Fall Harvest, 10.17.2017

A Pawnee County farmer transfers corn to be transported to storage in mid-October. Nebraska farmers are behind schedule for the corn harvest and facing yield losses because of wind damage.

Kayla Wolf, Lincoln Journal Star

This year’s corn crop was looking pretty good in the Columbus area.

Then strong winds that wreaked havoc on eastern Nebraska last week blew away that optimism.

“Everybody was really happy with their crop before the wind, and now they’re not,” said Brian Cornwell, location manager at Country Partners Cooperative in Cedar Rapids.

Cornwell said the corn harvest is about 50 percent complete in that area, well behind the five-year average of 67 percent, but producers seem more concerned about yield losses brought on by the strong winds that broke cornstalks and knocked ears to the ground than they are about playing catch-up.

“Every farmer coming in is complaining about it being down,” Cornwell said of yields. “We’re probably a 20- to 100-bushel loss (per acre).”

It’s the same story across the area.

Aaron Nygren, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator in Colfax County, said he’s heard reports of 40- to 50-bushel losses per acre because of the persistent winds.

“It’s really caused some problems out there,” he said. “The losses are starting to add up as far as the (stalk) lodging and ears dropping on the ground.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop report released Monday puts 21 percent of the state’s corn in excellent condition, 43 percent in good shape and 24 percent in fair condition.

Nygren said those figures would have swung even further toward the high end prior to last week’s wind damage.

“The stuff that was going to be really, really good corn is now average corn,” he said.

Willis Smith, a field sales agronomist at Central Valley Ag in Shelby, also noted that standability is the biggest concern for what corn remains in the field. He’s received reports of 15-20 percent losses from farmers because of the wind.

“The corn is excellent, if it could just keep standing,” he said.

Smith estimates 50-60 percent of the corn has been harvested in the Shelby area, slightly ahead of the 45 percent statewide total reported by the USDA but behind last year’s pace of 66 percent.

“There’s still a lot of corn out there yet,” said Smith, adding that most farmers are typically wrapping up their fall harvest around the start of November.

To make matters worse, a scary sight pulled producers from the fields Tuesday afternoon as light snow began to fall for Halloween.

“It wasn’t very much, but if you’re trying to pick up that down corn it makes it even tougher,” Cornwell said of the snowfall.

The weather is expected to remain dry for the remainder of the week, giving area farmers a chance to put a dent in what remains in their cornfields, but those lodging issues will slow things down.

“I hope they’re all done by Thanksgiving,” Cornwell said.

The state’s soybean harvest is pretty much in the books for 2017, with more than 90 percent of the crop in the bin.

Cornwell said farmers in the Cedar Rapids area reported yields around 70 bushels per acre.

“Everybody was pretty happy with their yields,” he said.

The same was true around Shelby.

“They were good, but they weren’t quite where they were last year,” Smith said of soybean yields there while noting some lodging issues with that crop as well.

Still, Nygren said it will be a “really tight” year financially for Nebraska farmers, particularly those who didn’t contract to sell their crops when prices were a bit higher.

“The cash price right now has to be below their cost of production,” he said.

Area cooperatives are paying around $3 per bushel for corn and $8.80 for soybeans, and Nygren said there are no signs those numbers will go up anytime soon.

That will make the damage to many cornfields even more painful.

“That loss might have been the difference between making money and not,” Nygren said.



Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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