Corn harvest underway in Saline County

Monday, September 13, 2010

Helped in part by hot August weather to speed plant maturity, corn harvest has begun earlier this year than in 2009 for some Saline County farmers.

"I talked to one guy yesterday that was half done on corn," said John Fletcher of Central Missouri Agri-Service, adding the farmer was from the Blackburn area.

Corn has been coming in steadily this week at Farmer's Grain Terminal in Slater, with more farmers beginning the 2010 harvest each day, according to grain accountant Willa Wiese. She said the elevator stayed open on Labor Day Sunday and Monday, Sept. 5-6, for corn harvest.

The corn being harvested now is mostly short-season corn that was planted in early April. Because of the earlier planting date and hotter August than recent years, the corn is also relatively dry.

"It's running drier this year than it has the last couple of years," said Fletcher.

"We've had some coming from the Glasgow bottoms that has tested 15 percent and below," said Wiese.

Yields seem to be running lower than last year as well, they said, although it is still too early to tell what final yields will be in 2010.

"I haven't heard anybody say they were surprised to the upside," said Fletcher. "Most people didn't really expect it to be as good as last year."

"One guy said his corn was yielding 15 percent lower than he anticipated," said Fletcher.

"I've heard from 115 bushels to 150 bushels per acre," said Wiese, adding that some farmers have indicated they are almost done with the early planted corn and will have to wait again for later-planted and longer season corn. "It is still pretty early and not too many fields have been completed yet."

In 2009, Saline County averaged 164 bushels of corn per acre, according to the National Agricultural Statics Service Missouri Field Office. That yield was down just one bushel -- from 165 bushels per acre in 2008.

Complicating this year's harvest, however, will be corn fields which were planted later or partially replanted after wet and cool weather in late April and early May.

"There were a lot of fields that got planted early but then a month later they had to go in and replant a third of the field or so," said Fletcher. "It's going to be a real mess when they get into that."

Farmers will have to decide whether to wait for the late, replanted corn to dry, taking a chance that the dry, earlier planted corn in the field could fall down causing yield loss and tougher harvest. However, harvesting corn that is still wet (above 15 percent moisture), can cause a "dock" or price penalty at area elevators or increased operating costs for on-farm drying systems.

Temporarily closed and full elevators are not expected to be a problem in 2010, as it has been in some previous years.

Some years harvest delays have been caused when area elevators have gotten full of "wet corn" and had to shut down early or for a full-day to dry and haul corn out, making room for more bushels.

At Farmer's Grain Terminal, a new 600,000 bushel bin was added this year for storage. In all, they can now store up to 2.4 million bushels of corn and beans. In addition to that, an adjacent train track means that they can load and ship out 100 train cars at a time, holding up to 350,000 bushels of corn.

Fletcher said that he also doesn't forsee big problems at their elevators, which include locations in Marshall, Miami, Slater, Blackburn and Waverly. He said, depending on weather and other unforeseen factors, there could be days where one location may have to shut down for a day or partial day, while another would still be open for business, allowing farmers to truck their crops there for the day.

In 2009, Saline County produced 21,992,000 bushels of corn off of 134,100 harvest acres. The large harvest was second in the state, as Atchison County in Northwest Missouri produced 26,122,000 bushels of corn off of 141,200 acres for an average of 185 bushels per acre in 2009. In 2008, Saline County had the largest corn harvest in the state, with 21,659,000 bushels, while Atchison County was second in the state with 17,563,000 bushels.

It is still expected to be several weeks before area soybeans will be ready for harvest.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at