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'I think there will be some corn left in the fields

Soybeans were augered into a semi-truck hopper last Tuesday in Folden Township of Otter Tail County. While the soybean harvest is nearly complete local farmers still have a lot of corn to harvest. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

Leaf River Ag Agronomy Manager Mark Hess is estimating the 2017 fall harvest in the Wadena area could be wrapped up 15 to 20 days into November.

While deer hunters may find the later-than-normal completion date annoying, the real challenges belong to the farmers.

After escaping the summer without any super heat or humidity, Central Minnesota was swamped with rain in September. The abundance of moisture was not entirely welcome.

"There are some challenges out there. The crops are wetter than we'd like them to be," Hess said. "That is because of the rain and because we had a little bit cooler summer, so things did not mature as fast."

The edible bean and soybean harvests have been wrapped up. Looking at the corn harvest in the last days of October, Hess estimated there was "90 percent left to go."

"I would say we are in that 1-2 weeks behind at the most," Hess said. "We're not doing badly."

Bad weather is always a wildcard at harvest time. As the last full week of October came along, snow was in the forecast for the Wadena area. A cold, wet winter is being predicted for the northern region of the United States by the National Weather Service.

"Snow can get on the stalks, and then it will plug combines," Hess said. "We can combine on snow, but we can't run snow through combines. It'll just freeze them up, and then the corn goes right out the back end."

Early snow can also be a headache for farmers who have beans in the field.

"Snow and moisture can cause you problems," Hess said. "These pods will swell up, and then they pop the pod and the beans fall out. You can get loss in the fields depending on the conditions."

Semis pulling grain hoppers and big trucks have been on the roads for several weeks transporting crops either to elevators or to home bin sites.

"We've got guys hauling. The elevators are not as excited this year getting the crop in as they have been other years," Hess said. "They are just pretty much going to be full. They've got no way at this point of getting rid of stuff, so once they fill up it is going to be up to storage on the farms... or I think they'll be some crop left in the field because of this."

Corn left standing in the fields? Hess suspects there could be more corn left than in a typical year.

"I think there is going to be corn left in the fields because it is going to be higher in moisture and it's going to be higher to dry it, and the value is not there, so the guys are going to leave some. They're not going to have room in their bids and they can't go to town with stuff."

Corn diseases could also rear its ugly head. Hess feels late harvest disease pressure is likely to come into play this winter. A disease like stalk rot can topple corn plants in the winter, so farmers who combine their corn in the spring will not be able to harvest as much.

"Some of it will be on the ground. Most farmers are aware of that, so if they are going to leave something it will be the healthier fields, that would be my recommendation."

This fall there was a lot of northern corn leaf blight and Anthracnose in the area.

The price of crops like corn and soybeans was never expected to be that strong this year. When contacted by the Pioneer Journal last April, Hess and several area farmers were not looking for a profitable fall.

Hess indicated that farmers selling corn on the market without a contract at this time might be able to expect a bushel price of $2.60 to $2.80 range.

"For a lot of guys that is not going to be break even," Hess said.

"That is where your bushels come in," Hess said. "We've had guys with over 220 on the bushels. That helps. We don't want more money for the crop, but that's the difference—if you were getting 200 bushels at $2.60 or 220 bushels at $2.60."

This year the soybeans are in the $8.50 per bushel range.

Two years ago farmers were getting substantially better prices. Soybeans were in the $11.50-$12 range. Corn was in the $3.50 to $4 range, but then the world market was flooded with soybeans and corn and the prices dropped.

U.S. farmers compete on a global market where the playing field is not always an even one.

"They are planting a crop right now down in South America, and the weather down there has been very good, so right now that means they will have a decent crop. And that means there is going to be more crop on the world market, so they're going to go to whoever is going to sell it to them the cheapest."