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Harvest draws to close
UW-Extension Ag Agent Mark Mayer estimated the local corn grain harvest was at about 85 percent complete, as of Wednesday. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - Green County fall harvest is drawing to a close, and yields look good.

Harvesting should be done by Thanksgiving, according to UW-Extension Ag Agent Mark Mayer. But that also depends on the weather, he added.

Farmers have been working diligently into the dark of night to bring in the last of the corn crop before rain and snow shuts them out of fields.

Mayer is advising farmers to finish up their harvests and not wait for any more drying time in the fields.

The percentage of moisture in the corn is in the upper teens, Mayer noted, but if they wait, farmers would most likely lose more money from lower yields caused by ears dropping off than from paying for drying costs.

Drying costs are running about 4 to 4.5 cents per percentage point, Mayer said. So drying corn at 20 percent moisture down to 15 percent would add about 20 cents per bushel to the cost of production.

The recent wet weather worked more havoc on northern Wisconsin farmers than on southern farmers. Last week, the south and eastern portions of the state caught five to six days of suitable working conditions, compared to as few as one to two days further north in the state.

The latest USDA Wisconsin Crop progress report on Monday showed southwest and south-central counties at or ahead of the state five-year average for completing fall harvests and tilling. Northern farm reporters and county ag agents reported early winter precipitation last week halted such activities in Polk, Eau Claire, Lincoln, Trempealeau, Langlade and other counties. Corn harvests in eastern and central areas were still at only 30-45 percent complete, compared to the state five-year average of 78 percent.

Yields are looking great. Selling prices are not so good. Getting the crops out of the fields is going to be important in reaching a profit margin for farmers this year, partly because prices are down substantially compared to the previous couple of years.

Soybean harvest is complete in Green County and most of Wisconsin.

Mayer said local fields are yielding between 55 and 85 bushels per acre - breaking the county's annual average yield record. In 2011, the highest average for the county was 55.9 bushels per acre. Mayer is projecting a countywide average in the upper 50s to low 60s by the end of the year. The county's five-year average yield is 48 bushels per acre, calculated on a six-year span without the drought year 2012 included.

The USDA Wisconsin Agriculture Statistics for 2013, released last week, showed Green County soybeans averaged 44.4 bushels per acre in 2013, and 36.1 bushels in 2012.

Mayer estimated the local corn grain harvest was at about 85 percent complete, as of Wednesday. With farmers using more and larger equipment during harvest, it won't take them long to move out the remaining 15 percent, he said.

Corn fields are yielding 150-250 bushels per acre.

"A lot of fields are testing in the low 200s," Mayer added.

The county reached its highest average yield in 2009, with 178 bushels per acre.

"It was similar to this year's weather," Mayer said, "(such that) we even beat other counties with better soil."

Mayer predicted Green County would break its own 2009 yields record of 178 bushels per acre, with an average of about 190 bushels for 2014. The county's five-year average (using six years without 2012) is 162 bushels per acre. Green County corn for grain yields averaged 159.2 bushels per acre in 2013 and 76.8 bushels in 2012.

Corn raised for silage has already been harvested. It yielded about 25-26 tons per acres this year, whereas yields normally average about 20 tons.

As the frost comes, fall tillage will be grinding to a halt, with not as much finished as many farmers would have liked to complete, Mayer said.

The USDA showed south-central Wisconsin farmers had about 76 percent of their tillage done as of Monday, and north-central had about 71 percent complete. Nowhere else in the state came close to that, but they were close to the state five-year average of 56 percent complete at this time of the year.

Winter wheat reported as planted and emerging was in the 90-plus percentiles in the southwest, north-central and central regions, way ahead of the rest of the state, which was successfully planted but struggling to finish emergence.