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Paynesville Press - Oct. 23,2002

Muddy farm fields hindering harvest

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Area farmers may have a record corn and soybean crop this year, if they can get it out of their fields.

Rain and snow, along with lower than normal temperatures, have made it difficult if not impossible to get harvesting equipment into area fields. Some farmers have braved muddy fields, only to harvest high moisture crops, especially soybeans.

"It's the darndest thing I've seen in a long time," said Pat Buermann, a dairy farmer north of town. Everywhere he goes he sees combines stuck in the mud. Last week he watched while one of his neighbors combined a field in a zigzag pattern. "It looked like he was cutting a maze," Buermann said. "This guy was going all over the place trying to miss the wet spots."

As of Oct. 15, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported that approximately 48 percent of the state's soybeans have been harvested, compared to 75 percent at the same time last year and 85 percent for the five-year average. An estimated 17 percent of the corn crop has been harvested statewide, compared to 12 percent last year and 20 percent for the five-year average.

These numbers indicate that the soybean harvest is already late. While the corn harvest isn't late yet, it may be because farmers still need to harvest their soybeans, too.

Dave Schwartz of the Meeker County Extension Office estimates farmers have only had two to three days a week when they could harvest this month.

Gary Reeck, who farms east of Lake Henry, has been trying to harvest beans for about three weeks. He's picking dry spots out of his fields, but said he's got mud in places he's never seen before.

Reeck estimates his beans are about 10 percent harvested, and he hasn't even started on corn which was still very wet. Last year, Reeck's harvest was finished by the end of October.

Gene Passmore, who farms with his wife, Betty, south of Hawick, echoes Reeck's observations. He's only half finished with beans, and as added expense, he's drying them because they're still too moist. Their corn crop is excellent, but the moisture is still extremely high.

The Passmores were plugging away at their bean harvest, trying to keep to the dry spots, until Thursday's snowfall. Now they're probably going to switch to corn.

Betty is trying to keep it in perspective though. She said she would rather leave ten acres of crop than do serious, possibly expensive, damage to their equipment.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Minnesota's corn crop is expected to hit record levels this year. According to the USDA, with very dry conditions in many other parts of the country, Minnesota was expected to be one of the highest corn producing states in the country, but the longer the crop stays in the field, the more vulnerable it is to stalk breakage from high winds or snow.

To make matters worse, cornstalks were damaged by parasites this year, making the corn even more vulnerable to damage, said Schwartz. If corn is knocked down, either by wind or snow, combines can't easily get to it to pull the ears off the plant.

"What we really need is just three or four days of sunny 50 degree days," said Schwartz. This doesn't seem likely though, as the weather forecast for the next week is cool, cloudy days. Schwartz expects farmers will be finishing their harvest well into November this year.

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