By STAN MADDUX
Farmers in the Midwest who had already struggled due to the late planting start in the spring, found themselves racing Mother Nature who brought an early start to winter with significant snowfall and well below average temperatures two weeks ago. Hiring extra help and working non-stop to try and bring in all of the late planted crops was common throughout the Midwest.
Alan Moore of Elsie, Mich., was one of the lucky one. Harvesting of his 2,500 acres of corn and soybeans wrapped up Nov. 8; less than 72 hours before six inches of snow began falling and single digit temperatures hit the area. ‘’We’re one of the very few in our area who finished early. We had a very determined crew,’’ Moore said.
Just a few miles from Moore is Brian Washburn, who managed to haul in all of his 1,200 acres of soybeans on Nov. 9. He couldn’t get to his 350 acres of corn but he hoped to within a week or so depending on the weather.
‘’It shouldn’t take long. We got big combines and big driers,’’ Washburn said.
Typically, Washburn has up to 1,500 acres of corn and 2,000 acres of soybeans but the extended spring rain forced him to purchase crop insurance to help cover his losses from what he was not able to plant.
All of the corn and soybeans on about 1,400 acres at Ruff’s Seed Farms in Amanda, Ohio, were in about a week before old man winter introduced himself. “We hustled a little harder toward the end to try and beat the mess we have now,” said Tom Pontius, manager at Ruff’s Seed Farms.
Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean grower in northwest Indiana, also managed to complete his harvest. “We beat the snow so that’s a good thing. We’re happy about that,” he said.
Some farmers said it might be early December before all of this year’s crop gets harvested in some states. Especially for soybeans, the key is for the snow to melt and wet ground to dry out or freeze so combines get out and bring in the rest of the crop. Trying to harvest soybeans before a warm up would mean combines taking in a lot of snow and possibly freezing up.
‘’With soybeans you got to kind of wait until the snow melts and then you need it to freeze up again without getting any more snow,” Washburn said.
Like many other farmers, Schafer hasn’t been able to do any tillage and other ground work for spring because of the very late harvest. Washburn ran out of time to get all of his winter rye planted.
According to USDA, 66-percent of corn acres had been harvested as of Nov. 12. The five-year average is 85-percent at this point in the season. The USDA said 85-percent of soybeans were harvested as of Nov. 10. The five-year average for soybeans at this time in the season is 92-percent.
One thing that seemed to go right for farmers this year was the late frost providing more time for late planted crops to reach maturity.,
“I think we got a great corn crop out there. It looks beautiful,’’ said Washburn, who also gave high marks to the quality of the soybeans he was able to plant.
Moore had what he described as an ‘’average crop” but said he was pleased because of the extreme challenges many farmers weren’t fortunate enough to overcome.
“It’s been the most difficult year I’ve ever been involved in,” he said.
Pontius said yields and the quality of his crop were excellent despite the hardship from Mother Nature.