With the dry weather continuing this past week, harvest 2011 continues to advance rapidly. Many farmers are starting to move onto other fall field work, such as tillage, installing soil conservation practices and applying fertilizer.
The latest weekly weather and crop conditions survey conducted by the Iowa Office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines was released October 24 and it shows that the dry spell is affecting soil moisture statewide. Topsoil moisture is averaging 35% very short and 37% short for Iowa, based on conditions as of October 23, 2011. About 71% of the corn crop had been harvested as of that date, which is two weeks ahead of the 5-year average. And 59% of the corn remaining in the field is in good to excellent condition. Soybean harvest is 95% complete, more than two weeks ahead of the average pace.
Over 71% of Iowa's corn crop has been harvested, 95% of soybeans
Dry weather prevailed across the state with only light showers delaying harvest across southwestern Iowa on Saturday afternoon and evening, October 22. The dry weather aided harvest progress and allowed tillage, terracing, tiling, and fertilizer applications to continue with few delays. However, soil moisture shortages increased, according to the report. Warm day time temperatures and mostly gentle breezes promoted grain dry-down. The average moisture content of standing corn is estimated at 17% in the field.
There were 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week. Topsoil moisture levels rated 35% very short, 37% short, 27% adequate, and 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated 29% very short, 40% short, 30% adequate, and 1% surplus. Grain movement continued at a busy pace, with 54% of the state seeing moderate to heavy grain movement from farm to elevator. As the harvest season approaches the home stretch, 93% of the state reports adequate or surplus off-farm storage capacity and 87% of the state reports adequate or surplus on-farm storage capacity.
Grain movement continues at busy pace, with room to store crops
As of October 23, the survey shows 71% of the corn crop has been harvested for grain or seed, 4 days behind 2010 but 2 Weeks ahead of the five-year average. Corn condition stands at 5% very poor, 9% poor, 27% fair, 46% good, and 13% excellent. Soybean harvest advanced to 95% complete, behind last year's 97% but over 2 weeks ahead of the average pace. More than 90% of the soybeans are harvested in every district except the East Central and Southeast Iowa, where harvest is at 88% and 89%, respectively.
Pasture and range condition is rated 20% very poor, 27% poor, 33% fair, 19% good and 1% excellent. Hay supplies are considered short across 22% of Iowa. Livestock producers continued moving cattle to stalk fields.
IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—as of October 23, 2011
By Harry Hillaker, state climatologist, Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
The past reporting week began with temperatures well below normal. Daytime highs were only in the 50s on Monday (Oct. 17) and Thursday (Oct. 20), mid 40s to mid 50s on Tuesday and mostly 40s on Wednesday. Overnight lows fell to 19 degrees at Sheldon on Wednesday morning and to 18 degrees at Battle Creek on Friday morning. A hard freeze was reported over parts of northern Iowa each day from Monday morning through Thursday morning with a statewide freeze on Friday morning.
A warming trend began on Friday afternoon with high temperatures mostly in the 70s by Sunday (Oct. 23). Onawa, Shenandoah and Sidney reported the week's highest temperatures with 78 degree readings on Sunday. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 3.2 degrees below normal.
Light rain fell over the southwest one-third of the state on both Monday (Oct. 17) and Saturday night into Sunday morning. Weekly rain totals varied from none over much of the northeast two-thirds of Iowa to 0.22 inch at Underwood (Pottawattamie County). The statewide average precipitation was only 0.03 inch while normal for the week is 0.53 inch. Soil temperatures as of Sunday (Oct. 23) averaged from the low 50s northeast to mid 50s southwest.
Corn and soybean harvest 2011 is about wrapped up in northwest Iowa
"Crop harvest has about wrapped up here in eastern northwest Iowa," says Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist at Spencer. "Soybean harvest has been mostly complete since about October 10. Corn harvest has been mostly complete since last weekend or about October 22."
There has been some major excitement with some field fires – especially on September 29 and a few assorted days after that, he reports. "I'm sure I've never seen this number of field fires and the extensive damage from the field fires like we had this year. Luckily, there have been very few field fires since early October. Also the farmers responded to the fire potential very well. Many brought a tillage implement and a tractor to the fields where they were harvesting."
Crop yields have been mostly good, says Kassel. "I'd say soybean yields have been in the low 50s, for the most part. Many of the soybeans were harvested during some very warm dry weather and the grain moisture was often only 7% to 9%. So that invisible shrink decreased yields for some farmers who harvested during that time frame."
Corn yields were a pleasant surprise for many northwest Iowa farmers
Corn yields were pleasantly surprising, he adds. Many farmers reported corn yields in the 170 to 190 bushel per acre range. Of course some was better and some was worse – but that was the general range. Also, grain moisture was very favorable, with many farmers harvesting corn that was in the 14% to 16% range. "Some corn was harvested in early October and that corn was in the upper teens for moisture," says Kassel.
What about the corn that was flattened by severe windstorms in August? "This fall's nice weather for harvesting was favorable for harvesting the corn that was flattened by the August 23 storm. It still was a big chore to harvest that flattened corn – it was slow and tedious – but at least the weather helped out," he notes.