SIDNEY — With heavy rain in the forecast last weekend, Dennis Riggs had all hands on deck Friday to finish this year’s harvest.
“My sons and daughter all helped,” said Riggs, who farms near Sidney. “We probably picked more corn in one day than we’ve ever picked.”
They continued after the local grain elevator closed at 7 p.m., an hour after sunset.
“We got as much dumped as we could and then kept going,” Riggs said.
After the elevator closed, they stored as much as they could in wagons on their farm and finished delivering it Monday.
“We got done late Friday night,” Riggs said. “We made it by the skin of our teeth.”
More than 2.3 inches of rain fell over the weekend, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.
Riggs estimated that harvest is about 80 to 90 percent done in southeastern Champaign County.
Across the state, 54 percent of corn and 69 percent of soybeans have been harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Typically, harvest is around 80 percent done by now.
“Harvest is a little bit later compared to previous years, and of course, that goes back to, we had a delayed planting,” said Brad Uken, manager of the Champaign County Farm Bureau.
“We had a really good stretch of harvest weather up until this weekend,” Uken said. “This is going to keep farmers out of the fields for a few extra days, and as of right now, the forecast looks wet later this week.”
More rain is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, with a chance of snow Thursday night when temperatures could fall to 27 degrees. The average date of the first measurable snowfall in Champaign-Urbana is Nov. 23, according to the Illinois State Climatologist Office.
To harvest soybeans, Riggs said farmers have to wait until the ground is dry, while corn isn’t as sensitive.
“Beans are very moisture-sensitive,” he said.
The good news: More than 90 percent of Illinois corn and soybeans are considered mature. But Riggs said the freeze expected Thursday could still hurt the beans.
“Once you start freezing and thawing those beans, the pod that they’re held in, which holds three or four beans per pod, gets very brittle,” Riggs said.
So when the beans are harvested, “as they get hit by the head and sickle and the reel that brings them in, they shatter,” Riggs said. “The pod breaks, and the beans fall to the ground.”
And if the beans stay damp for too long, Riggs said, mold may start to grow on them. Riggs avoided that and said he was pleasantly surprised by his yields: 200-plus bushels per acre for corn and 66-plus bushels per acre for soybeans.
“I was tickled to death,” he said. “I was prepared for a lot lower yields than that.”
While Riggs is glad he’s done, he recalled having to harvest years ago around Thanksgiving after a 2- to 3-inch snowfall.
“It’s ugly. It makes everything 50 to 100 percent harder,” Riggs said.
As farmers try to finish up their harvest, Riggs encouraged drivers to be extra careful around them.
“Patience wears thin as farmers do get back in the field,” he said. “Give ’em some leeway. They may be pulling out quicker out of the field than they should be.”