Farmers are back in the field trying to finish up the 2020 harvest after an early blast of winter.
Snow fell in the region the week of Oct. 19, with multiple systems dropping several inches in some fields. This slowed what was a near-record harvest pace.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress Report showed that, as of Nov. 1, farmers in the region were more than 80% done harvesting corn. North Dakota was at 84%, advancing 11% for the week and still well ahead of the 48% average and only 9% last year. Minnesota farmers also took out 11% of the corn over the week, and harvest stands at 83% done. Meanwhile, South Dakota farmers took out only 6% of the corn for the week and moved harvest to 85% complete. However, that was well ahead of the 53% five-year average and 23% in 2019. So, even with the delays, most farmers will finish up harvest ahead of normal and well ahead of last year.
Rick Even farms near Elkton, S.D., and was back combining corn in the snow on Oct. 30.
“It put us behind about a week, but it’s going good now, so I’m thankful,” he said.
Even said they tried to combine earlier, but there was just too much snow on the corn, which plugged the combine twice. So, they decided to wait for warmer weather to melt some of that snow. With well above normal temperatures in the region the first week of November, the snowpack melted quickly, and farmers were able to make progress.
The precipitation would have been welcomed earlier in the season to bump the yields. Instead, Even was dealing with muddy fields and was happy to have tracks on both the tractor and grain cart to help reduce compaction in his fields.
Even said the crop is worth the challenge, as he’s harvesting some of the best corn he’s ever grown on his farm. His crop was one of the few areas of the state that got some timely rains after July.
“We’re running 230 to 240 bushels per acre dry at 13.5% It’s about 18% moisture right now coming out of the field. I have never seen it like this before, so thankful,” he said.
Even was having to dry the corn, but said it was not due to the moisture that came with the snowstorm.
Damage or yield loss is more common for soybeans hit by snow, but most farmers were done harvesting that crop. That included Jeff Thompson, who farms by Colton and is president of the South Dakota Soybean Association. He said the soybean harvest was one of the fastest he can ever remember, and he was done with both corn and soybeans before the weather turned.
“No, everybody pretty much had the beans out, you know, because they started harvest on them, started two weeks ahead of time,” he said.
USDA’s Crop Progress Report indicated soybean harvest was done in North Dakota and Nebraska, at 97% in South Dakota and Iowa and 99% complete in Minnesota.
Farther west in South Dakota, farmers are also playing catch-up on the harvest, according to Pioneer Strategic Account Manager Pat VanLith. He said from Mitchell to Gettysburg the corn crop was hit by snow. Farmers were just getting back into the fields to resume harvest on Oct. 30, but that was expected to pick up with the warmup. Yields were running from 170 to 200 bushels per acres in the Mitchell area and from 160 to 170 bushels per acre in the Onida-Gettysburg area.
VanLith said the sunflower crop also got hit with freezing rain, which left the sunflower heads covered with an inch of ice.
“Luckily the sunshine and this warm weather are getting the ice burned off to allow guys to get back in, and hopefully they will wrap up the sunflower harvest this week,” he said.
USDA reported that as of Nov. 1, South Dakota had 50% of the sunflower crop left to harvest, while North Dakota had made better progress at 69%.
Sunflower growers in the areas hit by the storm have good reason to finish the harvest as soon as possible to avoid field loss, as yields are running as high as 3,000 pounds per acre. However, prices for sunflowers, corn and soybeans are all above last year at harvest time, which is also providing plenty of incentive.