Harvest Timing: Finding the Right Moisture

Between the Fencerows

As usual, corn is drying much slower in fields than soybeans.

Published on: October 8, 2013

Intermittent rain showers slowed in-field progress this week. Fortunately, we were able to finish cutting soybeans 'up north,' and make the 20-mile move back home.

Soybeans usually dry to ideal moisture naturally. They will also re-wet due to moisture nearly every night. Harvest can't begin until the moisture comes back down near 13% (ideal storage moisture). When it wasn't raining, foggy, damp mornings re-wet the soybeans and made our average start time this week 2 pm.

Still there was plenty of work to be done in the mornings.

Rains midweek shifted our focus to picking corn. Dodging more showers on Friday and Saturday, we finished prepping and picked enough corn to get the dryer started up. Corn dries much slower in the fields than soybeans. In fact most years corn in our geography will only dry naturally to 17 or 18%, no matter how long you leave it out.

Currently corn is coming in at 23-25% moisture. To prevent spoilage corn must be dried to 15% for storage.  With every bushel of corn we harvest, we are bringing home a gallon of water that must be 'cooked out.' Published cost for drying corn is between 3 and 4 cents per percent moisture per bushel. So, to dry corn 10 points, associated costs are about 35 cents a bushel, or $54 per acre at USDA projected yields.

It seems the processors are pushing hard to buy bushels at current price levels. Daily emails this week were encouraging us to sell deferred months (March and May), before prices go down any more. I also received a phone call checking to see if I had any corn I wanted to deliver.

Couple this with unfavorable crop reports from a farm equipment trucker this week, I'm inclined to think the markets are a bit overdone. We all know how elevators take advantage of the need to move grain at harvest time. However, farmers have built a massive amount of on-farm storage the last few years. It will be interesting to see how this tug-of-war plays out.