The North Bend Eagle

2012 harvest
Combines bring in the crop on a Ruzicka Farms field. For most area farmers, the 2012 harvest is the earliest one in memory.

Drought, heat cause unusual harvest

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 9/26/12

Drew von Rein at North Bend Grain has had farmers bringing their corn and soybeans into the elevator since the end of August, one month earlier than a usual harvest.

“In my 40 years here, this is the earliest I’ve ever seen,” von Rein said, “and it’ll be one of the most spread out.”

Farmers have been bringing in early corn, dryland corn, beans with more yet to come. Some of the irrigated corn won’t be ready for a while, spreading out the harvest season longer than usual.

The dryland corn is really dry, dry enough so that it does not have to be dried at the elevator. It’s easier to accept the dry corn, von Rein said.

The yields he is seeing from the dryland corn is poor, though most of the irrigated corn yield is good to very good and the soybeans are a little below average.

“The prices are great though,” vonRein said. “For corn, $7.35, and $16.58 for beans. A little down from the top, but not bad for the middle of harvest.”

Grower Kurt Winkleman said that he has seen the moisture of the corn change on a daily basis.

“We did one field, came back two days later and (moisture) was down two points,” Winkleman said. “We came back to finish the field another two days later and it was down another 1.5 percentage points. It’s changing really fast. We are taking out irrigated corn testing 13-16 percent.”

Corn has to be dried to 15 percent moisture to be sold without the payment being docked.

Winkleman farms east of North Bend, with 75 percent of his crop in corn and the rest soybeans, the majority of it irrigated. He says his yields have been good. He and his dad, Dan, started harvesting Sept. 8.

Greg Beebe has about one-third of this crop in seed corn, the rest divided between commercial corn and soybeans. Growing up on the family farm, he considers himself a life-long farmer, but it has been his full-time job since 1995. He said that the seed corn, usually one of the earliest harvested crops, was ready about a week early.

“The craziest thing for us is that the seed corn, irrigated corn and beans are all coming due at the same time,” Beebe said.

Beebe picked dryland corn early and it did poorly, some of it yielding 0 to 5 bushels per acre in spots, and up to 80 bushels in other areas.

“The last couple of years it was so wet we were getting 150-160 bushels per acre for dryland corn,” Beebe said.

With the dry spring, many farmers were in the fields planting early. Beebe said they could not plant their seed corn early because the seed was not available, but it is still doing better than the last two seasons.

“Because of the heat and dryness it’s a little tougher,” he said. “Crops have been good and not good, but overall above average.”

Gene Sic has been farming for 40 years on the family farm east of town. This year corn makes up 70 percent of his crop. He farms with his brother, Glen, and they were in the combine Aug. 21.

“I remember one year we were combining corn Sept. 6,” Sic said. “We are done with corn this year. I don’t remember ever being done this early. Of course, we’ve never had a year like this.”

The yields have been better than expected with the drought reports all summer long. Sic’s dryland corn was 0 to 60 percent of the usual yield and his irrigated corn is producing 160 to 200 bushels per acre. And it is dry.

Jason Feala has been farming full time for 12 years on the family farm northwest of North Bend. He said the year has been very unusual.

The Fealas been harvesting since Aug. 28, the earliest he can remember.

Considering the drought, the corn has been better than expected and the soybeans about what they expected. He farms with his dad, Larry, and brother, Seth; 95 percent of their crop land is irrigated. When they first started combining, the moisture on the corn was 26-27 percent, but that is now down to around 17 percent.

Another consideration for farmers because of the dry conditions will be fall fertilizer application. Anhydrous cannot be applied until Nov. 1, but Feala said that the drought will hold them back from doing anhydrous since it needs moisture to attach to.

“We might do some dry fertilizer,” Jason Feala said. “It is not as volatile as anhydrous.”

The United States Drought Monitor shows that Nebraska continues in the extreme to exceptional drought conditions as of Sept. 18. The same monitor predicts “persistence of the drought” through Dec. 31.

Area farmers who are able to irrigate continue to harvest a decent crop, thanks to the Ogallala Aquifer, the large underground gravel layer filled with water covering much of Nebraska.

But 2012 will be a year talked about for a long time to come. Some farmers fear that without replenishing subsoil moisture in the next six months, next year will not be any better than this year and maybe worse.

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