Bumper crop reported for corn harvest

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

The waiting game is almost over for the grain producers of the Golden Plains. After six months of watching and worrying, the grainmen and women are starting the harvest of corn, milo and soybeans in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.

From all indications, the yields are going to be considerably better than last year, but a little short of the bin-busting production anticipated after the soaking rains of late June and July. The dry stretch in August hurt, said Mark Friehe, manager of the Frenchman Valley Co-Op operations in McCook, Culbertson and Perry.

"It's shaping up as a good crop year, but not quite at the record-setting level we were hoping for in the middle of the crop cycle."

Still, grain handlers are looking for dryland corn yields in the 35 to 85 bushel per acre range, and irrigated corn yields ranging from 140 bushels to 200 bushels per acre.

And -- in fields where everything fell right, rain and temperature wise -- there could be yields of up to 100 bushels per acre for dryland and 200 bushels plus per acre for irrigated.

From a historical perspective, those are phenomenal numbers. This is shown by historical agricultural statistics, compiled by Gloria Masoner of the McCook Daily Gazette. The figures, printed in the Sept. 30 edition of the Gazette, show average corn yields ranging from 11.6 to 27.7 bushels per acre for corn in Southwest Nebraska counties in 1914.

We've come a long, long ways from those days 90 years ago. But one place there hasn't been much improvement is price, especially when you consider the inflation which has taken place over the course of the past century.

"The prices are quite depressed," Friehe said, "and it looks like they're going to stay that way for a while." The major reason is the anticipation of good yields, not only in this area, but nationwide as well.

One bit of good news for the grain producers of the Golden Plains is that there is plenty of space to store the grain. "Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas have good, adequate storage facilities," Friehe said. Even so, the Frenchman Valley official is hoping the capacity is exceeded. "It would be great if yields were so good we have to pile grain on the ground," he said.

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