Iowa farmers are wrapping up harvest a lot faster than normal, and yields in much of the state are generally turning out better than expected in this year of widespread drought. Now 93% complete, the state's 2012 corn harvest is finishing one month ahead of normal. For soybeans 96% of the crop is in the bin. That's according to the weekly USDA crop conditions report, released October 22 and based on surveys compiled as of October 21.
How did crops beat expectations? There is no single reason, farmers and agronomists say. Some point to the new biotech crop varieties that are better able to withstand drought and stress. Some say no-till cropping methods saved precious moisture in the soil. Some fields got lucky and received spotty showers at the right time. Iowa State University Extension agronomist Mahdi Al-Kaisi says the pleasant surprise came about because of subsoil moisture availability. Improved seed technology led to better rooting depth which allowed plants in many fields to reach down and use the reserve moisture supply at depths of 5 feet or lower.
In 2012 Iowa experienced the hottest July since the epic heat wave of 1936
The summer of 2012 saw the hottest July since the historic drought and heat wave of 1936. The highest temperatures in Iowa in 2012 came exactly during pollination time and prompted dire forecasts of disastrously low yields. But many farmers say their corn yields have turned out 20 or 30 bushels per acre better than they expected. Bean yields are also generally averaging better than expected.
"Although many farmers are finished now with their 2012 harvest, we have over one billion dollars of crops still to be harvested," notes Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. "We are hopeful the rest of the crops will come out in the same good condition as those already harvested."
The complete weekly Iowa Crops & Weather Report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's site or on USDA's website. A summary of the report follows here:
CROP REPORT: Widespread recent rain has briefly delayed Iowa harvest, but Iowa needs a lot more rain to recharge depleted soil moisture supply for 2013 crop
Widespread rain during the week that ended October 21 briefly delayed harvest for Iowa's farmers, but progress remains ahead of normal pace. Even without a whole week to operate in fields, soybean harvesting in northwest and north-central Iowa was virtually complete, according to the surveys conducted by the Iowa field office of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Farmers who are done with harvest have been doing tillage of fields and applying manure during the past week.
There were 4.5 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week. Topsoil moisture levels improved to 31% very short, 38% short, 29% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture improved and is now rated 60% very short, 34% short, 6% adequate, and 0% surplus. Grain movement slowed a bit, with 31% of the state seeing moderate to heavy grain movement from farm to elevator. As the 2012 harvest season nears completion, 98% of the state is reporting adequate or surplus off-farm storage capacity and 96% of Iowa is reporting adequate or surplus on-farm storage capacity.
As of October 21 Iowa corn harvest is 93% complete, a month ahead of normal
As of October 21 the corn harvest is 93% finished, one month ahead of normal. Last year at this time, only 64% of Iowa's corn crop had been harvested. As of October 21 the state's soybean crop is 96% harvested, almost three weeks ahead of normal.
Only 27% of Iowa's pasture and range land is rated in fair or better condition, a five percentage point increase from last week. Pasture and range condition is rated at 47% very poor, 26% poor, 22% fair, 5% good and 0% excellent. Hay supplies are considered short across 42% of Iowa with 39% of the hay supply considered in good condition. Livestock conditions are normal. No health problems have been reported.
IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—for week ending October 21, 2012
By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship
A slow moving storm system brought light to moderate rain to all of Iowa on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this past week. Greatest rain totals occurred over east-central and far western Iowa with a few locations receiving over an inch. The remainder of the reporting week was dry. Rain totals varied from 0.05 inches at Forest City to 1.30 inches at Remsen (Plymouth County). The statewide average precipitation was 0.50 inches or just less than the weekly normal of 0.56. The lowest temperatures occurred on Monday (October 15) morning with Sheldon and Spencer reporting 26 degrees. Widespread cloud cover kept daytime highs only in the 40s over most of Iowa on both Thursday and Friday.
However, there were also two very warm days with high temperatures mostly in the 70s on Tuesday (October 16) and Sunday (October 21). Donnellson and Keosauqua were the warm spots on Tuesday reaching 81 degrees while Bedford, Des Moines, Indianola and Shenandoah also peaked at 81 on Sunday. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 1.7 degrees above normal. Soil temperatures as of Sunday averaged in the low 50s north to mid-50s south and are expected to warm further through Wednesday or Thursday of this week—before it cools down again.