Harvest expected to be decent for most

Published 9:55 am Monday, September 23, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Most Minnesota farmers are expected to harvest a decent crop this year despite the twin challenges of a cold, wet spring and an arid August.

The corn harvest could even be a winner on par with last year’s, though results will vary. That’s particularly true in parts of southeastern Minnesota that never fully recovered from snow in May.

“The corn yield looks like it will be close to last year, but there will be a lot of variation,” said David Nicolai, a University of Minnesota Extension crop educator. “It will be a case where average yields look good, but county by county, field by field, this will be a year of variability.”

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One thing has changed significantly from a year ago: prices are down. Corn futures are trading at just more than $4.50 a bushel, compared with prices that topped $7 per bushel last year.

As for soybeans, the late-summer drought is likely to put a dent in the harvest. The lack of rain in August has caused some soybean fields to mature early, before their seeds and pods were fully developed. Minnesota’s soybean yields are forecast to be down 10 percent from 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Wet, cold weather meant spring planting got off to a slow start. By May 1, hardly any corn was in the ground, though farmers by then normally would have seeded at least a third of their crop. Federal crop insurance data show Mower, Freeborn, Dodge, Steele and Olmsted counties in the southeast were hit worst. The snow was on the ground so long that many farmers never got their whole crop in.

“We are roughly half planted,” Dan Erickson, a farmer in Alden, said of his corn crop. “My dad (who is also a farmer) said he’s never seen anything like it in 45 years.”

Recent rain helped a bit but came too late for a good swath of the soybean crop. Dry conditions forced some fields to mature early, before their seeds and pods were fully developed. When soybean plants turn yellow, they’ve matured.

“I’ve got some fields that are 75 percent to 80 percent yellow,” said Tom Haag, a farmer near Eden Valley whose farm sits in the severe drought zone in central Minnesota. “Once they start turning yellow, they’re done.”