Combining beans

Harvest is in full swing for many across the country, and locally, farmers are seeing favorable test weights and yields despite the abnormally dry growing season. (Michelle Vlasak/

David Estrem, who’s farmed his entire life, recalls a year that was even drier than this year’s growing season — 1988.

“I remember it plain as day,” said Estrem of the conditions 33 years ago. “It really goes to show how the hybrids we have today are much more drought tolerant than we’ve seen in the past.”

While this year’s growing season has been abnormally dry compared to other years, the region’s farmers are surprised and shocked to see how strong the yields are so far.

Many farmers in the local area began harvesting in the later part of September, and some are finished or close to finishing soybean harvest. Steve Vosejpka, owner of the Lonsdale Elevator, says many farmers are surprised and shocked with their yields.

In the northwestern part of Rice County, Vosejpka says soybeans are about half harvested, and are testing in at 60+ pounds per bushel, which is about average. Farmers are just getting a good start on corn now, which is coming in at 58-59 pounds per bushel, also sitting at an average test weight.

The USDA’s most recent Minnesota crop progress and condition report states corn in the mature stage reached 97%, equal to last year but 10 days ahead of the five-year average. Corn harvested for grain reached 36%, two days ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of the average. Moisture content was at 19%, and the condition of the corn was rated 40% good to excellent. Soybeans harvested reached 83%, equal to last year but over two weeks ahead of the average.

Claire LaCanne, ag extension educator for Rice and Steele counties, reports harvest is well underway in both counties. While yields are variable, in general, LaCanne says staff are hearing of yields that are around or above average, which she says is good news considering the dry growing season.

“Some fields that were impacted by winds and areas with especially sandy soils are generally seeing yields on the lower side,” said LaCanne. “In beans, the wet green stems have posed some challenges while combining. In corn, stalk integrity remains an issue that farmers should keep an eye on. University of Minnesota Extension asks that farmers watch out for the invasive species Palmer amaranth and corn tar spot while harvesting, and asks that they let their local Extension educator know if they suspect either of these issues in their fields.

Making progress

Morristown farmer John Melchert said the growing season in the southwestern part of Rice County has varied, but has definitely been on the drier side. They started harvesting on Sept. 16, and dove right into soybeans. Though coming across green stems, green leaves and beans ready to be harvested, Melchert said the tougher stems didn’t slow them down at all.

Already finished with soybean harvest, Melchert said they were already two weeks into corn Wednesday, and estimates they are probably three quarters of the way through. Tillage is also well underway for the Melcherts.

Despite the dry conditions, Melchert said the harvest has been going well, and that the weather so far has been cooperative. He recalls it being colder when they planted in spring, whereas it’s usually the opposite.

“It’s been perfect, the weather has been awesome,” Melchert said Wednesday afternoon. “I couldn’t ask for any better weather. We’ve hardly had any rain delays, except today. This is probably the nicest fall I’ve seen.”

He estimates the yields are coming in above average for both corn and soybeans.

Estrem, who farms between Nerstrand and Dennison, said the growing season for that area, stretching in Rice and Goodhue counties, was also dry, but timely rains helped move the crops along. The Estrems started harvesting around the 20th of September with corn, as there was a certain hybrid of corn they were worried about falling down since it was maturing too fast. Though the moisture was still kind of high, Estrem said it was doable since it was so warm out and they were able to take advantage of an early market.

They started soybeans about six days later, and have been switching back and forth between corn and soybeans as beans ripened, finally finishing soybeans on Monday. Estrem said they struggled a bit with combining the tougher, green stems, while the beans were more than ready to be taken out. He speculates the green stems/leaves may be due to late season rains that kept the plants alive and from drying down, as the beans themselves continued to ripen.

So far, Estrem says the yields are looking average, and even above average in some cases. He, too, is surprised with how high the yields are coming in considering the dry conditions they grew in.

“The corn has a little bit yet to tell, but it looks right at average crop,” said Estrem Wednesday. “Big picture, it’s dry and will cost hardly anything to dry down. Another thing is the test weight coming in at 59-60 pound corn. We don’t know how it did it, but it did it.”

Though experiencing a successful harvest so far, Estrem says they could use a strong inch of rain anytime to help with fall tillage and make it a little easier on equipment working up the ground. More moisture is also needed between now and next spring, otherwise it could lead to difficult growing conditions next year. This year, Estrem says they benefited from subsoil moisture carried over from the winter/early spring, so crops started out quickly.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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