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 area.

Then strong winds that wreaked havoc on eastern Nebraska last month 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 behind schedule in that area, 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 19 percent of the state’s corn in excellent condition, 45 percent in good shape and 23 percent in fair condition.

Nygren said those figures would have swung even further toward the high end prior to the 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.

The USDA report shows 68 percent of the state's corn crop has been harvested, well behind last year's pace of 82 percent and the five-year average of 81 percent.

The state’s soybean harvest is pretty much in the books for 2017, with roughly 95 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 $3.10 per bushel for corn and $8.90 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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