Fall harvest in Lawrence area running about 3 weeks behind schedule

photo by: John English

A combine breaks into a cornfield Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, north of Lawrence near U.S. Highway 24 as a fall harvest, delayed by crops planted late because of spring rains, gets in full swing.

The local 2021 fall harvest got underway in earnest last week, about three weeks behind the normal schedule, said the general manager of a large area elevator cooperative.

The local corn harvest normally starts about Sept. 1, said Clark Wenger, general manager of the Ottawa Cooperative Association, which owns elevators in 13 area communities, including two in Lawrence. However, spring rains delayed planting in April, and that pushed back the harvest of the late-maturing corn corp, he said Friday.

So far, yields haven’t been affected by the late harvest and are ranging anywhere from 100 to 200 bushels per acre with the largest yields coming from irrigated fields along the Kansas River, Wenger said.

“I would say the average is in the 140- to 150-bushel per acre range,” he said. “That’s about normal, whatever normal is anymore.”

Area farmers have two to three warm, sunny days to get in the fields before rains move in on Wednesday evening, said Adam Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Topeka. Rains and thunderstorms remain in the forecast through the weekend, he said.

Weather in the form of an early freeze is the concern for this year’s soybean crop, the other major crop of the local fall harvest, Wenger said. The soybean harvest always starts a few weeks later than the corn harvest, and it, too, will be delayed this year because farmers faced the same challenge of getting into wet fields during spring planting, he said.

The race now is for the beans, which are maturing more slowly in the diminished sunlight of early fall, to finish off and ripen before the first hard freeze visits the area, Wenger said. Once soybeans do mature, farmers will move from corn fields to harvest their beans, because soybean yields suffer more if left in the field, he said.

Grain prices are favorable to farmers this year thanks to Chinese-driven demand that has depleted stockpiles, Wenger said.