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This is the view from Steve Eickhoff's window last weekend — not what you want to see during early harvest.

Challenging harvest conditions showing up in the heart of the Corn Belt

By Matt Reese

Corn and soybean lodging, quality issues, and persistent moisture have plagued the 2018 harvest for Ohio so far. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress Report for the week ending Oct. 14, the heat and dry conditions for part of the week allowed corn harvest to continue to outpace the 5-year average in Ohio. Soybean harvest moved ahead 13 percentage points, although it continues to lag behind the 5-year average.

Though there have certainly been challenges in Ohio, buckeye farmers had better be careful before lamenting too long. Ohio is certainly not the only state facing harvest issues.

In Minnesota, cool and wet weather conditions continued to hamper harvest progress during the week ending Oct. 14, 2018, according to USDA. There were only 1.1 days suitable for fieldwork, the fewest days suitable this year since the week ending April 22 when there were no days suitable for fieldwork.

The persistent wet conditions have left Minnesota’s topsoil moisture at 56% adequate and 42% surplus, according to USDA. Despite the challenges, corn harvest progress for Minnesota is near normal at 18% in 2018 compared to the 20% five-year average. Soybean harvest, however, is really falling behind with a five-year average of 69% of the Minnesota crop harvested and only 38% of this year’s crop out of the fields so far in 2018.

Steady rains, heavy fog, cool weather and even snow have kept soybeans from drying down this fall and really slowed harvest efforts for Steve Eickhoff who farms in the Spring Valley area in the southeast corner of Minnesota.

“We have maybe a quarter of our beans done and we started corn after the snow melted from this weekend. Everything got mature early but we have been so wet,” Eickhoff said. “The first snow we had was on Sunday but to the north they have already had snow a couple of times. We have been cold with highs in the 40s the last couple of weeks. We usually start harvesting soybeans the end of September and by early October we are usually going hard on the beans. The beans are ripe, but we can’t get them dried down. The forecast is for highs in the 50s but sunshine for the next 10 days. We’ll see what happens.”

Eickhoff said the soybean crop for the area looks to be about average and corn yields look strong — if they can get them out of the fields in a timely manner.

“Stalk quality is not real great and the beans are all leaning. We have had some wind issues and we don’t need any more snow that is for sure,” he said. “One of the blessings of being cold is that we haven’t had any conditions for the molds. I think the grain quality is pretty good. So far we have heard some horror stories but we haven’t had any sprouting or anything like that. I don’t think we ever got the beans dry enough for that to happen.”

In Iowa the story is similar. Rain and early snow showers limited Iowa farmers to just 0.8 day suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Oct. 14, according to the USDA. Activities for the week included moving grain, monitoring field conditions and harvesting corn when weather permitted. A whopping 60% of the topsoil in the nation’s top corn producing state had surplus moisture. Only 17% of the state’s corn crop had been harvested compared to the five-year average of 24%. For soybeans, 19% had been harvested compared to the 51% five-year average. And, while harvest progress continues to lag, Iowa’s farmers are grimacing at the rainy forecast for many parts of the state through late October into November.

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