Harvest Progress Report

Oct 15, 2020

Harvest Progress Report
After being hit by yet another massive rain event last weekend in Hurricane Delta , it looks like producers throughout GreenPoint Ag’s 10-state footprint will finally be able to put the pedal to the metal on their harvesting efforts. Aside from a few scattered showers , weather forecasts are giving the entire South a green light for the next 10-14 days. This couldn’t come at a better time , because although most corn acres are in the bin , there are still a lot of cotton , soybean and peanut fields out there. Here’s a closer look at what we’re seeing in each region.
If the yield projections in Mississippi and Southern Louisiana hold up , it will have been a good year to be a farmer… provided you didn’t rely too heavily on cotton.
“Corn harvest is complete , and soybeans and rice are around 70 and 80 percent , respectively ,” says Gene Hurt , GreenPoint Ag Region Director. “Sugarcane is about 20 percent harvested and won’t wrap up until February , per the norm. We’re seeing really strong yields with each of these crops , although some sugarcane stands will take longer to harvest because they were blown over by the hurricane.”
About 30 percent complete so far , the cotton crop will take another month to be harvested. Hurt says below average yields are expected due to excessive moisture throughout the season.
“Unfortunately we received too much rain too early , which made it a tough start for cotton ,” Hurt says. “The crop wasn’t able to establish a strong root system , and we’ve been fighting both rain and backwater events ever since. The saving grace is that insect and disease pressure was low this season.”
In addition to finishing harvest in the coming weeks , Hurt expects that many growers will be putting out potash and phosphorus for next year’s crops , as long as the weather allows. With the increase in corn and soybean futures , he feels those crops will be given more acreage in 2021.
“One thing that’s on everybody’s minds right now is whether or not dicamba registration will be extended ,” he concludes. “As you would expect , a lot of growers are waiting to see what happens before selecting dicamba-tolerant varieties and the technologies used with them. Hopefully we’ll hear something by the end of October.”
Most growers in Texas are breathing a sign of relief as another fall harvest is in the books. But in the rest of the region , cotton producers still have about halfway to go , and rice and soybeans are approximately 70 to 75 percent harvested.
“Growers across the region are seeing really good soybeans yields and slightly above average corn yields , provided they planted by April 1 ,” says Greg Sadler , GreenPoint Ag Region Director. “Corn planted after that date didn’t fare as well.”
Sadler says rice yields are coming in right around average , but harvest will be slower than usual because a lot of stands were pushed over by last Saturday’s storm. The jury is still out on the cotton crop due to all the rainfall , which reached up to 8 inches in some areas , but he hopes those yields will also come in around average , per the projections made prior to landfall.
Provided the fields are dry enough , Sadler sees a lot of growers making fall fertilizer applications in the coming weeks. He also expects a lot of producers to put out cover crops so they can take advantage of the assistance programs offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and some state entities.
“This year was a very strange one for everybody , farmers included ,” Sadler says. “Many farms had problems securing labor due to COVID-19 , and supply issues also presented some challenges.
“On the other hand , soybean prices have jumped up near $11/bu , which has been good for farmers considering they were around $9/bu at planting. As a result , we’re expecting that soybean acreage will increase in 2021. Corn is also expected to see a slight increase , but rice acreage will be flat and cotton will be down.”
“Aside from dealing with COVID-19 , we had a relatively smooth year in our area ,” says Emmett Gadberry , GreenPoint Ag Region Director. “The crops went in on time and we had a good seed supply , which isn’t always the case. Growers have good reason to be optimistic , because at this point in the harvest , each of our main crops are looking to come in with above average yields.”
Gadberry says corn and rice harvest is nearly complete , with 90 and 85 percent finished , respectively. The other crops have a ways to go , however. Peanuts are about 30 percent harvested and cotton isn’t far off at 25 to 30 percent. Only 20 percent of the soybean fields have been harvested so far.
“In addition to focusing on harvest over the next several weeks , you can bet that many growers will look to prepare for next year by applying diammonium phosphate (DAP) on their corn and cotton ground , and potash on soybean acres ,” he says.
Gadberry adds that weather allowing , winter wheat producers will also finish seeding their crop in the coming weeks. And although not prevalent , some farmers will put in cover crops like clover , oats , rye grass and sugar beets.
“My advice to farmers is to continue pre-planning as much as they can ,” he closes. “Some guys have already secured their seed for next year , but others will wait until February or even March. Either way , it’s important to have a back up plan ready to go in case the weather delays planting next spring.”
At 60 percent harvested , GreenPoint Ag Region Director Joey Caldwell says corn is much further along than soybeans and cotton – both of which are just getting started.
“The 1 to 2 inches of rain we got from Hurricane Delta slowed down harvest a little , but producers are back in the fields ,” Caldwell says. “Corn should be wrapped up within 4 or 5 days and yields are looking really good. It’s unclear whether we’ll match last year’s bumper crop or trail it , but some growers have already reported record yields. Interestingly , the earliest planted corn got a lot of water and ran into some pollination issues , so the later-maturing corn is looking better this year.”
Soybean and cotton yield estimates are too early to call at this point. Caldwell says only 20 percent of the soybean crop is in the bin , compared to about 10 percent of the cotton.
“Soybeans are looking good for what’s been harvested so far , but the early maturity beans don’t always reflect the majority of the crop ,” he explains. “About 75 percent of the beans are late 4 or early 5 maturities , so we’ll just have to wait and see how they turn out.”
Thanks to a surge in the market , Caldwell says more fields in the northern part of the region are being planted to winter wheat. The crop is about halfway planted , and should be finished within a week. He adds that current market conditions also favor fall fertilizer treatments , so if field conditions allow , he encourages growers to apply lime where needed once harvest comes to a close.
In summing up 2020 , GreenPoint Ag Region Director Kelvin Stokes acknowledges that while it’s important for growers to be willing to take chances at times , “2020 was not the year to be a cowboy.”
“With all the concerns about the supply chain backing up , the growers who had a game plan and stuck to it are achieving the most success on the back end this Fall ,” he notes.
Stokes reports that harvest is about half complete on each of the predominant crops in the region , with the exception being corn. That crop has been finished , and growers saw great yields this year , with many realizing 230 to 250 bu/A. With dry conditions forecasted for the next two weeks , he expects growers will push hard to get as much of the remaining harvest finished as soon as possible. 
“As we often say in the Deep South , we really need enough horsepower to go two ways at once ,” he explains. “Cotton and peanuts are being harvested at the same time , and as soon as they’re done , growers will go in with their fall forage crop of rye , wheat or oats.”
So far , peanut and soybean yields are coming in slightly above average , with peanuts ranging from 4000 to 5000 lbs/A and soybeans landing between 40 and 60 bu/A. Cotton yields , however , are coming in below average.
“Cotton was on track to be around 1200 lbs/A , but due to storm damage from Hurricane Sally , it will likely come in below average at 800-850 lbs/A ,” Stokes says.
Although most precision ag growers are on a 3-year soil sample cycle , Stokes anticipates there will be an uptick in lime and other fertilizer sales this fall. Since a fair number of area growers held back last year , they’ll need to replenish their fertility levels. And with growers in his territory being driven by local contract prices , he says a lot can change from what they plan on planting now and what they actually end up planting next spring.
“I think we’ll see a decent amount of corn acres , but if we get a wet spring , a lot of growers will shift to their comfort zone ,” Stokes concludes. “In southeastern Alabama , the comfort zone is peanuts. And since a group of growers recently invested in a new peanut shelling facility , I think peanut acres will increase in 2021 , or at least stay the same. Of course , if cotton prices return to the low-to-mid 70 cents/lb range , it too will compete for acres.”
Considering how well corn performed and peanuts are faring in 2020 , GreenPoint Ag Region Director Mark Powell hopes similar yields can be realized next year.
Powell says corn harvest is complete and yields were strong at 230 to 240 bu/A. Thirty to 35 percent of the peanut crop has been harvested so far , and yields are coming in only 300 lbs/A lower than last year. Knowing how well peanuts yielded in 2019 , it’s still a respectable crop.
“Cotton will be our weak spot this year ,” he says. “The rain , clouds and hurricanes have taken a toll on the crop and pushed back harvest by about two weeks. Only about 10 percent of the cotton has been harvested so far , and yields are coming in below where we’d like to see them at 1000 to 1100 lbs/A.”
Once harvest is complete , growers will begin planning for next year. Although farming plans are known to change on a dime in the Deep South , Powell anticipates cotton acres will decline in 2021.
“We’re geared to grow cotton in Georgia , but prices were already depressed at the beginning of 2020 , leading growers to switch 20 to 25 percent of planned cotton acres over to peanuts ,” he explains. “The hurricanes have further impacted the cotton market this year. Corn prices are favorable at nearly $4/bu , and consumer demand for peanuts is very strong in the U.S. and China. So if these trends continue , I expect even more cotton acres will be taken out of play next year.”

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