CW2009-10-13 Snow Slows Harvest
October 13, 2009
Snow more than a foot deep in areas of western Nebraska and continuing cool, wet conditions across much of the rest of the state are slowing crop harvest. Luckily, last weekend’s snow and rain storms hit with little wind and fields are still standing. A few warm, sunny days will go far to dry down the crop and soils to allow harvest to proceed.
At North Platte, which saw some of the heaviest snows, Extension Dryland Crops Specialist Bob Klein said the snow was relatively dry, with a moisture ratio of 25 to 1, meaning that it would take 25 inches of snow to get 1 inch of precipitation. A wetter snow might have done significantly more damage to yields, he said. And while the snow and rain is slowing harvest, the moisture is always welcome, Klein said.
Early harvest reports of dryland corn yields of over 200 bushels per acre and dryland soybean yields of 60 bushels per acre were tied to good rains late summer in many areas. Yields from irrigated also were good. Yields are significantly reduced or nonexistent in dryland pockets that didn’t receive moisture and larger areas that were struck by hail.
Corn maturity was behind normal and USDA reported that only 76% of the crop had reached physiological maturity (black layer) at the time of the freeze. If corn was in late dent (kernels are past half milkline), kernels would have already reached more than 90% of final mature dry weight. Depending on the maturity of the crop and local conditions, yield losses may range from 5% to 20% following an early hard freeze, according to Mark Lagrimini, head of UNL's Department of Agronomy.
The corn and soybean crops were about a week behind normal and in a few areas corn was still green when the snow hit, capping off the season. While the timing of the hard freeze was about normal in western Nebraska, it was slightly early for the central and eastern portion of the state. Some areas of western Nebraska had already had freezes down to 18 F.
Long lines at the elevators are likely this harvest due to good volume and the need to dry the wet grain. Lower test weights also may be evident.
In the Panhandle, some winter wheat was expected to show leaf burning, but damage was not expected to be significant. Most growers had finished dry bean harvest and had turned to corn and sugarbeet harvest. (See Field Updates for more information.)