The fall harvest season started a bit later than normal in 2013, but has been progressing at a fairly nice pace in recent weeks across the region. Following above-normal temperatures through most of September and early October, it appears that late October will feature much cooler temperatures, which should not impact harvest progress. Many areas have also received some beneficial rainfall in recent weeks, which has only caused minor delays in harvest progress, due to the very dry soil conditions that existed prior to harvest.
As of Oct. 21, it is estimated that over 90% of the soybeans, as well as 30-50% of the corn, has been harvested in most areas of southwest and western south-central Minnesota. Harvest progress has been much slower in southeast and eastern south-central Minnesota, which was impacted by very late planting this past spring, due to the extremely wet soil conditions. Even though harvesting is occurring later, the good news for the areas with later planting dates is that the first frost did not occur until after Oct. 15. This allowed many of the later-planted crops to fully mature, which will likely add considerable yield and quality to the later-planted corn and soybeans.
Overall, most reported soybean yields have been better than expected, given the very late planting in southeast Minnesota, as well as the very dry conditions that existed in many areas later in the growing season. It has not been unusual to hear of yield monitor and weigh wagon yields in some portions of south-central and southwest Minnesota that were well above 60 bushels per acre, with a few even eclipsing 70 bushels per acre, in areas that received some timely rainfall in mid August. Whole-field yields of 50-60 bushels per acre were quite common in these situations. In the same region, areas that missed these timely rainfalls had soybean yields that were more typically from 40 to 50 bushels per acre. In southeast Minnesota, the very late-planted soybeans have been yielding 30-40 bushels per acre on a whole-field basis.
2013 corn yields across the region have been highly variable, depending on planting date, as well as the impact from the late-summer dry weather pattern in many areas. There have been some whole field yield reports of over 200 bushels per acre in south-central and southwest Minnesota; however, whole-field corn yield figures of 170-190 bushels per acre are much more common in the region. In areas that were more severely impacted by the dry weather pattern in late July and August, corn yields drop off to the 140-160 bushel per acre range. There is a lot of variation in the 2013 corn harvest across the region due to soil types and rainfall amounts, with those differences extending to adjoining farms, and even in the same field. Once corn harvest is completed, most farm operators in southern Minnesota will likely end up with corn yields that are average to slightly below average, but probably better than the yield expectations that existed in late Summer.
One piece of good news for all producers regarding the 2013 corn harvest has been the harvest moisture of the corn coming out of the field, and the high quality of the corn. Most of the corn being harvested in south-central Minnesota in the past two weeks has been at 16-22% moisture, meaning only minimal additional drying is required before the corn is placed in on-farm bins for storage. Corn should be dried to about 15-16% moisture before going into the grain bin for safe storage until next spring or summer. Most of the corn being harvested has a test weight of 54-57 pounds per bushel, which is very near the standard test weight of 56 pounds. Many growers expected to be harvesting much wetter and lighter test weight corn this Fall, due to the later planting dates.
The recent rainfall events have helped replenish some of the depleted stored topsoil moisture, with some areas of south-central and southeast Minnesota now being close to normal for fall stored soil moisture in the top five feet of soil. Portions of southwest and west-central Minnesota still remain well below normal for total stored soil moisture. The improved topsoil conditions have greatly enhanced fall tillage operations, and together with the cooler temperatures make conditions much more favorable for Fall nitrogen and manure applications.