A generally above average corn harvest is underway across Monroe County and surrounding areas this fall.
People driving through the area are seeing fields dried to brown and some harvested, with only stubble remaining. Elsewhere, there’s corn that looks the same and is waiting to be taken from the fields.
Agriculture is the foundation of Monroe County’s economy. Corn is one of the three major crops, the others being wheat and soybeans.
Most of the corn is grown for feed for livestock, with a small percentage used to make cereals and other products for human consumption. More than 50 percent of the nation’s corn is grown in four states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota.
Gateway FS Grain Division Manager Adam Parker characterized yields across Monroe County as “above average, but not at record levels.”
Parker cited several variables influencing yields, which are running from about 170-200 bushels per acre.
“We have had variable rain, calendar and area-wise this year. Some places received a tenth of an inch while only a mile away they got two inches at the same time,” he said. “And there are wide variations in soils, with sandy land dominating the bottoms and clay soil covering much of the higher land.”
When the corn is ready to be harvested is influenced by when it was planted, with many bottom fields being planted late due to the high Mississippi River this spring and consequent wet fields along the river.
Parker went on to note that the timing of harvesting corn can be influenced by whether the farmer has equipment and storage capacity to hold and dry the corn before taking it to market. If he does not, it may have to stand in the field until in reaches the right moisture content – 15 to 16 percent is the target.
Dennis Rodenberg, who farms in the bottoms between Prairie du Rocher and Fults, confirmed Parker’s assessment.
“Overall, it has been a little better than average,” he said, “but not great.”
Rodenberg has harvested about 100 acres, but due to late planting in wetter areas it will be two weeks before he is able to harvest his remaining 70 acres.
“I’ve had to dry what I have harvested,” he added.
Another area farmer, Kenneth Hartman Jr., a member of the National Corn Growers Association Board, added terrain with hilly land and fields surrounded by wooded areas to the list of multiple factors that can influence corn yields.
Hartman said his yields thus far have varied from field to field but were better than most years. As he discussed the year’s results, he watched his daughter Amanda Hartman, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Kansas State University, driving a huge combine through corn on land at the intersection of Route 3 and Vandebrook Drive.
Hartman, who is a strong supporter of young people interested in agriculture, said he recommends the new generation of farmers get college degrees as preparation for the business.
Field preparation, planting seeds and monitoring growth – as well as finally harvesting crops including corn – are all preliminary parts of the final picture of farming every year.
What will be the value received be for the investment in land, equipment, seed, fertilizer and hard work? How much will the farmer get for each bushel of corn harvested?
Farmers can agree to contracts before the crop is harvested or wait until closer to the time it is ready for market.
Parker said “usually, prices are higher in June and July. But 2020 has been a unique year for farmers, too.”
Early in the year, crop yields nationwide were predicted to be at or near record levels. That, of course, depressed what buyers were willing to pay for corn to be delivered in the fall.
“But this summer weather across northern Illinois and Iowa turned dry for weeks, cutting yields,” Parker said. “That in turn has driven prices up now to $3.60 a bushel.”
That is about 50 cents per bushel higher than early summer levels.
Soybeans, which are seen ripening across the region, will be next to be harvested as 2020 moves to a close.
If you are sitting down to a meal tonight, at Thanksgiving, Christmas or next year, the food on your table may have come out of a local farm field.