Harvest Results Run The Gamut In Southwestern Minnesota

  • 01

    Variable Yields

    Soybean harvest was in full force in southwestern Minnesota when I visited some farms in early October. Soybean yields in Minnesota have been variable, with some fields yielding well while others are yielding so-so. Some lower-yielding areas were struck by adverse weather.

  • 02


    This includes some Minnesota soybean fields that were nipped by a light mid-September frost. In some cases, it was much worse than having an occasional green plant like in this field. It's hard to peg frost damage until the beans are in the bin, says Bruce Potter, Integrated Pest Management specialist at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton.

  • 03

    Yield Losses Hard to Peg

    That's because crop damage varies greatly by geography, crop genetics and particularly elevation and crop stage, adds Potter. Compared to a widespread freeze that kills everything, light frosts show subtleties and interactions of physics and plant physiology. Yield losses are hard to predict when the whole plant isn't killed.

  • 04

    Stable From 2013

    In its October production report, USDA pegged Minnesota's average 2014 soybean yield at 42 bushels per acre. That's the same as 2013's average soybean yield. Due to weather, Minnesota is not enjoying the same yield bump as Iowa, where 2014 average yields are estimated at 51 bushels per acre, above 2013Õs 45.5 bushel per acre average yield.

  • 05

    Light Touch By Jack Frost

    Corn was also dinged by frost, as the pale green leaves of this field show. The good news is if corn is lightly frosted like this, damage will be minimal. Corn will be wet, though. More heavily damaged fields will have lighter test weights.

  • 06

    Consider Disease

    Also, consider disease. Corn fields that fought off diseases like rust during the season will have more difficulty standing, particularly if damaged by frost.

  • 07

    Up From Last Year

    USDA currently estimates 2014 Minnesota corn yields at around 170 bushels per acre. That's well above last year's average corn yield of 160 bushels per acre, but below the 2010 record corn yield of 177 bushels per acre. Nationwide, USDA estimates average U.S. corn yields at 174.2 bushels per acre.

  • 08

    Rocky Harvest

    One thing I forgot about southwestern Minnesota is you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a rocky field. The expression "That's enough to make a preacher swear" could sure apply to rocks knocking out some sickle blades on your soybean header.

  • 09

    Rolling Soybeans

    To get away from this, some farmers have turned to rolling their soybeans. By passing over their fields with a roller early in the growing season, level fields greatly reduced in rocks result. This nixes downtime that results from replacing sickle bar sections snapped by rocks.

  • 10

    Reasons Not To Roll Soybeans

    There are reasons not to do it, though, as the residue in this field shows. Soil sealing can result if a pounding rain results. Soil washing can also result. That's why experts advise aiming rolling at high-residue fields and away from hills.

  • 11

    Harness The Wind

    One final note: If you like windmills, you'll love the Buffalo Ridge Wind Farm that includes the area around Lake Benton, Minnesota. This town is known as the "Original Wind Power Capitol of the Midwest," as it's presently home to over 600 wind turbines.

Stroll a few fields in the northwestern Corn Belt and check in on a variable harvest season there.

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