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Corn harvest begins in county

Friday, September 16, 2011

Area farmers are starting to pick corn in the area. According to local elevators, harvest is about 10 to 15 percent complete. The soybean harvest is still a few weeks away.
Weather and location are making a big difference in area yields as Saline County farmers begin the 2011 corn harvest.

Area elevators are reporting anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of area fields have been harvested.

"The last couple days have picked up, but it's not like we're in full harvest yet either," said Willa Wiese, grain accountant at Farmer's Grain Terminal near Slater.

She said for now most of the corn coming in was planted in the first week of April. However, spring rains delayed the rest of corn planting.

"After that a lot didn't get back in until May 3 or the first part of May," she said. "It will be probably be next week before we see some of that."

Cory Venable and John Tubbs, employees at Central Missouri AGRIService in Marshall, signal for an area farmer to raise the bed on his grain truck. Corn is just starting to be harvested in the area, according to local elevators. Corn raised in the county is mostly used for ethanol and livestock feed.
For now she said they are testing a lot of corn, which is still running between 20 to 22 percent moisture. Corn is considered "dry" at about 15 percent moisture. Because of high drying charges, many farmers are waiting until moisture levels have gone down to begin harvest.

"They are letting it dry out in the field," Wiese said.

Weather has had a great affect on area yields and picking dates as well. In the Missouri River bottoms, too much water has drowned some fields and affected others. In the southern parts of the county, dry, hot July and early August weather, was followed by two windstorms, causing corn to fall down.

In the river bottoms, record releases on the Missouri River from upstream dams has caused the river to be above flood stage for 115 days as of Sept. 15. Since the Army Corps of Engineers began dropping releases from Gavin's Point in August, the river has steadily dropped, down to 18.9 feet in Miami on Sept. 14, but still above the 18 foot flood stage. On Sept. 1, the river was still at 23.6 feet in Miami.

Central Missouri AGRIService (CMAS) employee John Tubbs opens the cargo doors of a farmer's grain truck to let corn flow out and into the elevator's pits. According to John Fletcher, of CMAS, about 15 percent of the county's corn had been harvested by Sept. 14.
Although, only one private levee in Saline County was actually breached, seep water and a high ground water table has kept many fields wet for over 3 months. With that, just a few inches of difference in elevation are causing wide swings in corn yields.

"We're experiencing losses from 100 percent to 20 percent, depending on elevation," said

Mendell Elson, who farms in the Miami bottoms. He said so far total field yields in corn for him have varied from zero to 185 bushels per acre.

"I've got some fields that were a 100 percent loss," he said. "Obviously where the water stood, there is nothing. And on the ground that was high enough and are far enough away from the river, I saw the (yield) monitor hit 261 (bushels per acre.)"

He said, just a few inches in elevation is making a big difference.

"It's all just a matter of inches this year as to whether that ground was high enough to be out of the water or not," said. "It just absolutely reemphasizes the fact if the Corp had done anything at all to better manage the river, the losses would have been significantly less."

He said after the river began to drop, though, the fields have dried out sooner than many thought they would, allowing them to begin harvest.

Central Missouri AGRIService employee Cory Venable uses a scraper to get corn out of the corners of a grain truck on Friday, Sept. 16. Area elevators are estimating about 10 to 15 percent of the county's corn crop has been harvested so far.
"I still have to watch where I'm going, there is still a lot of water around," he said, adding however, that roads in the bottom, which have been closed since the end of May because of seep water, opened back up last weekend.

Although he has been surprised by some corn yields, he said he is expecting his soybean yields to be significantly less.

He rotates crops each year, so this year his corn happened to be planted on his "higher" ground.

"My beans are going to be significantly impacted, so much more so" he said. "I had 115-acre bean field I couldn't even get planted because it was already almost under water at bean planting time. Then some of the bean fields I got planted have been lost."

In the meantime, farmers in the southern part of the county have been battling lack of moisture.

According to University of Missouri Extension Agronomist Wayne Crook, some fields were impacted by lack of rain in July and early August. That, coupled with two windstorms in August, flattened corn stalks in several areas from Sweet Springs through Blackwater.

With that, he said yields have been reported as low as 20 bushels per acre.

"That was in southern Saline County, near Pettis County," he said. In contrast, he has also heard yields as high as 240 bushels per acre in Missouri River bottomland not impacted by seep water.

Corn planted earlier this year is also yielding better, according to Crook.

"The late planted corn just isn't quite as good," he said.

Even though reports are varying widely, John Fletcher, of Central Missouri AGRIService (CMAS) said he expects the average county yield to be about the same as last year.

"One guy says he thinks its a little better than last year and one guy says he thinks it's not quite as good as last year," he said. "But I think its going to be a pretty similar harvest to the one we had a year ago."

According to the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service last year Saline County averaged 140.4 bushels per acre. The 10-year county average is 148 bushels per acre.

Fletcher said most of the corn they have received is from the southern and eastern portion of the county.

"The early planted corn is an awful lot better than the late planted this time," he said. "If you had late planted stuff and it got knocked down, it was going to be at such a state of maturity it's not going to do so good."

However, he said, they are still in the beginning stages of harvest.

"Based on volume, we are less than 15 percent done," he said.

Craig Poppinga, general manager of the Mid-Missouri MFA group, which operates elevators in Sweet Springs and Concordia, said they are about 10 percent into harvest.

"The corn is still pretty wet," he said, although he said a lot of the "early corn has been harvested."

Yields he has heard are running between 100 to 150 bushels per acre, with lower yields in the down corn.

"I'm pretty impressed after the July we had," he added.

Despite some of the weather difficulties, high prices in the corn and soybean markets has been a bright spot for area farmers.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, corn was selling for $6.88 a bushel and soybeans were selling for $13.17 a bushel at CMAS. In comparison, on the same date in 2010, corn was selling for $4.21 a bushel and new crop soybeans were bringing $ 9.87 a bushel.

The 2011 soybean harvest is still a few weeks away.

"We'll see soybeans probably the 25th of this month," said Fletcher, adding that may be a little later than normal. "I haven't seen any beans that have started to drop their leaves yet. I've seen some that have started to turn yellow."

He said the exception to that may be soybeans which have been affected by "sudden death."

"I don't think there is a lot of that this time, but there is always going to be a little," Fletcher said.

Contact Marcia Gorrell @ mgorrell@marshallnews.com

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