Douglas County Agriculture September

By Larry W. Dallas, President
Douglas County Farm Bureau

Harvest has begun in Illinois and in Douglas County. Some early beans have been cut and a cornfield here and there has been taken out. There was a wide variation in planting dates this spring, and that has spread crop maturity out. Next to a dead ripe early planted field of beans you might see a replant area or an entire field that is still green and growing. We planted our first corn on April 12 and replanted a river bottom on June 2. This promises to be a challenging fall because of the long wet spring and now little rain for the last two months.

Grain elevators want beans at 13 percent moisture and that is one of the challenges of growing soybeans. The moisture of the beans can vary greatly through the day. Overnight dew puts the water content too high for harvest but sun and wind dry the beans to 13 percent in the late morning so harvest can start. By late afternoon with continued drying the moisture can dry to 10 percent. Field loss from beans popping out of the pods as the combine reaches them goes up. The farmer also loses the water weight in the drier beans going to the elevator. We can’t really shut down and wait for the moisture to come back up the next day. We cut until the dew begins to rise and makes the beans “tough” or difficult to feed into the machine.

Corn harvest presents different problems. Elevators want corn at 15 percent moisture. It seldom dries to that level in the field although with good weather and the right genetics that is more common than it used to be. To store corn for any length of time, it must be dried to 15 percent moisture or lower, either on farm or by the elevator. This requires heat and air flow so you have the expense of a fuel source and electricity. Leaving the corn to stand in the field and air dry is economical, but the farmer runs the chance of the plants blowing down and becoming unharvestable. In a growing season like this one, stalk quality is already suspect because of the moisture stress the corn plant has undergone. So do you leave the corn to dry in the field or harvest it and pay for drying?

In late August, we in this area are lucky to live close to an agricultural world’s fair of sorts, the Farm Progress Show, held every other year near Decatur. All of the farm equipment manufacturers large and small display their products and a hundred thousand or so farmers come to look at the equipment. Dignitaries such as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (this year) often show up and announcements of importance to the agriculture community are made. One announcement I feel is very important concerned progress on the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).

The NLRS was formulated two years ago to help reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loss into streams, rivers, and lakes. It offers a menu of voluntary actions to lower fertilizer loss from farm fields. At the Farm Progress Show the first progress report on the NLRS was released. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Alec Messina said in the announcement that the work of the ag community is phenomenal. Nitrogen loss was reduced 10 percent and although phosphorus losses increased, that was attributed to population growth and loss from municipal sewage treatment plants that are not up to standards. Other numbers highlighted in the report were that agriculture has invested nearly $55 million in nutrient loss research, and that cover crop use on farm fields–a practice to fix nutrients in the soil and prevent them from moving into waterways–continues to increase. The point of this is that agriculture knows there is a problem with nutrient loss, and we are spending money and putting practices into place to help with this loss. We had about 160 acres of cover crops oats and radishes flown on Sept. 12. We hope the showers of rain are enough to get a good stand.

Soybean prices have experienced a small rally over the last couple weeks despite yield reports that are better than expectations, at least in this area. Corn prices continue to trade at the lower end of the year’s range. The September USDA crop report had slightly better yields in it for both commodities when most analysists thought the numbers would be lower. Right now there are good supplies of most commodities worldwide and prices are reacting by staying at or below breakeven levels. However there is very good demand for gg products and any hiccup in production causes flutters in prices. The hard red spring wheat producing area of the upper Midwest had a rough spring and summer. Those prices have moved higher even though other classes of wheat are in good supply elsewhere. The soybean producing areas of Argentina are wet and that area of Brazil is dry going into their planting season. That is supporting bean prices even as the U.S. looks to harvest a very good crop. Hurricane Harvey in Texas impacted the cotton producing areas of the state although they aren’t sure of the extent. The Florida Hurricane Irma roughed up the orange groves in that state. Any production problem can influence the retail prices you and I pay.

As always, please be careful as you drive the rural roads this fall. They will be busy with farm traffic that is slow and big. Thank you for reading this update on Douglas County and world agriculture.