All season long, the crops have matured at faster rates than normal. This has led to an accelerated timeline in the season, and now harvest is underway earlier than normal.
“We are just getting started with harvest. We are about a week or two ahead of where we normally would be. What’s being taken out now is the dryland corn that is seeing the stress of the drought. Hopefully we will be working through that, and then we will get into the irrigated corn,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board.
“Corn in the dent stage reached 93 percent, ahead of 66 last year and 70 average. Corn mature reached 36 percent, compared to two last year and 19 days ahead of five percent average. Corn conditions rated 22 percent very poor, 21 poor, 27 fair, 28 good, and two excellent, well below 76 percent good to excellent last year and 77 average. Irrigated corn conditions rated 50 percent good to excellent and dryland corn rated three,” according to the September 4 crop report by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.
The report also stated that corn harvested for grain was seven percent, compared to zero percent last year and average. “Dryland corn harvest continues while harvest of high moisture and seed corn picked up momentum. Numerous drought damaged corn fields have been chopped for silage or baled for hay,” it said.
The number of acres harvested for silage this year in Nebraska is expected to be much higher than last year. “We are going to see a lot more dryland corn that is cut for silage this year. We are guessing we will have 400,00-600,000 acres harvested for silage, and a good portion of that is off of dryland. We have been in a downward pattern in regards to silage acres for corn. Last year we harvested about 160,000 acres of corn for silage,” said Brunkhorst.
The large increase in the number of acres harvested for silage is a direct result of the drought. The high moisture corn that is being harvested is generally for use in beef operations.
For dryland farmers who are looking to harvest, Brunkhorst suggests talking with their crop insurance agents before they do anything. “Make sure you visit with your crop insurance agent up front for options. They will have test strips that they take, and depending on the yield, you may be eligible for insurance payments,” he said.
It is expected that the average yield will be lower this year than it was last year, but only after harvest will farmers know how much lower it really is. “The USDA has us down on bushels per acre from last year. When they took some of those estimates, the crop was maturing out pretty quickly. Hopefully that gave them a pretty good estimate and we will be close to that,” Brunkhorst stated.
He continued, “What we have heard from our producers is they think irrigated corn should be OK. Some producers were able to keep up and when the corn was filling, we had a little cooler weather. It’s just a matter of having some patience and seeing what comes out when the combine goes through it.”
In other crops, sorghum headed was 88 percent, behind 99 last year and 98 average. Sorghum turning color was 29 percent, compared to 65 last year and 49 average. Sorghum conditions rated nine percent very poor, 40 poor, 37 fair, 14 good, and zero excellent, well below 78 percent good to excellent last year and average, according to the report.
The report also stated that the fourth cutting of alfalfa was 46 percent complete, compared to 15 last year and 12 average. Alfalfa condition rated 45 percent very poor, 29 poor, 17 fair, 8 good, and one excellent, well below 77 percent good to excellent last year and 70 average.
Dry beans turning color were 62 percent, compared to 56 last year and average. Dry beans dropping leaves were 18 percent, compared to 28 last year and 19 average. Dry bean conditions rated one percent very poor, eight poor, 46 fair, 42 good, and three excellent, well below 62 percent good to excellent last year and 69 average.
Pasture and range conditions rated 72 percent very poor, 24 poor, four fair, zero good, and zero excellent, well below 72 percent good to excellent last year and 69 average.
“With pasture conditions in over 95 percent of the state rated in poor or very poor condition, cattle producers continue supplemental feeding of livestock. Culling and marketing of livestock continues due to reduced forage supplies,” the report stated.
Another risk that all farmers and ranchers face is the risk of fire. There have been several fires in the state over the last few weeks, and diligence is the best way to prevent these fires from starting due to equipment.
“Fire risk remains high with producers encouraged to monitor harvesting equipment,” the report stated.
Brunkhorst suggests that producers make sure to keep up with the maintenance on their equipment, including having tight, functioning belts and good bearings. “There are parts on the equipment that can create a spark. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy with the drought out there, just in case,” he said.
He added, “Look at the potentials to reduce that incidence, and you should be OK.” ❖