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Some early reports indicate record-breaking yields

Photo courtesy of Lynn Malkus-Lyons View of corn harvest from the combine of Bill Malkus of Cambridge, Md.
FROM THE CAB: Bill Malkus of Cambridge, Md., is disappointed by this year’s corn yields. In parts of Pennsylvania, however, 300-bushel yields may be common this year.
But yields are spotty overall, especially with the dry weather this past month.

Early reports from farmers indicate many are seeing record-breaking yields this season, but it’s all about location.

Cliff Charles, who farms 1,300 acres in and near Manheim, Pa., says he’s averaging between 200 and 250 bushels an acre with 300-bushel corn yields in his 10-acre contest plots.

His soybeans are looking good, too, with 98 bushels an acre.

“We never beat that before,” he says, adding that he’s harvested about 35% of his crop. “It’s a lot of Mother Nature.”

Bob Shearer, who farms 400 acres on his home farm in Mount Joy, Pa., and custom harvests another 2,000 acres, says he’s seeing his best-ever yields on corn and soybeans. Corn yields are averaging 270 bushels an acre, and soybeans are averaging 90-plus bushels an acre.

Jeff Graybill, ag Extension agent in Lancaster County, Pa., says many farmers are reporting record yields as timely rains and good growing weather set the stage for impressive results. Two corn yield contest fields averaged 335 bushels per acre, he says, and the two best soybean yields he’s seen are just over 110 bushels.

Del Voight, ag Extension agent in Lebanon County, Pa., says corn yields are averaging anywhere from 200 to 300 bushels an acre with soybeans in the 90-bushel-an-acre range. The highest soybean yield he saw was 109 bushels, while the highest corn yield was 317 bushels.

But not everyone is breaking records. Shearer’s grain sorghum fields, which are just across the Susquehanna River from his home farm, have been disappointing, he says, as they never got the amount of rain needed for good growth.

Christopher Burkhart, a crops reporter in Lancaster County, says the recent dry spell in the area has been a mixed blessing.

“Corn is dry and harvest is going well, but double-crop soybeans are suffering and likely won't yield well,” he writes in the most recent USDA Crop Progress Report. "Likewise, grass needs rain, and farmers are unsure about planting cover crops or cereals because of the dry conditions."

Bill Malkus, who farms 500 acres split evenly between corn and soybeans in Cambridge, Md., says he’s disappointed with yields. His corn is yielding between 170 and 180 bushels. He grew all of his corn in twin rows this season using a Great Plains 3020P drill. But it was set during a wet start to the planting season, which prevented a good stand from getting established. It then got dry in the middle of the summer, and that prevented maximum growth in his fields.

His soybeans are averaging 40 bushels an acre, again, a disappointment considering that he was shooting for between 50 and 60 bushels. Malkus doesn’t irrigate his acres.

Brian Palmer, director of regional merchandising for Perdue Agribusiness in Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula, says overall corn and soybean yields are a little above average this season with 300-bushel plots on irrigated ground. Some spots, however, especially on nonirrigated acres, are only averaging between 100 and 110 bushels an acre.

Corn grain harvest underway

The Crop Progress Report shows 23% of the grain harvest complete in Pennsylvania, just above the 15% average. Corn silage is 87% complete, above the 70% average last year at this time.

Soybean harvest is 19% complete, well ahead of last year’s pace of less than 5% at this same time.

Nearly three-quarters of the corn crop is either in good or fair condition, with 19% in excellent condition.

Soybeans are mostly fair or good — more than 60% of the crop — while 30% of the crop is in excellent condition.

In Maryland, 54% of grain has been harvested, ahead of the 28% five-year average. Soybeans are 17% mature, and winter wheat is 14% planted.

The crop looks slightly worse in Maryland, with 37% reported fair, 42% good and 14% excellent. Soybeans are 22% poor, 39% fair, 28% good and the remainder either very poor or excellent.

Here are some observations from the Crop Progress Report:

Charles Schuster, reporter in Howard and Montgomery counties, Pa.: “Dry conditions exist in most all areas during the reporting period. Pastures are struggling at this point. Corn harvest is going very well; soybean harvest has started and yields are not as strong as desired. Apple harvest is strong with a good crop. Wheat for commodity has not started to be planted, but for cover crop [it] has with no emergence to date. Soil moisture is at a very low level.”

Harry Hudson III, crops reporter in Sussex County, Del.: “Too dry to plant anything for fall crops without irrigation.”

John Timmons, crops reporter in Sussex County, Del.: “Corn harvest almost complete. Soybean harvest is around the corner. Too dry for proper emergence of small grains.”

In Delaware, corn grain is 47% harvested, which is right about average. Soybeans are 5% mature at this point. The corn is rated 12% very poor, 23% poor and 29% fair, with the rest either in good or excellent condition.

Soybeans are 9% very poor, 28% poor, 35% fair, and the rest either good or excellent.

Still behind in New York

Corn silage is 11% harvested in the Empire State, well behind the 45% average. Only 13% of corn is mature, well behind the 41% average.

Winter wheat is 46% planted, which is right about average.

Here are some observations from the Crop Progress Report:

Colleen Cargile, crops reporter in Cayuga County: “Unseasonably warm temperatures were present for much of the week. This allowed many producers to get a jump on harvesting corn silage. I see that some producers around the county have also begun harvesting soybeans. Quite a bit of wheat has also gone in and has begun to emerge. Many producers also usually put wheat in after soybeans, but with how late everything is this year, they aren't sure if that is going to be possible. Overall, it has been a good start to the harvest season and fall planting season. Hopefully this warm, dry weather pattern continues.”

Joe Lawrence, crops reporter in Lewis County: “Things are getting down to the wire now. Even though there is currently little threat of a killing frost through the first week of October, the GDD [growing degree day] accumulation per day is so low that silage and grain crops are not making much progress. As has been the case all season, the crop looks pretty healthy, but that does not mean it will actually make quality silage or mature grain as we run out of season for it to finish.”

Nathan R. Herendeen, crops reporter for Genessee, Niagara and Orleans counties: “Wheat planting continues where soils are dry enough. Showers have been variable. Corn silage harvest continues rapidly. Hay and hay crop silage mostly done; corn for grain and soybeans still maturing with warm days.”

Good basis

For farmers looking to market grain, basis is looking good across the region.

According to the Keystone Commodities website, basis for October is about 75 cents for north-central Pennsylvania, 25 cents for western Pennsylvania and 85 cents for south-central Pennsylvania. The numbers go down in future months. In north-central Pennsylvania, basis is 60 cents for October through January, but 70 cents for January.

Western Pennsylvania basis is minus-5 cents for October through January, but about even in the beginning of the new year.

For south-central Pennsylvania, basis is consistent at 60 cents right through January and into the new year.

You can find cash grain bids for your area at Just enter your zip code, and you’ll get cash grain bids and basis for local elevators in your area.

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