Farmers battling wet conditions, still getting the job done

Battling wet conditions, harvest 2016

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The late October skies brought another three inches of rain to southeast Minnesota and some parts of western Minnesota, while a wide band across the middle of the state got an inch-plus of unwanted rain: But farmers still managed to make significant harvest progress.

Northwest Minnesota has joined the ranks of major corn and soybean producing areas. John Swanson, of Mentor, who farms with his son, John David, really appreciated their track-equipped combine, which allowed them to finish harvesting their corn on Sunday, just ahead of more rain. They also helped neighbors get out equipment that was mired in the mud.

John Swanson

John Swanson

“We were combining through water in most fields,” says Swanson. “We helped out neighbors because we have tracks and the whole half mile field was mud and water. With tires on the combine there would be no handling these conditions.”

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the USDA reported that only 3.8 days were suitable for fieldwork across the state one week in late October, but farmers still managed to harvest 20 percent of the corn crop.

“Rains throughout the week worsened field conditions in many areas, leading some to note that harvest may not be able to be completed until the ground freezes,” according to the NASS report

In spite of all these challenges, Swanson said that the yields in both corn and soybeans are among the best years he’s had. The October 1 USDA crop estimate forecasted an average corn yield in Minnesota of 186 bushels per acre.

“With one-fifth of the corn for grain harvested during the week, corn for grain harvest advanced to 75 percent complete, 2 days behind the five-year average and a week behind last year,” according to the Minnesota Crop Progress and Condition report. (NASS)

Most of these rains occurred after maturity, but they still make Swanson mindful of losing nitrogen fertilizer to leaching. Swanson utilizes several different practices to limit the possibility of losing fertilizer: he no-tills soybeans and does limited tillage in his corn acres to help minimize soil erosion. Swanson also split-applies nitrogen fertilizer.

“On our sandy soils (under irrigation) we are splitting the application multiple times—I think we did seven times this year and next year I am intending to go weekly,” says Swanson. If we do get these big rains, we won’t get the leaching and loss of nitrogen. This both protects the environment, and cost-wise it’s better for us.”

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