Some early harvests ‘pleasantly surprised’ farmers

It may be weeks before agricultural experts can say with confidence how the state’s corn and soybean yields have fared this year, but some early harvesters are relieved that their yields are better than expected.

“The first fields that are harvested are hardly a barometer of what things will look like for the rest of the harvest, but people have been quite pleasantly surprised so far,” said Meaghan Anderson, field agronomist at the Iowa State University Extension which oversees the Iowa center. “But I think the expectation bar wasn’t very high.”

Planting in much of the state was delayed this year by April rains. Then the rains stopped and drought conditions spread to the northwestern and southern halves of the state. May, June, July and August were all warmer and drier than normal, according to weather summaries from state climatologists.

Anderson said his recent survey of early corn crops in Polk County showed an average of about 191 bushels per acre. That’s about 13% less than last year, when Iowa farmers set a new yield record.

“That’s significantly lower than last year, but would be considered average,” Anderson said.

About 5% of the state’s corn crop has been harvested, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday. The harvest so far is five days behind last year, but only one day less than the five-year average.

“People are just getting started this week — we have a lot of green corn here,” said Angie Rieck-Hinz, ISU Extension field agronomist for north-central Iowa. “People are concerned about maturity. We won’t be very hot this week. … If we can get some heat next week, we can finish some of the corn.

About 44% of the corn in this region is ripe, according to the USDA report. That compares to a high of 85% in east-central Iowa.

Rieck-Hinz said the ripening of the crop is not too far off from normal, but farmers need favorable weather conditions to avoid the additional costs of drying too wet grain.

About 7% of the state’s soybean crop was harvested, three days behind the five-year average. Corn and soybean conditions remained stable with 64% of corn rated good or excellent and 62% of soybeans rated the same.

Last week was exceptionally warm and averaged 6 degrees above normal, according to the USDA report. Rainfall averaged about a quarter inch. That’s about a third of what’s normally expected for this week.

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