Fort Dodge Messenger, IA
Harvest season brings unexpected yields
By Kristin Danley-Greiner, Farm News staff writer
The recent warm weather has helped the corn crop dry down unseasonably fast
and many fields across the state are already barren as farmers combine their
fields at a steady pace. However, the late rains have resulted in some areas
seeing moldy soybeans, sudden death syndrome, alflatoxin, downed corn and
Keith Sexton, who farmers in central Iowa, said last weekend that “quite a few”
farmers who planted early group 2 soybeans are harvesting them already.
Unfortunately, the results have not been terribly promising.
“Of the beans I have harvested, they are yielding a bit less than I had hoped for,”
he said. “My field has some wet spots, but for the most part, the beans seem
fairly dry, even though there are some plants that still have a green tint to them.
From what I have heard, the beans that were underwater for an extended
number of days this past three weeks have not survived too well. Even though
they are dry, they have green beans, have moldy beans and have a rotten smell
to them. And if producers try to blend them, the whole load takes on the foul
But the good news is that most of the April-planted corn is dryer than expected,
Sexton said last weekend. At that time, he hadn’t started combining his corn.
“Our corn is still standing quite well,” he said. “I had feared that it would lodge
some, since it is difficult for the roots to have a good ‘anchor-hold’ in soup —
which is what we had after nearly 10 inches of rain in two weeks.”
John Holmes, the crops field specialist for Iowa State University Extension
covering central Iowa, said that farmers had begun harvesting in all of the
counties he serves last week, which includes Wright, Hamilton, Story, Humboldt,
Webster, Boone, Hardin and Marshall counties.
“Some farmers have harvested early maturing soybeans. When fields dry,
farmers will be harvesting soybeans. Farmers are also anxious to harvest
seriously lodged fields, so these fields are also a priority to farmers,” Holmes
said. “They want to get that downed corn picked up. Farmers have also started
working on their early maturing corn. Harvest moistures of corn from these fields
has been relatively low. Of course, the seed corn fields have been harvested and
that harvest is nearly completed—I have seen one or two tilled fields and these
fields were early commercial corn fields, not seed corn.”
However, Holmes also said that one of the main concerns among producers in
his area is that there are “many, many acres of lodged corn.”
“This damage is widespread and quite severe in many areas of central and north
central Iowa,” Holmes said.
Carroll-based ISU Extension crops field specialist Mark Licht said that in his
west-central area of the state, the soybean harvest is “well underway” in the four
counties on the eastern side of his territory, followed by early planted and/or
shorter varieties. Reports peg soybean yields in the 40- to 70-bushel per acre
“In some areas, especially Calhoun County, mold is a problem and those fields
are typically not the high yielding fields,” Licht said. “In most cases where mold is
present, the beans are left in the field as not to comingle with the better grain.
Overall, soybean yields are surprisingly high. High yields are likely due to being
on top of soybean aphids, as well as plentiful rains during the period of seed fill in
Corn harvest has also started across Licht’s area, although not to the extent of
the soybean harvest, he said.
“In my western counties, it is likely early maturities and early planted corn coming
out,” he said. “Many fields in my eastern counties have been harvested with grain
coming out of the field at 15 to 18 percent moisture. Dry down has occurred
much more rapidly this year than typically expected.”
Joel DeJong, ISU Extension crops field specialist from northwest Iowa, said that
he had heard of aflatoxin reported out of Plymouth County. Northeastern Iowa
producer Tim Recker said last week that combines had just started rolling in his
“The rain received last week kept most out of the field for a day or so,” he said.
“Many of us needed to get the last minute tweaks to machinery completed. Wet
fields will be an issue, but the most talked about problem is down corn. From the
road, most fields are standing pretty well, but once you get into them, they are a
mess. This means a slower harvest speed and a less comfortable machine
operator. Most of the reports I am getting from the few guys that have harvested
corn is dryer than normal grain moisture. This is good when you figure $1.50 LP
gas for drying.”
Lee County producer Bert Vandenberg said that both corn and soybeans are
being harvested in his area near Donnellson. Fortunately for him, the grounds
are dry and “working well.”
“Some corn is testing around 18 percent, but most of it is wetter,” he said. “Yields
are good, but not as good as the government tells us. There is some bean cutting
that started this week. There was a lot of sudden death in most of those fields.”
Ray Gaesser of Corning in southwest Iowa said last week that some corn fields
had been harvested in his area, but that a lot of corn was down due to 80 mile
per hour winds sustained last month.
“Farmers want to get those fields harvested before there are more crop losses,”
he said. “Yields look to be average to slightly below. Early soybeans are nearly
ready—it looks like some fields will be ready this weekend,” he said last week.
“Soybeans yields are anticipated to be very good.
We had 0.8 to 1.25 inches of rain Tuesday night and we were back harvesting
mid-afternoon Wednesday with field conditions good.”
Chris Doud, area agronomist with Pioneer serving northwestern Iowa said that
rainfall ranging from trace amounts to a “good soaking” was reported on Sept.
18, which temporarily delayed the start of soybean harvest for many growers in
“A few soybean fields have been harvested with a wide range of variable yields
at this point—low 40s to mid 60s reported,” he said. “Some farmers have actually
gotten a start on their early corn with the well above average heat units that we
have received that have pushed the crop to maturity ahead of average this
season. Challenges with root lodged corn due to July and August wind damage
has also pushed some producers to the field earlier than normal in order to help
minimize potential harvest losses. Stalk integrity appears to be maintaining itself
better than expected at the moment across much of the area.”
Doud said that “two words can sum up the yield reports on corn thus far across
northern and northwest Iowa—highly variable.”
“Rainfall amounts across the area during the months of June and July were very
spotty. Field performance will vary based on a large a number of factors including
planting date, hybrid maturity, soil conditions at planting, soil moisture holding
and drainage characteristics, insect pressure and the degree of drought stress
that each local areas has experienced this season,” he said. “Reports from the
eastern side of the state appear to be very impressive thus far, with their more
consistent rainfall patterns that developed throughout the critical pollination and
grain fill period. August has helped both crops, but the rains would appear to
have more positively impacted the soybean yields than the corn yields across
much of the area.”
The most commonly asked question this past week, Doud said, is “Will the Sept.
15 frost have a significant impact on soybean yields?”
“The response to this question will depend upon the stage of maturity that the
soybeans were in relative to the day that the frost event occurred. Full season
and/or late planted fields were at the greater risk of being negatively impacted if
they were just beginning or had not yet reached the R7 stage of development
(indicated by having at least 1 normal pod with a mature color),” he said.
“Research data would suggest that soybeans in the R7 stage of development
have roughly 95 percent of their yield determined at that development stage. The
vast majority of our fields in northern and northwest Iowa were beyond or at this
stage of development on Sept. 15.
“Low lying portions of fields tended to experience cooler air temperatures due to
the settling effect that the cold air mass gravitates towards,” he continued. “The
lowest morning air temperatures reported that I am aware of was near the 28-
degree Fahrenheit range in a few isolated locations. This temperature range
would have to maintain itself for three hours to kill a corn plant, but obviously had
the ability to kill off soybean leaves throughout much of the upper and middle
canopy. Most soybean stems have not gotten significantly impacted by the frost
and should therefore continue to send assimilates to the developing pods and
begin to mature at a much quicker rate.”
Harry Hillaker, state climatologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and
Land Stewardship, said that so far in September, precipitation across Iowa has
averaged 2.14 inches, which is slightly below the normal for the first 20 days of
September of 2.49 inches.
“Central and southwest Iowa has been the wettest this month; east central, south
central and southeast the driest,” he said. “Temperatures overall have averaged
about normal; however, there have been periods of both unusually warm and
unusually cold weather—thus ‘normal’ has been an average of two extremes. A
freeze (temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) was recorded across
about the northeastern one-half to two-thirds of Iowa on the morning of Sept. 15.
This was the most widespread freeze recorded in Iowa for so early in the fall
season since Sept. 12-13, 1902.
“However, little crop damage has been reported thanks to a warm growing
season allowing corn and beans to develop in a timely manner,” he continued. “A
few late planted beans (owing to wet spring weather) may have been damaged
by the cold. Lowest official temperatures were 28-degrees Fahrenheit readings at
Spencer, Estherville, Mason City and Elkader.”
Hillaker said that temperatures for the next two weeks are expected to average
much warmer than normal across all of the Corn Belt, especially from Iowa
“Thus chances of another freeze is very low for the next week or two, particularly
for Iowa and points east (the western corn belt cold get some periods of colder
weather),” he said. “Precipitation for the next two weeks is expected to be greater
than usual from the West Coast to Illinois (better odds the further west you go)
and somewhat below normal for the eastern corn belt. The transition from our
current relatively dry weather pattern to a wetter one is expected to begin here in
Iowa about Sept. 24. If this outlook materializes, the most difficult harvest
weather for the next two weeks (between now and Oct. 4) will be in the western
Corn Belt, which is expected to be cooler and wetter relative to the remainder of
the Corn Belt, and generally is already wetter now. In La Nina events, which we
are in, there is a slight tendency for the fall season to average a little warmer and
drier than usual in the upper Midwest.”