Across Indiana, harvest of corn and soybeans is running about two weeks behind last year.
“I think everyone has predicted it will be a variable year, which is still holding true,” Greg Matli, state statistician of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Indiana Field Office, said Friday.
“Some people got crops in April and May and others in June or July” because of a very wet spring. “When you go back and look at where we are now at crop progress, right now, as of Oct. 13, we have only 24 percent of the corn harvested, compared to 49 percent harvested at this time last year. The five-year average is 41 percent,” Matli said.
Soybeans are only 30 percent, as of Oct. 13, compared to 49 percent last year and 47 percent for a five year average, “so we are behind” in harvesting, Matli said.
Moisture content for corn is 21 percent versus 17 percent last year, and 19 percent for a five year average. Soybeans are on track at 13 percent, versus 14 percent last year, and a 13 percent five-year average, Matli said.
“When you look at the crop this year, some areas are better than anticipated and some will see the stress of the wet spring and hot dry summer. The wet spring dominated the whole season this year. It is a crop year that we have never had before when you try to compare it to other years,” even to 2009 which also was a late harvest year, he said.
The statewide average yield of corn, as of Oct. 10, is 161 bushes per acre, which compares to 189 bushels per acre last year, Matli said.
Soybeans are at 48 bushes an acres, compared to 57.5 bushels last year statewide, Matli said. Yet 2018 was also one of the best years for Hoosier farmers since 2014.
Terre Haute is in the USDA’s west central region, which historically is the best producing area of the state.
In this region, corn yields so far are 172 bushels an acres, compared to 197 bushels an area last year. Soybeans are 51.5 bushels an acre, compared to 60.2 an acre last year. This area includes Vigo, Vermillion, Parke, Clay and Putnam counties in the Wabash Valley and extends up to Tippecanoe County.
The USDA’s southwest region, which includes Sullivan County, has corn yields of 168 per bushel, compared to 182.4 bushels per acre in 2018. Soybeans are 50 bushels an acre versus 54.8 bushels last year.
Just like statewide, harvesting among farmers in Vigo County is varied.
“We have actually had a nice fall so far. For as bad as everything has been this year, this fall has been a blessing,” said Brad Burbrink, an owner in BE N AG Family Farm in southeast Vigo County
“We had warm weather in September to kinda help accelerate the crop a little bit. We have been able to harvest now for the last three weeks,” Burbrink said. “We are half done with harvest. We are about 70 percent done with beans and 40 percent done with corn. Seriously, the last three weeks have been really nice.”
Burbrink said much of the farm is clay soil, but the farm has been drying its corn.
Like USDA’s Matli, Burbrink said his farm has seen variable yields.
“Soybeans have been better than we expected and corn yields have been everywhere,” Burbrink said. Corn yields, he said, have been 150 bushels per acre to 200 bushels, while soybeans have been 50 bushels per acre to 75.
“We have been harvesting beans that were planted on the first of June. We are getting ready to harvest cut beans that we planted at the end of June,” he said.
“Spring was terrible but we were blessed with August and September and October has been pretty descent. Our yields are as good or better than we expected,” Burbrink said. “It is still by no means will be a great year, but we all did not have high hopes, so it is better than we were fearing.”
Income, however, will be down, he said, as yields are down from last year and prices have not increased. “We still need prices to recover. Right now, we are just harvesting now and will worry about the income in about three weeks after we get caught up. I think all farmers are anticipating prices will come up as the USDA may be off on their acreage and their yields and we hope we can get a tariff deal with China resolved, so between the two prices should go up,” Burbrink said.
That’s what Terry Hayhurst of Hayhurst Farms is keeping a close watch on.
“It is still going to be difficult. Purdue University’s estimate was a 20 percent reduction in income, I don’t think there are very many households in Vigo County that could stand a 20 percent income reduction and that is what many farmers will face,” Hayhurst said. “That’s pretty big, if their estimates that came out this summer are right.”
Hayhurst said he does not use crop insurance.
Unlike Burbrink, Hayhurst “has barely” started harvesting “on corn except for silage. The corn is still pretty high moisture.”
And he hopes to start on beans in the next week to 10 days. “It has been pretty slow,” he said.
“I think we will have average yield on corn and but not average on beans because of so much replant and later beans. Beans don’t like wet feet very well and we have clay soil” which retains moisture, Hayhurst said. Because of the late planting, Hayhurst said he expects to be harvesting into November.
Vigo farmer Jack Strain, who farms with his son on Strain Farms Inc., disagrees with Purdue University’s income estimates, saying west central Indiana will do better than most in Indiana.
“We are in a good spot here,” Strain said. “I know farmers have all done a lot of worrying and have a lot of money invested in soybeans and corn. We will have an average year, not a great crop, but it has worked out,” he said.
Strain said his farm benefited this year with 300 acres in prevented planting insurance. Additionally, farmers in Vigo County are to get $66 an acre from the USDA’s $16 billion trade assistance package for farm operators. Of that, $14.5 billion is designated as direct payments to farmers in the form of market facilitation program payments. So far, Strain has received half of that $66 acre payment and believes the USDA will make two more payments by January to reach the full amount.
Strain Farms is two-thirds of the way done with harvesting, he said Friday.
“We have sandy soils and we have irrigated ground and clay soil. We are about 70 percent done with corn and about done with soybeans,” Strain said.
“It has been a year for the record books. We had a bad spring, but we got a good fall. We had rain and then hot weather in late August and in September and that was a combination that we really needed and are very fortunate to get,” Strain said.