Iowa's 2012 Corn Harvest Off To Fast Start

Iowa's 2012 Corn Harvest Off To Fast Start

Harvest 2012 is underway and 10% of Iowa's corn crop has already been harvested, three weeks ahead of normal.

USDA's weekly survey of Iowa crop and weather conditions shows as of September 9, already 10% of Iowa's 2012 corn harvest has been completed. That's a record pace driven by the drought-stricken condition of the state's corn crop. "Harvest is getting underway and 10% of the corn crop has been harvested," notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "This has certainly been a challenging year for all farmers, but I think many are excited to get into the field and see exactly what yields will be."

EARLY START: "It's not surprising the combines are rolling already. Corn matures based on number of heat units accumulated and we've had an ample number of those with the hot, dry summer," says farmer Bruce Rohwer of Paullina, Iowa.

The latest weekly report, based on conditions as of September 9, was assembled and released September 10 by the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines. It shows 52% of Iowa's corn is in poor to very poor condition, a slight improvement over the previous week's 55% poor to very poor. Nationally, 52% of the corn crop is rated poor to very poor after the worst drought in more than 50 years.

Farmers report widely varying yield results, with corn in some areas of fields where soil is sandy or light, yielding virtually nothing while other places in the field where soil is more productive and has better moisture-holding capacity are getting 200 bushels per acre.

Yields are varying significantly from row to row, and even within same row
Brian Larson of Sunderman Farm Management at Fort Dodge observes, "There is a tremendous variation in yields. I've seen as high as 230 bushels per acre on the yield monitor in the combine, and zero in other places in the same field." At this early stage of the harvest season, based on what he's seen so far, his estimate is the crop in the Ft. Dodge area is running about 60% of normal.

For soybeans, 37% of Iowa's soybean crop is poor to very poor. Very little soybean harvesting has been done yet as farmers are moving quickly to get corn harvested first, as they fear fields with weak cornstalks could fall flat if winds come along. Loyd Brown of Hertz Farm Management at Nevada, says corn yields are "all over the board" on farms his company manages in Iowa and other Midwestern states.


Corn prices fell 16 cents a bushel to $7.83 on September 10—a six-week low on the Chicago Board of Trade as traders are looking ahead to USDA's monthly crop yield forecast to be released September 12. Traders anticipate USDA will reduce the estimated number of acres to be harvested in 2012 and also reduce livestock feed demand for corn. Arlan Suderman, market analyst for Wallaces Farmer magazine, looks for end users of corn "to become more aggressive buyers on this price break."

Price of Iowa farmland continues to stay strong, despite historic 2012 drought
Hertz also has a farm real estate division, and Brown says demand for farmland has so far withstood the drought of 2012. Hertz auctioned an 80-acre parcel for $10,200 an acre last week in Story County in central Iowa. "The demand for land is still there," says Brown. "We continue to get inquiries from investors wanting to know about the possibility of buying Iowa farmland."

Iowa has averaged 172 bushels per acre for corn over the last three years, but farmers and commodity market analysts are braced for a lower statewide yield average for Iowa this year. Some of them say yields could range from just under 120 bushels per acre for a statewide average in 2012, to as much as the 144 bushels per acre USDA forecast in its August Crop Report. "It will be interesting to see what yield number USDA releases in its September Crop Report on September 12," notes Suderman.

Farmers are concentrating on harvesting fields that have weaker cornstalks
The complete weekly Iowa Crops & Weather condition report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's site or on USDA's site Here's a summary the latest report:

CROP REPORT: Corn harvest continued during the week that ended September 9 with many farmers concentrating on fields that have weaker stalks and those damaged by wind. A few producers have also started harvesting soybeans, according to the latest weekly USDA crop conditions survey. There are reports of some farmers being able to get a fourth and even fifth cutting of alfalfa hay.


There were 6.1 days suitable for fieldwork statewide during the past week. Topsoil moisture level is rated at 48% very short, 36% short, 16% adequate and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture improved slightly and is now rated at 63% very short, 30% short, 7% adequate and 0% surplus.

Survey shows 10% of Iowa corn crop already harvested, 3 weeks ahead of normal
As of September 9 the survey shows 97% Iowa's corn crop has reached dent stage, ahead of last year's 91% and the five-year average of 79%. It shows 72% of the corn crop is now mature, well ahead of last year's 28% and the five-year average of 25%. Ten percent of the Iowa corn crop has already been harvested for grain or seed, three weeks ahead of normal.

Grain moisture content of all corn in the field is estimated at 26%, while the grain moisture content of corn being harvested is estimated at 21%. Corn lodging is rated at 57% none, 25% light, 13% moderate and 5% heavy. Ear droppage is rated at 71% none, 21% light, 7% moderate and 1% heavy. Corn condition improved slightly and is now rated at 22% very poor, 30% poor, 32% fair, 15% good and 1% excellent.

Three-quarters of Iowa soybean crop is turning color, a 26% jump from last week
As of September 9, the survey shows 77% of the 2012 Iowa soybean crop is turning color, a jump of 26% from last week. And 26% of Iowa's soybean fields are dropping leaves, five days ahead of last year. Soybean condition statewide is reported at 13% very poor, 24% poor, 39% fair, 23% good and 1% excellent.

Iowa's pasture land is rated 23% in fair or better condition. Pasture and range condition improved slightly to 49% very poor, 28% poor, 19% fair, 4% good and 0% excellent. Livestock conditions for the past week were excellent. Due to poor pasture conditions, some farmers are having to supplement their cattle with grain and hay.


About 80% of Iowa's soils statewide are now rated as being deficient in moisture. A year ago, as the dry late summer period of 2011 began to be felt, 43% of Iowa's soil was deficient of plant-available moisture. "Clearly, Iowa is going to need a recharge in subsoil moisture reserves for the 2013 crop," notes Bruce Rohwer, a northwest Iowa farmer who is president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

IOWA PRELIMINARY WEATHER SUMMARY—for week ending September 9, 2012
By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

The past reporting week began with a few scattered light showers and thunderstorms on Monday (September 3) with significant rain falling over the extreme northeast corner of the state. Thunderstorms brought widespread rainfall to the northeast two-thirds of Iowa on Tuesday (September 4) afternoon into Wednesday (September 5) morning with some locally heavy rain in northeast Iowa. Rain again fell over much of the northeast two-thirds of the state on Thursday (September 6) night into Friday (September 7) morning. Finally, very light rain fell over much of the state on Friday.

The storms of Tuesday and Thursday nights also brought scattered areas of high winds and large hail. Rain totals for the week as a whole were near to above average across the northeast one-half of Iowa while the southwest one-third of the state saw little if any rain. Rain totals varied from none at locations such as Glenwood, Red Oak and Corning to 3.71 inches near Elkader. The statewide average precipitation was 0.81 inches or just less than the weekly normal of 0.84 inches.

Unseasonably warm weather prevailed through Thursday with Tuesday, September 4 being the hottest day in most areas with daytime highs in the 90s statewide. Much cooler air dominated the state over the weekend with highs mostly in the 70s. Temperature extremes for the week varied from Tuesday afternoon highs of 98 degrees at Indianola, Little Sioux, Logan and Sioux City to a Saturday morning low of 37 degrees at Sibley. Temperatures for the week as a whole averaged 1.6 degrees above normal.

TAGS: Soybean USDA
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