Some early harvests have farmers ‘pleasantly surprised’

By: - September 26, 2022 4:47 pm

Farm equipment is rolling on the state’s highways as harvest gets underway. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

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

“The first fields that get harvested are hardly a barometer for what things are going to look like for the rest of harvest, but people have been so far somewhat pleasantly surprised,” said Meaghan Anderson, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist who monitors central Iowa. “But I think the bar for expectations was not super high.”

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

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

“It’s significantly lower than last year but would be considered on par with average,” Anderson said.

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

“People are really just getting started this week — we have a lot of green corn up here,” said Angie Rieck-Hinz, an ISU Extension field agronomist for north-central Iowa. “People are concerned about maturity. We’re not going to be very warm this week. … If we can get a little bit of heat next week we can finish off some of the corn.”

About 44% of that area’s corn is mature, the USDA report said. That compares with a high of 85% in east-central Iowa.

Rieck-Hinz said the crop’s maturation isn’t too far from normal but that farmers need favorable weather to avoid the added costs of drying too-moist kernels.

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

Last week was unseasonably hot and averaged 6 degrees above normal, according to the USDA report. Rainfall averaged about a quarter of an inch. That is about a third of what is normally expected for that week.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.