TOWN OF HAMPDEN — With his soybean harvest due to be completed several weeks ahead of schedule, Al Paulson is not all that hard-pressed for ways to fill his time later this month.

Maybe, he said, he’ll take care of some trees that have been neglected during this busy, and worrisome, growing season.

Maybe he’ll scrub off the grain dust that has accumulated on his combine, obscuring its John Deere green.

Paulson was smiling Monday as his combine cut 30-foot-wide swaths through his soybean fields.

What he saw out the window, and on the computer screens in his cab, gave him reason to be happy.

Despite this summer’s drought, he said, the yield has, for the most part, met or exceeded expectations.

One of the screens shows a map of the field, with color codes to pinpoint the yields in a particular area.

Most of his field is coming in yellow (65 to 80 bushels per acre) or orange (50 to 65 bushels per acre). A few spots are showing up green, meaning that the yield topped 80 bushels per acre.

“Typically,” he said, “we’re happy with 50 bushels.”

Paulson is not alone in his optimism.

Christine Lindner of Fall River, an agriculture communicator whose clients include the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, said the soybean is happening as much as a month earlier than usual for many farmers, and it’s a fruitful harvest, despite the summer’s record-breaking drought.

“Many farmers are telling me that, surprisingly, the harvest has been very good,” she said.

Rains that came in late July and early August, after a dry spell of more than a month, arrived just in time for the soybeans, she said.

Farmers typically harvest soybeans after they’ve finishing harvesting corn, she said — and one reason some of them are reaping their beans early is because they have little or no corn to harvest, because the drought’s worst period coincided with the time when the corn should have been starting to tassel and sprout ears.

Paulson — who also is president of the Columbia County Corn Growers — acknowledged that his corn crop is not as abundant as his soybean crop.

“Corn’s a little different story,” he said. “That’s what soybeans like. They like July rains, whereas with corn, the drought impaired pollination. And, we had too many 100-degree days.”

This has been the worst drought in Paulson’s memory, worse than the 1988 dry spell.

Still, he got a decent yield from his cornfields, in the neighborhood of 152 to 185 bushels per acre — a yield that is, in most years, considered pretty good in Columbia County, but nowhere near what the county’s top corn growers recorded in last season’s yield contest, which Cambria area farmer Joe Berger won with 267 bushels per acre.

“I’m not going to say I’m pleased” with the corn yield, Paulson said. “I’m going to say I’m grateful.”

Although the rain came in time for the soybeans, Paulson noted that the dry weather earlier in the season gave rise to an outbreak of spider mites — for which his beans had to be sprayed.

Paulson said Monday that he plans to finish combining beans on his 140-acre farm sometime early this week, to get ahead of possible rain. The National Weather Service forecasts a 40 percent chance of rain Thursday.

He plans to work after dark — at least until the dew makes the beans too wet to combine.

ljerde@

745-3587