Rain delay halrs harvest

Unusually heavy rainfall during the first week of October kept most farmers out of the fields, and largely delayed the start of harvest season. But after dryer weather this past week, farmers began hitting the fields in earnest. Mostly dry weather is expected through the middle of the month, with above-average temperatures as well, and that’s great news for farmers.

Despite the slow start to the harvest season, a few farmers were able to get into their fields just prior to the heavy rains at the start of the month, and the early yield reports have been pretty promising.

Joel DeJong, a field agronomist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who serves the northwestern part of the state, offered some of histhoughts on the start of the harvest season. “Harvest is off to a slow start, so I have heard limited yield reports so far. However, I have talked with some who reported very good yields on soybeans, although most indicated it wasn’t as good as last year. In many years we are close to done by this time for the soybean crop, so we are obviously behind normal. That goes for the corn, also.”

Brian Loerts, an agronomist with Cooperative Farmers Elevator in Rock Rapids, said he’s been pretty impressed with what he’s heard so far. “We kind of just got started here on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the general consensus is that it’s better than expected, but not quite as good as last year. I usually don’t see the yields until the yield monitor cards come out of the combines and we start running that kind of stuff, but you can kind of get a feel from talking with the guys and things like that, so my educated guess is that yields have been better than expected but not quite as good as last year.”

Through the week ending Oct. 8, rain throughout most of the area prevented farmers from spending much time in their fields. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, there was an average of only 2.6 days suitable for fieldwork in Iowa during the first week of October, which was lowest this season since the last week in May.

Furthermore, the week ending Oct. 8 ranked as the wettest week (on average) across the state since July 2014, this according to state climatologist Harry Hillaker with the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship.

In the most recent Iowa Crop Progress and Condition report, released by the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig also made note of the slow start to the harvest season, but remained optimistic about what the weather will do for the rest of the month.

“Unfortunately, very little harvest progress was made due to the wet weather last week. Just 8 percent of corn and 26 percent of beans have been harvested. This puts corn harvest more than two weeks behind the five-year average and soybeans nearly a week behind. Hopefully we can get a run of dry weather that will allow farmers to start getting back in the field,” said Naig.

Although only a small percentage of corn has been harvested in Lyon County, early indicators point to a pretty strong corn crop, and DeJong said the timely rainfall the area received back in early August may have had a significant positive impact on the corn crop. As it stands, Lyon County fields may yield better than fields across the rest of northwest Iowa.

“There has been less of the corn harvested, and I have heard a very large range of yields in northwest Iowa, because parts of the region really struggled for rainfall during much of the summer which hurts the yields,” said DeJong. “However, it seemed to me that Lyon County received more timely rainfall throughout the year, and I have heard some very good yields from the county. I suspect that the range is quite wide, though — even within Lyon County.”

Loerts also believes the rainfall in early August likely had a positive impact on the crops in Lyon County. “I’m kind of impressed given how dry we were in July, but it seems that those August rains really woke things up.”

However, Loerts added that some of the cooler, damper stretches of weather may have had an adverse affect on some fields. “We’ve seen a few fields where some disease set in because of all the cool, wet weather, so I think some of those guys will be a bit disappointed, but there’s not much you can do about the weather.”

Because it’s still very early in the corn harvest process, there are still a lot of unknowns. One thing that may affect the corn crop later this harvest season is the potential for some downed corn due to weak stalks in some of the fields, which can be caused by stretches of wet weather followed by prolonged dry conditions. This can lead to shallow roots and weak stalks as well as a higher risk of disease.

Said DeJong, “I do have some concerns about the ‘standability’ of some of the corn, so producers need to check if the stalk integrity remains good. If not, those fields need to be prioritized for harvest.”

One thing’s for sure as we move into the middle of the month and beyond. “Dry weather would really be appreciated,” added DeJong.

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