CHAMPAIGN — Area grain-elevator operators say the corn harvest is about 60 percent complete — and the crop has more moisture than expected.
High moisture means the corn has to be dried, and the extra time needed for that has sometimes caused delays for those delivering grain.
Meanwhile, the soybean harvest is just getting under way.
"Right now we have about 59 percent of the corn we projected and about 5 percent of the beans," said Roger Miller, chief executive officer of Premier Cooperative, which has more than 20 elevators in Champaign, Ford, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
Yields are "all over the board" on corn, ranging from 5 bushels an acre to 208 bushels an acre, Miller said.
"It depends who caught the rain," he said, adding the average yield appears to be between 120 and 130 bushels an acre.
Brian Stark, regional sales manager for The Andersons in Champaign, likewise estimated that 60 percent of the corn harvest is complete.
"A lot (of farmers) will be done by the end of September," he said, though a few may still be harvesting corn in early October.
Stark said typical yields on corn at The Andersons range from 50 to 170 bushels an acre. He estimated the average yield for Champaign County at 110 bushels an acre, which he said is about 60 percent of normal.
Moisture content, in terms of percentages, ranges anywhere from the high teens to mid-20s, he added. This year, it's not unusual to see moisture content ranging from 19 percent to 25 percent within a single field, he said.
Normally, No. 2 corn must be dried until its moisture content is about 15 percent.
Stark said some farmers are bringing corn in early, rather than letting it dry in the fields, because they're worried about stalk quality and "standability."
Miller agreed the corn crop is "running wetter than expected. We expected it to be dry with the drought conditions we've seen."
Miller said there's been some incidence of the aflatoxin fungus in corn throughout Premier's territory, though most has been concentrated in fields to the northwest of Champaign County hard-hit by drought.
Aflatoxin often thrives in environments with high humidity, but can also afflict plants under stress from drought.
The Food and Drug Administration allows aflatoxin levels of only 20 parts per billion in food destined for human consumption. But it allows higher levels in feed for beef cattle and swine.
Consequently, corn has to be segregated at the elevators, with higher levels of aflatoxin acceptable only in feed for certain types of animals. Corn with aflatoxin levels exceeding 300 parts per billion must be dumped.
Miller said it's too early to make accurate estimates on soybean yields. But so far, he has been hearing yields from the high 30s to the low 50s, in terms of bushels per acre.
Neither Premier Cooperative nor The Andersons reported being affected by the traffic backup on the Mississippi River that stemmed from problems at a lock near Granite City. Temporary repairs were made, the lock reopened Thursday morning and barge traffic resumed.
Grain from local elevators is transported mainly by rail to the Gulf of Mexico for export, or to feeder plants in the Southeast for use as feed for poultry and hogs.
Some grain from this area travels to Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Decatur and to other processing plants and ethanol plants, Miller said.
Premier Cooperative seldom ships grain to the Mississippi River, he said. Occasionally in the winter, the cooperative will ship by rail to the river, where the grain is loaded onto barges at St. Louis, he said.