In the 10 county area of central and west central Iowa, the soybean harvest is more than 95% complete and the corn is probably over 80% complete, with pockets well over that, says Mark Johnson. That's the area Johnson covers. He's an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist.
"Field work and anhydrous ammonia application have begun," he reports. "As we look back over the harvest season there are two key things that are evident."
First, the fields with enough slope were not as adversely affected by the excess rains this past spring. They yielded better than the flatter fields that had excess rains. This was especially true for soybean yields. "Soybean yields this fall have ranged from the mid-20s in bushels per acre to the high 70s," he says. "Much of the variation in yield this year had to do slope of the fields and the rainfall patterns. Corn ranged from 120 bushels per acre up to 250 bushels per acre, or more in some fields. With corn, much of the yield variation had to do with rainfall patterns and to a lesser extent slope."
Corn a little lighter, good stored grain management needed
Second, although many acres of both corn and soybeans were either planted late or replanted late with maturity coming after prime drying weather, there really hasn't been a problem with grain quality in central Iowa. "The test weight of corn has been less than the last few years, but still well within number 2 corn range," says Johnson. "The slightly lighter test weight will shorten storage life. So proper drying, aeration and management of stored corn is something to pay attention to with this year's crop."
Corn rootworm damage this year was at the lowest level in decades in Johnson's area of the state. "I did not get one call on this and when I was in fields, I checked for and found no significant damage," he says. "Overall, 2014 has been a very good year for many soybean and corn growers, with some exceptions. I don't think we will set a new state average yield for either the corn or the soybean crop this year, but many farmers are very pleased with their yields."
Storage availability is becoming an issue in some areas
As harvest is winding down, finding a home for crops still in the field is becoming an issue in some parts of the state. This week began with Monday's weekly USDA survey showing 91% of Iowa's soybean harvest completed, and the state's corn harvest 61% complete. Although off-farm storage availability was rated 89% adequate to surplus as of November 2, the report said a few elevators were running short on storage space or limiting incoming grain. That could further delay harvest.
Dan Furlin, Jr. finished combining his soybeans last week. He does custom work for neighbors near Numa in Appanoose County in southern Iowa. Getting those beans finished up is proving more challenging. "The biggest problem is the elevator is full," Furlin says. "If you got a load, you need to call ahead to see if they can take it. Corn hasn't been a problem. They will just pile it."
Longer lines at elevators are beginning to show up
Longer lines at elevators are starting to become an issue, notes Furlin. Waits up to 30 minutes to dump are common. Neither is a surprise as farmers combine the third largest soybean crop in Iowa history at an estimated 504 million bushels and the largest corn crop ever at 2.44 billion bushels. Experts projected storage space would be tight this fall, even though Iowa leads the nation in total capacity at nearly 3.5 billion bushels.
Grain movement from farm to elevator was rated 60% moderate to heavy last week, increasing 2 percentage points. On-farm storage availability was 83% adequate to surplus, according to the weekly USDA survey.
Furlin says his soybeans averaged about 55 bushels per acre, fairly common in his area. Fields hit hard by sudden death syndrome, though, yielded in the 30s, he notes.
Furlin hopes to finish custom harvesting soybeans by the end of this week. Early corn yields are promising at 200 bushels per acre at about 16%moisture, he says. "Any time you get 50-bushel beans in southern Iowa, that's pretty good," says Furlin. "The poorer ground did better than the more fertile ground."
Corn moisture content in Iowa is now running about 18%
Moisture content of harvested corn statewide is averaging 18%, USDA's weekly report says. Of the corn crop still standing, 76% is reported in good to excellent condition.
Farmer Delbert Westphalen of Atlantic expects to finish combining corn this week. Bean harvest wrapped up two weeks ago for him. "We're dodging wet spots and leaving corn in the field. However, the grain is coming out nice and dry at 16% moisture," he says.
Yields, though, aren't so nice. A July hail storm shredded most of his fields. Most of his corn is averaging about 100 bushels per acre instead of 180 to 200, Westphalen estimates. Hail-damaged soybeans averaged about 25 bushels per acre. Fields that were spared yielded in the mid-60s. "We had a good crop coming, then the hail hit," he says. "What's done is done. There's always next year." He's thankful for good hail insurance and for federal crop insurance, though he's rather not use it. "We have a good safety net, but I'd rather have a good crop," he adds.