Sunday, 21 October 2018

In the fields

In the fields
23 Sep

It’s the time of year when color starts popping up in the fields. Not the fresh greens of spring, or the drab browns of late summer, but the greens, reds and blues of combines harvesting crops.

Weather plays a major role, not only in a crop’s growth, but when it can be harvested. Too much rain, you can’t get tractors in the fields and crop moisture levels rise. Too little rain can mean low production and too low moisture for harvest.

“Weather’s been good the whole season,” said Cole Acton from the driver’s seat of a John Deere while waiting on his mother, Cindy, to bring another combine full off corn to unload into a wagon. “We did just have a bunch of rain from the last hurricane that came through. That was not fun. It delayed us for a little bit, but I guess that helped our patience.

“Usually, we try to get in too early and the corn’s not dried down enough. We waited, and I think it was the right choice.”

Anyone driving Illinois Route 1 or country back roads lately has been noticing how brown the corn and soybeans have become. And when a few combines started making appearances, some were speculating the harvest had come early this year.

“Not necessarily,” said Tom Fricke, director of information at the Vermilion County Farm Bureau. “It’s probably earlier than we would have anticipated three months ago, because the spring planting season got delayed with rains in April and early May. We did have enough heat then — the end of May and June — that the crop was able to catch up on the growing days and developed right along. With the heat the last couple of weeks, it’s helped it dry down even more.”

Acton Farms manages about 2,000 acres, and Acton was hoping they could get their crops out in one stretch … if the weather holds.

He said if that happens, the corn could be finished in a couple weeks, with a couple more needed for beans.

But that also means there’s no equipment breakdowns, either.

“We’re pretty concerned about rain,” Acton said. “It seems like they are calling for a pretty wet harvest again … more rain coming in this weekend. I talked to some guys who said their beans are a little dry. They need rain to bring their moisture back up.”

A cold front came through Friday, bringing rain and more fall-like temps to the area.

Corn, in order for it to store properly, should be harvested at around 15 percent moisture.

“I talked to a farmer this morning,” Fricke said Tuesday. “He’s picking corn that’s running 16 percent. When it’s that close, it doesn’t take much to dry it down to get to the right percentage. You want that moisture level low so it doesn’t rot in the bin.”

He said some areas of the county saw pockets where the ground had a dry season, but it was too early to hear if it had much of an effect.

Last week, the USDA released a crop production report that increased its yield forecast over that of August in the top 10 states for harvested corn acreage. That includes Illinois. It also reported the Prairie State could see record levels, saying it came in 13 bushels per acre above the previous record yield at 214 bushels per acre.

“There have been four different yield studies I’ve seen, and each one of them is different,” Fricke said. “It just depends on the methodology that’s used, the timing when it’s done. The August report that’s done by the USDA is the first benchmark of the anticipation of what the yield is gonna be.”

He said with the weather the way it has been, nearly everybody is in their fields trying something.

All-in-all, harvest means long days for area farmers.

Acton said he’s up between 5-6 a.m., and is in the fields until 8 or 9 p.m.

“Then wake up and do it all over again,” he said. “It’s funny to think we look forward to this time of year. This is just fun. I enjoy this, being busy constantly and always on the move.

“It’d be a lot more fun if it wasn’t 95 degrees. But it’s good corn-drying weather, so you can’t complain about that. Let Mother Nature dry it down so I don’t have to pay to dry it.”


Head to our Facebook page or website — — to see area farmers, including the Acton family, at work.



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