A variable growing season has led to variable results across the field as harvest begins. (Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association).
An update from the field
September 29, 2022 | Kriss Nelson
Iowa Soybean Association farmer-members from each of the association’s nine districts weighed in on how harvest is going, or the lack thereof.
The theme for the year seems to be “variable.” Not only did the growing season bring variable weather but yields also vary throughout the field.
There has been a good start to harvest in Clay County in northwest Iowa.
Brent Swart, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 1 Director from Spencer, says combines began hitting the fields last week in soybeans and corn.
One of the biggest issues facing farmers in northwest Iowa is the drought. Along Highway 18 and counties to the north were fortunate to receive some rains, whereas Swart says they weren’t as lucky.
“We got some rains around the Fourth of July and the first week of August, but the amounts were variable, and they didn’t always equate to as much as we needed,” he says.
Harvest has started to happen in those drier areas, and so far, Swart is estimating yields to be in the mid-50 bushel to the acre range. There is some hope the areas that received rains will yield better.
“Yields have been slightly below expectations, but we still have a lot of story to tell,” says Swart.
Farmers should be aware soybeans are drying and drying fast.
“The moisture of soybeans is extremely dry right now – between 9 and 10 percent. That’s a big difference between there and 13 percent, which is ideal,” he says. “It takes the top end off the yield. You can roughly figure two to three bushel an acre loss.”
This week, the soybean harvest wrapped up for Reed Burres in Humboldt County.
Much like others from across Iowa, “variation” was the theme for Burres’ growing season.
“I say variation because of rainfall we did or didn’t get. In some cases, we heard of a five-inch difference in precipitation within five miles,” he says. “We received six inches from May to September.”
The variation didn’t stop with the weather.
“So far, we have seen a lot of variation in soybean yields, from 35- to 60 bushels to the acre,” he says. “It just depends on where you are at. I think your soil types will tell the tale this year.”
As Burres switches over to begin the corn harvest, he is feeling optimistic.
“I think corn yields will be reasonable for what we have had for moisture. That is the silver lining,” he says.
Ryan Oberbroeckling from Garnavillo in Clayton County has been working on soybeans for a week and is pleased with the early-harvest results.
“Our early maturity, non-GMO beans have been yielding well,” he says.
They were also able to seed their winter wheat crop on Monday.
Oberbroeckling’s corn is still wet, testing at 30% moisture, partly due to the later than preferred planting dates.
“Our planting season was later due to cool, wet conditions,” he says. “But, it was followed by a great summer and normal rainfall. I believe yields will be good.”
“Hurry up and wait, and then it’s fast and furious,” is how James Hepp, a Calhoun County farmer from Rockwell City, describes the early harvest.
Variability is the growing season theme and seems to continue into fall.
“My area is super dry, but we are pretty blessed,” he says. “Yields are all over the place. Some of the fields that got a little rain, there is at least a 10 bushel an acre difference all just within a couple of miles with the same maturity.”
Those dryer fields are averaging 55 bushels to the acre, with the ones receiving more rain, 65 to 70 bushels to the acre.
As far as soybean harvest conditions, looks have been deceiving for Hepp.
“They look wet, but I get out there, and they’re dried down to 11 to 12 percent,” he says. “Some low areas have been tough, and unfortunately, I have had to cut out as much as I can and come back a couple of days later.”
Hepp is looking forward to the next few weeks as his later maturity varieties in corn and soybeans are ready for harvest.
“They appear to be better, visually,” he says. “I think my later 112-day corn and 2.8 soybeans look good compared to my 105-day corn and 2.0 soybeans.”
Dan DeVries, of Prairie City in Jasper County, started harvesting on Monday. So far, harvest conditions are ideal, and he says those soils that can handle a drought year are the ones bringing in the yields.
He anticipates soybean yields in his area to range from 55 to 65 bushels to the acre.
“Soybean yields are acceptable, considering the year, and are variable according to the field,” he says. “Higher fertility fields are yielding excellent, lower fertility fields ran out of moisture and are yielding quite a bit lower.”
DeVries has harvested high moisture corn for livestock feed and expects moisture to be creeping closer to the 20% range daily.
“The weather is helping, but the farmers taking corn are obviously drying it. I don’t think there is anything dry enough to take straight to the grain bin without drying,” he says.
It will come down to the health of the soil for corn yields as well. DeVries is estimating lower fertility areas will see 150 bushels an acre yields, with higher fertility soils going as high as 250+ bushels an acre.
To DeVries, it all comes down to the soil.
“I believe the farmer that put in the extra effort for overall soil health this year will see it pay off,” he says. “This year, the organic matter held moisture, and moisture adds to yields. I think this is a year where cover crops and farmers focusing on soil health will be pleasantly surprised.”
Harvest is off to a slow start in the Muscatine County area.
Dave Walton, ISA District 6 Director from Wilton, says it might be next week before they can start their soybean harvest.
“We have some green leaves and green stems, so we are going to let them dry out for a little bit,” he says. “Sounds like we have some great weather coming up, but I am pretty anxious to get into the beans this year; they look really, really good.”
So far, Walton has harvested silage and earlage and just started corn harvest on Wednesday. Yields in silage are better than expected.
Although planting was delayed with soybeans not getting into the ground until near May 5, and cool and dry after that, conditions shaped up.
“We had some timely rains and lots of sunshine through July and August,” he says. “Pretty ideal weather from growing high-yielding beans.”
The Bissell family from Bedford in Taylor County started harvest last week, and much like their spring, harvest has been a challenge.
“It’s going slow. We fought rain last week, but yields are better than expected,” says Aimee Bissell.
Typically, the Bissells harvest all of their corn before starting soybeans, but that doesn’t appear to be the case this year. They will work at harvesting corn as it dries before switching to soybeans within the next few weeks.
“We were off to a wet, cold start, but we have good varieties and have been dealt with good genetics. All things considered, yields have been promising, and we will still have a crop,” she says.
The south central part of Iowa hasn’t seen much harvest action quite yet, according to Bob Witt of Macksburg in Madison County.
“There are still a lot of green beans, and the corn is still wet,” he says. “We’re not in a hurry; it’s not even October yet.”
Although it could be a few more weeks until he begins harvest, Witt says he expects decent yields.
As far as the growing season that has led to the 2022 harvest, Witt says it was unusual.
“We went from one extreme to the other,” he says. “We had some water. Then we didn’t.”
Harvest is just under way in Washington County near the town of Keota.
Lance Bell says the past two days with the weather cooperating have brought a few people to the field in his area.
“I expect the momentum will gradually build up in the next week,” he says. “The days are beautiful. You couldn’t ask for nicer weather.”
Bell says he started some corn and has to take it to the dryer while Mother Nature does the work to dry down the rest in the field.
“I’ve only been in a couple of varieties so far, and they were slight earlier hybrids and not yielding very well,” he says. “I am hoping things get better.”
Bell’s concern comes from the lack of rainfall.
“We are especially dry. We had a really good start to the growing season, unfortunately, shortly after the first of July, it just quit raining, and it was tough to get much rain after that,” he says. “The lack of rain has tempered out my enthusiasm for harvest.”
Iowa Crop Progress and Condition report
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), farmers took advantage of 5.5 days suitable for fieldwork to get harvest underway during the week ending Sept. 25.
Soybean harvest reached 7%, four days behind last year and three days behind the average. Soybean condition rated 62% good to excellent.
Harvest of the state’s corn crop was 5% complete, five days behind last year and one day behind the five-year average. Corn conditions remained 64% good to excellent.