Minnesota producers reap bin-busting corn, soybean crops

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- Phenomenal, incredible, outstanding, record-breaking -- those are all words area crop producers and grain specialists are using to describe this year's corn and soybean yields across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.

A farmer combines a field of corn Oct. 14 afternoon under sunny skies. (Jesse Trelstad, Forum News Service)

WORTHINGTON, Minn. - Phenomenal, incredible, outstanding, record-breaking - those are all words area crop producers and grain specialists are using to describe this year’s corn and soybean yields across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.

“It’s hard to find farmers all across the state that aren’t saying this is the best-ever soybean crop they’ve ever raised,” said Dan Uttech, feed ingredient purchasing manager for New Vision Cooperative at Brewster. The corn crop is equally as impressive.

“A lot of guys are probably going to harvest the best corn crop that they ever have off their land, and we’re talking farmers that have been farming all their life,” Uttech said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of 200-plus corn yields out there in our area this year - some well above 200 bushels per acre, which is really unheard of.”

Uttech said this year’s corn and soybean yields in Minnesota are state record-breakers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s October report, issued last Friday, Minnesota’s corn crop is projected to average 184 bushels per acre statewide, surpassing the previous record of 177 bushels per acre.

“When you set a new record for an entire state by seven bushels per acre, it’s a big deal,” Uttech said. “It just shows how good the crop is.”


Based on what he’s seen so far in southwest Minnesota for corn yields, Uttech thinks even the 184 bushel-per-acre estimate is too low.

“The southern part of Minnesota, I think, is going to be well above that,” he said. “Central Minnesota … is probably almost as good as we are - and in some cases, actually, even better.”

Meanwhile, soybeans are yielding in the 60- to 65-bushel per acre range, with some farmers seeing yields of more than 70 bushels per acre. The previous statewide record average for soybeans was 47.5 bushels per acre, and the USDA puts the state at a new record this year, raising it to 48 bushels per acre average.

Again, Uttech thinks that new statewide average is too low, based on local yields.

“I think when it’s all said and done, that yield could easily be over 50 bushels,” he said. “This is going to be a very, very big year for the state of Minnesota as far as new record yields on both corn and soybeans.”

The Minnesota Crop Progress Report issued Tuesday by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service put the state’s soybean harvest at 91 percent complete as of Monday, with 85 percent harvested in northwest Iowa. Those numbers have undoubtedly changed with continued good weather. Corn for grain harvest was estimated at 29 percent complete as of Monday in Minnesota, and 23 percent complete in northwest Iowa.


Speaking from the cab of his combine Wednesday afternoon, Bill Gordon of Worthington said his family was about half done with corn harvest and had one more soybean field to combine.


“Some fields are really amazing, and the next field could be really good - there’s still a lot of variability out there, but it’s still a great crop of corn and beans,” Gordon said. “Everyone’s going to do real well.”

Gordon said corn was coming in from the field at 21 percent to 23 percent moisture last Friday, but with the winds and heat over the weekend, the moisture level had dropped to 18 percent by Wednesday.

“In five days we dropped three percentage points,” he said. “My dad said he’s never seen corn dry that fast.”

As for yields, Gordon said top corn yields are in the 215- to 220-bushel-per-acre range, with low-end yields in the 180s, all the way up to 250 bushels per acre on the high end. As for soybeans, yields are ranging from the mid-50s to mid-60s - with some 70-bushel-per-acre yields recorded.

In the Hills area, farmer Ian Sandager said corn yields are fantastic, breaking records on most of their fields, while beans were great as well.

“We’re finished with beans and probably halfway through corn,” Sandager said, also working in the combine Wednesday afternoon. He anticipates they will have all of their fields harvested by the middle of next week, barring any rain.

On Wednesday, he was combining 107-day corn at 18.5 percent moisture. As for yields, Sandager said he’s seen a lot of 200-plus bushel-per-acre yields, with most reaching 220 to 230 bushels per acre.

“We had one field go just under 235,” Sandager said.


As for beans, Sandager said yields have ranged from 60 to 70 bushels per acre in the Hills area.

“We had a fantastic growing season,” he added.

Farmers like Gordon and Sandager are putting in extremely long days to get this year’s crops in the bin. Gordon said he’s starting work by 5 a.m., and bedtime is usually around 1:30 a.m. by the time he’s finished getting the crop in the bins.

“It’s a constant hum,” he said, adding that they have a crew of six working on the harvest. “We’re doing tillage right behind it.”

Without breaks due to the weather, the farmers are pushing hard, and that means area grain elevators are working equally as hard to keep up.

Jeff Christiansen, vice president of grain for Cooperative Farmers Elevator based in George, Iowa, said they are just trying to make as much space available for storage as they can.

“It’s hard on the elevators when we don’t get a breather with weather,” he said, saying this harvest season is “busy, busy, busy with bushels, bushels, bushels.”

At the elevator in George, yields on soybeans have ranged from 58 to 82 bushels per acre, and most corn fields were yielding more than 200 bushels per acre.

“Everybody says, for the most part, it’s better than the last couple of years,” Christiansen said.

CFE has started piling grain outside at several locations, and they’ve had to use some of the bunkers typically used for corn storage for soybean storage this fall.

Ideal growing season

This year’s record-breaking yields are due in large part to near perfect weather conditions.

A lot of farmers were able to get into the fields early this spring, with dry weather and good soil conditions the first two weeks of April, Uttech said. The extended growing season helped crops reach higher potential when it came to yields.

“The yields are more comparable to what we’d see in Iowa or Illinois,” Uttech said. “A lot of it had to do with the growing season.

“Then we had good temperatures, good moisture throughout the growing season. When we got into September, the crop was allowed to mature naturally,” he added.

Rains came when they were needed to help fill pods and cobs and there has yet to be a killing frost in southwest Minnesota.

Uttech said that’s a change from last year, when a killing frost hit Sept. 13 - too early for what was anticipated to be a “very good” crop year in 2014.

Though there have been some concerns about beans being too dry, Uttech said moisture content this year is actually a little higher than it’s been the last couple of years. Oil content is also higher, which is good news for soybean processing facilities, while protein levels are about normal.

Watching the markets

With the record-breaking yields, farmers are now hoping to see an increase in prices as they look to market their grain in the coming months.

Uttech said there was a nice rally on soybeans these past few days, which could be an opportunity for farmers. Soybeans closed Wednesday at $8.49 per bushel at New Vision Cooperative, while the corn closing price was $3.40 per bushel.

Soybean prices are about half of what producers sold their crop for just a few years ago, when soybeans reach $15 to $17 per bushel. The same is true for corn, which had garnered more than $7 per bushel at one time.

“When you’re looking at prices almost half (of what they were), the response of most farmers would be, ‘I need 65 bushels per acre (soybeans) at this price to make it cash flow,’” Uttech said.

“On the marketing side, we’re not seeing a lot of farmers selling corn,” he added. “They’re filling their bins at home and storing a lot at the elevators.

“A lot of farmers would really like to see $4 for their corn, and they may get that chance. There’s a long marketing window. We harvest the crop now and between now and next spring, next summer, a lot of things can happen.”

Uttech wishes all farmers a safe and successful harvest, and Gordon extended a request for travelers to be safe around harvest equipment.

“We’re all going slow,” he said. “Every one of our rigs is going slow. When you run into the rear of my wagon, I’m going to win.”

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