Yield predictions are rosier as harvest concludes

By: - November 21, 2022 5:15 pm

Corn yields are expected to average 202 bushels per acre in Iowa this year. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Average corn yields in Iowa are expected to approach last year’s record despite the significant drought that developed throughout the growing season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Harvest is pretty well complete, and I think people were pleasantly surprised with the corn yields, as well as the soybean yields,” said Aaron Saeugling, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist who monitors the southwest corner of the state. “We did have a pretty full soil-moisture profile going into spring. … Corn in particular was able to root deep.”

The USDA predicted this month that corn yields will average 202 bushels per acre, down from 204 last year. (The USDA initially reported that last year’s yields averaged 205 bushels per acre, but it has revised the estimate.)

Soybean yields are expected to average 59 bushels per acre, down from 63 last year, which was also a record high. The growing season of 2021 was also drier than normal, but crops were aided by timely rains.

The northwest corner of the state bore the brunt of this year’s drought, and it shows in the yields: Corn yields in that area are averaging about 170 bushels per acre, said Leah Ten Napel, an Extension field agronomist who monitors the area.

“Yields were very variable for the farmers,” she said. “Growers in areas that caught timely rains were 200-plus (bushels per acre).”

But some fields had yields of 50 bushels per acre or less, Ten Napel said: “We saw big effects of the drought this year.”

Drought conditions were somewhat alleviated early this month by widespread heavy rainfall, but the state is in far worse shape heading into winter than it was last year.

Peak drought conditions in 2021 — which were similar to the current drought overall — happened during the summer and improved considerably by late November. About 13% of the state was suffering from drought a year ago, compared with 73% now. It’s unclear what that portends for next year’s yields.

“Going forward, there is some concern,” Saeugling said. “I have concern about a lack of subsoil moisture this fall.”

Statewide, about 38% of subsoil and 48% of topsoil has adequate moisture for crops, the USDA reported Monday.

This year, Iowa is projected to produce about 2.51 billion bushels of corn this year, down from about 2.54 billion last year. That would be the most of any state, with Illinois the runner-up at 2.27 billion bushels.

But Illinois is projected to have higher average yields at 215 bushels per acre — a new record for the state. Illinois farmers have about 15% fewer acres of cornfield.

But Illinois will again lead the nation in soybean production at about 684.8 million bushels, compared with Iowa’s 591 million. Iowa has slightly fewer acres of soybeans and lower yields. Illinois is expected to harvest about 64 bushels per acre.

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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.

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