Above-average fall harvest moving quickly in northeast Kansas as fields stay dry

photo by: John English

Dust billows behind a combine harvesting soybeans Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in a Kansas River Valley field south of Perry Dam. With the lack of rainfall, farmers have been able to be in area fields continuously since the fall harvest began last month.

Relatively dry weather is helping northeast Kansas farmers make rapid progress this year in what is reportedly a very good fall harvest, area grain elevator operators told the Journal-World.

Steve Wilson, owner of the Baldwin Feed Company elevator, and Clark Wenger, general manager of Ottawa Cooperative Association, said 2020 has been a rare year, in which combines have been able to roll in fields continuously with no breaks for rain since the harvest started last month.

“We were just talking about that,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the first time we’ve had a fall harvest where they could keep going like that, but I can’t remember the last time.”

With the dry fields, the corn harvest is close to completed, Wilson and Wenger said. For the most part, farmers have now moved to harvesting soybeans — a crop that is now ripe for combining and is more sensitive to yield losses if left in the field.

Although rain has been sparse in the late summer and fall, there was ample spring and summer rain for corn and other crops, said Wenger, whose organization owns elevators in seven area communities, including two in Lawrence.

“It’s been really good,” he said. “Yields have been better than expected. A lot of corn in the Lawrence area has averaged from 180 to 200 bushels per acre. Other portions of our service area weren’t as good as the Lawrence area, but they are doing pretty good. This year had almost perfect conditions for corn.”

Wilson, who serves farmers to the south of Lawrence, said yields in that area were reported “all over the place,” from 140 bushels per acre to a top of 200.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average yield in Kansas for corn was 133 bushels per acre in 2019 and 129 bushels per acre in 2018.

With much of the corn harvested, the focus now is to harvest soybeans while ideal weather holds.

“The guys know if it starts raining, it might not stop for a month,” Wenger said. “There was some concern with the late dryness (that) the beans might not have finished out, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.”

Wenger said that so far, Lawrence-area soybean yields have been above normal, too, with 60 bushels per acre not uncommon and some farmers reporting yields as high as 70. Wilson said he didn’t yet have a good feel for the overall soybean crop in his service area.

According to the USDA, the average soybean yield in Kansas was 41.5 bushels per acre in 2019.

In added good news for farmers, Wenger and Wilson said grain prices have recently improved. Wilson said corn was near the $3.50-per-bushel range and soybeans were fetching about $10 a bushel.

“You would like to see corn a little higher, but the yields help with the bottom line,” he said.


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