The local corn and soybean harvest appears headed for yet another year of productive yields—if only farmers can get their crops out of the ground.
A late-summer deluge has made fields too wet for heavy combines. It could push the final harvest into late November or early December, delaying completion by several weeks, said Nick Baker, UW Extension’s Rock County agriculture agent.
Normal rainfalls this time of year usually mean fields need a day or two to dry sufficiently. But the ground is so saturated in some places, fields might need three or four dry days after a moderate storm before a farmer can fire up the machinery, Baker said.
Low-lying areas might have to wait until the ground freezes.
“It keeps raining. Right now, people are kind of struggling. We’re seeing some water pockets pop up in fields,” he said. “There’s going to be acres we can’t get in to harvest because it’s just too wet. The yields should be good, but harvestability is going to be tricky.”
Gazette weather records show that, since May, Janesville has seen higher-than-average rainfall every month except for July. And as summer wound down, the rains became even steadier.
August’s 8.1-inch rain total more than doubled the 4-inch average. September was an even bigger anomaly, with more than 13 inches of rain in a month that averages about 3 inches.
And in just the first few days of this month, Janesville is already approaching October’s average of 2.7 inches.
Thursday was a rare dry day, the first in nearly a week. But Accuweather predicts rain throughout the weekend and possibly into early next week.
Early October is typically the end of soybean season, and the corn season ends shortly after that. But a new disease this year caused some corn plants to die early, affecting the stalks’ ability to stand upright, Baker said.
If high winds or a severe storm passed through the area, those crops might be flattened, and that would prevent them from being harvested.
To reduce potential storm damage, it would be better for farmers to get that corn out as soon as possible. But rain has gotten in the way, Baker said.
Rain might have caused that disease, too. It’s a condition that usually thrives in cool, wet conditions, he said.
A tighter harvest window could cause commotion at local grain elevators. Farmers want to get their grains to market as early as they can so they don’t have to battle snow and shortened days.
But if every farmer drops off backlogged harvests at the same time, the elevators could fill up and close early. Then some will have to wait another day until the elevators can clear space, Baker said.
John Reilly, a local custom farmer who harvests other people’s crops and his own, is trying not to let the rain affect him too much. Rain is part of the season, he said, and he must adjust accordingly.
He wasn’t sure if his harvest was significantly delayed, but he said he faced plenty of different conditions among his fields. Some have received more rain than others.
As for when he’ll be finished, that will all depend on the weather.
“You just watch the forecast like anybody else would,” Reilly said. “That’s what I do anyway.”