AgDay's Tyne Morgan launches her I-80 harvest travels from the Cornhusker state where despite dry weather and heat, harvest has been a pleasant surprise.
The latest USDA Crop Progress Report shows Nebraska’s corn harvest is 36% complete. Normally, it’s only 5% at this date. And while harvest is ahead, the drought still looms on farmers’ minds.
The sound of grain rushing from the grain cart into the semi comes as a relief to Fort Calhoun, Neb., farmer Jeff Shaner. It wasn’t even a year ago that food waters had washed the majority of last year’s crop away.
"It’s very surprising to go from one year where there’s water standing in your fields to the next where you can’t seem to find a rain," said Shaner.
Shaner went nearly 50 days without rain this summer. Couple that with several days topping 100 degrees, and Shaner is impressed he even has a crop to harvest.
"I’m surprised in areas we’re only off 50 bushels per acre," Shaner said. And surprised in other areas we’re having an average yield. It’s a nice surprise."
"What we’ve picked so far I’m very happy with. I’d sell out today for what we’ve picked," said Decatur, Nebraska farmer Larry Mussack.
Mussack knows it won’t all be that great. Variability is a major theme in every acre of this year’s harvest. And even in areas where irrigation could supplement for what Mother Nature lacked, it’s still not a picture perfect harvest.
"Because we’re still going to have an issue with pollination and test weight," said Mussack. "The water is great, but rain fed is a whole lot better."
"The places where we have irrigation will actually have a higher corn yield than we have had in the past few years," said Shaner.
It’s more than just yields that are the talk among frmers this year. Poor stalk quality is pushing farmers to the field earlier than normal.
"Right now we’re harvesting corn that’s 20 percent moisture," said Shaner. "That’s a little bit more than what we’d like to harvest it at."
For Mussack, his combine started rolling in early September.
"That’s probably 20 to 30 days ahead of normal, which is very surprising because moisture is down," he said.
While the corn moisture is a relief, one scary factor weighing on their minds is the threat of aflatoxin.
"That thing is like chasing a ghost almost to see what you have," said Mussack. "Try to determine whether you need to leave strips. It’s still a question mark for me on exactly what we’re going to do."
"Right now we’re delivering this corn to Cargill processing plant in Blaire, Nebraska," said Shaner. "They are doing an excellent job of screening aflatoxin. We average a check for aflatoxin at least twice a day."
And even though Shaner hasn’t had corn rejected because of aflatoxin, both Shaner and Mussack know there’s still a long way to go before the combines are put up for another year.
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