When Reno Penner of rural Hillsboro says the milo crop looks pretty dismal this year, he knows what he is talking about. He has grown milo and wheat for 59 years, starting at the age of 17 when his father passed away and he took over the family farm. A dry land farmer, he knows a bit about raising milo and wheat.
“It looks worse this year than ever before, even worse than last year,” Penner said. “I think it was the heat more than the drought that really put the milo in bad shape.”
Penner, who retired three years ago and leases out his 380 acres of cropland, said farmers who planted early and have something ready to harvest now might get something, but those who put their seed in late might not get anything.
“One of my tenants cut some already that gave 30 bushels per acre,” he said. “But that was planted real early, the rest will be lucky to make 5 (bushels per acre).”
Penner said that while many farmers switched to growing corn and beans instead of milo in the past few years because of higher payouts, his land has always done well with milo.
“Corn and beans needs a lot of rain,” he said. “Milo is just a good stable dry land crop. Our best year, I think in 2010, we got 100 bushels per acre.”
Of course, this year does not look to be that good for most milo producers. Penner said many farmers were cutting their milo for silage as it just did not head out. Fields that did head out did so very unevenly, so some spots have heads ready to harvest, yet the next row over is green and immature.
“I’ve heard some appraised for insurance purposes making only 5 bushels per acre,” he said. “I’ve got some here we won’t even harvest. It just isn’t worth the gas or diesel to get it done.”
Penner said milo not already harvested would likely not see a combine until after a good frost.
“It’s better to wait now,” he said. “The later the better; some of it is still so green. After a killing frost the moisture will be lower at least.”
Because of the scarcity of feed this year, Penner said milo prices would be good, and most likely the grain produced in Marion County would stay local to be used for cattle and hogs.
“Beans aren’t going to do as well this year either,” he said. “Wheat was good. We had a bumper crop there, but the corn, beans, and milo — that is a mess. It’s going to be hard for the highly-leveraged farmers to make it this year.”