The rain late last week halted corn and soybean harvest for a couple of days in western and central Minnesota, but had very little impact on harvest progress in southern Minnesota or northern Iowa. Fortunately, some very good late-fall weather conditions during the first two weeks of November have allowed many farm operators in south-central Minnesota to either complete their 2009 corn harvest, or get very close to completion. Producers in other areas of Minnesota, as well as most areas of Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, still have a considerable amount of corn remaining to be harvested, and a significant amount of soybeans remaining in the field at some locations. In some regions, especially in western and central Minnesota, and the Dakotas, wet field conditions continue to delay harvest, along with the very high moisture content.

The nearly ideal November weather pattern in early November in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa has allowed corn grain moisture to drop 5-10%, as compared to late October. The moisture of most corn being harvested in that region in recent days is now being reported at 19-24%, compared to 26-30+% three weeks ago. This has shortened the time required to dry the corn, lowered drying costs and reduced the potential stress from local shortages of propane gas to dry the corn. Ideally, corn needs to be dried to 15-16% moisture for safe storage until next spring or summer.

Corn yields have been good to excellent in many areas of southern Minnesota, with many reported whole-field or whole-farm dry bushel corn yields of 175-200+ bu./acre. This rivals the excellent corn yields in many areas in some of the recent years; however, the 2009 corn crop may not be as profitable as other recent years. Crop input costs for the 2009 crop were already considerably higher than the 2008 or 2007 corn crops, due to higher seed and fertilizer expenses, as well as much higher cash rental rates for 2009 in many areas. Now, the wet fall and high grain moisture content of the corn means that most producers will have corn drying costs that are three to four times higher than normal, with many producers having corn drying costs of $75-100/acre. With corn market prices at similar levels to 2008 and 2007, it is likely that the bottom line for profitability on the 2009 corn crop will be lower than either the 2008 or 2007 corn crop for many farm operators.

Once the 2009 corn and soybean harvest is completed, most growers will still be finishing up fall tillage and completing fall fertilizer and manure applications, as long as field conditions permit. The situation with the wet field conditions in some areas, along with the occurrence of very cold temperatures, could cause problems completing fall nitrogen and manure applications, if those conditions persist until the soil is completely frozen. Ideally, livestock producers like to inject or incorporate livestock manure into the soil in the fall in order to take full advantage of the fertilizer nutrients in the manure.

2009 Crop Insurance Considerations
Dec. 10 is the end of insurance period (EOIP) deadline to get corn, soybeans and other crops harvested in order to maintain normal crop insurance coverage on the 2009 crop. Delayed harvest due to adverse weather conditions is an insurable loss with most crop insurance policies; however, high grain moisture content is not an insurable crop loss. Producers can request additional time beyond the Dec. 10 EOIP deadline to complete harvest if extremely wet or snowy weather conditions occur. Producers are expected to attempt to harvest their crop during the extension period, when weather conditions permit. It is important that producers notify their crop insurance agent prior to Dec. 10 if corn or soybean harvest will be delayed beyond that date.

Nov. 10 USDA Crop Report

The latest USDA Crop Production Report, released on Nov. 10, 2009, gives an indication of the final harvest results for the 2009 U.S. corn and soybean crop, and what the carryover grain stocks are as we head into 2010. However, there could be more adjustments than normal in the final 2009 crop production numbers, due to the lateness of the corn and soybean harvest, as well as grain quality issues, which exist in many regions of the U.S. According to the latest USDA report, it is estimated that 79.3 million acres of corn will be harvested in 2009 with a total production of 12.9 billion bushels of corn. The estimated 2009 corn production level is the second highest on record, trailing only the 2007 record national corn production of 13.1 billion bushels. Harvested corn acreage in 2009 will also be the second highest since 1946, trailing only the 2007 level of 86.5 million acres in 2007. The estimated U.S. average corn yield for 2009 is 162.9 bu./acre, compared to 153.9 bu. in 2008.

The USDA report estimated the average corn yield in Minnesota for 2009 at 172 bu./acre, which is the second-highest state average corn yield on record, trailing only the record corn yield in 2005 of 174 bu. Other recent corn yields in Minnesota were 164 bu. in 2008, 167 bu. in 2007, and 166 bu./acre in 2006. In the major corn-producing states in the U.S., corn yield estimates for 2009 are: 183 bu. in Iowa, 175 bu. in Illinois, 166 bu. in Indiana and 178 bu. in Nebraska. All expected 2009 yields are considerably higher than 2008, except in Illinois, which had very late planting dates in several areas.

The Nov. 10 report estimates the total 2009 U.S. soybean production at 3.32 billion bushels, which compares to a production of 2.97 billion bushels in 2008. The total harvested soybean acreage in 2009 is estimated at 76.6 million acres, up slightly from the 2008 level of 74.7 million acres, and the second-highest on record. The projected U.S. average soybean yield for 2009 is 43.3 bu./acre, which compares to 39.7 bu. in 2008. USDA estimates average 2009 soybean yields in Minnesota to be at 42 bu./acre, compared to 38 bu. in 2008. Iowa has a projected soybean yield of 51.0 bu./acre for 2009, compared to 46.5 bu. in 2008.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.