Above-normal temperatures during most of the month of September in southern Minnesota have allowed the 2009 corn and soybean  crops to either reach maturity or be very close to maturity. Many of the early planted corn  hybrids have now reached physiological maturity, while some later-planted corn may need another week or so to reach maturity. Most soybeans are now turning color and dropping leaves, with some early varieties being harvested now. Full-scale soybean harvest has already begun in some areas, and should occur by around Oct. 1 in most portions of southern Minnesota. Areas of the state that had later planting dates will require week or two without a killing frost in order for crops to reach maturity.
The U of M Southern Research and Outreach Center  at Waseca had accumulated a total of 436 growing degree units (GDUs) from Sept. 1 through Sept. 28, 2009, which is 35% above the normal GDU accumulation of 322 for the entire month of September. The total 2009 GDU accumulation at Waseca from May 1 through Sept. 28 is 2,266, about 7% below the normal GDU accumulation of 2,449. Prior to September, GDU accumulation since May 1 for the 2009 growing season had been running 10-15% or more behind normal. This significant improvement in GDU accumulation during September has greatly reduced the potential impacts of a killing frost to the 2009 corn and soybean crop in most areas of southern Minnesota.
Rainfall totals in most of southern Minnesota have been well below normal during August and September; however most of southern and central Minnesota did receive some much-needed rainfall on Sept. 25 and 26, with some areas of south-central Minnesota receiving in excess of 2 in. Total rainfall in September at Waseca through Sept. 28 was 1.48 in., compared to a normal rainfall for September of 3.19 in. The total rainfall at Waseca through September 2009 is now at 17.09 in., which is more than 11 in. below the normal precipitation amount of 28.48 in., with seven straight months of below-normal precipitation. By comparison, the nine-month precipitation totals through September at Waseca were 22.93 in. in 2008 and 34.36 in. in 2007.
As we enter full-scale fall harvest for the 2009 growing season, it is a good time for farm families to review the farm safety procedures in their farm operation. More farm accidents occur during the fall than at any other time of the year, and usually involve one or more farm family members. Special care should be taken with children and senior citizens around farm and grain-handling equipment, as these groups are the most vulnerable to farm accidents.
Interestingly, 51% of all farm accident deaths involve farm tractors, with rollovers being the most common type of tractor accident. Farm buildings and structures account for 11% of farm accident deaths, usually involving grain bin suffocation or being overcome by silo gas. Other primary causes of farm accidents include combines, haying equipment, farm trucks, augers, PTO drives, skid loaders, overhead electric wires and farm animals.
The non-farm public also needs to pay extra attention when driving on rural roads during harvest season, especially before and after work or school. Farm vehicles are larger and move much slower than cars, and the autumn sun is usually in a bad position during the times of heaviest traffic in the morning and late afternoon on rural roads throughout the fall season. The best advice is to slow down, pay attention and stay off the cell phones while driving.
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse  is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected] .