WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota farmers are expected to harvest their second-largest corn crop in state history.
According to this week's projections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Minnesota's corn and soybean crops are expected to be slightly smaller than 2012, partly because fields in some places were hurt by too much spring rain, followed by a cool streak.
But many parts of Minnesota have potential bumper crops developing, mirroring the national trend. Minnesota's corn harvest is projected at 1.36 billion bushels. Nationwide, the corn crop should be the largest ever at 13.8 billion bushels, according to the USDA.
Among the farms where conditions look promising is that of Alan Roelofs.
''The majority of the field looks really good,'' Roelofs told Minnesota Public Radio.
At the edge of one his corn fields near Tyler, he snapped off an ear and peeled its husk to quickly calculate its number of kernels. ''Looks like it's probably pollinated about right to the end,'' Roelofs said as he counted 18 rows. ''Lot of kernels on that one.''
Jeff Coulter, a corn agronomist at the University of Minnesota, said the recent mild weather has been great, but an early freeze could change that. Corn development is about nine days behind normal, so a lot of the state's crop will be maturing between Sept. 20 and 30.
''It's going to be tight,'' Coulter told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
But Coulter said the mild summer also means the plants haven't needed as much water.
''Assuming we pick up a few more times of rain, we could be looking at a bumper crop on these acres that were planted by Memorial Day,'' he said.
Roelofs said that if his area continues to see good weather, his field could yield more than 200 bushels an acre. That's well over the predicted statewide average of 166 bushels, which is up one from last year. The projected statewide average is 12 bushels an acre above the predicted national average, and better than all but one major corn-growing state.
Minnesota's soybeans harvest is projected at 272 million bushels, about an average crop. The state's soybean yield is expected to be 41 bushels an acre, down two from 2012.
Prices for the new crops are trending downward from last year's high prices, which resulted from tight supplies caused by the drought.
David Bullock, senior economist at St. Paul-based AgriBank, said corn prices could slip to as low as $4 a bushel in the next few months, or half of last year's peak, though he expects the average should be closer to $4.75. If that happens, he said, most farmers should still be able to make a small profit off their crop. But Bullock said the drop in grain prices will benefit other sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock farmers and ethanol producers.