Minnesota farmers work to harvest every bushel of corn

2012-10-19T13:03:00Z Minnesota farmers work to harvest every bushel of cornBy ANDREA JOHNSON Assistant Editor Minnesota Farm Guide
October 19, 2012 1:03 pm  • 

Elevator bunkers across Minnesota filled rapidly with corn in early October 2012, as farmers combined well ahead of schedule.

As of Oct. 8, already 78 percent of Minnesota’s corn crop was harvested – compared with 11 percent for the five-year average.

The state has more corn than many anticipated.

The National Ag Statistics reported an average Minnesota corn yield of 156 bushels per acre on Sept. 1. That average was increased to 168 bushels per acre on Oct. 1.

“I think there were some places in Minnesota that were picking up small and somewhat timely late-season rains,” said Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota Extension corn agronomist.

Minnesota’s significant springtime rains likely helped the corn pollinate well in early July. Temperatures in south central Minnesota ranged from 60 to over 100 degrees F during July 2-8.

“It was really hot here around the Fourth of July, but we did have pretty good soil moisture at that time,” Coulter said. “Generally the soil moisture tends to be more limiting than the high temperature. I think conditions at pollination were not as stressful as we thought in some areas.”

Areas that picked up late season rains were seeing yields close to 200 bushels per acre. Areas that did not receive those rains may have seen closer to 100 bushels per acre or lower.

Some areas had problems with stalk lodging, and he said this was mostly due to wind or hail. Along with the dry conditions, some areas did not see strong winds this summer.

Coulter thinks there was less stalk loss from corn plant scavenging compared with some years.

“I didn’t see that much lodging that was due to cannibalization of the stalk,” he said. “I think the fields that I saw were standing pretty good. There are probably exceptions, but I was quite amazed at how well the stalks were standing.”

That was also the viewpoint of Bruce Battles, Syngenta technical solutions development manager, in central Iowa.

“In general, compared to last year, we had far fewer issues with standability in 2012,” he said. “We had a favorable year in general to set the roots down this year. The roots were more developed than they typically would have been.”

He suggests that corn stalk scavenging occurs more in wet years where the corn plant has poor root development and nitrogen may be limited.

“We did have the stress from the dry year, but all in all, we were able to supply the plant with what the plant’s ability to produce grain was going to be,” Battles said.

Coulter suggested that poorer quality ear shanks were a problem in some areas. Ear droppage was observed in areas that were dry late in the season – or where the mature corn was dry.

Looking ahead to 2013, Coulter encourages farmers to do what they can to prepare for the next growing season. He has heard reports that tillage is a little easier this year than a year ago.

“I think we’re as dry as we were last year. It could be another situation like this again, but we don’t know at this point,” he said. “One thing we learned last year was some farmers were making a lot of clods. We actually noticed those clods worked down well with the moisture we picked up over the winter. They were able to get their spring tillage done nicely when the soil had some moisture to it.

“Those clods did break up, and we had a nice seed bed this spring.”

Coulter reminds growers to stay up-to-date with and sign-up for crop insurance.

“One thing we saw this year is that corn is very well suited to our harsh Minnesota growing conditions,” Coulter said. “Corn can do well under a range of conditions. Corn needs rain up front and needs good conditions at pollination. Then it’s pretty much set.”

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