Even though time is running out, more than a quarter of Indiana’s corn fields still need to be harvested, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released last week.
At least 72 percent of Indiana’s corn crop is making its way to local grain elevators, but by this time last year, 87 percent of Indiana’s corn was harvested.
Soybean farmers are closer to schedule with 88 percent of the crop harvested as of Nov. 10, which is about 3 percentage points behind the five-year average, according to USDA reports, but a historically wet planting season that caused soil compaction and delayed planting is still causing issues for local farmers.
It’s not too late for farmers to get into their fields, Purdue Extension educator Ed Farris said, but waiting later into the season comes with risks.
“The longer that crop stands in the field, the more it deteriorates, so that’s what can happen the longer we go,” Farris said.
Although Farris said farmers are seeing good yields so far, the farmers that couldn’t plant until mid-June, which is historically seen as the cutoff for successfully planting corn in Indiana, are running into issues now that temperatures are getting colder and snow has hit the ground.
“The moisture on some of those varieties (that are still in the fields) is still running in the mid-20s for percent of moisture,” Farris said, adding that corn needs to be dried to about 13-15 percent moisture for selling and storing.
Some local grain elevators are already running into issues with crops not being dried enough.
“It’s been very much an added challenge for them to deal with some of the wet corn coming in,” Farris said.
If crops are harvested before they are fully dried, Farris said farmers will have to use propane-powered drying machines, which add costs, especially since Farris is receiving reports that there is a propane shortage out West.
Although corn is yielding about 200 bushels per acre and soybeans are yielding about 55 bushels per acre, which Farris considers a “positive yield,” farmers aren’t expecting to do much better than break even by the season’s end.
“Even though we had great yields, the bottom line is that we still don’t have great profitability out there for growing corn and soybeans.”
Farris said although the cold spell likely stopped crops from maturing any further, cold temperatures aren’t always a bad thing for farmers waiting to harvest.
“Actually the colder weather can sometimes be a benefit because if the ground is frozen they may be able to get out in their fields,” Farris said.
Regardless of the winter weather, Purdue University’s Ag Barometer measuring farmer sentiment improved by 15 points, according to a report released Nov. 5.
“Almost across the board, farmers were more optimistic about the agricultural economy in October,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.
Apart from the index on current conditions, sentiment regarding trade is the only section of the ag barometer that saw a decrease. At least 71 percent of farmers expected a favorable trade war resolution in August, but now just 51 percent hold the same views.
Talks are currently ongoing with Chinese trade officials, but a final deal has not been made. However, 75 percent of farmers believe the outcome will ultimately favor U.S. agriculture.
While prices are up slightly from earlier in the season, most farmers are looking forward to next season, hoping for more stability.
“The price this year may be a little better than what they thought, but we still don’t see that the prices are going to take off this year on a bullish market,” Farris said.