John Phipps: The Possibility of Harvest Headaches in 2019

11:43AM Sep 09, 2019
Harvest 2017

John Phipps said a recent crop moisture check revealed a possible issue for harvest.( Farm Journal )

I’m standing in my usual location when I want to talk about crop issues or field conditions. It’s just across from my workshop and you’ve seen this field many times before. Some of you have remarked that the corn looks pretty good for this year and I’m not trying to brag when I agree. This corn was planted May 8, which is later than we would like but I remember being super-excited about getting it done then.

Our farm managed to avoid many of the soakers this spring and this particular field was system tiled a few years ago, so the crop came up and developed fairly normally all season. Our season has also been remarkably benign, with little or no heat stress. In fact, of all the problems we’ve had across the Corn Belt this year, most were water problems – too much and then in many areas, way too little. I’m sure we’ll take our turn another year, but we have been incredibly lucky weather-wise.

As is my habit on Labor Day, I pulled a few ears to try to guess how far we are from harvest. The ear samples were impressive for size, but for this maturity at our latitude, it is clear this is going to be a late, wet harvest. I’m talking about moisture content. This 112 day corn tested 34%, which is at least 5-10% higher than normal for our farm. Meanwhile we have neighboring fields still in dough stage.

This is one overlooked aspect of climate change for our area, at least. Warmer air means more moisture, both in storms and everyday humidity. Unless we have above average temperatures in September, with low humidity, we are going to start running out of good days for field drying. A warm October would help, but the daylight hours shrink so rapidly, it’s hard for me to expect much help there.

Farmers who have plunked money down for drying systems that have been largely unused for years around here will have a huge advantage. And elevators are bracing for long waits as unloading speed is dictated by drying speed.

The bottom line is my only crop prediction for this year, which is worth all you’re paying for it: I think it will be bigger and much wetter, and take far longer to finish that we think right now.

USFR 09/07/19 - John's World