Rain falling on late maturing crops poses challenge for MN farmers

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Farmers in West Central, Southwest and Southeastern regions of Minnesota are dealing with various levels of cold and wet that have halted the progress of soybean harvest and pushed corn harvest off for many until at least later this week.

Growing conditions throughout the season have resulted in crops that are slower to mature than in recent years, and grains and oilseeds have a higher moisture content and will require drying for storage.

Harold Wolle, who farms with his son Matthew in Madelia, reported success with soybeans planted early, but soybeans planted later were not ready to harvest prior to the latest stretch of rain and corn maturity is delayed.

“We are seeing virtually no harvesting of corn in our area. It was a cooler than average season, particularly in August, and I think that’s what delayed our maturity,” said Wolle, who is a member of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) board.

For farmers in west-central Minnesota, rains through most of the growing season were timely until mid-August, according to Noah Hultgren, who is also on the MCGA board.

“Then we had an eight-inch rain. From that point on, it’s been fairly wet in the field,” said Hultgren, who farms in Willmar.

So far, the rain has drowned spots of his edible beans and sugar beets, with muddy areas throughout his field becoming a problem. But with his soybeans and corn still in good shape, Hultgren is optimistic.

“Last year we had a big rain event about the same time, with nearly as much rain, and the ground became much wetter, so we had a lot more drown outs last year. I guess we could consider ourselves lucky,” he said.

Like many growers in southeast Minnesota, Ryan Buck works hilly land, which presents different challenges than those faced in southwestern Minnesota. A drier, warmer two weeks in September helped the crops in his area make progress toward maturity, and they’ve been able to harvest about a third of their soybeans.

“You could definitely tell they were drier on the knobs and then once you got into the valleys they still needed some time yet,” says Buck, an MCGA board member as well.

Buck was able to work with drier crops on the south-facing slopes of his land, while working around crops on wetter northern-facing slopes. Taking that into account, Buck ended up pausing with about 500 acres of soybeans and nearly 1,000 acres of corn left to pick.

“In some ways it’s nice to farm in the hills. You don’t have to deal with standing water or drowned out spots, like the growers down in the southwest corner of Minnesota, but then again, when it gets wet and it stays wet all fall, you have to deal with trying to spin your way up and down the hills.”

Even with the weather challenges, both Buck and Wolle believe a mid-November finish is in reach if weather cooperates.

“My long-term goal over my career has been to be finished by November 10, and I think we have a shot at that,” Wolle said.

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