Harvest 2010 is shaping up for an early start across much of central Iowa and other areas of the state where the wet, warm summer speeded the growing season along. At the Farm Progress Show this week at Boone, Iowa State University Extension farm management specialists Steve Johnson and Kelvin Leibold are two of the presenters each day in the Seminar Tent. They suggest farmers consider the following five steps to help improve efficiency during harvest and reduce storage and market price risk for crops harvested this fall.
1) Finish selling and delivering old crop bushels still in storage. The 2009 corn crop tended to be of poorer quality and should not be stored much beyond early September. Avoid commingling 2009 corn with new crop corn for storage purposes.
2) After moving out the old grain, clean out your bins and grain-handling equipment. The 2009 corn had more mold spores than normal and the 2010 summer weather conditions were ideal for insects to thrive. Use a pressure washer to get the crusted grain off the bin walls. Clean under the drying floors with a vacuum to get the bug carcasses and insect eggs out.
3) Conduct your own in-field yield estimates on the 2010 crop. For corn and soybeans planted in 30-inch rows, randomly sample several locations in the field and measure 1/1,000 of an acre or 17 feet 5 inches in row length. For corn, count the number of ears in that area. Remove every fifth ear and count the number of rows around and the average kernels in each row and come up with an average kernel count for all ears. Once you’ve estimated the number of kernels in 1/1,000 of an acre, divide this number by 90 (kernels in a bushel assuming normal kernel size) to come up with an approximate yield in bushels per acre. For soybeans, identify 1/1,000th of an acre and count the number of plants in the area times 1,000 times the average number of pods per plant times the average number of seeds per pod. Divide this total by 2,500 (approximate number of seeds per bushel) divided by 60 (pounds of soybeans per bushel) to come up a rough estimate of bushels per acre. The pod numbers and seed size is highly variable making estimating soybean yields difficult until the onset of harvest.
4) Make preharvest sales of new crop bushels to make your fall and winter cash flow needs. No one knows what the futures or cash price will be at harvest, but the seasonal trend is for futures price to decline during the late summer months and basis to widen with the onset of harvest. With large futures price carry in the corn market, having adequate on-farm storage should allow you to use the March, May or July contracts where much better basis opportunities exist. With very little carry in the soybean futures price beyond the winter months, consider fall delivery using a forward cash contract or perhaps a January or March hedge-to-arrive contract.
5) Do the maintenance on your combine and harvest equipment. With the late wrap-up of the 2009 harvest, a thorough cleanout and routine maintenance to be ready for the 2010 harvest is a must, if you haven’t done that already. Also, conduct preharvest moisture tests on your crops, check your grain drying equipment and make a list of the other things you need to do to be prepared for the 2010 harvest season.