MORRIS, Minn. – Winter seemed to hang around late this past spring and now, this fall it has come early. Mid-November temperatures dropped below freezing and snow fell across the state. Despite that, growers were still working to finish harvest.
“As far as western Minnesota here, there is some corn and there are a few fields of soybeans still,” said Curt Reese of the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center during a Nov. 13 phone interview. “I would say we are probably about 90 percent done with the corn and maybe there's like 5 percent or 2 percent soybean fields, depends on where you go.”
According to the USDA Crop Conditions and Progress report for the week ending Nov. 11, corn for grain harvest was 87 percent complete. This is six days ahead of last year. The moisture content remains around 18 percent, unchanged from the previous week.
On the soybean side, harvest is nine days behind last year, but only 3 percent of the crop remains in the field.
Farmers are also still working on the sunflower harvest in portions of the state. The USDA estimates that to be 83 percent complete, six days behind the five-year average.
“The yields here overall have been pretty good, I think though this is a year that tiling really paid off,” said Reese. “You should know where to put your tile this year.”
Tiled fields were definitely easier to access this year and they did not have the drowned-out areas that could be seen in other low, non-tiled fields.
Given the moisture and precipitation this fall, anything to allow field access and get the combines going sooner was appreciated -- especially with the early November snow fall.
The USDA estimated only about 3.5 days suitable for field work the week ending Nov. 11, but average temperatures of 10-15 degrees below the normal range for this time put a stop to fall tillage for many farmers.
“Field to field, there is some tillage that it is still being done, but a lot of it got froze up and we are just going to have to wait,” he said.
Frozen ground really does not till well. One, it is a challenge just getting the equipment to move through the ground. If the tractor has got the power to get it done, the end result is not the best. The ground does not break up as it would under thawed conditions, leaving large chunks of soil to deal with in the spring.
“If you have a little bit lighter soil, you might not even need to do any tillage at all,” he said. “Especially coming into soybeans, soybeans are crop that we can no till with pretty good success on a lot of ground.”
Depending on the crop and the soil type, next spring might be a good year for growers to try out some no-till crops.
Soybeans in particular are a good crop to start with for first time no-tillers. The University has completed a lot of research on no-till soybeans and has had success with them in many different field conditions.
Reese encourages growers who are concerned about not completing their normal tillage practices to check out the University’s webpage or speak with an Extension educator. They can provide information that would be helpful.
“It is not the end of the world if it does not get done,” said Reese. “Certainly, we have been used to having nice falls and getting things done in the past, but we have always survived.”