There was no reason to expect the 2019 corn harvest to be easy but, in hindsight, it was the worst year of farming I have ever experienced! Planting corn a month later than usual is never a good thing but coupling it with the fact that the entire summer was cool and wet made the resulting crop yield and quality a costly challenge both monetarily and mentally. Corn yields themselves were okay but, when faced with the reality of dryer gas expenses due to wetter than usual corn along with an LP shortage driving prices higher yet and elevator charges and discounts for wet corn delivered to them, this year was one for the books.
2019 presented us with challenges in timeliness and quality for soybean and corn harvesting. Harvest was much later than usual, which meant that we didn’t have the normal, dry weather we need for soybeans to come out of the field at less than 13% moisture. This is a problem in a couple of ways. First the elevators will discount the soybeans brought in over 13% by 1% for every 1/2% they are over 13%. As the moisture climbs higher, the discount percent increases more yet. The second challenge is presented because we raise seed beans for Pioneer. They don’t want our soybeans for seed if they are over 14%. We waited through two days of sun and slight warmth to get to that point and still ended up with a bin of seed that tested higher than 14%.
It was a slow started to our 2018 soybean harvest. After nearly filling our first corn bin, the weather finally cooperated for beans.
We combined our seed beans first. These need to be done in the most ideal conditions to insure top quality for Pioneer and bring our farm the maximum premiums. Premiums are paid based on moisture content, clean-out and foreign matter in the bean sample. There was a prolonged rainy spell right before combining that caused some of the soybean pods to split open and drop beans on the ground.
We were pleasantly surprised at the soybean yields. After a summer of endless rain and large areas drowned out, most fields yielded at or above our average. Numerous areas of 70 plus bushel beans made up for the areas with no beans.
We harvested some or our corn prior to harvesting any soybeans in 2018. This is unusual but has happened in the past. Corn stalks were becoming brittle and the grain moisture was in the 22-23% range. After a long summer of nothing but rain, more rain and large drowned out areas we braced for the worst. We we very surprised at that corn yields!
Our test plot was harvested early in the season. I don’t like to wait for the plot corn to dry too much. I want to see how the varieties vary in their abilities to dry down. This extra knowledge helps us plan varieties for the following crop year. We were able to situate the location of the plot to avoid areas of the field prone to becoming water logged.
Our first year of growing sweet corn presented us with new challenges. With planting scheduled for the middle of June, we thought we would seed the field with oats to help with weed control. Our wet spring delayed the seeding and we ended up not getting any benefit from the oats. Chemical was applied to take out the oats and emerged weeds around June 1. With ongoing rains, the window to plant came down to a Sunday morning. The field was planted and the rains came late in the day and closed the planting window for others once again. We were pleasantly surprised with the yield and only two acres were lost to drowning out.
The corn bin construction was completed prior to harvest but we had to wait until mid-harvest to get the downspout installed, from the grain leg, that allowed us to fill the bin. It took two tries to install the spout. The first time that the crane lifted it the box in the center, that slows the corn down on the way through, bent. The installer ordered a heavier box from the company and was successful on the second attempt.
OK. I know it’s now the end of January and I’m still not caught up on posting from last fall. I am finally feeling caught up, to a point, with my most important winter office work. Last year’s data has been pored over, crunched, edited, tweaked, post calibrated and used to make decisions for 2018 and forward. Time has been put into selecting seed, figuring out the best way to keep weeds at bay both chemically and physically, crunching numbers to make the current corn and soybean prices work, developing marketing plans and attending winter meetings put on by the U of M, Coop and other ag related entities. My calendar for February still has more meetings and training sessions on it.
First field of corn.
Opening up the headland.
Fan motor needed bearings.
Now where was I before going off on that tangent. Oh yeah, corn harvest. It really did happen and I have the pictures to prove it. Normally, we don’t start harvesting corn until after soybeans are done but this fall was not normal by any measure. After getting tired of the weather delay we kept having during soybean harvest, we gave in and harvested some corn. The moisture was at 22%, dry enough to get a start. The variety removed all of the headlands on a 300 acre field. Taking these off would make harvesting the remainder of that field much easier when the time came. After meticulously going through the electric motors that need to reliably get us through harvest, we still had a breakdown on day two of corn harvest. We hadn’t done the main motors that cool the large grain bin. The second one went out about 3/4 of the way through harvest as well. Oh, well. Maybe next year will be trouble free. Yes, I’m dreaming again. Continue reading →
I was informed on Monday, January 29, by the National Corn Growers Association, that I was the grand prize winner of the 2017 Fields-of-Corn photo contest. I had entered this contest quite a few years ago and haven’t thought too much about it again until this fall, after capturing a spectacular sunset during corn harvest. One of my greatest joys during the harvest season, is the never ending beauty, displayed by God, during the evening sunset. I never tire of viewing or snapping photos. The backdrops, provided during harvest, add to the canvas something that is only available during a short season of the year.
In the past, cell phone photos seemed to lack something but I have been very impressed with the iPhone 7 camera. It is so much better at picking up differences in lighting to capture the full beauty of what my eye catches.
Soybean harvest weather started out so well. But then the BIG rain hit. Waiting for the soils to dry out allowed us to do some, much needed, tree trimming that we had been trying to get at all summer. For the most part, the soils handled the rain event well. Fields dried out and firmed up in about 10 days. We didn’t have to go around any standing water or mud. The money spent on drainage tile pays off in many ways.
A neighboring field after 5″ + of rain.
Neighboring field with ducks at sunset.
Burning tree branches after a couple days of trimming.
Our grain handling system is a key piece in the harvest process. It needs to run efficiently, with as few break downs as possible, to get through corn harvest in a timely manner. Even a small thing can bring harvest to a halt. Every seven years we change the bearings in all the electric motors of our grain system that put high hours on annually. 2017 was the year to do this again. We take all the the smaller motors off but leave the larger ones in place and remove the internal rotor that the bearings are mounted on. The largest motor, a 20hp 3ph motor on the top our our 120′ grain leg, is always a challenge. This year, we were able to do all the work on top of the grain leg thanks to a powerful 20V DeWalt impact wrench that helped remove the bearings from the shaft.
We also need to test fire the grain dryer to make sure that the flame control system is working properly. One of the burners wouldn’t fire. Upon investigation, a wire wast found to be chewed in half by some critter.
Our seed beans are handled in a gentle manner. This means using a belt conveyor to load them from the truck to the bins. We also unload the combine tank at half throttle to limit damage to the seed from the augers.