Summer's Bountiful Harvest

With lower temperatures and abundant rain in the growing season, Missouri farmers are reaping great corn and soybean yields
Monday, September 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:07 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A continuation of this summer’s growing conditions is at the top of mid-Missouri farmers’ wish lists.

“This is probably the best year we’ve ever had,” said Gary Alpers, a Cooper County farmer. “Last year we didn’t raise much, but this year it’s almost going to be like having two years in one.”

State reports show an average yield of 144 bushels per acre for corn and 36 bushels per acre for soybeans said Bill Wiebold, an MU Extension state specialist. Usually, corn averages in the 120s and soybeans in the low 30s, he said.

Frequent rain during the growing season, cooler weather, the absence of an extended drought period and limited insect and disease damage helped contribute to the predicted bumper crop yields, farmers say.

“Preliminary reports indicate the June-July-August period of 2004 will rank as the seventh-coolest summer in the past 110 years for Missouri and the coolest summer since 1992,” read a report from Pat Guinan, an MU Extension associate in climatology. The average temperature for June through August in Boone County was 71.5 degrees, which is lower than the state average of 75.27 for the same period from 1971 through 2000.

Data from 1971 through 2003 lists average rainfall for Missouri at 40.28 inches per year, or 3.36 inches per month. Averages for Boone County this year through August were 31.78 inches for the year and 3.97 inches per month.

“If you could have been up in the sky and turned the faucet on and off, you couldn’t have done a much better job,” said Terry Hilgedick, a Boone County farmer. “It’s about ideal for crops.”

Hilgedick, who has farmed for 20 years, said that although harvest is just beginning, he has heard of corn yields averaging from 150 to 225 bushels per acre.

“In terms of numbers, I would say anywhere from a 20 to 70 percent improvement over last year,” Hilgedick said.

Audrain County father-and-son farmers Bill and Andrew Fairchild said this year’s crop will not be their best. They said 2000 was a better year.

They recently started harvesting and said their dry-land corn — for which no irrigation was used during the growing season — is at 150 to 160 bushels per acre.

Bill Fairchild has farmed since 1958 and said he has heard of some fantastic yields, but it varies by area. He said poor stands from heavy rains at planting time, flooded spots in fields, cool and wet weather conditions and a brief drought period contributed to this not being his best year for crops.

“You have to have almost a perfect stand to be getting up in the 200-bushel range and above where some (farmers) are getting it,” Bill Fairchild said.

“It’s going to be a good year for beans and corn and most of what you hear, people are thinking yields are better than they even thought they were.”

Andrew Fairchild, who graduated from MU with an agricultural economics degree, agrees with his father and said he has made some observations about Missouri weather since he started farming full time in 1990. Together, they farm about 1,000 acres.

“I think what I’ve discovered over the last several years, at least in Missouri, is that the weather is pretty spotty,” Andrew Fairchild said. “You can have really ideal conditions, and just miles down the road, someone could have a drought or excess moisture.”

Soybeans also are expected to produce a good crop this year, Hilgedick said.

Bill Fairchild said he heard of soybeans making 48 to 60 bushels per acre when he the grain elevator in Laddonia recently.Alpers agreed, saying this year’s soybeans are some of the best he has raised. Farmers in his area are predicting soybeans at 45 bushels per acre, he said.

In addition to what looks to be a great year for field crops, vegetable producers are excited about the bounty of their harvests.

Mary Kroening, an MU Extension horticulture specialist, said 80-degree temperatures are ideal for vegetable crop production. Leanne Spurling, manager of Sunny Acres Farm, said vegetable crop yields have allowed a higher percentage of marketable produce this year.

“We’ve had rainfall, and this is one of the best years we have ever had,” Spurling said. “We’ve had an ideal growing season for the most part, with continued production, and the plants show it.”

Walker Claridge, who owns The Root Cellar in Columbia, said the quantity and quality of the produce he has bought for his store this year has been good.

Despite the quality of the crops and theoutstanding yields, there are concerns.

“It seems like you have a good crop, but the prices fall,” Alpers said. “Hopefully with more yield, it’ll make up the difference for the lack of prices. We hope that’s what’s going to happen this year.”

MU Extension economist Melvin Brees said farmers are looking at corn prices below $2 per bushel and soybeans a little above $5 per bushel.

The USDA September average prices are $2.40 per bushel for corn and $7.35 per bushel for soybeans.

“Prices are always lower at harvest, but there is the potential for recovery,” Brees said.

“When you couple good prices, if (farmers) sold early, with some good yields, then it makes for a good year for the farmer,” Hilgedick said. “And that’s why we’re all doing it, trying to make an honest dollar.”

Spurling said prices have been consistent with last year’s for fresh produce.

Storage is also a concern, and the Fairchilds have a strategy in place.

“We may start hauling some corn to storage in an elevator to get it down there before it gets busy so we can get in and then have it out of the way,” Bill Fairchild said.

Hilgedick said he believes storage hasn’t become a problem yet, but it will by the end of the harvest.

“We’re not accustomed to these sorts of yields in central Missouri, and so the elevators and the on-farm storage really weren’t built to handle this much of a high-production type of year,” he said.

He said if producers know they have to sell a certain amount of bushels, they should check soon to make sure there is room for storage.

Overall, Hilgedick said, farmers have had high expectations, given the good weather patterns. What is on each farmer’s mind is to make sure the crops are harvested in a timely fashion.

“It doesn’t do much good if it’s out there in a bunch of mud or whatever,” Hilgedick said. “We’re trying to get as much of it done as quickly as we can, but we’re thankful, of course, to have a good crop and hope it continues next year.”

Weather can affect harvesting, especially for corn. Stalks tend to be weaker with higher yields, Wiebold said.

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