By FRED KRONER
Fall’s official arrival will occur in 29 days.
That date is inflexible.
There is, however, one traditional indicator of the season that could come sooner than normal this year.
Fall harvest for area farmers might start within a couple of weeks.
“Corn is maturing a little quicker than usual,” said Kevan Parrett, who farms north of Mahomet.
“The starting point could be two to three weeks early,” added Seymour farmer Chris Karr.
The irony is that early-April rains delayed some early fieldwork.
“I had all my corn planted in April, but about seven days later than I like it to be,” Parrett said.
Dick Parnell, who farms southeast of Mahomet, saw indications more than a month ago that the end timeline for harvest might get moved up.
“Corn is normally tasseling around the Fourth of July and this year it was a week to 10 days before that,” Parnell said.
Farmers cite one reason that, despite later planting dates, the harvest season could start sooner.
“We had a lot of heat units in May, and heat units determine the amount of time it takes corn to mature,” Karr said.
Parrett plants corn that matures between 111 and 120 days from the time it’s put in the ground.
There’s flexibility in the maturation dates.
“It’s all indicated by degree days,” Parrett said. “The heat and sunshine in May and June were above (normal) and that propels the corn.”
Though it is possible for the harvest to start sooner, not everyone may be on board with that idea.
“We won’t shell a lot early,” Karr said. “We’ll let nature dry it down (in the field).”
Parrett said there’s logic in that thinking.
“The fact that prices are so low, it’s painful to harvest when it’s wet and pay (the elevator) to have it dried,” he said. “That makes the end price lower.”
There are risks either way.
“You don’t want to wait too long or you might start incurring (yield) losses,” Parrett said.
Corn prices at area elevators this week have averaged around $3.35 per bushel for new-crop deliveries.
A Crop Production report released on Aug. 10 by the United States Department of Agriculture predicted record high corn yields for six states, including Illinois.
“I’m not a good prognosticator,” Parnell said, adding, “It’ll be a good corn crop, but not our best ever.”
Parrett believes that is a reasonable assessment.
“We had adequate moisture and the crop is looking very good,” he said. “From what I see, it might be a little less than last year, but still a great crop.”
While area farmers will likely begin harvesting their fields of corn before soybeans, they may switch gears once the beans ripen.
“Most of the time, you don’t want to hesitate on beans,” Parrett said. “You want to get to beans when they’re ready.”
Some bean fields could be ready for the combine by mid-September.
“I have one field that is beginning to turn,” Parnell said, “and usually when it starts to turn, it’s about three weeks before they’re ready.”
Karr doesn’t believe the area corn crop will be at historic levels, but added, “I think our beans could be awfully good. The beans are tall. The leaves are up to the chest of a 6-foot man, which is kind of unusual.”
Parnell said all preparations are in place.
“We’re ready,” he said. “Things are fueled up, hooked up and pointed toward the field.”