WILLMAR — Fast and furious and ahead of schedule can be used to describe the 2020 harvest in west central Minnesota.

Dry, warm weather in September and the first half of October created optimal harvest conditions, which was a welcome reprieve from the last three years when early and continual rain, snow and mud made harvest difficult.

“It’s going quick,” said Craig Kavanagh, grain manager at the Glacial Plains Cooperative in Murdock. “It’s a lot better than last year.”

Based on what he’s hearing and seeing from farmers delivering semi loads of grain to the elevator, Kavanagh said soybeans are “pretty much wrapped up around here” and the corn crop was at least 30 percent harvested.

Soybean harvest, which is nearly complete in west central Minnesota, is about a month ahead of last year when snow and rain made it difficult for farmers to harvest all crops. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
Soybean harvest, which is nearly complete in west central Minnesota, is about a month ahead of last year when snow and rain made it difficult for farmers to harvest all crops. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
He predicted harvest would be done by Halloween.

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Last year some farmers were trying to combine corn at Christmas time. Some were still trying on Valentine's Day.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report issued Tuesday afternoon confirms that the Minnesota harvest season is ahead of schedule.

The report said soybean harvest was 87 completed by the end of last week, which is four weeks ahead of last year and 17 days ahead of the five-year average.

The corn crop was 34 percent complete, which is 20 days ahead of last year and 10 days ahead of average.

The sugar beet crop was also nearing completion with 86 percent harvested statewide by the end of last week. This time last year, about 27 percent the sugar beet crop was out of the field.

Unseasonably warm and dry conditions have been the key this year.

According to the USDA report, there were 6½ days suitable for fieldwork last week — the most of any week this year.

“The weather can’t get any better,” said Kavanagh, during an interview Tuesday.

“We’ve had such good drying days,” said Grant Christianson, whose family raises crops and also owns Allied Grain Company of Blomkest. Harvest this year is “fast and furious,” he said.

Christianson said they, and other farmers in the southern part of Kandiyohi County, were finishing beans and sugar beets this week and that the corn harvest will be “rocking and rolling” next week.

Jeff Syverson, manager at the Glacial Plains Cooperative in Sunburg, predicted some farmers in northern Kandiyohi County would be finished harvesting corn by the end of this week.

Jeff Syverson, manager at the Glacial Plains Cooperative in Sunburg, waves to a truck on the scale letting the driver know the corn can be unloaded. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
Jeff Syverson, manager at the Glacial Plains Cooperative in Sunburg, waves to a truck on the scale letting the driver know the corn can be unloaded. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
During an interview Wednesday, Steve Domm, president of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville, said about 75 percent of the local crop was harvested and he expects it to be finished by the end of this week.

“Been quite a change from the last three years,” said Domm. “It’s been a much more enjoyable harvest than the previous three.”

“It’s a lot more fun seeing the lifter kicking up some dust rather than pushing up mud,” said Christianson, who was driving a beet truck this week.

Indications are that the quality of the crops is good with low moisture content and high test weights for beans and corn, and good sugar content for beets.

An easy harvest and a bump in price on soybeans has helped farmers’ attitudes.

“Everyone’s in a good mood,” said Kavanagh.

It’s exactly what farmers needed during a year when everything else has been tipped on its head.

“There’s nothing better than a good harvest to get your mind off of what’s going on geopolitically right now,” said Domm.

Damp conditions this week could slow the pace somewhat, but because ground conditions have been dry, the rain isn’t likely to create muddy fields that could impact harvest significantly.

According to the USDA report, topsoil moisture conditions in the state were 3% very short, 17% short, 76% adequate and 4% surplus.