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Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Early start

Local farmers begin bean, corn harvest weeks ahead; financial gain possible

By Nancy Allen

A farmer harvests soybeans Tuesday along U.S. 33 east of Neptune. Crops in Merce. . .

Area farmers have begun harvesting corn and soybeans about two to three weeks early and the timetable may be financially beneficial.
Low moisture content in the crops will save growers money in drying costs and market prices are higher than normal right now, local ag officials say.
The earlier harvest is due to two factors: a stretch of warm weather in the spring allowed crops to be planted early and dry weather late in the season has hastened maturation.
"We saw early variety beans harvested the week before Labor Day," said Anita Green, executive director of the Auglaize County Farm Service Agency. "It's very rare to see them start coming off even on Labor Day."
Corn started coming off last weekend, she said.
Green said moisture content in corn is relatively low, which means farmers will spend less money on drying costs on their farms or at the elevator.
Some elevators may reduce drying fees to encourage farmers to bring in crops early, Green said. At the start of harvest, elevators often have buyers who need new crop grain and are willing to offer a premium price. Therefore, elevators will encourage farmers to sell immediately instead of storing crops.
About 15 percent of the corn and 20 percent of the soybeans are off in Auglaize County. Green has heard reports of 185 bushels per acre for corn and 55-65 bushels per acre for soybeans. A couple farmers near St. Marys reported harvesting corn over 200 bushels per acre, she said.
According to Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service data, the five-year average for corn in both Auglaize and Mercer counties is about 140 bushels per acre and 43.1 bushels per acre for soybeans.
No major pest or disease issues have been reported with corn. There had been a fear that vomitoxin might be present this year, but that has not been the case so far due to dry weather, Green said. Wet conditions promote the growth of the fungus that produces the toxin. There only have been minor insect and mildew issues associated with soybeans, she added.
If dry weather continues, Green said she expects most of the county's soybeans to be harvested by the end of the month and corn should be done in mid-October. But, she added there are still some "very green" soybeans due to late planting or replanting after frost damage or flooding.
In Mercer County, corn silage started coming off a month ago, an act that usually doesn't occur until Labor Day, said Chris Gibbs, executive director of the Mercer County Farm Service Agency. Silage is the whole corn plant used for cattle feed.
Both shelled corn and soybeans began to be harvested about a week ago - a good three weeks early.
Gibbs said market prices have been good primarily because of a massive drought in Russia.
"We've had very good demand for corn even though we expect a near-record crop," he said.
He added that market prices typically soften going into harvest, which they might yet do.
He had no information on the percentage of corn and soybeans harvested so far in Mercer County, saying farmers "are just getting started."
Montezuma dairy and grain farmer Chuck Schwieterman said so far he is pleased with what he sees. He farms about 1,000 acres just southwest of the village.
He is ranging between 170 and 190 bushels per acre for corn and 50-60 for soybeans. Schwieterman estimates he's harvested about 7 percent of his corn and 20 percent of his soybeans.
"We have several weeks until we are done, but I expect to have things pretty well wrapped up in mid- to late-October and maybe fall tillage done and my cover crops installed," he said.
In a typical year, he is not finished until November.
Schwieterman, like many Grand Lake area farmers, got his crops out early. He credited drought-resistant hybrids for how well his crops have done in the last several weeks with little rain.
"I think everybody had them (crops) out quick this year, we're pretty impatient here," he said chuckling. "You got to keep up with Joneses."
Peter Thomison of the OSU Extension in Columbus said growers must carefully monitor their fields for dropping ears and stalk lodging (falling over), two problems associated with dry weather.
"When you get dry weather and weak plants, shanks may not hold the ears well," he said. "If ears start falling off, you have to get out there and flag that field for early harvest."
Statewide, crop conditions and yields look favorable with 88 percent of the corn in fair to excellent condition, Thomison said. Yields are projected at 176 bushels per acre. Ohio's soybeans also are maturing quicker than anticipated, though some later planted beans are struggling, he said.
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