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Serving: IA

Harvest nears completion for some Iowa farmers

Rod Swoboda combine in field
NEAR FINISH LINE: Only 10% of Iowa’s soybean crop was still in the field as of Oct. 18, with harvest running three weeks ahead of last year.
Survey shows 65% of Iowa corn and 90% of soybeans were harvested as of Oct. 18.

Harvest 2020 is heading into the homestretch in Iowa, more so for soybeans than corn, especially in the northwest and north-central areas. Combines kept rolling through the fields last week, as there were 6.4 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the weekly statewide USDA survey. Results of the Oct. 18 survey show 65% of Iowa’s corn crop has now been harvested, and 90% of the soybeans are out of the field.

“It’s almost like these combines found another higher gear this year,” jokes Tom Langerman, as he harvested his last remaining 40 acres of soybeans near Corwith in north-central Iowa. “Of course, that’s not the case for farmers who are harvesting all that downed corn and tangled stalks in the central parts of the state where the derecho did so much damage. They are unfortunately still crawling along in their lowest gear, trying to harvest what they can get from those flattened fields.”

Surprise snowfall puts brakes on

While last week’s weather was dry and favorable for harvest progress, this week is wet in many areas. Central Iowa locations received 4 to 7 inches of snow on Monday.

“Parts of Iowa saw some intense snowfall on Oct. 19, bringing harvest to a halt for some farmers,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Precipitation is expected to stay in the forecast for the rest of this week and the moisture will continue to improve soil conditions heading into 2021. The state as a whole continues to make good progress on harvesting this year’s crops with 65% of the corn harvest and 90% of the soybean harvest now completed.”

The complete weekly Iowa Crop Progress and Condition Report is available on USDA’s site at

Crop report

The state had 6.4 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Oct. 18,according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Other field activities included baling corn stalks, applying fertilizer and manure, and fall tillage. Cover crops are beginning to green up where early planting was possible.

Topsoil moisture condition is rated 18% very short, 40% short, 42% adequate and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture condition rated 22% very short, 39% short, 39% adequate and 0% surplus.

Corn for grain harvested in Iowa reached 65% as of Oct. 18, over three weeks ahead of last year and over two weeks ahead of average. Moisture content of field corn harvested for grain fell to 16% last week. Farmers in south-central Iowa still have about two-thirds of their corn for grain yet to be harvested, while farmers in the remainder of Iowa have already harvested at least one-half of their crop.

Only 10% of Iowa’s soybean crop remains to be harvested, also over three weeks ahead of last year and two weeks ahead of average. Farmers in northwest, north-central and west-central Iowa have less than 5% of their soybeans remaining to be harvested. In contrast, farmers in the southern one-third of the state have at least 20% of their soybeans remaining to be harvested.

Pasture condition is rated 20% good-to-excellent. Some pastures are already dormant. Cattle producers in some areas continue to supplement hay and water supplies. There are scattered reports of cows already turned out on corn stalks for grazing.

Weather summary

Temperatures across the state over the past week varied from slightly cooler than average over portions of northern Iowa to slightly warmer conditions in southern Iowa. “The statewide average temperature was 51.1 degrees [F], 1.1 degrees below normal,” reports Justin Glisan, state climatologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Measurable precipitation, including some snow, was reported across much of the state with above average totals observed in northwest Iowa; some stations collected from 1 to 2 inches more precipitation than normal. The rest of Iowa experienced drier-than-normal conditions, a half-inch or more below normal.”

Weekly precipitation totals ranged from no accumulation at several southern Iowa stations to 3.15 inches in Rock Valley (Sioux County). The statewide weekly average precipitation was 0.32 inch, while the normal is 0.51 inch. Logan (Harrison County), Sac City (Sac County) and Shenandoah (Page County) reported the week’s high temperature of 86 degrees on Oct. 11, an average of 20 degrees above normal. Estherville Municipal Airport (Emmet County) reported the week’s low temperature of 23 degrees on the Oct. 18, which is 12 degrees below normal.”

U.S. harvest speeds ahead

Farmers nationwide have harvested over half of the 2020 corn crop and three-fourths of the soybeans as of Oct. 18, according to USDA. Crop ratings for both corn and soybeans remain unchanged since the previous week’s report.

For corn, USDA’s estimate as of Oct. 18 shows 61% of the nation’s corn crop has a good-to-excellent rating, equal to a week ago. As of Oct. 18, the weekly survey shows 60% of the U.S. corn is now harvested, versus a 43% five-year average. In Illinois, 77% of the crop is now harvested, versus a 65% five-year average. The Nebraska corn harvest is 58% complete, versus a 50% five-year average. The Iowa corn crop, as of Oct. 18 is 65% complete, versus a 29% five-year average. USDA rates the U.S. corn crop as 97% mature, which tops the 94% five-year average for this date.

For soybeans, USDA rates 97% of the U.S. soybean crop dropping leaves, versus a 95% five-year average. As of Oct. 18, 75% of the soybean crop is harvested, topping the 58% five-year average. In Iowa, 90% of the soybean crop is out of the fields, compared with a 52% five-year average. In Nebraska, 92% of the soybeans are now harvested, versus a 58% five-year average. Farmers in Illinois have now harvested 85% of their soybeans compared to a 66% five-year average.

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