Business

Eastern Iowa corn, soybeans weeks ahead of schedule

A farmer harvests soybeans in Robins. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A farmer harvests soybeans in Robins. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Farmers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s east-central Iowa district are likely to start harvesting earlier than usual this year due to cooperative spring and summer weather, with signs pointing to another high-yield harvest.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report released Tuesday, the east-central Iowa reporting district:

• Corn denting, the second-to-last phase in the corn life cycle, has reached 94 percent and corn reaching maturity is at 51 percent, compared to the five-year averages for denting and maturity, at 75 percent and 14 percent respectively.

• Soybean leaves turning yellow in the east-central district is at 79 percent and leaves falling off, a sign the plants are ready for harvest, is at 33 percent.

The east-central reporting district covers Benton, Linn, Jones, Jackson, Iowa, Johnson, Cedar, Clinton, Scott and Muscatine counties.

These figures are far ahead of the five-year average, which is 38 percent of soybeans with coloring leaves and 8 percent of plants with dropping leaves.

Virgil Schmitt, an agronomist with Iowa State University Extension, said corn and soybean plants do best with warm May and June months and cooler July and August months.

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This May was the warmest on record for the area and June was the 10th-warmest, while July was half a degree below normal.

This August was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the average, but Schmitt said the general weather pattern allowed the plants to establish themselves early in the heat and fill more of its pods and kernels with moisture longer.

“What that did was basically push the rate at which the plants were developing, so that basically, by the first of July, corn was about two weeks ahead of schedule and soybeans were about a week, and that’s basically continued,” he said.

Farmers also were able to get into the fields at the very beginning of the planting windows during the spring.

According to the latest district crop production estimates issued Wednesday, Iowa farmers are expected to produce 206 bushels of corn per acre, eclipsing the 2016 record, and 60 acres of soybeans per acre, tying that record set in 2016. If trends hold true, east-central farmers would beat corn statewide yield estimates by 13 bushels per acre and soybeans by 5 bushels per acre.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; dan.mika@thegazette.com

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