October 31, 2009
By Rod Swoboda
The soggy, delayed harvest of 2009 is causing serious grain quality problems. And as the calendar flips into November, farmers in Iowa are becoming more concerned about not being able to get all of the big 2009 corn and soybean crop harvested and dried down this fall. This is the latest harvest in 42 years in Iowa, according to Harry Hillaker, state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
Photo: Farmer Scott Schmidt (right) of Grinnell and Travis Juhl of New Century FS discuss grain drying options. Iowa's 2009 corn crop is yielding well, but it is quite wet and is requiring extra drying.
"We have carry in the market, as the deferred prices are higher, making it worthwhile to store grain this fall and sell it later," says Scott Schmidt, who farms near Grinnell in east central Iowa. "But stored grain doesn't keep very well if it's wet and this fall both corn and beans are quite wet. It's going to cost a lot to get the grain dry enough to store. Of course, you have to get it out of the field first."
Soybeans especially vulnerable to bad weather
In Iowa, October 2009 rainfall is totaling to around four times greater than normal for the month.
Farmer Scott Schmidt (right) of Grinnell and Travis Juhl of New Century FS discuss grain drying options. Iowa's 2009 corn crop is yielding well, but it is quite wet and is requiring extra drying
On Tuesday this week, Schmidt was able to get back into the fieldafter a five day break due to wet weather. Before Tuesday Schmidt had only been able to harvest 40 acres of his 600 acre corn crop. He's only been able to harvest 250 acres of beansabout half of his soybean acres.
Rains returned Thursday to bring the combine to a halt again. "You worry about harvest delays because the longer the crop stays in the field, the more vulnerable it becomesespecially soybeans," says Schmidt. "Our corn is standing really well, so far. I'm getting more worried about the beans."
High yields, high moisture, lower test weights
The yield monitor in his combine on Tuesday showed corn hitting 210 to 250 bushels per acre. Some places in the field were up to 270 to 280 bushels, at only 22% moisture. "Our yields are good on both corn and soybeans," he says. "It's frustrating not being able to get them harvested."
Schmidt has also harvested some higher moisture corn at 25% to 27% moisture contentwhich is fairly common in Iowa this fall. Elevators want corn at 15% so they're charging more for drying wet corn and the shrink discount has gone up.
Ethanol plants generally aren't taking corn that's more than 15% to 17% moisture content. Also, like other farmers in Iowa, Schmidt has test weights that are running lower than normal. Some corn in eastern Iowa was killed by frost before it was completely mature and the test weight on that corn is only 50 lbs. or less in some cases. Normally, corn has a test weight of 54 to 56 pounds per bushel. This fall, elevators and ethanol plants are docking the price on corn that's coming in at less than 54 lbs. per bushel.
What would snow do to beans still in the field?
Moving into November the concern now is the possibility of snow. "How much damage snow does to soybeans at harvest would depend on how long you have snow on the crop," says Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension soybean agronomist. "Lucky for us today, I don't see any snow in the immediate weather forecast for Iowa. And it looks like there's no more precipitation coming into Iowa for another week, hopefully."
"I know it seems horrible out there right now and I'm very frustrated about it as well. But I think we will be okI think Iowa farmers can get the soybean crop harvested. I still have some soybean plots to harvest," says Pedersen.
If farmers can get dry weather next week when they go back to harvesting soybeans, will they find that the beans are more likely to shatter during harvesting?
Corn can stand - make bean harvest top priority
"Beans have been standing in the field for so long now that they are close to shattering," says Pedersen. "As soon as you can get into the field and harvest your beansdo it! Beans should be your top priority, particularly with your early planted beans and the shorter maturity groups. Those are the fields you need to harvest first."
Will beans dry down on their own in the field? Will they get drier if Iowa has a week of good weather? Or should you harvest them wet and dry them in a bin with air, or run them through a high temperature grain dryer?
Pedersen says there's no doubt beans would dry down in the field, but he is cautious. "If you are waiting for beans to get down to a normal 13% moisture content in the field, I think it will be tough to get that--because of the short days we have now, and the temperature isn't going to be high enough during the day to do much drying. Also, we have so much moisture in the ground. Moisture is coming up into the beans every night in the fields."
Beans can be stored at 14% to 15% moisture
Pedersen adds, "The weather will have to get drier before we see beans down to 13% and that's hard to do this late in the yearonce you're in late October and into November. But with dry weather and sun, we can get beans back down to 14% to 15% again. While 13% moisture content or below is preferred, you can store beans at 14% to 15% safely through winterif you cool them down with aeration immediately when they go into the bin and keep a close eye on them by checking the stored grain at least once every two weeks."
The other day Pedersen was combining before the rain came. "We started out at 18% moisture beans at mid-day and by night the moisture content of the beans was down to 13%," he says. "Bean moisture can move down very fast. But the big thing now is the wetness of the ground. Can we get it to dry up enough so we can get into the fields with the harvesting equipment?"