'The harvest from hell'
Dry conditions are returning to the parts of the nation's midsection where farmers need it most, but some say they're finding damage to their corn and soybean crops as this fall's harvest window starts to slowly close.
Reports from the western Corn Belt on Wednesday and Thursday indicate farmers are dusting off their combines that have been sitting for up to two weeks, delayed by as much as six inches of rain in Iowa. A mild, sunny forecast should allow farmers, who up to this week were behind in harvest progress, to catch up "in a hurry," a grain merchant said Wednesday in a Dow Jones Newswires report.
"Based on the weather that I see for the rest of this month and for the opening days of November, it looks like the 2007 U.S. harvest season will be one where we saw a very good start and a very good ending...sandwiched around some big wet weather problems in the middle," according to Thursday's Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., commentary. "I have heard a lot of reports of harvest quality and even quantity losses because of [the wet] weather."
But even though combines are running again in this home stretch of the 2007 fall harvest, not all is rosy. Farmers and Agriculture Online Marketing Talk members say, in the western corridor of the Corn Belt, they're finding an array of crop damage and moisture levels on the high end of what elevators will accept.
Marketing Talk member swia says earlier this week he discovered ear sprouting in his corn as he waited for the wind to dry his beans.
"Went to look at a field of corn and any ear that was still upright (not dropped down), the bottom kernels had all sprouted," he wrote earlier this week.
"With a lot of our modern hybrids, at maturity, the ear will be upright," says Iowa State University Extension corn agronomist Roger Elmore. "Water will collect in them, so you have the possibility of germinating seed."
The late-season "corn nightmare" of aflatoxin has reached fruition in some fields around Iowa. Marketing Talk member jolifarms says many corn loads in his area of northwestern Iowa are being rejected or docked because of the presence of the toxin.
It's not the worst year for aflatoxin, by far, especially considering how favorable conditions have been for diseases like it, Elmore says.
"After it's matured, corn doesn't enjoy [wet] conditions," he says. "A lot of ear molds and kernel molds -- fusarium-based issues do present feed and grain quality issues -- can come in."
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey this week called the recent discovery of aflatoxin's presence "not completely unexpected." But, this doesn't mean farmers and elevator operators can lower their guard just yet on this disease that can, even in tiny amounts, cause elevators to reject loads.
"The levels it's being found at are not especially high, and there is a lot of corn that it can be blended with to make sure it won't cause any problems when fed to livestock," Northey said in a statement this week. "I think it's important the public knows we're aware of the situation and taking the necessary steps to make sure it doesn't cause any health issues for animals or humans."