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Later harvest still looks promising
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The Crawford County fall harvest is going well, but still faces a few hurdles, according to farmers and others involved.

The largely completed soybean harvest went well with yields at or slightly below average, according the Seneca Feed’s Owen DuCharme. Like the corn currently being harvested, the soybean moisture content was too high for storage or sale and required drying.

Seneca area farmer Tom Kearns just began harvesting soybeans last week due to his late planting in mid-July. Kearns, a dairy farmer, has the soybeans roasted and feeds them to his livestock. He is satisfied with the yield he’s seeing so far, but 10 acres of the planting will not be harvested because it never reached maturity. 

The corn harvest in the county is about half completed, according to DuCharme, Crawford County Ag Agent Vance Haugen, Kearns and many others. The late spring planting season and a slow growing season has led to later harvest than the past few years. However, it’s still well within the bounds of average harvest dates for the county.

“It used to be farmers were looking to finish the harvest in time for deer hunting (in late November) and that may be where were headed this year,” Haugen said. It’s a sentiment confirmed by Kearns.

A variety of factors are delaying the local corn harvest. The late-maturing crop meant a later start in harvesting for most producers. The corn’s high moisture content is also slowing things down.

The corn, like the soybeans, is coming in with relatively high moisture content. Most corn is in the 20-to-25-percent range for moisture and even higher. That’s significantly above the 14 or 15 percent required for storage or sale. This means producers are being required to spend money and time running corn driers.

The higher moisture corn is delaying harvests in two ways. Some producers are leaving the corn stand in the fields hoping it will dry. Precipitation and cloudy days did not speed the process.

Crop farmer Daryl Aspenson like most others is about half finished with harvesting close to 1,650 acres of corn. Aspenson has seen corn with moisture levels of 26 and 27 percent earlier in the harvest, but has seen the moisture drop in recent days to 22 percent and lower with some areas in the high teens.

Aspenson said corn moisture content was varying up to six to seven percentage points within certain fields and that made it impossible to correctly set the combine head. The result was cracked kernels and lower prices from the buyer.

DuCharme explained that drying happens a lot faster in early October when under the right conditions corn can lose one-and-a-half percent of its moisture content. Even under the right conditions, corn’s ability to dry in mid-November is greatly reduced by shorter days and colder weather. In fact, corn probably can’t lose much more than a half of a percent of its moisture content per day by mid-November.

However, Aspenson has noticed more drying in the field within the last week with windy days. Nevertheless, he’s already spent plenty on running the corn drier 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Kearns, who feeds out most of the corn he grows, is taking a different approach. In addition to the usual high moisture corn stored in a silo, Kearns is trying a new technique that produces ‘snaplage’. The process is like green chopping corn, but a specialized head takes just the ear of the corn rather than then entire plant taken for silage. The resulting ‘snaplage’ will be stored in silo bags.

Besides the farmers hoping to reduce moisture content by leaving the corn in the field, others have no choice but to delay their harvest. Without enough storage facilities, they must wait until corn is dried and moved before they can harvest more. The time spent drying the corn creates a backlog, when corn can’t be combined because there is no place to store it.

Aspenson said there is a noticeable lack of other corn deliveries at the river in Prairie du Chien where he’s been delivering his corn this season compared to past years. Used to waiting in lines of trucks to deliver, Aspenson has been able to deliver the corn pretty much upon arrival.

However, there’s plenty of good news in this fall’s harvest as well. Starting with yields, which are substantially up from last year for many and considered above average.

Aspenson said that their initial estimates of 170 to 175 bushels or more per acre are proving to be high as they get further into the crop and the average for their entire crop may be closer to 165 bushels per acre. Last year, the Aspensons’ crop, impacted by drought, averaged 157 bushels per acre. Daryl Aspenson is hard pressed to explain why this year’s crop isn’t coming in higher.

Some producers have been getting 200 bushels per acre on certain ground in the county, according to DuCharme. That’s considered very good locally.

Unfortunately, increased yields and a bumper crop of corn in the United States has decreased the price some. Corn is currently selling around $4.30/bushel. That’s down significantly from a year ago when the price of corn was over $7/bushel.

Soybean prices are a little better with a current price of more the $13/bushel compared with last year’s price of the $13.50/bushel.