As many Michigan farmers struggle with a very persistent wet fall-harvest weather pattern, the irony of this past summer’s drought in many areas of the state, has been duly noted – repeatedly.
Bruce Sutherland, president of Michigan Ag Commodities (MAC) with nine locations across the state, also expects many of those farmers may have to alter plans for mid-November.
“We really need a good window of weather to knock this harvest out,” Sutherland said. “We always like to say it would be nice get it done before the opener of firearm deer season, November 15, but I'm not sure we will do that this year.”
Despite that bit of bad news, Sutherland expects many farmers are pleasantly surprised with yields, given this year’s erratic weather-pattern throughout the growing season. That’s assuming of course they can get in the fields. He estimated that 75 percent of the state’s soybeans and approximately 35 percent of the corn acres had been harvested as of October month-end.
While soybean yield reports out of western Michigan for producers making deliveries to MAC’s Newaygo location and in southeast Michigan to the Blissfield and Jasper locations have been disappointing, Sutherland predicts the rest of the state will be bumping up against trend-line yields for soybeans.
“We’re seeing yields in the mid-50 bushels per acre range, and even in areas where we thought they would be lower, we are seeing reports of 60 to 70 bushels,” Sutherland said. “Even some of the non-GMO food-grade soybeans have yielded very well. So overall, we’re very pleased with soybean yields in the state.”
Soybeans moisture levels were coming in at less than 14 percent, with some reports of even less than 13 percent, but Sutherland expects with late-October rains and cloudy conditions that many producers will switch back to corn to allow some drying time before finishing up soybeans.
Disappointing corn yield reports follow the same regional pattern of soybeans, according to Sutherland, with the additional note that dairy producers in the Cadillac and McBain areas are reporting a “pretty rough” corn crop as well.
“Most of our locations are reporting corn yields in the 180 to 200 bushel per acre range - and I know that our thumb guys are reporting yields pretty consistently in the 190 to 200 range,” Sutherland said. “In the Blissfield area we’re seeing corn yields in the 150 to 160 range, and Newaygo again they’re reporting yields in the 160 to 170 range, so certainly lower than the average.”
Sutherland reported “solid test weights,” in the 57 to 58 pound range are consistent. “In fact, we just loaded some rail cars with corn that was just harvested this past weekend, and everything ranged from 56.9 to a high of 58, so it's all pretty good. The average in-bound test weight is 57.3 so we’re pretty pleased,” he said. “We’re starting to see moisture levels right now in the 18 to 19 percent range.”
In addition to delaying harvest activities, the wetter than normal weather pattern since late-August, is spurring concerns over Vomitoxins across the state, but thus far a majority of the state is at or below MAC’s discount threshold of 2 parts per million (ppm).
“There are pockets of higher Vomitoxin levels – we’ve had some corn in the north central part of the thumb that was registering anywhere from 5 to 8 parts, but that is isolated there right now,” Sutherland said. “So far we’re taking composite samples, based on the volume that is coming in every day - so we may run multiple composites in the morning and afternoon, So long as the composite levels continue to be under discountable factors, then were okay.”
According to Sutherland, producers who are challenged with Vomitoxin in their corn crop would be well-advised to make some phone calls, with many elevators operating at different threshold levels before Vomitoxin discounts kick-in.
“Some of the ethanol plants are not discounting until 3 ppm and there was one plant that was not discounting until 4 ppm,” Sutherland advised. “If you’re shipping corn to the southeast on rail, they’ll take it up to 3 ppm without a discount, so it really depends on where you’re going with this corn.”
While overall yield news is better than expected, continued weather-related harvest delays could prove challenging in minimizing field damage to corn already weakened by last summer’s drought.
“We’ve already had producers tell us that they’re seeing stalk rot and issues with corn going down, and that they've had problems with harvesting corn,” Sutherland said. “Again it’s not registering much in the way of discount for producers, but we’re starting to see more damage coming out of the field than we have before.”
What about wheat?
Sutherland predicts harvest delays in soybeans this year will ultimately result in planted wheat acres similar to last year’s 580,000 acres, and at best might reach 585,000 to 590,000 total wheat acres this year.
“Originally, before the weather delays crept in on us, we were thinking we were going to be pushing well north of 600,000 acres – it certainly was really shaping up to be that way,” Sutherland said. “But I'm afraid now with the delayed harvest year that we've gotten into, we’re going to be about the same acreage as last year, maybe slightly above.”
But Sutherland believes there’s a bigger story to be told in planted wheat acres for Michigan this fall - the shift of designated acres from white to red wheat.
“Typically we’ve been 60 percent red, 40 percent white wheat, but I think it’s going to be more like 70/30 percent, red versus white,” Sutherland observed. “We’re certainly seeing it from a red wheat seed demand – it’s going to be a 70 to 75 percent red versus a 30 to 25 percent white.”
Sutherland contends steadily decreasing premiums to grow white wheat has also reduced the financial incentive for growers. “The white wheat premium has dropped off quite a bit and many Michigan producers are obviously pretty disgruntled by that,” he said.