Soybean harvest under way in New Richland area

Published 9:27 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dennis Buldun could barely make himself heard over the roar of his combine as it dumped newly harvested soybeans into a truck in a field west of New Richland.

“We are averaging forty to forty five bushels an acre,” Buldun said.

He and his father farm 250 acres in Waseca County.

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The soybean harvest has been slowed by last Sunday’s rain, said Curt Dombroskie at the Watonwan Farm Service grain elevator.

“I would guess only about five per cent of the crop has come in,” Dombroskie said Tuesday. “We have already shipped 50,000 bushels to Mankato.”

The slow early pace of this year’s harvest does not trouble Dombroskie, who said his elevator has limited storage capacity.

“When the weather is great and the whole crop comes in at one time is when we have storage problems,” Dombroskie said.

The soybean crop is not looking quite as good as it did in early August, said an agronomist and crop consultant at Agro-Economics in New Richland. A combination of dry weather and crop disease is to blame for the reduction in anticipated yields, said Mark Bernard, an Integrated Pest Management specialist at Agro-Economics.

“Brown stem rot, pod and stem blight and white mold are some of the problems affecting yields,” Bernard said. “Prices have been good, but you always want more.”

Bernard said this year’s crop will be a decent one but not a record setting bin buster.

Bernard’s opinion is shared by Brad Stenzel, co-owner and manager of Matewan Grain & Feed near New Richland.

“It is spotty,” Stenzel said. “Some fields look great and others aren’t so hot.” Stenzel’s business has added a new feed truck and a new dump area recently, to help farmers who need to get in and out of his elevator quickly.

“We buy grain from local producers and turn that into feed for area livestock operations,” Stenzel said. “We are having a decent year, but I have concerns about next year.”

Higher input costs for 2009 are a certainty, Stenzel said.

“Fertilizer and seed costs have been increasing,” Stenzel said. “Getting working capital could be a problem for some operators in this economy.”

A credit crunch could hurt farming, said Cindy Holland of the State Bank of New Richland.

“We thought input costs were high this year,” Holland said. “Now we are finding that 2009 will be even higher.”

Holland sees a few rays of sunshine in next year’s gloomy input cost picture.

“We have had some good years lately and producers have been able to drive down their debt,” Holland said.

The healthy balance sheets may help farmers who want to lock in input prices this fall, Holland said.

“If producers can pay input costs now, they can save as much as 30 percent,” Holland said.

Mark Bernard hears the concerns expressed on a daily basis as he does soil samples and checks crops for disease and infestations.

“High rental prices are a real problem,” Bernard said. “We hear of rents ranging from $180 to $280 an acre or more. You hear the extremes, but you don’t know if it is true.”

The challenge for producers is to adjust to higher input costs while trying to maintain profitability.

“We are already seeing things like producers having to pay input costs six to eight months in advance,” Bernard said. “They are trying to lock in prices and it’s tough.”

Higher fertilizer costs could affect the ratio of beans to corn in next spring’s planting season, Stenzel said.

“You need more fertilizer to produce corn than you do to grow beans,” Stenzel said.

The latest USDA crop report showed a bigger corn harvest than anticipated Stenzel said.

“We have also seen a small cutback in livestock production,” Stenzel said. “We could see cheaper grain next year.”

Farmers may balk at the increase in seed and fertilizer costs, Bernard said.

“There is a limit on what people will pay,” Bernard said. “It could be that fertilizer dealers will have to adjust their prices to keep business.”

Bernard said that implement sales have been brisk for area dealers, even though a new combine can cost from $250,0000 to $300,000, and used combines are often priced in the $200,000 range. Corn prices have been fairly static because of tighter supplies combined with lower yields, Bernard said. Bernard believes corn prices could be on an uptick by next spring.

“There will be a war for acres,” Bernard said, “but corn won’t win. It is cheaper to grow beans.”