As you drive across central Iowa on June 10, you see water sitting in corn and soybean fields everywhere. The heavy and severe thunderstorms of the past week, falling on fields that were already saturated by rains in the wetter than normal month of May, have drowned out areas and reduced 2008's crop production prospects.
"The severe weather and heavy rains have caused significant flooding problems all across the state and agriculture is no exception," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "Unfortunately more rain is predicted for later this week which will further hurt crop progress."
The weekly Iowa Crops and Weather Report released Monday June 9 by Iowa Ag Statistics Service rated the state's corn condition at 56% good or excellent. Last year at this time the crop rated 77% good or excellent. This week's report says 98% of Iowa's 2008 corn crop has been planted and 89% has emerged but it is expected that a higher than usual amount of corn will have to be replanted.
Large areas of fields are flooded
Soybean conditions in the June 9 report are rated 53% good or excellent, compared with 78% at this time last year. Soybeans are 86% planted as of June 9, which is 11% behind last year. Soybeans are 63% emerged, which is 24% behind last year at this time.
"It will take a miracle to grow a good yielding crop of soybeans in these extremely wet fields," observes Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension agronomist. "I've never seen anything like this. Some of our best fields have been lost." In recent days, he has seen corn plants that were yellow from lack of sun, uneven plant height, a lot of weeds, and signs that soil has been compacted by farmers planting fields that were too wet.
There are many drowned-out areas of corn and soybean fields. Other fields have soybean leaves coated with silt due to flooding. He's seen bean plants with rotted stalks from standing in too much water. He predicts 10% of the state's soybeans will have to be replanted.
Late planting, weeds will reduce yield
Replanting at such a late date means reduced yield potential compared to planting earlier in the spring. "Weeds will also cost farmers a lot of yield, and the wet fields are setting the stage for insects and disease to move in later," notes Pedersen. "There are many issues we are dealing with this year."
ISU Extension corn agronomist Roger Elmore says there's still time to produce a good corn crop because warmer weather and drier conditions can make a difference. "In some years, the crop has been planted late and still yielded pretty well. In other years, when it was planted late, it hasn't done so well. A lot depends on what the rest of the growing season is like."
Lower yields of crops could add up to higher food costs for consumers, already paying higher prices for food. Higher corn prices could also result in hard times for Iowa's ethanol industry, says Dave Swenson, an ISU Extension economist.
Iowa would feel impact of a poor harvest
"The state's overall economy will face far-reaching ramifications if corn and bean crops don't do well," says Swenson. "We've seen incredible increases in grain prices, so for those farmers who have a crop in, there will be economic benefits. For those who didn't get a crop in, there will be a reduction in their farm income."
Those drops in income will ripple across the region. "There will be some pockets of the state that will take a harder hit than others," notes Swenson.
A short crop will put some farmers in a financial bind. Some have forward contracted or pre-sold a portion of their 2008 crops by selling a percentage of the anticipated corn harvest. If production problems cause their crop yields to drop below the amount they have forward-sold, these farmers might be forced to buy corn at a higher price than they were paid in advance.
Wet weather has hit farmers across a wide swath of the Corn Belt, says Brent Wilson, technical services manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston. He says not many farmers have switched from planting corn to soybeans, which can be planted later in the growing season. June 15 to 20 is a about as late as you would want to plant corn in Iowa. Switching from corn to beans is about the only option at this late date.