Harvest expected to push record levels
USDA pegs second-best year for corn, best for soybeans
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QUASQUETON — Combines are rolling as Iowa farmers begin harvesting excellent corn and soybean crops expected to challenge if not exceed yield records.
Tracy Franck, who started combining corn just west of this Buchanan County town Monday, thinks he will harvest his best crop ever.
So does Washington County farmer Rob Brenneman, who went “hammer down” Monday after opening up a field of corn Thursday.
“Last year’s crop was really, really good. Throw in one more ‘really’ for this year’s crop,” Brenneman said.
Both Franck and Brenneman, who farm 100 miles apart, said their crops benefitted from a perfect summer.
“It was a little wet, but not too wet, and it was cool during pollination,” Brenneman said.
Franck said his crops always got rain well before they needed it but never too much at once.
Franck said he has a sandy, creek-bottom field that grew its first excellent corn crop in memory.
“Every year until this year we’ve gotten a dry spell that hurts the yield in that field,” he said.
Though farmers in some parts of the state may harvest their best crops ever this fall, Iowa State University Extension corn specialist Mark Licht said he does not think Iowa farmers collectively will break the 182 bushels per acre yield record they established in 2009.
“I’m thinking 180 statewide. We just had too much precipitation in the southern third of the state,” Licht said.
Meaghan Anderson, ISU Extension field agronomist for Eastern Iowa, said she’s “not hearing much about bin busters this year.”
If Anderson had to bet, she said she would bet against Iowa farmers breaking the record.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its Sept. 11 forecast, pegged Iowa’s corn crop at 2.407 billion bushels, which would make it the state’s second largest corn crop. The USDA’s projected 181-bushels-per-acre yield would rank second behind 2009’s 182 bushels per acre.
Iowa’s soybean crop, pegged at 525.8 million bushels, would be the state’s largest, and the state’s 53 bushels per acre projected yield would also top the 2005 record.
Iowa will remain the nation’s top corn producer and second-largest soybean producer behind Illinois, according to the USDA forecast.
In addition to the excessive rain in southern Iowa, Licht said northern corn leaf blight also will depress yields in fields that were not sprayed with fungicide.
Franck said the yield monitor in his combine was reading 200 bushels per acre in the unsprayed cornfield he started combining Monday. The untreated leaf blight in that field, planted with corn rated 100 days to maturity, was costing him at least 15 bushels per acre, he said.
Franck said he left that field untreated so it would be ready for harvest earlier in the season. Some of his treated fields with longer maturity dates are still showing green in their leaves and stalks, he said.
Brenneman said he attributes his bumper crop not only to ideal weather but also to fungicide treatment of all his fields and his use of cover crops to increase his soil’s fertility.
Both Franck and Brenneman said the corn they combined Monday had a moisture content of about 23 percent — well above the 13 percent to 15 percent range considered optimum for storage.
Last week’s warm, windy days reduced his corn’s moisture content about 1 percent per day, Franck said.
With a warm, dry forecast extending through the end of the month, corn should continue its rapid dry-down, saving farmers time and money in preparing their crops for storage.