Rain puts clamp on fall harvest

Register City Editor

Moisture is the lifeblood of farming, but heavy rains this week have been too much of a good thing.
With harvest of fall crops, mainly corn and soybeans, in the early stages, rains of three to six inches in the area shut down combines for several days.
Mature grain, sitting damp in soggy fields, is bad news, said Vance Beebe, who farms northwest of Iola. He and others said the harvest wouldn’t restart until the middle of next week, provided no more rain falls.
Farm fields softened by earlier showers might be firmed up some by the recent heavy rain, said Marvin Lynch, manager of Piqua Farmers Co-op, groping for something good to say about the latest round of moisture. “But, when fields get wet this time of year it takes longer for them to dry. We don’t have much heat and fewer hours of sunshine.”
The rain delay is exacerbated by it preventing corn from reaching maturity as early as usual. Wet fields in the spring delayed planting, which now is being felt on the finish end of the crop.
“The corn’s not drying like it should,” said Merle Sterling, Humboldt area farmer. “We shelled some by hand a week ago and it was way too wet. And the ears aren’t pointing down like they should,” a genetic code that has the crop saying it’s ready for harvest.
Much corn has been running 18 percent or better moisture content. The threshold is 16 percent.
Beebe has cut some corn and hasn’t found it as good as in past years, at about 100 bushels an acre.
Piqua Co-op has taken in 300,000 bushels of corn, a third of what Lynch expects to purchase this harvest cycle. First corn hauled to the elevator ran 100 to 115 bushels an acre. In the last few days the average has improved to 130 or better, Lynch said.
“The early cut corn wasn’t too good and what has been harvested is staying pretty wet,” he said, confirming Sterling’s observation. “We’re having a time getting good weather to dry down the corn. Most years, the corn harvest would have been over by now.”
Two weeks of no rain, sunshine and relatively warm temperatures would be a godsend, Lynch said, permitting farmers to harvest most of their fall crops.
Beebe said a light frost earlier this week had next to no effect on soybeans, the only crop now vulnerable to cold weather. Most soybeans were planted after the wheat harvest.
“You couldn’t tell it frosted on the upland and there were just a few leaves burned off the top of plants in the bottoms,” he said. “For a frost to hurt us now it’s probably going to have to get down in the 20s and stay there for quite a while,” Lynch added.
The forecast is for chilly nights the next several days, with lows in the mid-30s. Most have lost their leaves, nature’s indication of maturity.

A SMIDGEN of soybeans has been cut — 60,000 bushels or less before combines were idled by the latest rains.
“We’ve just got started with beans,” Lynch said of the Piqua Co-op. “I thought earlier we’d get 750,000 bushels. Now I think we may get more. What’s been cut runs 40 to 50 bushels an acre. The quality is good, too.”
Beebe said he hadn’t started to cut soybeans. “I don’t have any ready yet,” he said, but will very soon. “I hate to have to wait,” he said, fearful if they stay wet and uncut too long quality will suffer.
“I had 60 to 70 acres of beans ready and probably would have started combining today,” Sterling said Thursday evening.
He anticipates being able to get to the beans sooner than his corn when fields become dry enough to support combines without them gouging too deeply. Today’s four-wheel-drive combines can wade through most muddy fields, but farmers are reluctant to do so except as a last resort. Seed beds for the next crop are more difficult to prepare in deeply rutted fields.
“Bean fields will dry a little quicker than corn,” Sterling said. “With the leaves off, the wind and sun can get to the ground better in bean fields.
“We’ve a lot to combine — we haven’t cut anything yet — and we may have to wait now until it freezes to get some of the corn out,” he said. “That’ll mean a lot late-night activity in corn fields, but we’ve done that before.”

CORN AND soybeans are major cash crops for Allen County farmers. To their advantage prices have risen recently, a little peculiar for the start of harvest when millions of bushels of grain are about to be put in the market. Prices usually decline during harvest.
Thursday afternoon at Piqua, soybeans fetched $8.85 a bushel, corn $3.20. Prices for both crops are up from last month and the prices may hold, Lynch said, because of a weak dollar and fears for adverse weather in much of the farm belt.