Snow and early frosts could delay crop harvests into December

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STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW) -- The corn harvest in north central Wisconsin may not be completed until later in December, thanks to cold weather, damp corn and early frosts.

Soybeans processing at Steve Kloos' farm near Stratford, Nov. 8, 2019 (WSAW Photo)

Steve Kloos, a crop farmer near Stratford, had two hours of sleep Friday morning and has spent the last eight days sleeping in his truck—and he’s heading back out Friday night with his two employees to harvest more soybeans. Meanwhile, the hum of his dryer as it dries out the beans—and corn—is nonstop. He’s had to dry every crop of soybeans this year, he said, and the corn will have to go through it as well—which means far more propane to run the dryer than normal, cutting deep into his bottom line.

“These cold temperatures have come in kind of unexpectedly,” he noted. The weather presents a number of problems, one of which is a delayed harvest. Lack of sunlight, falling snow, and cold weather means the corn can’t dry out enough to harvest, and there’s fewer days left where the weather lets them get out in the fields at all.

Across Wisconsin, the corn-for-grain harvest is more than two weeks behind the harvest for both last year and the average, according to crop reports from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). In north central Wisconsin, only 11% of corn for grain is harvested as of this Monday, which is 10% behind the overall state average for 2019. Last year, 57% of the corn-for-grain crop had been harvested across Wisconsin by this point.

“There’s gonna be a lot of grain harvested well into December,” Kloos said. The longer it stays on the stalk, the longer farmers hope it will dry naturally, saving their overhead. “So there’s gonna be a lot of corn fields coming off late.”

“The thing that’s really catching us this year is the ground freezing up so early,” Kloos said. Farmers can’t finish their fall tillage due to the frozen ground, which delays spring planting—and the cycle goes on. Neither are the yields good; the stalk quality is weak from severe weather earlier in the year, and the weight per bushel is 8 pounds shy of the ideal 56 pounds.

“Our yields are nothing to brag about. I guess we’re fortunate we have some grain out there to harvest,” Kloos said. “This weather impacts not just us, the farmer itself. It impacts our families; it kinda impacts the whole community.”