Still some optimism but muddy harvest expected
WILLMAR -- Rainfall amounts from 3 to 5 inches across the region have stolen farmers' optimism for an early fall harvest -- now they are readying for "a later harvest that's going to be a real grind."
Doug Albin, who farms in the Clarkfield area, reported a bit over 4 inches of rain during the past several days and said Friday that the optimism for an early, and easier, harvest is gone.
He estimated it would be at least two weeks before the rain works its way through the soil and allows farmers the opportunity to harvest the corn and soybeans on the higher ground and on well-drained soils. Producers may end up leaving the grain on side hills and lower areas.
"We were optimistic," Albin said. "It's going to be challenging to get it done."
Byron Hogberg, Farm Service Agency executive director in Renville County, reported Friday that between 3 and 5 inches of rain had fallen across the county.
"We still have the calendar in farmers' favor," he said. "If it didn't rain again for a week, things could get going."
There is potential for an excellent crop, Hogberg added, but also concern that the potential yield could be reduced by the wet weather and that wet spots in fields will not dry out this fall.
"There is potential for a very good crop with a fairly good price," Hogberg said. While sugar beet growers are facing tough, muddy conditions and bigger challenges lifting beets than corn and soybean farmers, the beet harvest is another potentially excellent crop.
Even so, the rains are a setback that can be dealt with to some extent with equipment that is built to go on wetter farmland, such as combines and tractors with tracks and flotation tires.
Albin knows of farmers who are popping for $20,000 to put rear-wheel assist equipment on their combines. Others are spending between $60,000 and $70,000 to equip their harvesting machines with tracks instead of tires. The equipment is supposed to allow the combines to work better on wet ground and is over and above the $300,000 to $500,000 the farmers have already spent on the combine and the headers.
Historically, about 2 percent of the state's corn crop and 4 percent of the state's soybean crop would be harvested by Sept. 20, according to the state crop weather report issued Monday. As of last Sunday, 1 percent of the corn and 3 percent of the beans were harvested. Sugar beet harvest was 13 percent complete, compared with a five-year average of 7 percent.
The state's corn crop was rated at 49 percent mature, ahead of the 37 percent average. The beans, at 25 percent mature, matched the five-year average.
Even before this week's rainfall, topsoil moisture was rated at 59 percent adequate and 40 percent surplus across the state. As of Sunday, Willmar was 13.42 inches above the normal rainfall total since April 1.