2021 HARVEST: BETTER THAN NOTHING
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Why go to Las Vegas when you can gamble in your own backyard?
That’s sort of how Lance Pankratz feels about farming, which in 2021 proved to be a wildcard thanks to the persistent question of whether moisture would relieve drought conditions that threatened the harvest and stirred up thoughts of nine years ago, when dry weather decimated the crops.
“It looked like 2012 all over again,” Pankratz said, thinking back to the earlier part of the summer when rain was scare to non-existent. “It was pretty scary, so I’m very thankful for what we have.”
Indeed, only a handful of rains the second week of July saved the day, the amount directly impacting the yields producers are now seeing.
“What I find so incredibly interesting is how one inch of rain makes such a difference,” said Stuart Preheim, who in addition to working as a Pioneer Seed dealer is also taking part in his 42nd harvest as a farmer. “It’s sort of on a southwest to northeast line; when I talk to people who live south of Marion they have a whole different crop than those who live in Turkey Ridge, or southwest of Freeman.
“In 2012, I felt like an additional inch of rain was worth 30 bushels of corn,” he continued. “I’m finding that to be true again; when you’re so critical on moisture, an inch of rain reaps huge reward.”
For Pankratz, that reward is showing its hand in average to above-average beans that are yielding anywhere from 40 to 45 bushels an acre, a benefit to the later-season hybrid he planted that took advantage of additional moisture in August. He acknowledges he is luckier than others whose beans are closer to 20 bushels an acre.
“It’s all over the board,” Pankratz says. “It was really hybrid dependent this year; those early beans never got enough moisture.”
As for the corn, he says a bumper crop was never in the cards given the dry conditions.
“It was never healthy,” said Pankratz, who like others is seeing anywhere from 80 to 100 bushels an acre. “It looked good from the road, but everybody got surprised once they got into it.”
That the corn is yielding at all is a direct benefit of about a two-and-a-half week stretch in July that produced anywhere from 4 to 6 inches across the area.
“We didn’t think we’d have anything, really,” said Preheim. “Having some rain right at corn pollination time is what got us a corn crop that we didn’t have in 2012. The timeliness of those rains was critical.”
Preheim said the range of beans coming in really reflects the disparity in rainfall, with the low end in the teens and the high end in the 60s — something that he has seen south of Marion and is reason for celebration in any year.
Corn is all over the place, too, he said, with reports ranging from as low as the 70s to a field report as high as 192.
“There are places out there that hit really good,” said Pankratz. “Go east and they got lots of rain in July and August and their yields are phenomenal. You drive 30 miles from that, it’s a different story.”
And while area farmers are benefitting from timely rains and thankful for anything they’re getting, make no mistake about it, says Preheim: the area is in a drought.
“It’s about as dry as it’s ever been,” he said, noting that the Freeman community is between seven and nine inches below the 10-year average. “We actually made more with less than we did in ’12, and that was just a timing issue.”