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Several growers in the region gave their takes on how yields will look during harvest.

7 Min Read
Healthy summer cornfield near Granville, N.Y.
HARVEST LOOMS: This cornfield near Granville, N.Y., grew nice and tall this summer, but many fields are short because of hot and dry conditions, especially in New England, where severe drought is in many areas. Paul Post

Chip Bowling of Newburg, Md., who grows 275 acres of corn and 1,250 acres of soybeans, got his corn in the ground late this season because of the wet spring. Then, it got hot and dry.

“Corn looked good until the last week of June. Then we missed a three-week window during tasseling and pollination,” he says, adding that he’s expecting reduced corn yields of between 140 and 160 bushels an acre.

It’s been an up-and-down year for many growers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Some places have gotten plenty of rain while elsewhere it’s been too hot and dry, and crops are suffering.

Bowling says that he’s gotten rain at just the right time for his soybeans, though. It’s benefited both his full and double-crop beans, including a good drenching from a tropical storm earlier this month.

“I’m hoping in the 50- to 80-bushel range,” he says.

Wheat yields were also surprisingly good, he says, averaging about 72 bushels an acre. He was worried about the effects of freeze in the spring, so yields are “way better than anticipated.”

“We were worried about test weight and yield. We sprayed fungicide at a good time,” he says.

The biggest curveball of the season, though, was the fact that he came down with COVID-19 in May. He got so sick that he had to plant 450 less acres of corn and shifted all that acreage to later-planted soybeans. It took him weeks to recover from the virus, but he’s feeling better these days.

American Agriculturist contacted several growers around the region to see how their crops are looking as harvest season nears.

Neal Rea, dairy farmer, Salem, N.Y.

Have you grown enough feed to get you through winter or do you anticipate being short on feed? We should probably be okay. I think we’ve grown enough feed to get through the winter. We had some carryover from last year. That was our saving grace. This summer’s second cutting hay crop was terrible because it was so dry. But overall I think we’ll be okay.

Were there any quick field decisions that you had to make over summer — planting a late forage, managing for a particular disease or insect problem — that you didn’t anticipate having to do? We did a little more scouting on our corn crops because we were looking for late-season weeds and things like that, that could affect the total tonnage. We did do some spraying late in the season to clear up any problems in the corn crop, a little more than normal.

Based on this summer, will you be making any changes in terms of crops for next year? No, probably not, no more than our normal rotation. Our corn will probably be a little shorter, but it looks like the ears are good and it’s clean. We may be a little short, but I think the quality will be good.

Laurie Griffen, Stillwater, N.Y.

Griffen plants 700 acres of sod, 600 acres of corn and soybeans.

How did your crops hold up over summer and do you anticipate lower or higher yields this year? Spring was good. We got everything in timely. From our perspective, we have a great crop. Things look good. Obviously, the verdict is still out as far as yield, but they certainly look good. We got timely rain right when we needed it early on, but of course it’s been exceptionally dry since then. The whole trick was getting things in early. It’s certainly better than last year when it was so wet during early spring. It was difficult. This year we had a much better planting season.

Given the cropping conditions, does it change your plans in terms of marketing the crop at the end of harvest? We sell all of our corn to Cargill. We’re pretty well set with that market at the moment. All of ours goes to animal feed. We use a broker for soybeans. It just depends on the market. Most of it’s taken to the port in New Jersey.

Clearly, things change all the time in agriculture. You’ve got the weather. A lot of things factor into the global and national commodity market. We have storage for our corn and beans, so we don’t have to sell it all right at harvest time. That helps balance out pricing. That’s our strategy, which helps us.

Based on this summer, will you be making any changes in terms of crops for next year? Corn and soybeans are secondary to us. Our main crop is turf. That is very affected by this year’s drought. We don’t irrigate corn and beans, we do irrigate turf.

It’s been extremely dry, so from that perspective, weather has been a factor. Turf doesn’t like hot, dry conditions. Weather can affect different parts of your business differently. That’s been very true for us.

With corn and beans it’s more of a global market. With turf it’s more of an economic market. It’s been busy this year, but certainly looking down the line at what’s going to happen with the economy and projects, that’s concerning as well. A lot of things affect your business, other than what you do every day.

Nate Darrow, Schuylerville, N.Y.

Darrow grows tree fruit.

How are your fruit crops making out this season? Do you anticipate lower or higher yields? We’ve got excellent quality. We had a very robust sweet cherry crop. We’re just finishing up an excellent quality blueberry crop.

It’s a bit of a light crop with peaches, but we’re blessed with quite a few late peaches. Quality is fabulous. They’re very sweet.

We also have a robust apple crop. Size is a little smaller than we like, but they’re still growing, and it’s only mid-August. We pick most of our apples between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, so they all have time to grow.

No complaints. I’m anticipating a normal yield at Saratoga Apple. But I am aware that some farms have light crops. My brothers in Vermont, two hours east, have a light crop of apples. I guess we’re lucky here in that regard.

Did you have to adjust spray program for disease or insect pressures this year? Yes, it was so dry that we did not have to spray as much. It saves money and we really don’t like to spray. We’re a low-spray farm. We always like it when there is a less pressured season. Dry weather makes it a little less necessary.

Given the cropping conditions, does it change your plans in terms of marketing the crop at the end of harvest? Our marketing plan is always the same. We’re a small farm, but we do store apples all year. When we get to this time of year, we’re just finishing up on some of last year’s apples in low-oxygen, controlled-atmosphere storage. We try to never run out of apples. We are direct marketers. We don’t sell any of our apples to supermarkets or wholesalers. We deliver them, sell at our roadside stand and also at farmers markets around the Capital District. That stays the same. We go to five farmers markets on Saturday, four on Sunday and one or two on most weekdays except Mondays. So there’s no change in our marketing plan.

Gary Grossnickle, Walkersville, Md.

Grossnickle produces dairy and raises crops as well.

We will have plenty of forage! On the grain side of our operation we only side-dressed 70% of our corn crop because we were so dry in July. That worked out to be the right decision. We have scouted a lot of fields and looks like about a 50% corn silage crop. We just could not get any measurable rain ’til the hurricane came up the coast, and that was too late for corn.

We will still shell some corn, but we expect less than half the yield. Soybeans still could be respectable. We’ll see. We are protected by crop insurance at a good level.

Could be worse; could live in southern Iowa.

Bruce Hollabaugh, Biglerville, Pa.

Hollabaugh grows tree fruit.

How are your fruit crops making out this season? Do you anticipate lower or higher yields? Overall, growing ok. It’s been extremely hot and dry, and trees are suffering, as is fruit size. Flavor has been phenomenal though. Anticipate lower yields than “normal.”

Did you have to adjust spray program for disease or insect pressures this year? Not really, no.

Given the cropping conditions, does it change your plans in terms of marketing the crop at the end of harvest? We had a hailstorm in May, which has impacted quality. Unfortunately, I expect more fruit will go for juice or processing than normal this year. The market at large is very strong as there is a light crop locally. So, selling good fruit has not been hard.

 Post writes from eastern New York.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

Paul Post

Paul Post writes for American Agriculturist from eastern New York.

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