FIRES IN THE FIELDS

Originally posted on Corn Commentary

Usually farmers like to have dry weather in the fall to get the crops out of the field – just not too dry!

Harvest season two years ago was so wet that crops in some areas went unharvested until the following spring. This year is a totally different story. Combine fires setting fields on fire have been happening all over the corn belt this season because it has been so dry and windy, the worst areas being Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

“Extreme conditions in South Dakota this fall created a perfect storm of high temperatures, low humidity, dry crops, and high winds producing extreme risk of fires during harvest,” said Daniel Humburg, professor of Ag & Biosystems Engineering Department at South Dakota State University.

There is still plenty of harvesting yet to be done and while most farmers understand the risks of combine fires and how to prevent them, a little reminder never hurts. University of Nebraska farm safety specialist Dave Morgan offers these safety tips:

– Keep your equipment clean and in good repair. When you get done for the day, take time to clean your machine thoroughly with an air compressor, power washer, or even a broom to dislodge any crop residue or chaff from the combine.

– Fix any fuel, hydraulic or oil leaks. When it’s this windy, vegetative matter breaks up into really fine material that readily accumulates on oil and fuel leaks, Morgan said. This creates a source of solid and liquid fuel. From there, it doesn’t take much to start the fire — a dry bearing or a slipping belt can quickly heat up or spark.

– Check fluid levels and carefully refill, being careful not to spill any oil or fuel on the equipment. But don’t overfill fluid reservoirs. With high temperatures in the mid 80s, oil expands and may “burp” out the vent, creating another fuel source for fire.

– Carry at least one, and preferably two, fully charged 10 lb ABC fire extinguishers on all equipment. (Be sure to have your fire extinguishers inspected annually and refilled as necessary).

Let’s be careful out there!

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And here’s an update on one Illinois farmer’s harvest:

Jim Raben, Ridgeway – We are about 70% finished with corn and around 54% with soybeans.  This week’s rain is keeping us out of the fields, but we anticipate finishing up soon.

Tell us, where are you at with your harvest?

 

ILLINOIS HARVEST UPDATE

Some of the farmers in Illinois have more than half of their crop out of the field, while others haven’t started harvest at all! Here’s a look at the harvest conditions in three areas of the state.

Glenn Ginder, Peotone – Virtually none of the corn has been harvested in my area and maybe only one percent of the soybeans. This week, we’ve had just over two inches of rain and the grass is lush and green again, just like May!

 

Rob Elliott, Cameron – Our corn harvest is progressing well. We have a wide range of yields from 140 bushels per acre to 235 bushels per acre* with moistures between 18-24 percent.** This particular crop is a testimony to the genetic and trait advances coupled with agronomic practices. We’ve suffered an excessively wet June, a hot July with 1+ inches of rain, and a massively hot August with zero rain. The corn crop is fairy fragile with the dryness creating some problems; it won’t tolerate much wind and remain standing so this week’s wind and rain are troublesome.

Stephanie Elliott getting into her tractor during 2011 harvest.

Jeff Scates, Shawneetown – Harvest in southern Illinois is creeping right along. We received five and a half inches of rain over last weekend. Most of the April corn has been harvested along with the mid-May corn though it is still averaging in the low 20’s for percentage moisture. Late May and June corn is still in the 30ish percent moisture levels. Yields have been very inconsistent due to drainage from all the early rains. Overall, yields have been on the better than expected side, but we still have to see what the late corn that pollinated during the extreme heat is going to do. A few beans have been cut with yields a little below average.

*Average yield in 2010 was 165 bushels per acre.
**Percentage moisture indicates how much of the corn kernel remains water during the dry down period. Corn is typically dried to 15 percent before storing to ensure quality. Farmers either allow corn to dry in the field or will harvest at a higher percentage moisture and dry in the bin.

SOIL CONSERVATION IS A PRIORITY

Welcome to Photo Week on Corn Corps! To celebrate National Photography Month, we’re bringing you one photo every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life!

Illinois corn farmers are very concerned with soil and water conservation.  This photo demonstrates a fairly new soil conservation practice called strip tilling.  After a corn crop has been harvested in the fall, the stalks, leaves and corn cobs are left on the soil.  In the spring, the farmer “clears a path” between last year’s rows of corn and plants a new row of corn.  He is essentially tilling only a strip in the soil and then planting his new crop exactly in that strip.

Leaving the remains of last year’s harvest keeps water from washing away the fertile top soil that makes Illinois one of the largest corn producers in the world.

EMERGING CORN

Welcome to Photo Week on Corn Corps! To celebrate National Photography Month, we’re bringing you one photo every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life!

Although we started the 2011 planting season a little slower than average, small shoots like this can now be seen all over central Illinois. In fact, this week’s planting progress report, published by the USDA, indicates that corn planting is 79 percent completed nationwide with 45 percent of corn already emerged.

PLANTING GOING STRONG IN ILLINOIS

After a few warm days sees Illinois farmers head to the fields, and a report from the USDA on the progress of corn planting in the nation, how about a quick check in with some Illinois corn farmers?

Paul Taylor of Esmond, IL says: It’s May 10 … long held as the planting date when yield expectations for corn begin to decline for northern Illinois.  It is a good time to be wrapping up corn planting.  Local progress has been significant since we got back into the fields May 2nd.  Because of cold soil temps, very little corn was planted prior to that date around here, me included.   Now after nine days of uninterrupted field work and planting, my farming partners and I are down to the last field before finishing up our 2011 corn planting.  

corn fields planter illinois
Paul looks back at the 2011 planting season.

As I look around the neighborhood, I would estimate that 65% of the corn is in.  Considering we are a pretty heavy corn on corn area, that is incredible productivity for a few days since the weather has improved and machines started moving.   We should have major emergence of corn in the area within a short time frame.  That could raise a concern here as we enter the sensitive pollination window of mid-July. 

Most of the fields appear to be in very good soil conditions.  Only an occasional wet hole has been left and planted around.  We are off to a delayed, but now great start for the 2011 crop year.  Beans are now going in at a rapid pace.  For an industry that needs big crops to feed the needs of feed, food, and fuel, I hope the rest of the heartland can get a good start as we finally did.  Have a safe and profitable season.

Jim Robbins of Manhattan, IL: We are about half done with corn planting and we started a couple of days ago on soybeans.  We have about 300 acres of soybeans planted.  The corn we planted the 15th of April isn’t up yet, so we may be re-planting some of the corn.

Conditions are beautiful right now.  The last couple of days have been really nice out in the field.  When we started on Saturday conditions were marginal, but Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been good.  And now it’s too hot!

Martin Barbre of Carmi, IL: As of today there are a few farmers starting to spread fertilizer and do some spraying. Planting will probably get started today or tomorrow, but only on high ground. Flood waters are still covering a large portion of the bottom land in White county.

We can plant about half our corn and beans in the next week. Then it will be at least another week on the rest.  We lost about 250 acres of wheat during this wet spring. There were several thousand acres of wheat and planted corn lost in our area.

Illinois corn planting water flood
Martin looks for a dry spot to plant.
 

SPRING PLANTING CONTINUES

spring field tractor

This photo courtesy of Len Corzine in Assumption, IL who says, “We are 25% planted on corn but we are having limited field days due to rain.  We may not turn a wheel until next week.  The ground is working better than it has in recent memory.  Near perfect seedbed with one pass.  This means we are getting corn planted with less than 1 gallon of diesel per acre.  The general public needs to know how our efficiencies continue to improve with new technology!”

PLANTING SEASON BEGINS IN SOUTHERN IL

nitrogen application, field update, corn farming
Nitrogen application at the Scates Farm in Shawneetown, IL
Planting season is almost upon us!

Tomorrow will be April and after a few days of 70 plus degrees teasing us it has dropped down in the 30s the last three nights. 60s are in the forecast over the weekend so we will at least roll the planters long enough to make sure everything works right.

Nitrogen has been applied over the last week and a half as we have dodged most of the rain.

We are anxious to get going and with the fieldwork we were able to get done last fall the corn could go in at a record pace with near record aces.

The USDA’s Planting Intentions report was released today with some good news on corn acres which ends up being good news for us all.

Jeff Scates
Shawneetown, IL family farmer &
ICGA Vice President

WHERE WERE YOU ONE YEAR AGO?

                                                         photo taken October 6, 2010
ICMB Director Tim Seifert anticipates being done with his harvest on this coming Monday, October 11.  Last year, he remembers starting his harvest around October 10 or 12.  What a difference a year makes!