Above-normal temperatures during the month of September in most of Minnesota has allowed the 2011 corn and soybean crop in many areas to either reach maturity, or be very close to maturity. For crops in some areas, the growing season ended early with a killing frost on Sept. 15. Most of the early planted corn hybrids have now reached physiological maturity and are drying down, while some later-planted corn may need a bit more time to reach desired kernel moisture content for harvest. Most soybeans have either been harvested, or are now turning color and dropping leaves. Full-scale soybean harvest has begun in most portions of southern and western Minnesota.
The early reports from the soybean harvest across southern Minnesota have generally been quite good, considering the extremely dry weather late in the growing season, along with a killing frost in some areas on Sept. 15. Many yield monitor and weigh-wagon soybean yields of 50-60 bu./acre, or higher, have been reported across the region. Of course, one must remember that whole-field yields are determined by dividing total bushels harvested by the total acres in a field that were planted last spring. That means that any drowned out areas of the field, or other acres that are not harvestable due to weather conditions, need to be factored in to the final yield calculation. In some cases this will significantly lower the final whole-field yields. There were also numerous soybean fields damaged by hail and severe storms throughout the growing season, along with the September freeze, which will reduce soybean yields in some areas. Most experts expect a wide variation in final soybean yields across the state, once harvest is completed.
Corn harvest has also been initiated in many areas, even before soybean harvest has been completed. Most corn in southern Minnesota has now reached physiological maturity, or black-layer, and has been drying down naturally in the field. A lot of corn in the field has now reached 20-25% kernel moisture, or drier, and continues to dry down rapidly. Ideally, corn needs to be dried down to about 15-16% moisture for safe storage in on-farm grain bins until next spring or Summer. It is likely that producers may be able to harvest much of their corn in 2011 with a very limited amount of supplemental corn drying. This could save many farm operators approximately $25-35/acre in anticipated corn drying costs for 2011.
Fall tillage has been a little slow to occur in many areas, due the extremely dry topsoil conditions. This type of soil situation makes it difficult for quality tillage, and requires more fuel for tillage operations. If the dry soil conditions persist through October, it will make for very poor soil conditions for fall applications of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, due to potential nitrogen losses. An inch or two of rain in the next few weeks, even though it is during harvest, would probably be welcomed by many growers, as they look ahead to fall tillage and fertilizer applications.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.