Moderate to heavy rainfall across most of southern and central Minnesota, as well as northern Iowa, has slowed soybean harvest throughout the region. Most areas reported 1-3 in. of rainfall on Oct. 1 and 2, with some locations reporting even higher amounts. The rainfall was very beneficial in areas that have experienced drought-like conditions during the last half of the summer season. The rainfall will help replenish supplies of stored soil moisture for the 2010 growing season, and assure adequate topsoil moisture for good tillage and fall nitrogen applications following harvest. However, in areas with totally saturated soils, any additional major rainfall events in the next couple of weeks could lead to significant harvest delays.

Soybean harvest was in full-swing in most areas of southern and western Minnesota prior to the rainfall event. Most soybeans have now reached maturity, so harvest timeliness is very critical in order to prevent harvest loss. The prospect for wetter weather conditions in the next week or two in the upper Midwest will likely cause growers to be quite aggressive with soybean harvest once field conditions dry out.

Early soybean yield reports are predictably quite variable in southern Minnesota, ranging from near 35 bu./acre to around 55 bu. Most growers are reporting near-average to slightly below-average soybean yields thus far, mainly due to the extremely dry weather pattern that existed in many areas in July and August. On the whole, 2009 soybean yields in south-central Minnesota will likely be similar to 2008 soybean yields, but slightly below 2007 yield levels, and well below the excellent soybean yields of 2006.

Very little corn has been harvested in southern Minnesota, even though a lot of corn has now reached black layer. Most producers are planning to let the corn dry down naturally in the field before harvesting in order to reduce drying costs.

It is too early to evaluate 2009 corn yield levels; however, many experts expect 2009 corn yields to be close to or slightly above trend-line averages for the area. However, there will likely be a wide variation in corn yields in 2009, due to the wide range in precipitation amounts and the timeliness of rainfall events during the growing season. It will be a few weeks yet before we know if the 2009 corn yields are comparable to the excellent corn yields in much of this region in 2008, 2007 and 2006. Corn yields this year are not likely to reach the record corn yield levels in Minnesota that were achieved in 2005, due the wide variability of growing-season rainfall.

Janesville, MN Ethanol Plant To Open
Guardian Energy, LLC is the new name for the completed ethanol plant near Janesville, MN, which will begin full-scale operation by mid-October. The Janesville ethanol plant was originally owned by VeraSun Energy, LLC, and was set to open in 2008; however, the plant initiation was delayed when VeraSun filed for bankruptcy late in 2008. Guardian Energy, LLC completed the purchase of the Janesville ethanol facility in September from a group of banks. Guardian Energy, LLC comprises six existing ethanol plants in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, including two highly successful ethanol plants in southern Minnesota, Al-Corn Clean Fuel at Claremont, MN, and Heartland Corn Products at Winthrop, MN. Other existing ethanol plants involved in the purchase are Central Minnesota Ethanol, Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, Golden Grain Energy, and KAAPA Ethanol.

Guardian Energy is expected to employ about 45 people, and the ethanol plant has already begun to purchase corn for processing from farm operators in the region. The Janesville facility is expected to produce approximately 100 million gallons of ethanol per year, and will use about 35-40 million bushels of corn each year.

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.