CRAWFORD COUNTY - No sooner did the ink dry on the page with the harvest story in last week’s issue about challenges farmers had been facing with the 2017 corn and bean harvest, than the weather switched around.
Many farmers could be seen out in the field at all hours of the day and night last week, taking advantage of the warmer and dryer weather. In a week containing both the Thanksgiving holiday and the nine-day gun deer season, area farmers were hard at it.
“Last week was the weather we’ve been waiting for,” Daryl Aspenson, Mt. Sterling, said. When last reported, Aspenson still had some percentage of his harvest in front of him. He now reports that the beans have dried down, and he expects to finish up his corn this week.
JoAnne Cooley, Acting Executive Director of the Crawford County USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), had not discussed corn moisture with any growers in the past week. She concurred with Aspenson that farmers had really taken advantage of the warmer and dryer temperatures seen in the last week.
“There’s been huge progress getting the corn in,” Cooley said. “And some growers have even been able to switch back to beans.”
Cooley said that with the warmer, dryer weather, growers have had an easier time drying down the corn.
“The more favorable weather not only means the corn comes out of the field dryer, but also means it is easier to dry down in the bin,” Cooley explained.
Swede Knutson of rural Ferryville reports he is completely finished with his harvest. He looks forward to a more favorable growing year in 2018, like most of the farmers we’ve spoken with.
“The moisture has come down three or four points in the last week,” Knutson said. “Of course, I had already gotten all my corn by then. It’s hard to know this late in November whether to go out and get it before the snow flies, or take the gamble and wait for the moisture to come down.”
Knutson reports that either way, at least it’s over and his corn and beans are in the bin.
Tammy Olson of Olson Feed Service in Seneca emphasized that while growers had definitely taken advantage of more favorable harvest weather in the last week, she had not seen moisture levels change significantly.
“It’s just a late season all the way around,” Olson said. “Planting was delayed in the spring, and that is leading to a delayed harvest in the fall. The whole thing is about two weeks behind schedule, at least.”
Olson described the last week as a “gift for farmers.”
Ed Heisz, Gays Mills, when last reported still had a third of his harvest out in front of him, and had reported unsafe conditions in the field to drive his combine.
“I expect to be done by this Wednesday,” Heisz reported. “And thankfully the moisture in the corn has come down this last week from 22-23 percent, to 18 percent.”
Vance Haugen, Crawford County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent, said that the good weather is helping, with corn moisture down one to two points. But the “corn is still pretty darn wet,” he said.
“Farmers have always had to be a little bit of a gambler, and it’s hard to bet on not having snow on the ground this time of year,” Haugen said. “The quality of the 10-14 day forecasts has really improved, and everything I’m seeing now points to a favorable end to a difficult harvest season.”
Haugen said he had spoken to one farmer who had harvested his crop saying he “couldn’t afford to wait.” Another farmer told him that with the prices like they are, he might as well wait for the moisture to come down.
“It’s all in what appetite for risk any given grower has,” said Haugen.