A bumper crop of optimism as fall harvest set to begin

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Silage is being cut in parts of Scott County, signalling the start of fall harvest in the area.

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Silage is being cut in parts of Scott County, signalling the start of fall harvest in the area.

By Rod Haxton, editor

After a four-year drought and harvest yields that have suffered because of very unfavorable conditions, area farmers may finally be looking at one of their best fall harvests in years - maybe one of the best ever.

Abundant rainfall since mid-June has been a huge boost to corn and milo crops. The only thing that may be getting a bigger boost during the last three months has been the level of optimism within the ag community.

“A lot of farmers are feeling very fortunate, especially those who planted milo crops earlier this year and were praying for rain,” says Scott Co-op manager Gary Friesen.

Those prayers were answered . . . and then some.

“A lot of guys went from just hoping to have something to hold the dirt down to raising fall crops that could be outstanding.”

Many farmers have begun chopping silage for feed in addition to planting wheat into ideal soil conditions.

“The wheat planting conditions have been optimal,” says Wichita County Extension Agent Allen Baker. “Not only is there surface moisture, but now we have moisture that’s running deep.”

Wet weather this past week slowed silage harvest, but with dry conditions now it should be rolling into high gear. Silage harvest should be finished in the next couple of weeks, setting the stage for what could be bumper corn and milo crops.

“The milo looks real good. A lot of guys are hoping that the first freeze holds off because we’re seeing a lot of late heads that are still filling,” Baker says. “The longer we can go before a freeze the better for yields.”

Typically, he says, the first hard freeze isn’t until mid-October. If that time frame holds true that should be great news for yields.

“But even if we do get an earlier freeze, milo yields are still going to be great,” predicts Baker.

 

Need More Heat

In fact, the key element that’s been lacking for milo development has been heat.

“Milo likes the warmer weather. Temperatures in the 90s like we’re supposed to have late this week will move it along a little quicker,” says Walnut Creek Extension Agent Chris Long.

“Milo doesn’t like the cooler days, especially as its in the grain fill stage,” he says. “We’ve had a lot more of those than normal. That could have an impact on yields.”

If temperatures over the next 3-4 weeks will stay in the 80s, then Long says the milo should be okay. If temperatures dip into the 50s and 60s, like they have on occasion during the past couple of weeks, that could impact yields.

In fact, there was a light frost last week which hit Ness County, on the eastern edge of the Walnut District. There was evidence of burnt leaves.

 

“It put a scare into a few farmers,” notes Long. “But, for the most part, I think everyone escaped serious crop damage. I haven’t heard of anything happening in the Dighton area. I don’t think it was cold enough, long enough.”

Everyone is in agreement that it’s been a long time since area farmers were able to feel this good about the prospects for fall harvest.

“We were talking about that the other day,” Baker said. “Everything is green. Seeing corn in mid-September that’s green and looks like its growing and milo that’s not drying out, that’s pretty neat. It’s been over five years since we’ve been able to say that.

“After a marginal wheat crop this year, this will definitely turn things around for a lot of guys.”

Up to a point, adds Long.

While ideal growing conditions are great news it usually means bad news for the markets which have been on a steady downward spiral for the last few months.

Corn prices at area elevators are in the $3.64 to $3.69 range. That compares with about $4.76 a year ago.

“That’s pretty typical,” noted Long. “Every time you get a little moisture the guys setting the markets always see a bumper crop.”

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