Bountiful bean harvest
When Robin Dunn wheeled her 1995 John Deere combine into a field of soybeans south of town early Tuesday morning, she knew it was too muddy, but she also knew it would only get muddier and she wanted to get them cut.
"I've got to get these cut before tomorrow's rain," Dunn said of Wednesday's expected showers. "That's all there is to it."
Ordinarily, she probably would have passed on cutting the beans from the field a few miles south of Baldwin City, opting for drier conditions. But, this has been no ordinary farming year.
A wealth of rain this year, more than 35 inches and still counting, has made for a record harvest. But, it's also made made harvest difficult.
"I wish the rain would hold off a week, but we don't have any control over that," said Bill Wood, Douglas County agent. "I think if we had five more days, we'd be pretty much done. It seems like in the last few weeks, we're only getting two days when it's dry enough to cut."
After a fairly dry September when Douglas County farmers harvested record yields of corn, October ushered in a return to the rain. Wood knows just what Dunn is talking about in regards to cutting while the ground is far from perfect.
"There are some fields being cut that guys got in that they wouldn't be in normally," he said. "Early on, it was nice and we got the corn in and some of the beans, but we started getting rain again and not enough sunshine. It's been cloudy."
The semi-dry September saw area farmers bring in record corn crops. The long-time average has been 92 bushels to the acre for corn and the best year was 1998 when the average was 120 bushels. This year has shattered that mark.
"It's a year where 160 to 200 bushels of corn was run of the mill," Wood said, "because there were guys cutting total fields over 200 bushels, which is totally, totally unbelievable. All the farmers have been saying this year is the best ever."
The soybeans are doing just as well. The long-time average for beans has been 24 bushels to the acre. In 2003, a drought year, they averaged 16 bushels. Not so in 2004.
"I've heard anywhere between 40 and 60 bushels, but I've heard up to 70," he said. "We're doubling it (the average), which is really nice."
Woods' records show the record yield for soybeans, a major cash crop of Douglas County routinely has more than 40,000, averaged 43 bushels to the acre back in 1996. That won't stand up this year and Dunn's field Tuesday was a good example of why that's happened.
"This is the last field I planted this year," she said. "I planted this on July 15. It probably won't be 50 bushels, but it's pretty amazing with that late of a start. It was so wet this summer, I couldn't get it planted until then."
When Wood heard that, he couldn't believe it. But, that's the way this harvest has gone.
"You wouldn't think it would be 50 bushels with that late a start," he said. "You couldn't have dared to plant that late in 2003. People would have said you were crazy. But not this year.
"Yes, it's definitely one for the record books," Wood said of the harvest of 2004.