LUDLOW — Farmers got back in their fields for a couple of days during the weekend to get more of their corn and soybean crops in the bin. It was a welcome occasion after a week of rainy weather kept them largely idle. But it didn’t last long.
More rain moved in Monday, sending farmers back to the sidelines.
Harvest was going great prior to last week, with between 40 and 60 percent of the crop harvested, according to area grain elevator officials.
The amount varies, said Paul Seaman, manager of Ludlow Co-op, which operates eight area elevators.
“The Paxton/Buckley area is our farthest along” at 45 percent, Seaman said. “Our Ludlow area, we’re probably farthest behind” at about 35 percent.
“They got going gangbusters in mid-September; then the rains came. Last week was pretty slow. We are starting to get back into it here the last couple days,” he said before the storm system rolled in Monday.
“The ground is plenty wet already,” he added, estimating that the area got about an inch of rain. “We need a dry period to get back going.”
He said yields are decent.
“There are some very good ones and some average ones,” he said.
Seaman said farmers used the time off to do equipment maintenance and tend to grain settlements, paperwork and writing checks.
Grain elevators are like much of the rest of the country — having trouble finding enough help.
“For us, (the job) has been trying to find adequate labor,” Seaman said. “Harvest help has been hard to come by. This is the worst we’ve had to deal with it. We just can’t get people willing to come out and work.”
Seaman said Ludlow Co-op uses a temp agency, but many workers are on the job for a day or two, then quit. Part of it might be the long hours — 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday, when it’s noon to 6 p.m.
To entice more workers, the cooperative has raised wage levels.
Tanner Saltsgaver, marketing director for Premier Cooperative in Fisher, estimated 40 percent of the Fisher area harvest has been finished, with corn harvest a little further along.
He said some farmers are seeing a record bean crop, “and the corn crop is going to rival 2018, with corn yields ranging from 220 to 280 bushels an acre and beans at 70 to 80 bushels an acre.”
“But some corn fields are yielding only 180 bushels an acre, possibly due to tar spot, a fungal disease that has crept into the area,” he said. “They will have to figure out how to manage it moving forward.”
Otherwise, “guys are pretty happy.”
On the labor-shortage front, Saltsgaver said the cooperative has begun using RFID readers to help eliminate the shortage, cutting the number of workers weighing trucks or wagons from two to one.
Lane Avenatti, farm marketing specialist for Premier Cooperative in the Ivesdale/Sadorus area, said crops are “all good quality.”
Corn yields are as expected in the range of 220 to 245 bushels an acre, but soybeans are better than expected at 70 to 75 bushel an acre, Aventti said.
“Tar spot is probably one of the biggest issues on corn,” he said. “It seems like guys who’ve sprayed fungicide twice are better off. It helps the yields. Even with the black tar spot, we’re still seeing strong yields as an average.”
Avenatti said stalk quality is poor in some fields, and farmers are praying that strong winds that would knock down corn stay away. Because of that, he said farmers “have been pushing corn harder than usual.”
He estimated that 60 percent of the corn crop is in the bin, while 35 percent of the bean crop is finished.
The farther north, the farther along the harvest, he said, as farmers got in the field sooner.
“I think in general the crop this year dried down pretty quick because we were pretty dry in August,” Avenatti said. “In the September 20s, we saw 12.9 percent corn (moisture) brought in, which is extremely low for September.”
He said some soybeans have been brought in with 10 percent moisture.