Finishing Harvest

In Minnesota, a little snow can’t stand between a farmer and his harvest. 20 years ago or so, I remember snow on corn and sunflower plants prior to harvest. The last decade or so, it seems we’ve had warmer fall temperatures and plants that mature earlier so snow and harvest commingle much less.

Most soybeans are already in the bin. I was talking with a gentleman the other day from Orange City, Iowa. The conversation started on the subject of a tractor but eventually blossomed to include harvest. I have been asking people about how their soybeans have ran this year. My answers have ranged anywhere from about 7 bushels in the very dry areas to much higher. The Orange City, Iowa farmer said he had averaged just under 70 bushels an acre which is really good. Just a few farms away, they had missed rain and the yields were not so good. If you still have beans in the field at this time of year, chewing your fingernails would probably be a good hobby.

I thought about what my dad always said about corn. I grew up on a dairy farm so we made all of our corn into silage. Corn for silage is usually a little different than corn harvested for its grain. When you make silage, you are looking for a lot of tonnage while a farmer who combines corn for the kernels is concerned mostly about the ears. The stalk is just there to hold the ears at a proper level to match the header of the combine. My dad always told me that we were too far north to take chances on combining corn and, for his time, he was correct. I tried it once and we finished it the day before the sky cracked and fell in the form of a foot of snow. The corn varieties most farmers plant are now early-maturing so they are ready for harvest earlier than the older varieties. Our growing season today feels more like Southern Minnesota’s growing season from three decades ago so there’s usually a little more wiggle-room to complete the harvest.

I don’t see as many sunflower fields as I did at one time. I’m sure they’re out there because I just purchased a bag of oil sunflowers for the birds last week-end. I remember the huge confection sunflowers that farmers grew for snacks. I used to dabble in a little over-the road trucking and we would haul confectionery sunflowers from Grandin, North Dakota. I can’t remember the name of the variety but they were huge. I’m sure there’s ‘flowers out there but they exist mostly outside my range.

There’s a lot of corn combining going on this week. I think some farmers were just waiting for dry-down of the kernels so they store without expensive drying. It was so dry this year that maybe harvest isn’t as great a priority either. This summer’s drought was tough on everybody with the exception of those who planted wheat. Farmer’s are a pretty optimistic bunch so they probably would like to get 2017 in the rear view mirror and look for better times ahead. I hope they get them.