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Serving: IA

Iowa harvest pace sharply higher than average

harvest in field
A SLOWDOWN: Iowa’s fast-paced 2020 harvest was slowed last week as wet weather allowed fewer days suitable for fieldwork.
Latest Iowa crop report shows 78% of corn and 94% of soybeans are harvested.

The latest USDA weekly survey shows Iowa continues to make significant progress on this year's harvest. Results gathered Oct. 25 show farmers have harvested 78% of the state’s corn and 94% of soybeans. The five-year average for this date is 45% for corn and 72% for soybeans.

Although farmers are making good progress, they need some drier conditions to be able to complete the 2020 harvest.

“After a relatively dry stretch of weather that moved harvest activities along at a fast pace this fall, a more active weather pattern brought rain and snow across Iowa over the last several days,” notes Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig. “While Iowa’s 2020 harvest progress remains ahead of average, farmers need a return of drier conditions in order to wrap up fieldwork for this fall.”

Yields extremely variable

“Yields are quite variable, even within fields this year,” says Virgil Schmitt, Iowa State University Extension agronomist in eastern Iowa. He covers the two rows of counties along the Mississippi River from Dubuque down to the Missouri border. “Farmers are harvesting less than 130 bushels-per-acre corn in some places within a field, and well over 200 to 240 bushels per acre in other places — in the same field. Considerable variability in corn yield. For soybeans a lot of upper-50-bushel- and lower-60-bushel-per-acre yields are reported in the area I cover.”

In east-central, central and west-central Iowa where the derecho windstorm and drought hit hard this summer, corn yields are lower. “Many of those flattened, tangled cornfields couldn’t be harvested,” Schmitt says. “Unlike central Iowa and large parts of western and northwest Iowa, we didn’t have a really significant drought here along the eastern edge of the state. Once we got into August, we ended up with an abnormally dry rating by USDA’s weekly drought monitor. But not extremely dry. Our crops here weren’t hammered as hard by drought in Linn County and on into central and western Iowa.”

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

Crop report

Measurable snowfall and rain limited Iowa farmers to 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Oct. 25, according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Although fieldwork was limited, activities included baling cornstalks, applying fertilizer and manure, and performing fall tillage.

Topsoil moisture is rated 11% very short, 29% short, 56% adequate and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture is rated 18% very short, 35% short, 45% adequate and 2% surplus.

Over three-quarters of Iowa’s corn for grain has been harvested, more than three weeks ahead of last year and two weeks ahead of average. Statewide, moisture content of field corn being harvested for grain remained at 16% on average. Farmers in northwest Iowa have only 8% of their corn remaining to be harvested, while farmers in south-central Iowa still have over 50% to be harvested.

Only 6% of Iowa’s soybean crop remains to be harvested, three weeks ahead of last year and just over two weeks ahead of average. Farmers in northwest, north-central, west-central, and central Iowa have 3% or less of their soybeans remaining to be harvested. In contrast, farmers in the southern one-third of Iowa have at least 14% of their soybeans yet to be harvested. 

Pasture condition for Iowa is rated 18% good-to-excellent, down 2% from last week. Cattle producers continue to supplement hay and water supplies. Some cows are grazing on cornstalks.

Weather summary

“Unseasonably cold conditions reigned across Iowa during the week ending Oct. 26, with as much as 16 degrees F below normal over the state’s northwest corner,” reports Justin Glisan, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Temperatures in eastern Iowa were closer to normal, though still four to 8 degrees below average.”

The statewide average temperature was 36.1 degrees last week, 13 degrees below normal. Early-season snow fell across the state, with locally heavy amounts in central Iowa. Several waves of showers and thunderstorms also brought measurable rainfall statewide with 3 to 4 inches of above average precipitation reported in eastern Iowa. Only parts of western Iowa reported near to below-average precipitation.

Weekly precipitation totals ranged from 0.11 inch at a rain gauge in Sioux City (Woodbury County) to 5.61 inches at Elkader (Clayton County). Statewide weekly average precipitation was 1.43 inches, while normal is 0.51 inch. Lamoni (Decatur County) reported the week’s high temperature of 82 degrees on Oct. 22, which is 21 degrees above normal. Estherville Airport (Emmet County) reported the week’s low temperature of 13 degrees on Oct. 24, a chilly 20 degrees below normal.

U.S. corn 72% harvested

Nationally, corn farmers are near the three-fourths mark for 2020 harvest completion, while the soybean harvest is even further ahead, according to USDA. Meanwhile, most major corn-producing states are ahead of their average pace regarding harvest activity.

As of Oct. 25, the U.S. corn crop was 72% harvested, versus a 56% five-year average. In Illinois, 80% of the crop has been harvested, versus a 76% five-year average. USDA rated the Nebraska corn harvest at 76% complete, versus a 46% five-year average. The Iowa corn crop, as of Oct. 25 is 78% complete, versus a 45% five-year average for this date.

For soybeans as of Oct. 25, USDA says 83% of this year’s U.S. crop has been harvested, running above the 73% five-year average.

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