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Serving: IA

Combines on a roll in Iowa

combine in field
GOOD START: Soybean harvest in Iowa this year is 17 days ahead of last year and six days ahead of average.
Iowa corn harvest is 4% complete, with soybean harvest at 7% as of Sept. 20, USDA reports.

A week without measurable rainfall in Iowa allowed farmers to get a good start on harvesting 2020 soybean and corn crops. USDA’s weekly crop progress report released Sept. 21 shows 7% of the state’s soybean crop has been harvested and 4% of the corn.

“Sept. 22 marks the official first day of fall, and harvest is underway for many farmers across the state,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “The drought monitor has improved in almost every part of Iowa, and the weather outlook through the end of September indicates near-ideal conditions that should keep combines rolling.”

Drought and wind damage have reduced yields this year in a large area of Iowa. “I’ve heard reports of some soybeans going 45 bushels per acre in Calhoun County,” says Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist. “Those fields might have averaged 55 to 60 bushels per acre in a good year. But with dry weather and wind damage this year, those farmers are thankful and happy with a 45-bushel yield.”

Northwest Iowa leads

Here’s how harvest progress ranks in Iowa as of Sept. 20:

  • Northwest at 16%
  • West-central at 11%
  • Central at 9%
  • East-central at 6%
  • Southwest at 5%
  • Southeast at 4%
  • North-central at 2%
  • South-central at 1%
  • Northeast less than 1%

“There are some areas of the state where soybean fields are still fairly green and aren’t ready yet for harvesting,” Rieck-Hinz says.

Looking at the national picture, USDA says as of Sept. 20, the U.S. corn crop is 8% harvested, with soybeans at 6% harvested. The complete weekly Iowa Crop Progress & Condition report is available on USDA’s site at

Crop report

A week without measurable rainfall allowed farmers 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Sept. 20, says USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Field activities included harvesting corn for silage, performing fall tillage, moving old-crop grain stocks, and harvesting corn for grain and soybeans.

Topsoil moisture is rated 12% very short, 29% short, 56% adequate and 3% surplus. Subsoil moisture is rated 21% very short, 32% short, 46% adequate and 1% surplus.

Corn is 94% in or beyond dent stage, over two weeks ahead of the previous year and four days ahead of the five-year average. Two-thirds of the crop has reached maturity, three weeks ahead of last year and over a week ahead of average. Corn harvested for grain is at 4% statewide, 17 days ahead of last year and five days ahead of average. Corn condition is rated 42% good-to-excellent, unchanged from the previous week.

Soybeans coloring or beyond advanced to 90%, two weeks ahead of last year and one week ahead of average. Two-thirds of Iowa’s soybean crop is dropping leaves or beyond, two weeks ahead of last year and one week ahead of average. Bean harvest is 7% complete as of Sept. 20, which is 17 days ahead of last year and six days ahead of average. Farmers in northwest and west-central Iowa are leading the way with over 10% of their beans harvested. Soybean condition statewide is 48% good-to-excellent.

Alfalfa hay third cutting is 97% complete, a month ahead of last year and two weeks ahead of the five-year average. Pasture condition is rated 17% good-to-excellent. Livestock experienced little stress with cooler temperatures.

Weather summary

Cooler and drier conditions persisted across Iowa through the week ending Sept. 20 as a quieter weather pattern settled over the Midwest. “High-level smoke from western wildfire produced hazy days as temperatures were 3 degrees [F] below average in areas of eastern Iowa,” says Justin Glisan, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Near-normal conditions were reported across much of western Iowa with a statewide average temperature of 61 degrees, 1.2 degrees below normal. After the wettest week of the growing season the week before, no measurable rainfall was reported across Iowa last week.”

Normal precipitation for the week is 0.77 inch. Four southeast Iowa stations reported the week’s high temperature of 86 degrees Sept. 16, on average 9 degrees above normal. Mason City (Cerro Gordo County) had the week’s low temperature of 35 degrees on Sept. 18 which is 12 degrees below normal.

Nationally, wet conditions have slowed U.S. corn and soybean harvesting this fall, says USDA. Meanwhile, crop ratings have changed little since the report of a week ago.

As of Sept. 20, USDA gives 61% of the U.S. corn crop a good-to-excellent rating, equal to the previous week. As of Sept. 20, the U.S. corn crop was 8% harvested, versus a five-year average of 10% for this date. In Illinois, only 4% of the corn crop has been harvested, versus a five-year average of 11%. USDA rates the Nebraska corn harvest at 10% complete, versus a 4% five-year average. In Iowa, this year’s corn crop is 4% harvested, versus a 2% five-year average.

USDA says 95% of the U.S. corn crop is now in the dent stage, versus a 90% five-year average. The crop is 59% mature, ahead of the 49% five-year average.

The survey shows 59% of the U.S. soybean crop is dropping leaves, versus a 50% five-year average. USDA gives the nation’s soybean crop a 63% good-to-excellent rating, equal to a week ago. As of Sept. 20, this year’s U.S. soybean crop is 6% harvested, equal to the five-year average. In Iowa, 7% of the soybean crop is now harvested, compared to 2% for the five-year average. Nebraska is 10% harvested, versus a 4% five-year average. Illinois has 1% of it’s soybeans harvested compared to a 4% five-year average.

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