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A harvest year of haves and have nots

By Staff | Sep 12, 2013

Pioneer Hi-Bred Field Agronomist Ryan Clayton examines an ear of corn in a test plot. He said corn is advancing to maturity, but the real question will be weather affects on kernel size and weight



Looking around the Farm News coverage area one senses that the 2013 crop may not be a total disaster in all areas. But the condistions of crops and expectations of harvest are wide ranging.

Some timely rains in the past two weeks in Iowa’s northwest counties is encouraging grain fill, while in central Iowa portions of fields have died prematurely.

Plymouth County

It appears that northwest Iowa producers have been more fortunate than producers elsewhere in the state with regard to growing conditions for their corn and soybeans.

“Actually compared to last year, I think we’re going to do considerably better crop wise in this area,” said producer Randy Krotsch.

Kroksh farms between 1,200 to 1,300 acres in the Akron-Westfield area, and is the agriculture instructor and FFA chapter advisor in the community school system.

He added that yields could be severely affected, however, if the first killing frost settles in early, especially with soybeans.

“Our 3-inches of rain two weeks ago was,” Kortsch said, “while not an abundance, a good supply of moisture.

“The hot weather that followed also really helped,” he said. “I’d say we’ve been really fortunate here.

“If we hadn’t had the rain, it would have been a different situation.

And as to those field calculations with his students?

“I’d been expecting perhaps 150 bushels to 180 bushels on the corn,” he said. “I’d say we averaged out at between163 to 164 bushels, ranging from 140 to 190 overall.

“I’m looking to see an average to above-average crop.

“The outlook for the soybeans is, in my observation, tremendous, again providing we get no frost until October,” Kroksh said.

“I’d say the average in the fields we looked at would be about 69 bushels with a range from 54 to 78 bushels.”

Kortsch said he has received reports from other producers concerned if there will be sufficient pod fill before a frost.

Plymouth County’s crop producers, Brad Schindel farming near Merrill said his corn and bean crop along with others in his area of the county were “looking very good” at the present time.

“Timely rains and a decent beginning subsoil moisture situation should lead to good yields here,” he said. “Granted, yields will be somewhat variable with some lowland drowned-out spots and shorter yield on lighter areas stressed between rains.

He, too, pointed to the need for an additional good two to three week finishing out period before frost.

According to Darwin Franzen, general manager of Farmers Co-Op, in Hinton agreed that the late-season rain “has put us in a very good crop prospect condition.”

Although no one wants an early frost, he said farmers are less concerned about that than we were three weeks ago, as the heat has really moved the corn crop toward maturity.

“This will be our best crop in three years,” Franzen said.

Producers attitudes have improved, Franzen said, which encouraged them to sell some new crop soybeans at $13-plus new crop soybeans. Less so on $4.35 new crop corn, he said.

Early frost or continued dry weather in the majority of the Corn Belt will support prices, but total U.S. production still indicates a lid on corn prices below recent years, Franzen said.

A smaller carryout on soybeans is positive to seeing high prices.

Calhoun County

Corn yields may be better than expected in drought-stricken west-central Iowa, said Pioneer Hi-Bred Field Agronomist Ryan Clayton.

When he said when he checked a corn test plot east of Lake City, he estimated potential yields of 179 bushels per acre, based on the corn’s progress by early September.

“Once the corn gets past the dent stage, the plant won’t lose kernels,” Clayton said. “The variables become kernel size and kernel weight.”

The outcome will depend on nighttime temperatures. If the weather stays unseasonably warm, corn plants will rob nutrients from the stalks and leaves to protect the kernels.

“This means stalk quality could become a challenge this fall.

“We likely won’t have the luxury of stalks standing tall in the field at harvest,” Clayton said. “Stalk quality will need to be closely monitored in the next couple of weeks due to the recent heat and moisture stress we have endured.”

If rainy conditions develop this fall, weakened plants could become vulnerable to diseases including gibberella, anthracnose or diplodia, Clayton added.

While it’s good to have a harvest plan, realize that you may not be able to stick with it closely this year, Clayton added. “Variability will likely be huge this fall, so keep scouting your fields.

Also, you may have to harvest corn before it has dried down as well as you’d like.”

Webster County

Before the most recent heat wave, said Brent Larson, of Sunderman Farm Management Co., in Fort Dodge, farmers expected to have a late harvest.

“But the drought and excessive heat are causing harvest to come up faster than expected,” he said, “since many corn fields died early due to the drought.

Some crops on sandy soils died four weeks ago.

“I heard through the grapevine that some folks started harvesting corn earlier this week,” Larson said. “Corn was being harvested today south of Duncombe.

“Even though we planted late this spring, harvesting will be in full swing earlier than average again this year since many fields died prematurely.”

Due to the extreme heat in past week, Larson said, “our crops are being forced to mature faster than normal.

“That will cause lower yields and lighter test weight in the corn.

“The soybeans will have the same fate, but even before the heat they were already lacking pods. So a soybean crop that didn’t look great before the drought and heat is getting even worse now.”

According to Shan Jaeschke, agronomy sales manager for NEW Coop, expects variable corns yields.

“We will have a few acres of corn that were planted in April that will yield right at or even above our historical county average,” Jaeschke said. “The problem we have is the wide range of yields on the remaining acres.

“There will be some May planted corn that does very well if it was planted into OK soil conditions, but the acres planted in wet soil conditions caused by the excessive rainfall during the later weeks will for sure be below our historical corn yield averages.”

The late planting date, extreme wet conditions early, drought conditions at the finish of the growing season and the extreme heat have stressed corn plants in every way, he said. The heavy heat of late-August did speed along grain development to save some on drying this fall, but at the cost of test weight and bushels.

“We will also see a huge range in yields on our soybean crop this fall,” Jaeschke said. “This is mainly due to planting date.

“Normally soybean planting begins the first week of May. This year we were lucky to have any soybeans in the ground in May at all.”

To receive highest yield potential, soybeans need to be planted by May 25, he said. Planting later will limit pod counts due to the shorter growing season.

“A soybean plant can put pods on at every node,” Jaeschke said. “Less nodes means less pods, less pods means fewer beans and fewer beans means lower yield.

“At the end of the day we need plant nodes to get optimum soybean yields.

“I am finding about 35 to 45 pods on our soybean plants planted in May, and about 5 to 20 pods on our beans planted in June.

“This is all due to the shorter growing season.”

Estimating bean yields is difficult, he said, based on pod count because the size of the soybean in the pod can vary greatly, but it does compare yield potential between farms in that growing year.

Bean yields will also be down due to the extreme heat the last week of August and drought conditions during pod fill.

These conditions create smaller, lighter soybeans that just don’t weigh up.

“Also, some pods will just not fill out,” Jaeschke said.

Farm News staff writers Jolene Stevens, Darcy Dougherty Maulsby and Kriss Nelson contributed to this article.

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