Heavy rainfall, cloudy weather, strong winds, and even some snowfall from Oct. 22-26 have created some harvest concerns in many areas of Minnesota. Very little progress was made on the 2008 corn harvest this past weekend in most areas of the state. Fortunately, the six-to-10-day weather forecast for late October and early November sounds to be a bit drier, with more sunshine, which should be favorable to resume corn harvest in many areas. Harvest progress varies greatly throughout the region. In many areas of south-central and southwest Minnesota, soybean harvest is nearly complete, and a significant amount of corn was harvested, before the wet weather in late October occurred. However, in many other portions of Minnesota, there is still a significant amount of soybeans remaining to be harvested, with very little corn harvested at this point.

As we progress toward November, the harvest delays, especially for unharvested soybeans, become a much larger concern. The probability of higher field loss to the mature, unharvested soybeans increases greatly later in the harvest season. There is also some concern with unharvested corn in fields that are susceptible to stalk breakage, due to stalk diseases and corn root damage, especially with strong winds such as this past weekend. The wet field conditions are also delaying fall tillage, as well as fall manure and fertilizer applications in many areas. Most livestock producers empty their manure storage facilities annually in the fall, so the manure can be properly injected into he soil to capture full fertilizer value, and to reduce the potential for nutrient runoff.

Very Good Corn Yields
Many growers in south-central and southwest Minnesota have been reporting good-to-excellent corn yields in 2008, with many whole-field yields of 175 bu./acre or higher being reported in south-central Minnesota. Corn yields are generally quite variable across the region, depending on planting date and summer rainfall frequency and amounts. Bean yields in 2008 have been even more variable, and somewhat disappointing. Soybean yields have varied from 30 to over 50 bu./acre in many areas of southern Minnesota, with whole-field yields of 40-48 bu./acre quite common. However, soybean yields in some other areas are much lower than those levels.

Corn and soybean yields have varied widely from farm to farm, field to field and even within the same field, depending on soil types, amount of rainfall and the locations of severe storms. Not all producers are seeing the above-average corn yields or average soybean yields in 2008. There have been many yield monitor, weigh-wagon and check-strip yield reports of 50-65 bu./acre for soybeans, and well above 210 bu./acre for corn in the region. In most instances, whole-field yields are well below the yield monitor or weigh-wagon yields, especially this year with the highly variable yield levels in the same field. Whole-field yields are based on the total bushels harvested or sold, divided by the number of acres planted last spring in a field or on a farm. Most yield reports promoted by seed companies are based on yield plots and weigh-wagon yields, and not on whole-field yields.

The kernel moisture content of the corn has remained quite high in many areas in late October. Most corn hybrids were being harvested at 18-23% moisture last week in south-central and southwest Minnesota. However, corn kernel moisture levels were still above 25% in some other areas of Minnesota. Most producers have left the corn in the field as long as possible to maximize field drydown of the corn, in order to reduce the increased corn drying costs – the result of high natural gas and propane prices. Corn needs to be dried to about 15% moisture for safe on-farm storage until the following spring or summer, when it is normally hauled to market.

Good News On Flex Leases
All flexible cash leases for land rental contracts will now be considered cash leases by FSA for farm program payment determination during the 2009-2012 crop years, according to preliminary revised regulations announced recently by USDA. The revised regulations state that any rental contract with a guarantee plus a bonus will be considered a cash lease, regardless of how that bonus is set-up or structured. Previously, FSA considered any flexible cash lease that was based on actual farm yields, prices or revenues to be a share rent lease. That meant that eligible landlords had to receive a portion of all farm program payments. This requirement was restricting the use of flexible leases in many situations, even though current crop economics strongly favor the use of flexible leases for the 2009 crop year and beyond. Farm operators and landlords should continue to use caution with 2009 land rental contracts that involve flexible cash leases, until USDA releases the final regulations on flexible leases in a month or so.

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.