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Rain bogs down bountiful harvest

Article cover photo
Mark Jackson examines a four bean pod that he found while scouting a field yesterday. For many, harvest has been put on hold as rain and cool conditions prohibit field work. (Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer, and Joe Murphy, ISA Senior Communications Manager

Unwanted rain delays kept combines out of the fields for most of last week making some Iowa farmers nervous.

Only 26 percent of the state's soybeans are harvested and 8 percent of corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture weekly Iowa Crop Progress and Condition Report released Tuesday.

Soybean harvest is nearly a week behind average, per the report. For corn, more than double that.

Jeff Jorgenson of Sidney got back in the saddle Wednesday of his John Deere combine after sparse seat time the past week. Field conditions aren't ideal after two rain events deposited several inches in the far southwest corner of the state, he said, but the calendar and plant quality says it's time to go.

"We're pushing it, there's no doubt about it," said Jorgenson. "It's time to get the crops in the bin."

The Iowa Soybean Association Board member hopes to start cutting soybeans today. He noticed 5 percent of soybean pods in one variety either cracked or split. Fields are ready.

Jorgenson said corn plants are starting to deteriorate. Lodging is occurring and the tops of some plants are falling over, indicating they may not hold the ear much longer, he said.

After a near perfect growing season - one of a few areas in the state that received adequate moisture - Jorgenson doesn't want to lose any of the promising crop.

"Loss is a worry. You can't pick beans up off the ground," he said. "We're behind but can catch up."

There were only 2.6 days suitable for fieldwork last week, the lowest amount since the last week of May, per the report.

The percent of soybeans harvested varies widely, ranging from 9 percent in south central Iowa to 47 percent in the east central part of the state. The soybean crop is rated 62 percent good to excellent.

Sixty percent of the state's corn is rated in good to excellent condition. Only 13 percent has yet to reach maturity, according to the report. Moisture content of corn being harvested averages 22 percent.

"Hopefully we can get a run of dry weather that will allow farmers to start getting back in the field," Mike Naig, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, said in a statement.

Yesterday, the USDA's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates held domestic soybean production nearly steady from its September estimate, but lowered ending stocks by 45 million bushels. U.S. soybean production is forecast at a record 4.43 billion bushels. While up 3 percent from last year, the latest projection was a tick below September's estimate. The USDA pegged the average U.S. soybean yield at 49.5 bushels per acre, down 0.4 bushels. In Iowa, the yield is forecast to be 56 bushels per acre, down one bushel from September's estimate.

Many Iowa farmers questioned the government's early production and yield forecasts given widespread drought conditions during much of the summer.

The yield monitor in Tom Adam's combine indicates the USDA may be right.

Despite a shortage of moisture until the end of August, the Harper farmer said yields are surprisingly good. He's half done with soybeans and 80-acres into corn harvest.

Soybeans are averaging in the high 50s per bushel per acre on lighter, rougher ground, he said. Corn is averaging about 200 bushels per acre.

"I can see the better ground yielding better," the ISA Board member said. "The cooler temperatures and the timeliness of late rains saved us from a crop disaster. I'm astonished by the yields."

Soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade climbed to a two-week high on Monday due to concerns about dry weather in Brazil causing planting delays. November soybeans closed Wednesday at $9.65 per bushel.

ISA member Brock Hansen, a row crop farmer from Baxter, said he is 80 percent finished with beans and echoes many other growers when it comes to yields. He's surprised.

"Better than expected," Hansen said. "I'm a little disappointed in our beans, but we came off our best year last year."

Hansen said yields for his soybeans last year averaged 72 to 73 bushels per acre. This year, he believes they will average 65.

"I shouldn't shake a stick at that at all," he said. "In July, if you wanted to buy 50 bushel-per-acre beans off of me, I would have sold every bushel. I didn't think we were going to have any better than that the way they looked then."

Hansen attributes the better-than-expected yields to strong seed genetics, especially in corn, that overcame the dry conditions. He also said that his area benefited from dry, cool conditions compared to other areas of the state that faced dry, hot conditions.

"I think we are going to have a hard time arguing with our seed dealers this year for lower prices," he said. "I don't know where the corn got the moisture to do what it is doing. I have faith that we will beat last year's yield on corn."

As harvest progresses for Hansen and other farmers, the question becomes where will the grain be stored?

Hansen started bagging corn last week and knows he will have more as his harvest kicks into high gear after the rain delays clear.

"It feels like it is going to be a long drown out harvest right now but I think it will come along pretty quick if we can get some good weather," he said.



For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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