A Publication of WTVP

Over the last few years, farmers have begun harvesting their crops the second and third weeks in September. This year, the first of October marked the true beginning of the 2006 corn and soybean harvest.

Why the later harvest date? August rains were likely the primary contributor to a later maturing crop. The rains gave corn and soybean plants a “second wind” as they entered the final stages of the growing season, and may have contributed to some “green stems” in the soybeans. Though a sign of a healthy plant, this slows the harvest, as green stems require more power to put through a combine. Still, farmers welcomed the rains, as they added bushels to the final harvest totals.

As in most years, the yields vary from field to field and farm to farm. Soil types, summer rains, variety selection, tillage practices, disease, insect pressure, and timing all play a role in final numbers. Overall, this year’s crop was good in Peoria County. Yields will easily surpass last year’s drought-ridden crop, which averaged only 119 bushels per acre. Numbers will likely come in at 150 + bushels per acre on corn and will push the 50 bushel-peracre range in soybeans.

The later harvest also demonstrates the patience of farmers. With the weather’s cooperation, this can pay dividends, as it saves on the drying costs of the crop. Corn is dry at 15% moisture, and farmers must either pay to have gas delivered to their farm, or pay a grain elevator to dry their corn. In mid-September, corn was still at 25% moisture, and the cost for gas to dry the crop was very expensive. By mid-October, farmers were harvesting dry corn directly out of the field. Delaying the harvest to allow nature to dry it down is a decision each individual farmer must make, as a wet October would make the extra cost of drying the crop in an early harvest well worth the money.

One choice facing farmers when they placed their seed orders last winter was how much genetic technology to purchase—to purchase the generic seed, or the one with the “bells and whistles.” There is BT seed to prevent European Corn Borer damage, seed to inhibit Rootworm infestation, and seed that is tolerant of herbicides like Roundup. The list grows as the years go by, with each add-on genetic technology coming with a steeper price.

Fields planted with generic seed were sure to have damage from corn borers and/or rootworms. At harvest, a majority of plants were half the height they were just a month before, as worms in the stalks caused the top half of the plant to lodge over. The plants with the genetic technology stood straight at harvest, and the tassels at the top of the plants were still intact. Do healthier plants lead to higher yields? Does the added cost of genetic technology add more bottom-line profit? At harvest, there are finally some answers. The results may not be the answers the farmer wants…but there are some answers. IBI