Wallaces Farmer

Iowa corn crop is 25% harvested, and 55% of soybeans are already in the bin.

Rod Swoboda

October 6, 2020

6 Min Read
combine in field
NICE SURPRISE: Some farmers are reporting better bean yields than expected, considering how dry it was during summer and into fall.

USDA’s latest weekly survey as of Oct. 4 shows one-fourth of Iowa’s 2020 corn crop has now been harvested. That’s over three weeks ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of average. Iowa’s soybean crop is 55% harvested, way ahead of the state’s five-year average of 20% for this date.

Leading the way, northwest Iowa has 79% of its soybeans harvested and north-central Iowa is 60% finished with beans. For soybeans in the rest of the state, northeast Iowa is now 41% harvested, west-central 75%, central 62%, east-central 45% southwest 35%, south-central 18% and southeast 32%.

For corn, northwest Iowa leads with 40% harvested. It’s 18% for north-central, 17% northeast, 27% west-central, 25% central, 25% east-central, 20% southwest, 17% south-central and 24% southeast.

Yields all over the board

Farmers report a wide range in yield results for soybeans and corn, depending on location. “We were hit by the derecho windstorm in August, and our corn yields are knocked way down,” says Joe Lynch, farming in Linn County in eastern Iowa. “We’re averaging about half of our normal corn yield. Thank goodness for crop insurance.”

The summer drought that continued into fall limited yields of both corn and soybeans in much of the state. Still, some farmers’ yields are turning out better than expected.

For soybeans in northwest Iowa, there are fields with yields in the in the low-to-mid 50 bushels per acre and some fields in the upper 40s, says Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension agronomist at Spencer. “As dry as it was in late July through August, it’s surprising to get higher-than-expected bean yields. Yields are better than anticipated in some fields and areas this fall, and disappointing in other locations.”

He adds, “Yields of both corn and beans are below average in general. This was one of the driest summers we’ve had in Iowa in many years. But yields are still turning out better than expected given the shortage of rainfall we’ve experienced in 2020.”  

As harvest continues, unseasonably cool temperatures persisted through last week as parts of northwest Iowa reported the first killing freeze.

“Moving forward, the weather forecasts remain ideal for Iowa farmers with warmer and drier conditions continuing through the foreseeable future,” notes Iowa Secretary of Ag Mike Naig. “With dry conditions continuing, farmers should be mindful of the risk of fire and continue to make safety a top priority while harvesting this fall.”

The complete weekly Iowa Crop Progress & Condition report is available on USDA’s site at nass.usda.gov/ia.

Crop report

Harvest made rapid progress again as Iowa farmers had 5.8 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Oct. 4, according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Field activities included harvesting corn and soybeans, baling corn stalks, applying fertilizer and manure, and performing fall tillage.

Topsoil moisture condition is rated 14% very short, 31% short, 55% adequate and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture condition is rated 20% very short, 32% short, 48% adequate and zero percent surplus.

Iowa’s 2020 corn crop reached 92% mature or beyond as of Oct. 4, three weeks ahead of the previous year and 10 days ahead of the five-year average. One-quarter of Iowa’s corn for grain in Iowa has now been harvested, three weeks ahead of last year and 12 days ahead of average. This is only the second time since 2000 that at least 25% of the corn for grain crop was harvested by Oct. 4. Moisture content of corn harvested for grain was at 20% last week. Corn condition in Iowa is rated 45% good to excellent.

Soybeans dropping leaves or beyond reached 93%, just over two weeks ahead of last year and nine days ahead of average.

One-quarter of Iowa’s soybean crop was harvested during the week ending Oct. 4, with 55% now harvested. This is the second time in the last 15 years that at least half of the soybean crop was harvested by Oct. 4.

Farmers in south-central Iowa are considerably behind farmers in the rest of the state with just 18% of their crop harvested. Soybean condition statewide is rated 49% good-to-excellent.

Pasture condition is rated 20% good-to-excellent, unchanged from the previous week. Pasture growth is minimal with reduced daylight hours and cool temperatures. Some cattle producers have had to supplement water supplies.

Weather summary

The final days of September into the beginning of October were unseasonably cool statewide with negative temperature departures ranging from 6 to 10 degrees F.

“The statewide average temperature was 50.2 degrees, 7.6 degrees below normal,” says Justin Glisan, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Measurable rainfall was reported across Iowa, as above-average totals were observed in southeast Iowa. Drier-than-normal conditions were reported across the rest of the state, with departures across northern Iowa ranging from a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch below normal.”

Weekly rainfall totals ranged from 0.01 inch at Rock Valley (Sioux County) to 1.67 inches at Bloomfield (Davis County). Statewide weekly average precipitation was 0.37 inch, while the normal is 0.70 inch. Clarinda (Page County) reported the week’s high temperature of 82 degrees on Sept. 29, which is 10 degrees above normal. Spencer Municipal Airport (Clay County) reported the week’s low temperature of 24 degrees on Oct. 2, a cool 17 degrees below normal.

U.S. bean harvest ahead

Looking at the nation’s crops, farmers have harvested more soybeans than corn, according to USDA’s latest survey. Also, crop ratings have improved since last week’s report.

In its report released Oct. 5, USDA’s estimate of corn with a good-to-excellent rating is 62%, versus 61% a week ago. As of Oct. 4, the survey shows 25% of the 2020 U.S. corn crop has now been harvested, versus a five-year average of 24% for this date.

Illinois farmers have 26% of their corn crop harvested, versus an 11% five-year average. Nebraska’s crop is 10% harvested, versus a 4% five-year average. Iowa’s 2020 corn crop as of Oct. 4 is 25% harvested, versus a 10% five-year average. USDA says the U.S. corn crop is now 87% mature, which is ahead of the five-year average of 78%.

USDA rates the U.S. soybean crop at 85% dropping leaves, versus an 82% five-year average. USDA says the soybean crop has a good-to-excellent rating of 64%, equal to a week ago. As of Oct. 4, farmers have 38% of this year’s U.S. bean crop harvested already, topping the 28% five-year average.

In Iowa, 55% of the soybean crop is now harvested, compared with a 20% five-year average. In Nebraska, 55% of the soybeans were harvested as of Oct. 4, versus a 25% five-year average. Farmers in Illinois have 30% of that state’s soybeans harvested compared to a 33% five-year average.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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