Heavy fall snowfall causing concern in northern U.S. corn harvest

CornCrop_wSnow2_PublicDomain_blogFarmers in the Midwest are already dealing with the first snowfall of the season which is causing concern in some states including South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan where the corn crop still remains to be fully harvested.

According to a recent report from the Associated Press (AP), 11 inches of snow has already fallen in parts of Minnesota, with another four more inches on its the way. Currently, about 10% of the corn crop remains to be harvested there, which could force farmers to leave corn in their fields until the weather improves. However, if the snow does not melt quickly enough, the remaining crop could be lost completely.

While leaving corn in fields until weather conditions improve is not unheard of, the report states that this will make the corn more susceptible to damage from wind, heavy snow and wildlife looking for whatever food they can get, not to mention concerns for the corn’s quality. The snowfall could then in turn lead to a reduction in overall harvest numbers if ears of corn get knocked from stalks or if the cornstalks themselves topple.

This less than desirable end to the harvest season comes after wet conditions last spring that delayed crop planting and harvesting timing from the beginning. This is now resulting in the corn that is still yet to be harvested and now threatened by the snow.

However, Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University, said to the AP that leaving corn in the fields may not be a bad thing entirely.

“In some ways, this is an advantage to producers in this year of record U.S. corn production, since leaving the corn in the field is an inexpensive way to dry the crop down without paying to do so and helps to prevent an overload of corn in storage,” he said.

The report also mentions that the corn crop estimate was lowered slightly this month to 14.41 billion bushels, down 68 million bushels from the October estimate. “The adjustment was primarily due to lower yields than previously expected in six states including Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma. That dropped the national average yield to 173.4 bushels per acre — still a record high — from the previously expected 174.2.”

Regardless of these predictions, many farmers in the Midwest who still have corn to be harvested are now waiting to see what exactly will happen.

“Combines will still run in the snow as long it is not too deep or too wet… so farmers may get back into their fields as long as it stays cold and it doesn’t get sloppy,” said Jay Myers, a grain elevator employee in Minnesota.

“It’s a delicate balance, especially now that the snow came early.”

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