Cash corn price to push harvest?
Are we headed for late harvest this year or not? It depends on who you ask, because the answers are all over the map.
For months, the consensus among farmers, traders, and agronomists leaned toward corn harvest through Thanksgiving. Now, reports are coming out that the 2013 Midwest harvest may get started sooner than thought, due to high heat speeding up the finishing process for the late-maturing crop.
The regular pattern of the U.S. harvest starts in the South and works its way northward. With this year's late-planted corn crop getting burned up in the month of August, combined with early losses of nitrogen from excessive rainfall, farmers in a wide geographical range are looking at starting this year's harvest at about the same time.
That same time frame seems to be September 10-15. What's unusual about this? The locations where the Midwest harvest will start.
For instance, Doug Hobrock, Sunrise Ag Service Company crops specialist, says that although corn harvest in his area of south-central Illinois may start September 15, the bulk of the corn won't be harvested until October.
"I don't know of any corn that is in the black layer stage in my area yet. We are three weeks behind this year in corn harvesting, compared to our average harvest schedule," Hobrock says. He adds, "Last year, we were done with harvest by September 26. This year, we may be just barely started with harvest at that same time."
Now, here is where the U.S. harvest season gets weird: Farther north in Illinois, in northwest Illinois, and across the river into northeast Iowa, corn harvest activity could get underway in two weeks, according to Aaron Steffen, crop adviser for AIM for the Heartland. "I just returned from those areas this week. On the sandy soils, combines will be rolling in a few weeks," Steffen says.
In addition, there are reports from southeast Iowa indicating corn harvest could fire up in a few weeks as well.
In contrast, any corn north of Interstate-80 and west of Interstate-35, all the way north to Minnesota, may not be taken out of the fields until October.
One of the reasons so many different areas will start harvest around the same time frame comes down to agronomics, Steffen says. "Maturity of the corn is going fast because of the widespread heat in late July and August. A lot of ears are hanging, making ear retention challenging for this year's combine activity."
Steffen adds, "A lot of spots are 500 growing degree days behind, and by rights, that should mean this crop shouldn't be harvested until mid-October. But the high heat suddenly turned cornstalks from slightly fired to all fired.”
In addition, the nitrogen loss from this year's wet spring is causing the cornstalks to shut down quicker. The growth is over, and it's now just a matter of waiting for moisture levels to reach that 25% to 27% level."
CASH IS KING
Ultimately, the decision to start harvest may be more based on farmers trying to capture a better cash price vs. the maturity of the crop.