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Paynesville Press - October 24, 2001

Harvest making slow progress

By Linda Stelling

Combine Uncooperative weather this growing season hurt the crops in the region, and has some farmers feeling satisfied with average yields.

"It's been a good year, better than expected considering the weather," said Ron Spanier, who farms north of Paynesville. "We were fortunate to have heavy soil. People farming on lighter soil are hurting," he said.

Reported yields have been sporadic, depending heavily on the type of soil and the amount and timing of summer rains.

Area field crops got off to a slow start last spring and never fully recovered. After lingering snow drifts, floods, and wet weather delayed spring planting, the weather turned in mid-June and arid conditions reigned for the next month, as crops virtually begged for moisture.

On several occasions, threatening skies in the area promised rain but delivered far less than was needed.

The growing season had a slow start in April and is still about two weeks behind, said Dan Martens, crop specialist for Stearns and Benton counties.

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, 89 percent of soybeans across the state have been harvested as of Oct. 19, compared with 99 percent at this time last year. Only 33 percent of the state's corn crop has been harvested, down from 83 percent last year.

Crops planted on lighter soil, looked terrible this summer, said Bob Lieser, who also farms north of town, because of the hot weather and lack of rain in July and August.

Jeff Ampe, who farms east of Paynesville, said the weather was so dry this summer that a reliable hay meadow of his didn't even produce a decent crop.

According to Larry Rein, who farms east of Paynesville, his soybean yields were so-so this year. "Some fields did great," he said. "Then others with lighter soil caught it, really suffering from the dry weather this summer."

Spanier said they saw the yield difference between light and heavy soils in the same field. The yield monitor on his combine would read anywhere from 22 bushels of corn per acre to 160 bushels per acre.

Across the board, most crops are yielding slightly below average, said Martens.

Lieser had hay planted on heavier soil. He was able to take a fourth crop hay from one field. "I was fortunate to get the first crop up before the rains started in June," Lieser said. His older hay fields, which he planted a couple years ago, were too dry and didn't fair as well, he added.

Martens warned about late cuttings of alfalfa. "Whenever you harvest hay late, expect less next year," he warned. The best chance for hay to survive winter is not to take a late fall cutting, he added.

Celestine Fischbach, manager of the Regal Elevator, said a majority of the soybeans and corn were harvested by early October last year. This year only half of the fields are done, with farmers hoping to get the harvest done before snow arrives.

Rains this fall, while arriving too late to help crops grow, are delaying the harvest for some. Ampe hasn't started harvesting corn because last week's rain added moisture to his corn. He was hoping the corn would dry down some more before harvesting it. "We need several sunny days," he said, and a little breeze, he added.

Once again, commodity prices are low and will not make up for any loss in yields. Brian Thorson, manager at Paynesville Feed Service, said the soybean prices are lower than last year while corn prices are about the same. As of Monday, soybean prices were $3.73 per bushel and corn prices were $1.54 per bushel.

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