The warm late growing season this year has pushed the 2015 corn and soybean crop very rapidly toward maturity. Soybean harvest has begun on some earlier maturing varieties in many areas. Some early corn hybrids have also reached physiological maturity and will likely be ready to harvest very soon. Full-season corn hybrids and soybean varieties in most areas will likely also be reaching maturity in the next week or two, and harvest should be full swing across most of the region.
As of September 16, a total of 2,378 growing degree units (GDUs) had been accumulated since May 1 at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, which is similar to many areas of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. In addition, the 2015 corn crop was planted in mid-April, and benefitted from some favorable early growing conditions, and extra GDU accumulation in late April, which is not included in the GDU calculation at Waseca. By comparison, in 2014 very little corn was planted in April, the first killing frost in many areas of southern Minnesota was on September 14, and only a total of 2,235 GDUs were accumulated during the growing season. As a result, many acres of corn and soybeans never fully reached maturity in 2014.
Soybeans in most areas of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa are now turning color and dropping leaves, and rapidly reaching maturity. Full-scale soybean harvest is likely to be initiated in most of the region in the next couple of weeks. Soybean yields will likely be highly variable across the region, as they have been in recent years; however, a bit more consistent yields may occur in many portions southern Minnesota in 2015, due to the very favorable growing conditions.
Much of the corn in southern Minnesota has now reached physiological maturity, which is the black layer stage, or is very close to reaching maturity. Corn is usually at 30-32 percent moisture when it reaches the back layer stage, and then begins to dry down naturally in the field. Ideally, growers like to see corn dried down in the field to at least 20-22 percent moisture, or lower, before they harvest the corn. This greatly saves on corn drying costs, and improves the quality of the corn being harvested and going into storage. Corn is usually dried down to a final moisture content of 15-16 percent moisture for safe storage until the following summer.
Corn will dry down about 0.50% per day naturally at an average daily temperature of 60° F, which increases considerably at higher temperature levels, such as have existed in recent weeks. At Waseca, the normal daily average air temperature in September is above 60°, but that drops to only about 48° during October. If favorable drying weather continues in the coming weeks, it is likely that corn drying costs in many areas will be quite minimal in 2015. Due to the rapid maturing process of the corn crop, there has been some concern for the potential of low test weights with the 2015 corn crop. The standard test weight for corn is 56 pounds per bushel.
It is quite early to project 2015 corn yields in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, however many pre-harvest yield estimates by professional agronomists have producers quite optimistic about this year’s corn yield prospects. In the USDA Crop Report on September 11, Minnesota’s 2015 statewide average corn yield was estimated at 183 bushels per acre, which would far eclipse the previous record statewide average corn yield of 177 bushels per acre in 2010. If Minnesota is to achieve a new record level corn yield in 2015, it will likely require some very strong average corn yields in many areas of Southern Minnesota.
Practice safety this harvest season
As we enter full-scale fall harvest for the 2015 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.
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. In addition, the autumn sun is usually in a bad position during the times of heaviest traffic, which is in the mornings and late afternoon on rural roads throughout the fall season. The best advice for all drivers is to slow down, pay attention, and stay off the cell phones while driving.