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Farmers face challenges this harvest season

harvest-2-colorThis year’s growing season is typical only in the fact that Illinois weather is never "typical". Just when you think you’ve planned for every contingency, covered every base, Illinois weather throws you a curve.

This year’s growing season can be described in two words, wet and cold.

 

"The wet weather has some effect, yes," said Rumbold and Kuhn owner, Mike Rumbold. "We’ve had wet seasons before. The greater impact will be the cooler weather this summer."

Hold on cold weather lovers, while this summer only reached in the 90s two different weeks, most of the weather ranged from the 60s to 70 area.

"Some people think with the corn standing in the field and getting sunshine it will mature," said Rumbold. "Not true, if it gets too cold the corn plant shuts down and stops growing. It needs a certain amount of heat, for a certain amount of time."

Many of the fields in the area were planted late, in May and some even as late as June because of the wet weather. Until August many fields still had standing water. That will have an effect on harvest numbers. But the effect of the cold weather won’t show up until the farmer’s harvest the crop.

"Some of the planing is behind three weeks because of the rain," said Rumbold. "But the cold weather can add another three weeks onto that."

If we take that timeline into account, the farmers are "right-on-time" with their harvest season, beginning mid-October.

Other impacts on the harvest is that the corn is at a high moisture content, averaging from 31 to 37 percent moisture.

"We really feel for the farmer," said Rumbold. "But we have to turn away corn that’s over 37 percent moisture. We just can’t store it."

That means farmers will have to dry their own corn before bringing it to the elevator, if that’s their destination and if the corn is too wet.

But more and more farmers will be spending money drying their corn before they store it in bins or sell it.

Local propane and natural gas suppliers have been kept busy with keeping up with the demand.

Another problem that has come up this year is heat damage from dryers.

"It is seldom a problem," said Rumbold. "But we are seeing damage to the corn after being placed in the dryer."

Drying the corn at such a high moisture rate really puts stress on the kernel. The kernels can crack which lowers the value of the corn. This is called FM, or form material, cracked up corn within the normal corn.

"We like the moisture content to be around 15 percent," said Rumbold. "Getting from 30 to 15 percent is a lot of time in the dryer."

Elevator and personal dryers can only hold so much corn at a time. A farmer could possibly pick faster than the corn drys, making him wait until the drying is ready for the next bushel.

"It will definately slow down the harvest," said Rumbold. "We try to time it so that we don’t have to shut the elevator down, but if we’re full we can’t take anymore corn."

 

Other problems with the harvest that are hightened with the cold wet growing season is disease.

"Most of the time we see disease damage," said Rumbold. "Cob rot and other diseases get a foothold on the plant when there isn’t optimal growing conditions." The slow germination and wet weather help weaken the plant and make it more suseptible.

Soybean fared better this year than the corn, which are not bothered by the wet weather.

"Once the beans are done, they’re done," said Rumbold. "The corn plant is a little more resistant to the weather."

Beans need to be dryer than corn, any over 15.5 percent moisture will be rejected by the elevator.

They have also been subjected to more disease this year, but not to same extent as the corn.

This year’s season is looking to last until after Thanksgiving, creating those extraordinary challenges that make farming so exciting.

So as you drive around and behind those slow moving machines just be patient. They’re moving as fast as they can.