Wallaces Farmer

A survey shows corn condition has declined, but 73% of the crop still rates good-to-excellent.

Rod Swoboda

August 4, 2020

5 Min Read
Corn stalks and ears of corn
TAKING A TOLL: You can estimate potential corn yields by doing ear counts and kernel counts, and measuring ear length. Paul Kassel

In northwest Iowa, most areas received enough rain to get through pollination, but filling out the ears and kernel development is a different story.

“At the end of July, my fields looked good from the road, and the corn plants looked healthy down the row,” says Jim Bergmann, a Pocahontas County farmer. “But if you get out into the field and start peeling back some ears, you see kernels missing at the tip end of the ears. With the hot, dry weather for most of July, the ears aren’t filling out all the way. I’m looking at smaller ears too, as the drought is taking its toll.”

Getting into the field and examining ears will tell the tale, notes Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist at Spencer. The latest weekly statewide crop condition survey results released Aug. 3 by USDA show subsoil moisture supplies are 11% very short and 38% short in northwest Iowa. Only 51% of northwest Iowa has an adequate supply of subsoil moisture for crops.

Cooler temperatures welcome

"While spotty thunderstorms during the week that ended Aug. 2 brought much needed rainfall to parts of the western Iowa drought region, other areas were not as fortunate, and drought conditions persist,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says. “As we begin August and look at the weather forecast, cooler temperatures and chances of thunderstorms are expected over the short term, which would be beneficial to moisture-stressed corn and soybeans.”

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

Crop report

Although some areas of Iowa received more than an inch of rain, farmers statewide had six days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Aug. 2, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Fieldwork activities continue to be primarily spraying, harvesting hay and hauling grain. Aerial applications of fungicide continue.

Topsoil moisture levels for Iowa are rated 14% very short, 33% short, 51% adequate and 2% surplus. Northwest, west-central and central Iowa all report topsoil moisture supplies that are mostly short to very short. Subsoil moisture is rated 10% very short, 31% short, 57% adequate and 2% surplus.

The state’s corn crop that’s now in silking stage or beyond has reached 95%, two weeks ahead of last year at this time and five days ahead of the five-year average. Corn in the dough stage or beyond has reached 44%, 10 days ahead of the previous year and four days ahead of average. Condition of the state’s corn crop declined to 73% good-to-excellent last week.

Soybeans blooming reached 91%, two weeks ahead of last year and six days ahead of average. Soybeans setting pods reached 70% as of Aug. 2, which is 16 days ahead of last year and six days ahead of average. Soybean condition fell to 73% good-to-excellent.

Nearly all the oats are turning color or beyond. Oats harvested for grain reached 85%, more than one week ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average.

Alfalfa hay second cutting reached 90%, a week ahead of last year, but the same as the five-year average. Third cutting reached 17% harvested, five days ahead of last year but two days behind average.

Hay condition is rated 66% good-to-excellent. Pasture condition is rated 46% good-to-excellent. For the first time since the week ending April 5, less than half of Iowa’s pastures were rated good-to-excellent.

Weather summary

“Temperatures through the last week of July were seasonal across much of the state with sections of eastern Iowa reporting slightly warmer conditions,” says Justin Glisan, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Iowa’s average temperature last week was 73 degrees, four-tenths of a degree above normal. Unseasonably dry conditions continued over a majority of Iowa, though parts of the state’s southwest corner reported rain totals of up to 2 inches above normal. In the opposite corner of Iowa — northeast Iowa — departures of more than an inch below normal were observed.”

Weekly precipitation totals ranged from no accumulation at stations in northern Iowa to 3.22 inches in Oakland (Pottawattamie County). The statewide weekly average precipitation was 0.62 inch, while normal is 0.94 inch.

Multiple stations in eastern Iowa reported the week’s high temperature of 94 degrees on July 26, an average of 10 degrees above normal. Webster City (Hamilton County) reported the week’s low temperature of 51 degrees on Aug. 1, a full 10 degrees below normal.

U.S. corn and soybean crops

Looking at the nation’s crop last week, U.S. corn and soybean ratings remained mostly steady, contrary to the trade’s expectations of higher ratings. USDA’s weekly report issued Aug. 3 shows the U.S. corn rating unchanged from a week earlier, while the soybean rating edged slightly higher.

For corn on Aug. 2, USDA’s estimate of a good-to-excellent rating of 72% is equal to a week ago. The survey shows 92% of the nation’s corn is now silking, versus an 87% five-year average for this date. For the U.S., 39% of the corn crop has entered the dough stage, versus a 33% five-year average.

For soybeans, USDA says 85% of the nation’s crop is now in the blooming stage, which is ahead of the 82% five-year average. The survey shows 59% of the U.S. soybean crop is now setting pods, versus a 54% five-year average. In its report, USDA estimates the soybean good-to-excellent rating is 73%, versus 72% a week ago.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

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

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