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Farmers aim combines into soybeans

Jeff Caldwell 09/27/2010 @ 3:42pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Corn harvest is still well ahead of the average pace, and now that the combines have moved into soybeans, it's off to a similarly accelerated pace, according to Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

As of Sunday, 27% of the country's corn crop is harvested compared to the previous 5-year average of 15%. Over half of Illinois' crop (57%) has been harvested, a stark contrast from Iowa, where only 8% of the crop's harvested after widespread rainfall brought combines to a standstill in that state last week. Corn condition dipped slightly over the last week, with 66% of the crop in good-to-excellent shape, a 2% drop from the previous week.

Nationwide, 17% of the soybean crop's been harvested, up from the previous average of 13%. Forty-one percent of Indiana's soybeans are out of the field, the highest statewide total in the Corn Belt as of Sunday. Soybean conditions, in general (63% in good-to-excellent condition), were unchanged from the previous week, USDA numbers show.

Corn yields continue to disappoint most farmers. It's been the widest yield window ever for Doug Martin, who farms near Mt. Pulaski in central Illinois.

"It can be pretty frustrating to go through the season with all of the risk and worries and then have some really bad yields in some spots. It is a good reminder that with all of the technology and tools we have, mother nature still has the final word," he says. "We have always had variability with our yields, but not as dramatic as this year. Yields from below 100 to 220 [bushels per acre] within 2-4 miles or even within a field."

It's been a totally different story so far for farmers getting into soybeans. Yields have been average or better so far. On top of that, moisture levels are low...almost too low for the condition of the plants in a lot of fields. Farmers like George Kakasuleff of Cicero, Indiana, say they're fighting green stems and low moisture levels.

"Ours all had green stems, but they're in the bins at 9% to 11% moisture," he said Monday on Twitter. "New combines can handle the stems. Got to get the beans."

And, farmers will likely get that chance to do just that in the coming week. After a large-scale system brought moisture to much of the Midwest over the weekend, this week looks to feature seasonable temperatures and much drier air, according to Charlie Notis of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa.

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