2019 Has Farmers Reconsidering Planting Date, On-Farm Propane

Propane shortages and harvest delays have one farmer considering what he can do to offset his risk in the future. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

With 70% of his corn crop to harvest, Tim Burrack is running low on fuel and time before Mother Nature dumps snow on his northeast Iowa farm—something forecasters in his area are predicting for Sunday and Monday. He’s not the only one either, by his estimates about 50% of the corn crop is yet to be harvested in northern Iowa—with a few spots of soybeans left, too.

While physically getting into fields in challenging enough, high moisture is adding even greater complexity to the situation.

“I custom picked corn Saturday [Nov. 9] and that’s the first time I’ve seen the moisture meter below 20%, and it was 19.8%,” he says.

In the last few weeks of 2019 make plans to not only finish this year’s harvest strong, but also look ahead to prepare for 2020.

“There will be issues when poor quality grain is being put into storage for a longer period than normal,” says Tom Dahl, president of the American Association of Grain Inspection and Weighing Agencies.

Corn and soybeans both are coming out of fields wetter than normal. Corn is proving to have lower test weights, too, and each crop has challenges with breakage and fines when coming out at high moisture content.

“I’ve only dried beans one other time in my life and that was 1991,” Burrack says. “We dried two-thirds of them this year.”

If you can get into fields, do so quickly and be prepared for the moisture.

“We need to harvest and get it dried down as fast as we can,” says Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension agronomist. “If you want to store [corn], dry it down to 13% or 14% moisture—or about one percentage point to two percentage points lower than normal.”

However, drying corn continues to be a challenge because of liquid propane (LP) shortages in the upper Midwest and that spells a long, drawn-out harvest.

“My game plan is to leave corn standing in the field until I get enough gas on hand to run for a full day, then I’ll pick some corn,” Burrack says.

He needs 3,000 gallons of propane to run for a full day and with LP shortages he’s getting just 800 gallons per delivery—which are infrequent. Which means he doesn’t know when the last 70% of his corn will get harvested.

What you can do in 2020.

No one can control the weather, instead consider changing your management to offset risk when possible.

“There are two things I can do to better prepare for a harvest like this,” Burrack says. “I can plant early season hybrids that can be harvested before soybeans—and I’m looking at that—or I can put in a much bigger LP storage tank where I can take transport loads.”

In ‘normal’ situations Burrack says it would take him about seven to 10 years for LP bullet storage to pay for itself. This year, Tim wonders if it could have paid for itself in a single year.

Read more about harvest here:

Propane Delivery Crisis Plagues the Midwest - AgWeb

Liquid Propane Bottleneck Cripples Drying Capacity - AgWeb

Propane Shortage Today Could Turn Into Anhydrous ... - AgWeb

Some Iowa Farmers Now Cut Off from Liquid Propane ...

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