Wet conditions

Many Minnesota farmers had to make decisions about whether or not to drive through standing water to harvest soybeans this year.

The 2018 fall harvest season progressed at a fairly nice pace in last half of October in most areas of Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa, after starting later than normal across the region. The first half of October featured above normal rainfall, as well as some wet snow, and below-normal temperatures, which brought harvest progress to a halt. Some portions of Southern Minnesota and adjoining areas of Iowa and Wisconsin also received a significant amount of rainfall in late September, which resulted in very saturated field conditions.

As of Oct. 29, it was estimated that 75-95 percent of soybeans, as well as 35-65 percent of corn, depending on your location in Southern Minnesota, was harvested. Harvest progress was somewhat slower in Southeast Minnesota, impacted by higher rainfall amounts in late September and early October, as well as crops that were a bit later maturing. The first killing frost did not occur until early October in most of the region, which allowed corn and soybeans to reach full maturity; however, a few later planted soybeans and crops replanted following drown-out damage in June were an exception.

The soybean yields across Southern Minnesota were highly variable, depending on drown-out or storm damage, as well as regions with continual excessive moisture during the growing season. It has not been unusual to hear of yield monitor and weigh wagon yields in some portions of the region that were above 60 bushels per acre; however, once whole field yields were calculated, dividing the total bushels harvested by the total acres planted, the soybean yields tended to drop off.

The 2018 “whole field” soybean yields for most farmers in Southern Minnesota, adjusting for drown-out damage, were 10-20 percent below their five-year (2013-17) average, which are typically between 50 to 60 bushels per acre. There have been a few exceptional fields that avoided significant drown-out damage and reached or exceeded average yields. Yields of 30-40 bushels per acre occurred in areas hard hit by the adverse weather conditions in 2018.

The2018 corn yields across the region were also highly variable, depending on planting date, the excessive rainfall during the growing season, and impacts from late season storms. There have been very few “whole field” yield reports of 200 bushels per acre or higher in South Central and Southwest Minnesota. Whole field corn yield figures of 150-180 bushels per acre were much more common. In areas that were more severely impacted by the adverse weather situations, corn yields dropped off to the 125-150 bushel per acre range, or even lower. Farmers in some portions reported their poorest corn yields since the disaster year of 1993.

A lot of variation will continue in the 2018 corn yields as harvest winds down across the region. Most farm operators in the region target 180-200 bushels per acre as a budgeting goal. The very low corn yields in 2018 will likely have a significant financial impact for many farm operators heading into the 2019 crop year.

Other areas of Minnesota and the United States saw much better corn and soybean yield results than occurred in Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. Many portions of West Central and Northwest Minnesota, as well as parts of Central and Eastern Iowa and Southeastern Minnesota, reported good-to-excellent corn and soybean yields. Many areas of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Nebraska reported record or near-record corn and soybean yields.

In September, USDA projected the national average yields at 181.3 bushels per acre for corn and 52.8 bushels per acre for soybeans. USDA estimated Minnesota’s statewide average corn yield at 191 bushels per acre, and the statewide average soybean yield at 50 bushels per acre. Based on the early farm-level corn and soybean yield reports from many portions of Southern Minnesota, it may be difficult to achieve those USDA 2018 projected yield levels for Minnesota.

One piece of good news for producers regarding the 2018 corn harvest was the harvest moisture of the corn coming out of the field. Most of the corn being harvested in South Central Minnesota in late October was at 18-23 percent moisture, meaning a reduced amount of additional drying is required before the corn is placed in on-farm bins for storage. Corn should be dried to about 15-16 percent moisture before going into the grain bin for safe storage until next spring or summer. In early October, much of the corn was still at 23-27 percent moisture, or higher.

For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and Senior Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. 507-381-7960, kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com or http://www.minnstarbank.com/.