Corn harvest good but not what area farmers hoped for

photo by: Elvyn Jones

A local farm transfers corn from a combine to a semi Wednesday in a field in the Kansas River bottoms east of Lawrence. The local fall harvest is underway with about 25 percent of the corn harvested, according to local elevator managers. The crop is good but not what farmers hope in a year of depressed grain prices.

After a good start last week, the weekend’s rain put a temporary hold on what has been a somewhat disappointing early fall harvest in the Douglas County area.

Clark Wenger, president and general manager of the Ottawa Co-op, estimated Tuesday that 25 percent of this year’s corn crop had been harvested before last weekend’s rains prevented combines from getting into the fields. Area farmers should be able to get combines rolling again this week, he said. Ottawa Co-op owns the two elevators in Lawrence as well those in Ottawa and 11 other locations.

Yields have been from 100 to 150 bushels per acre with a 125-to-130 yield being a “pretty good average,” Wenger said. That’s not a bad harvest, but the depressed grain prices had farmers hoping for a bumper crop from the corn that looked good in area fields.

“It’s really disappointing because they were hoping for better yields to try and bridge some of that gap,” he said. “They are getting probably 50 bushels (per acre) less than what they thought they would be getting.”

Three above-average harvests since the 2012 drought year have filled grain bins and depressed prices, Wenger said. Many elevators to the west of Douglas and Franklin counties are anywhere from 50 to 80 percent full as the harvest started, forcing their managers to store grain on the ground, he said.

“The pipe is completely filled,” he said. “We are fortunate being so close to the market we can move the grain.”

Closing cash bids Tuesday for corn in Ottawa and Lawrence were $3.16 per bushel.

Steve Wilson, owner of Baldwin Feed Company, said 20 to 25 percent of this year’s corn crop in southern Douglas County near Baldwin City was harvested last week before the rains. Yields were good, he said, with about 130 bushels an acre being the estimated average yield from local fields.

Again, that was a good average but not what farmers were expecting, Wilson said. Contributing to that is a greater incidence of diplodia ear rot, a fungal pathogen that damages corn, usually in association with wet weather, he said.

“We see it every year, but there’s a bit more of it this year,” he said.

It will be another two or three weeks before farmers start cutting soybeans, the other important crop in the local fall harvest, Wenger said. Optimistic farmers are hoping beans deliver the bumper crop that was expected of corn.

“It looks really good, but you never really know,” Wenger said. “I’ve heard really good yield estimates, but everybody thought corn would be better than a year ago. That’s why I’m hesitant to say beans will be up. They are forecasting a wet October. That’s not good for the harvest situation.”