Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
This late summer and fall season in Minnesota has proved the saying that rain makes grain, with high yields being seen for both soybeans and corn.
“The yields are fantastic, for both soybeans and corn. The moisture level on the corn is nice and dry despite the wet weather. It’s running around 17 to 20 percent, and the quality is excellent,” reports Jerry Demmer, from his farm near Clarks Grove in south central Minnesota. Demmer serves as secretary of Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council.
“The wet has slowed people down,” Demmer reports, “The soils are saturated. It’s been around 37 inches rain since April.”
Doug Albin, who farms in Clarkfield, in western Minnesota, says earlier season moisture passed them by but August and September have been wet, and pattern tile drainage is the only thing that has allowed him to get the soybean harvest done in a timely way. Albin has experimented on one section of his farm with controlled drainage—a system that uses the tiles to retain or remove subsurface moisture at specific levels. He credits this practice with reducing surface soil erosion. The controlled drainage along with a saturated buffer help control the loss of nutrients from his farm fields into the nearby Yellow Medicine River. He says the tile drainage also allows him to avoid deep tillage of his soils, which helps conserve soil and prevent erosion.
Chad Willis, a farmer near the central Minnesota city of Willmar, wrapped up this year’s corn harvest this week and has made major progress with fall tillage, despite the wet conditions.
“We’ve had such nasty conditions,” Willis said. “I just talked to two of my friends from where I grew up in western Minnesota and they are fighting the same thing out there. My buddy said, ‘you can’t have a grain cart in the field, it’s too soft. So you drive to the edge of the field with the combine and dump half off. It’s just been a real messy harvest for everybody. With all this rain.”
Willmar saw the big rain events in August and September, with another 3-4 inch rain in early October during soybean harvest.
“We had 10 inches of rain in the first week of August, right around county fair time. They got a foot of rain just to the south of me. That really left the ground soaked,” says Willis, who serves as chairman of Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. “In the wheel tracks you see water, and the soil is getting compacted—that’s how wet it is out here.”
Willis, who farms about 620 acres in a corn-soybean rotation, reported yields of 56 bu/acre for soybeans and between 195 and 200 bu/acre for corn. He was surprised and pleased with the result, because Willmar area had freezes on two consecutive nights in May, which put the already emerged corn behind usual progress during the whole growing season.
Willis waits to do tillage until soil temperatures drop to 50 degrees, to assure that the fertilizer he is placing for next year’s corn crop will remain biologically inert until the soil warms next spring. In addition to phosphorus and potassium, Willis puts down a mixture of nitrogen—mostly ENS, with a small amount of urea. The urea will be available to the young crop right away after germination, while the ENS is encapsulated, and acts as a slow-release nutrient, becoming available in the summer as the corn approaches the critical stages of tasseling and pollination. Using the coated product prevents the loss of nutrients, protecting area ground and surface water.
“Hopefully harvest wraps up (this) week, then tillage, and then deer hunting,” says Albin, about how much he enjoys the outdoor pleasures of this season.