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Farmers beginning to crank up for huge fall harvest

Loran Hackler fills silo on his brother's farm east of Wadena with corn silage.

With one of the largest corn crops in the state resting in area fields, farmers in Wadena and eastern Otter Tail County have started the ball rolling with their fall harvest.

Farmers are beginning to harvest edible beans in the Wadena area and corn silage is also being chopped. Silage in piles can be harvested at 70 percent moisture and bagged silage can be taken at 65 percent, according to Scott Dau of Leaf River Ag.

Dry weather in August and early September has prompted farmers to go after silage now. Statewide, 83 percent of the corn has dented, which is a sign that the plant is drying, despite the fact that Minnesota farmers had a late spring planting season. The lack of precipitation has depleted topsoil moisture supplies for eight straight weeks.

"The moisture level is getting to where they want it," Dau said.

Driven by the prospect of high prices this spring, Minnesota farmers planted 8,100 thousand acres of corn, according to the United Sates Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service. A bushel of corn brought $4.17 last November and last month they were receiving $5.90 a bushel. Only Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska planted more corn this year. Yields in southern Minnesota will be off this year as will corn yields in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana but local corn producers are looking forward the big yields. Corn yield estimates in Minnesota this year are for 1,262,250 thousand bushels.

"We have had adequate moisture," Dau said of the past growing year. Adequate moisture in the light soil of Wadena and eastern Otter Tail County, where irrigation is used heavily, can only mean good crops. Corn plants in the eight-foot range are common.

The corn harvest traditionally begins in west central Minnesota in mid to late October. High moisture corn can be filled into bags at 25-28 percent but farmers who sell corn prefer to harvest it when the moisture level in under 20 percent. Leaf River Ag has handled 1 million bushels of corn in the past in its feed operations and grain division. Dau has noted that many farmers today are transporting their corn to railheads in Fergus Falls and French or directly to ethanol plants.

Dau anticipates that 10-14 days after the first frost, the soybean crop in the area will also be ready for harvest. The first frost of the year occurred Wednesday in west central Minnesota.

The potato harvest has begun, according to Dau, but some harvesting operations have been curtailed due to warm weather.