Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Seven lessons from a late harvest
The late corn harvest has taught farmers, or at least reminded them, of a number of lessons, according to a recent Agriculture Online poll. As harvest has dragged into December for many, growers are citing a number of points in the poll discussion:
Patience. In the online survey, 39% of farmers agreed that good old patience was the biggest lesson learned this year. “In the last 10 days, corn has dropped from 28-30% to 21-23%. Best corn ever!” a Minnesota grower reported in mid-November.
You can’t wait ‘til it’s perfect. Patience can only take you so far, some said. “The only problem with patience is in the north country, we could have already been done for the winter,” said a poll respondent. “We've been lucky this month but Mother Nature can change fast.” Thirty-five percent of growers responding to the poll said their biggest lesson is that you can’t wait forever for optimal conditions.
New hybrids stand up. From the combine seat, the corn looked mighty resilient to one farmer: “I have learned that these new hybrids are surprisingly strong,” he said. “I have had some corn in the ground and still standing for well over 220 days, with very little wind damage.”
Grain drying is a big bottleneck. “We need a better grain drying system,” said a Nebraska grower. “Now I remember why I hate stirators and in-bin drying. We haven't needed to use them in about 12 years. Suppose if I upgrade we won't need it for another 12 years!”
Said another: “Need to get my Shivvers drying unit back in working order. Letting the corn dry down in the field has not worked well this year.”
Watch your marketing. “Be patient when deciding to sell your crop. I sold my crop in September, early October, and the price was 3.05 - 3.47,” said a North Carolinian. “That is without dockage. Corn is now is now near or better than four dollars a bushel. I wish I had it to do over again.”
Another added, “I've learned that selling for a good price is all well and good until it costs you $0.50 per bushel to dry it. The profit goes away quickly.”
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. A Kansan chimed in with this old expression; it worked on a number of fronts this year—yields, marketing, and next year’s plans, farmers said.
Mother Nature rules. Few respondents to the poll cited forces they could control--like drainage or equipment. “Every year is unique is the lesson here,” an Ontario farmer said. “We have been fortunate in the northeastern Corn Belt--soys excellent, corn excellent, same for wheat...doesn't happen often here.”
Bob Nielsen, Purdue University agronomist, agrees that this has been one of those years that teaches patience. "This season simply reminded us that a cool growing season results in late crop maturity and slow grain drydown," he said. "Nothing new, we simply have been spoiled the past couple of growing seasons."
Lessons learned? "It may be that some growers need improved grain drying capacities and other growers need to become more attentive to selecting hybrids with better disease resistance," he said.
Posted by John Walter at 9:19 AM