybean fields in the Willmar, Minnesota, area were about average, for the area, said Jason Fussy (pronounced “FOO-see”), a consultant with Centrol of Marshall, Minn. Corn was about 15 days to physiological maturity. . Beans were at the R6 stage, with damage from spider mites. The area often has soybean aphid damage, but that pest was “nonexistent” this year due to heat and drought. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Areas south of Willmar generally have heavier soils. Areas in the southwest part of the county, especially, received several 1-inch to 2-inch rains during summer storm systems that provided only .1 to .2 inches at a time to northern areas.

“Those things add up real fast,” he said.

Some areas have received only 5 inches to 6 inches of total rainfall since the crop was planted — far short of average, he said.

Drought has pushed corn to about 15 days to physiological maturity in the Willmar, Minnesota, area, as of Aug. 23, 2021. Frost is typically expected between Sept. 15 and Sept. 20. Photo taken Aug. 23, 2021, near Willmar, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Large dairies and even some small dairies in the area started chopping silage in mid-August — seven days to 10 days earlier than normal.

All of this is much different than last year’s record-breaking crops in the area where some farmers achieved up to 80-bushel per acre soybean yields and 290-bushel corn yields. And that is also different than the string of excessively wet years before that.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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