Farmers: Still time to catch up

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

Many ears of corn haven't fully filled with kernels. Area farmers said losing those kernels could reduce yields by a few percent at harvest. - Matt Peterson/

Extreme heat and timely rains that caused corn to rocket up the past few weeks have both idled back, along with some of the excitement from area farmers. But August may still hold promise.

Though corn played a lot of catch up through July after a late planting, several 90-plus degree days without cool nights caused some Minnesota corn to experience compressed maturity. Farmers were expecting above-average yields this fall and think they can still achieve them; however, some said they know there will be kernel loss.

“At that point we could guess,” farmer Doug Sheely of Brownsdale said about the outlook in mid-July. “But now we know we lost some kernels.”

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Sheely and other area farmers said they’re hoping for more rains and slightly warmer weather until fall, so the now-empty tops on most ears can fill in with more kernels. And squeezing every kernel out of the ends of the ears and growing full kernels is where farmers hope to make up their yields.

“A lot of the yield is to be made yet,” Sheely said, “It’s how much we pack into that kernel.”

For that to happen, Sheely said crops need rain soon, something that has been scarce for the last two weeks.

“We’re in a situation where we’re going to need some rain,” Sheely said.

That wish was granted Friday night and Saturday, as Austin received about half an inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service. But farmers are hoping for more timely rains heading into fall.

Even if farmers aren’t jumping for joy, one would be hard-pressed to find any who are moping about the situation.

Robert Nelson of Alden and his seed dealer talk about crops in baseball terms.

“Our kernel set was good, our pollination was good,” Nelson said. “At one time it looked like we were going to have a home run. Now, if it rains enough, we might have double.”

Part of Nelson’s optimism stems from his beef cattle operation, which has been doing well as international demand and prices for beef are high. And with corn at record-high prices, he still thinks crop farmers can make the best of 2011.

“I’m kind of in the best of both worlds right now,” Nelson said.

As for beans, some rain would be good as well; however, the recent dryness hasn’t affected those crops as much as the corn.

Farmers are currently checking and spraying for aphids. It may be hard to determine how bad aphids are at this point. For that reason, Nelson was taking precaution and spraying a combination pesticide, fungicide and leaf feed on Thursday afternoon. He thinks the bean harvest will be on schedule.

And if weather is normal — with consistent rains and a good fall frost — farmers may not be harvesting corn extremely late. Furthermore, Sheely said there’s still the potential for yield.

Sheely and Nelson realize they are at the mercy of Mother Nature during this point in the season, so they’ll wait for their pitches.

“If you get enough doubles and score enough runs, you can still stay out there,” Nelson said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting smaller corn and soybean production than in 2010.

Corn projections:

1.27 billion bushels in Minn., down 2%

166 bushels per acre yield, down from 177

Soybeans projections:

284 million bushels in Minn., down 14%

40 bushels per acre yield, down down from 45

— Source: Associated Press