Riding high in the cab of his John Deere combine, Fayette County farmer Wes Montgomery was working hard to finish up a 120-acre field of corn near Bunker Hill-Glendon Road SW and Worthington roads in Fayette County.
For Montgomery and southern Ohio farmers like him, Harvest 2015 is turning out to be a better-than-expected year. But farmers in other parts of Ohio, especially the north-central and northwest, have found the heavy rain in the summer has taken its toll in the fields.
“Harvest has been pretty smooth so far,” Montgomery said as his combine cut through the dry field of corn eight rows at a time. “We didn’t have any problem with the beans, we flew through the beans in 10 days.”
Montgomery, his brother Kyle, their father and grandfather have farmed in Fayette County for generations. They grow about 750 acres of soybeans and about 700 acres of corn in Fayette County. “Our corn (harvest) now is going pretty smoothly.” In the combine’s cab, Montgomery watched the computer tablet screen tick off the acres harvested in the field so far – it was showing 58. This was on Oct. 22, and he said he hoped to be finished with the 140 acres by the end of the next day.
Montgomery said all of his soybeans have been harvested, and he has more than a third of his corn done. The dry October has led to almost round-the-clock harvesting. “We haven’t had much of a break, and not much sleep. We’ve just been taking advantage of the dry weather,” he said.
How has the yield been for him? For soybeans, Montgomery said he averaged in the upper 60s to lower 70s bushels per acre. “We intensely manage our soybeans. We put a lot of effort and dollars into these beans, with fungicide, spraying of the fields,” he said.
“If we get much below the 60s (in yield) we lose money on them,” Montgomery said.
So far for his corn, Montgomery said his highest yield has been about 220 bushels per acre and on the low end about 190 bushels an acre. “I am hoping for a field average of about 230. Last year we averaged 235 bushels an acre,” Montgomery said.
And grain prices? “We have contracted some of our corn, about $4.30 a bushel for June (delivery next year),” he said, adding that getting more than $4 a bushel will be good this year. He said he and his family contract between 40,000 and 60,000 bushels of their corn with Cargill through their program to sell the corn. This is about 40 percent of their harvest.
They spread out sales for the rest of their corn to places like the Valero Ethanol Plant in Bloomingburg, Mars Pet Company in Washington Court House and ADM, among others.
For soybeans, Montgomery says his rule of thumb is that beans should sell about two and half times the price of corn – that would be about $10 a bushel. He is not sure how much the family’s soybeans have been selling for so far, but he knows it is at least $9 and they are hoping for $10, “at least for the feed beans.”
Another issue facing farmers at harvest is storage. Montgomery said there were no problems storing his soybeans. “We should be able to get all our corn stored, or at least almost all of it,” he said.
“It seems like it never fails that something comes along. We work to get everything finished up. It is just the nature of the beast that something can come along,” he said.
Is this year’s harvest better than he was expecting?
“I really didn’t know what to expect this year. I’m happy with how it has been going,” he said.
He and his family had been farming this particular field for more than 20 years and have owned it more than five years.
Statewide, Harvest 2015 is turning out better than most agriculture experts were predicting three months ago.
In neighboring Clinton County, last year’s county corn yield leader at 200 bushels an acre, Extension Educator Tony Nye believes that his county will do well, but probably fall a little short of the 2014 record.
“We won’t reach that 200 bushel an acre for corn this year,” he said. “It will probably be 175 to 180 bushels an acre here. That’s about a 10 percent drop, but pretty good considering what Mother Nature threw at us this year.”
Nye said that in terms of harvest, Clinton County was well over the hump, and would have been done before November had it not been for the rain the last of October. He said Clinton County farmers should be finished with both corn and soybeans by the end of the first week in November.
For soybean yield, Nye said, “We will push the upper 40s. I have heard from farmers in the 46-48 bushels an acre range. Earlier this year, I didn’t think we would get as good a soybean yield as we are now getting.”
Nye said that it is a testament to the genetics of today’s seeds that the crops have been this resilient despite the heavy rains of June and July.
“Also, we have have a safe harvest this year, and that’s the most important thing,” he pointed out.
Harvest was well ahead of 2014’s harvest and ahead of the five-year average for corn and soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to the report issued Oct. 26, growers were able to continue harvest at a rapid pace the previous week due to the dry conditions, many farmers have reached completion. Moisture content of corn fell one point to 16 percent and soybean moisture content remained unchanged at 11 percent. While the dry weather was optimal for harvest, the winter wheat and cover crops need moisture as soil moisture continued to decline, with over half the topsoil and subsoil soil moisture content rated as short to very short.
The U.S.D.A. reports that through Oct. 26, almost 80 percent of Ohio’s corn and 93 percent of soybeans have been harvested.
This is a huge difference compared to 2014. At the same time last year, just 34 percent of Ohio’s corn and 48 percent of the state’s soybeans had been harvested. This year is also well ahead of the five-year average for both corn, 46 percent, and soybeans, 67 percent.
Highland County farmer and county Farm Bureau president Nathan Brown said he was finishing up his beans but still has much of his corn to harvest. “I will try to start on the corn this weekend (Oct. 17-18).” he said. “I’ve been really happy with the yield numbers for the soybeans.”
Brown said they have averaged in the “upper 50 to low 60s” in bushels of soybeans per acre. For the early corn so far, he said he has averaged about 190 bushels an acre.
“It’s been a pretty good growing season. We got off to an early start with our planting in the spring. Then it rained and I was worried in June. But now it is looking good,” Brown said. “We are pretty far along.”
In addition to his harvesting, he said he also has planted about 150 acres in rye and radish cover crops, another 30 acres in winter peas and 200 more acres in rye.