Farmers Find Widely Variable Yields at Harvest Halfway Mark

October 14, 2015 11:00 AM
 
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Depending on where you farm, harvest 2015 is either the best of times or the worst of times.

In the western Corn Belt, producers are celebrating record production for corn and soybeans.

“Best soybeans ever averaging 66 bu. per acre,” a Stearns County, Minn., farmer reported to AgWeb’s Crop Comments section. “About a third done with corn. Averaging around 220 (bu. per acre) with one variety doing 250 (bu. per acre). This is all dryland, sandy loam to loam soils in northern Stearns County. Wow!”

Meanwhile, growers in the eastern Corn Belt are seeing yields that are considerably off historical averages.

“We just finished corn harvest,” a farmer in Macoupin County, Ill., told AgWeb on Sept. 30. “All I can say is pitiful. Our average was 242.9 bu. per acre last year. This year … a pitiful 122.7 bu. acre. … I think the USDA is a little off on their estimates.”

Overall, U.S. farmers are right on schedule with the corn harvest (42% completed as of Oct. 13 versus a five-year average of 43%) and ahead of the pace on soybeans, with 62% done compared to a five-year average of 54%.

For many, the low yields are the result—just as they feared—of the flooded out fields earlier this year.  

“Today we combined the corn on our best farm,” said a grower in Livingston County, Ill., which is one of the 87 Illinois counties declared natural disaster areas due to heavy rainfall. “It has a multi-peril (actual production history) of 213 (bu. per acre). Last year, it yielded 260 (bu. per acre). This year, it made 155 (bu. per acre). It was ravaged with water damage (like) that farm has never seen before.”

According to USDA’s Oct. 13 Crop Progress report, 15% of Illinois corn is rated “poor” to “very poor,” compared to 10% nationally. In contrast, just 2% of the corn and 3% of the soybeans in Minnesota are in that sort of shape.

Listen to Chris Barron of AgView Solutions discuss this fall's harvest:

Other states are in even worse shape than Illinois. In Missouri, 17% of the corn crop and 20% of the soybean crop are considered in “very poor” to “poor” condition. (Nationally, 11% of the soybean crop falls into that category, according to the latest Crop Progress report.)  Many of those Missouri acres never even got planted--or replanted. According to the Farm Service Agency's October acreage numbers, Missouri farmers reported a staggering 1.7 million in total prevent plant acres, which includes more than a half-million acres of corn and more than 1 million acres of soybeans. 

The impact of those lost acres go beyond yield. According to University of Missouri Extension, flooded fields can lead to a variety of consequences: financial, economic, agronomic and environmental.

"Costly replanting occurred after fields flooded. Rains washed away millions of dollars of weedkiller and fertilizer. Elevators refused to buy disease-ridden wheat. Livestock producers struggled with muddy feedlots and overflowing lagoons. Hay is in short supply and of poor quality. Those hardships show what is yet to come, says MU Extension agronomist Bill Wiebold. Topsoil erosion, soil compaction, nutrient deficiencies, disease and fallow fields carry over to next year."

Indiana is also suffering, with 24% of its corn crop and 17% of its soybeans in those categories. So is Ohio, where 19% of the state’s corn crop and 19% of its soybeans qualify as “very poor” to “poor.”

So when will the grain markets begin reflecting this harvest reality? Hard to say. "At this point, I still think we're trading a higher yield than what's out there," observed Chris Barron of AgView Solutions on FArm Journal Radio's Straight From the Heartland. "We just don't have the outstanding yields in the good areas. It's good, but I don't think it's good enough to offset the poorer areas."

How is your harvest going? See how yields are shaping up on AgWeb's corn and soybean harvest maps and send your photos and observations to AgWeb's Crop Comments section. 

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