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2015 yield outlook — What’s really out there waiting for us?

By Staff | Aug 27, 2015

-Farm News file photo ALTHOUGH MANY QUESTION the validity of the USDA’s Aug. 12 grain production estimates for 2015, cooperative elevator managers and agronomists think that yields may meet or exceed USDA’s numbers throughout much of Farm News’ coverage area.



Iowans farming row crops north of I-80 and west of I-35 are, as a group, expecting to fill all on-farm storage bins and look for other places to store grain as another healthy crop appears to await them as of Aug. 14.

Some Northwest Iowa ag industry managers say they’re looking to get close to the strong yields of 2013 for both corn and soybeans, but not quite up to matching them.

But futures prices are another issue.

-Farm News photo by Karen Schwaller USDA’S AUG. 12 estimates call for a statewide average soybean yield of 52 bushels per acre. In northwest Iowa, it estimates 57 bushels per acre, while north central Iowa may see 56 bpa, central Iowa 54 and west central 49.

Crop specialists and marketers say futures for both grains will be strong this fall, although not as high as 2013 or 2014.

Paul Kassel, an Iowa State university Extension agronomist, said weather for planting was good this year and the corn is now “fairly resilient, having prepared itself for dry weather. I think we have pretty good yield potential if we get a couple of inches of rain in mid-August, or late-August.”

“It’s difficult to put numbers on paper,” he said, but estimated those numbers could include 190 bpa and 55 bpa for corn and beans, respectively.

“It could be better than that if we have some rainfall.”


The USDA report issued on Aug. 12 predicted an average yield of 192 bushels per acre for corn and 56 bpa for soybeans in the North Central Iowa crop district.

Cerro Gordo County

Mark Bausch, a certified crop advisor for the North Iowa Co-op that has four locations in the Mason City area, said he agreed with the USDA report.

“This has the potential as one of the better crops,” Bausch said.

He believes this crop will be better than last year’s when USDA said last year’s corn yielded 171.9 bpa and soybeans 47.6 bpa for the North Central crop district.

Crops were planted in April with a week delay for rain and have received timely rains since, said Bausch.

Corn is past brown silk and soybeans are full pod, he said, of the crop progress on Aug. 13.

Bausch said the North Iowa Co-op had been spraying for soybean aphids for a week and will continue through late-August.

“Aphids are everywhere,” he said.

Rain would be useful right now as a dry spell is underway, according to Bausch.

Wright County

According to Angie Rieck-Hinz, an ISU Extension agronomist, based in Clarion, she’s seen extensive diapause among corn root worm beetles from Kanawha to Story City.

“I was amazed by the number of northern corn rootworm beetles I was hitting (while driving),” Rieck-Hinz said in her Aug. 14 newsletter. “So much so, that it was a noticeable difference from just north of Blairsburg on U.S. Highway 69, all the way to Story City.

“This area appears to be hit hard by extended diapause as evidenced when digging roots in corn following soybeans.

“Growers should start to consider management decisions for next year.”

Corn aphids are also worth watching in the late-season. She said management is the best solution, since there is no firm guideline for treatment.

For aphids on soybeans, Rieck-Hinz said much of North Central Iowa’s beans are at R5, beginning seed stage.

“On average, once we reach R5 it takes about 10 days until we reach R5.5,” she said. “At this stage, research data suggests not to treat.

“If you have beans that have not yet reached this stage and you are experiencing soybean aphids, continue to scout.”

However, she added, forecasted hot temperatures this month should help knock down aphid populations.

“I am starting to see more SDS show up in fields as well as I have received several multiple reports of white mold,” Rieck-Hinz said. “At this stage there are no management options for these diseases other than to continue to scout and evaluate fields and look at planting resistant varieties the next time you plant beans in those fields.”

Webster County

For those well-drained fields the yield outlook is appearing to be a good one.

Chuck Lundquist, agronomy sales specialist for NEW Co-op, said growers in his area can expect yields close to those last year in corn, but probably not to expect anything better.

“Yields should be pretty good for corn on better-drained fields, wet farms won’t be as good,” said Lundquist. “We will probably have close to 2014 for corn yields, but not sure if we will top that.”

For those that planted their beans earlier in the spring, Lundquist said those seem to be maturing well and the last rain that hit the area should have helped fill the top pods of the plants.

Due to a lag in growing degree units, Lundquist is expecting a later-than-average corn harvest.

“We are tracking behind in GDU’s which will delay harvest,” said Lundquist. “We are probably looking at corn black-layering sometime in the end of September, depending on maturity.”

Soybean harvest, Lundquist said, could possibly be slightly behind average.

Bean growth he said is determined by day length, so it is expected harvest should still start mid- to late-September with those early maturity beans.

The wet conditions of the 2015 growing season, Lundquist said, root development and strength could be a problem going in to harvest.

“Some hybrids have also been cannibalizing themselves on nitrogen in wet areas so stalk quality could also be poor,” said Lundquist. “The wet conditions could also favor stalk rots to develop.

“Growers should check their fields as we get closer to fall for potential problems and note which fields might be priorities over other fields.”

2015 has been another year of dealing with waterhemp.

“Take things we learned this year and try to improve our herbicide programs for 2016,” said Lundquist.

Pests and diseases have also been a concern for growers.

According to Lundquist, aphids have been popping up in soybean fields the last couple of weeks and producers have been treating their fields for those;

Northern corn leaf light is a problem again this year. This disease, he said, likes cooler temps of 80 degrees for highs and 60 degrees for lows with moisture.

“With dew-ladened mornings and rains and cooler temps we had in July, it was a perfect environment for the disease to develop,” he said.


Plymouth County

Lanny Hustedt, grain merchandiser at the Remsen Farmers Co-Op, said there have been two topics that stand out among corn and bean producers.

“First and foremost they’re talking about how it’s going to be a good crop year,” Hustedt said. “The other side of the picture is that they’re sick about price.

“They feel like they’ve been kicked in the head.”

The situation is that the USDA’s Aug. 12 crop report was somewhat surprising, causing a widespread sell-off by commercial investors within minutes of the report’s release.

Hustedt said moisture conditions in his area were not a concern, but a potentially troublesome area the cooperative’s new crop storage capacity.

“With farmers hanging on to their crops because of present prices and their not wanting to spend extra money on drying and storage, it’s a challenge not only for them, but us as well not knowing when they’ll move the old crop to make way for this year’s harvest.

“That raises the question of what storage we’ll need here and when. Like many things in agriculture there’s always the challenges.”

Bruce Schmidt, agronomist at the Agri Center, in Le Mars in Plymouth County, offered a similar assessment on the mood of producers.

“It’s a nice crop pretty much overall here,” he said. “When it comes to current grain prices, however, it’s not a good picture economically with prices gone back as far as they have.

“Weather-wise we’ve been fortunate here with moisture pretty adequate with exception of some areas in the north and west portion of the county.”

A resident of Moville, Schmidt said moisture variations are evident in Woodbury County. He referred to Moville-area crops as good with adequate moisture in contrast, with nearby Hornick where producers have dealt with too much rain resulting in late or disrupted planting and potential lower yields this fall.

“Our farmers here aren’t happy about the moisture conditions down this way,” Jackie Wessel, grain originator, said when contacted at her office at Western Iowa Co-Op, in Hornick. “This is especially true for those along the river bottoms where they received a lot of rain that flooded some fields.”

Like their counterparts across the area these producers, too, are worried about the pending corn and soybean prices, she said.

Crawford County

Clarke McGrath, an ISU on-farm research coordinator for District 11, said, “It’s definitely hard to generalize the crop situation (across the state and area) what with rainfall as spotty as it’s been.

“You look to the north and things look pretty good. From here to down south, that’s not always true.

“And at the same time we may see planted fields that look normal but that’s not to say they’re going to give good yields due to possible late-planting.”

In addition, drowned-out fields were prevented from getting planted.

“Adding to the unknowns,” McGrath said, “in potential corn yields with farmers already frustrated over low prices is the worry over possible mid-season disease damage, the worst in recent memory, being seen in some fields.” McGrath said pointing to disease loss in what he said could be hundreds or thousands of acres of corn.

Asked about the future grain price picture he was quick to express caution in analyzing the Aug. 12 USDA corn production – down 4 percent from last year’s record crop and soybean production down 1 percent from a year ago.

The report also reminded producers that last year’s corn production showed the second highest yields in history and this year’s projected crop, 81.1 million acres, is expected to be the largest U.S. projected production on record.

This fall’s soybean harvest is forecast at a record 83.5 million acres.

Clay, Palo Alto and Pocahontas counties

Corn and soybean yields are shaping up to be among the best in recent history if weather conditions continue to cooperate, said Paul Kassel, an ISU Extension field specialist, based in in Spencer.

“If there are no extremes in the weather, like hot, dry, windy weather and no early killing frost, we could rival 2010 and 2008 with our good corn crop,” he said.

Kassel said an Aug. 9 rain was welcomed to finish off soybeans and renew moisture levels for the corn crop.

This compares to areas north and west of Pocahontas County, cited as abnormally dry on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

He said areas around Palo Alto County are a little dry as well.

“We’re really blessed because places in Story County got anywhere from 5 to 7 inches of rain (Aug. 9), and there are areas that were not even planted because of all the rain they’ve been getting this growing season.”

Kassel said leaf diseases have cropped up, including Northern corn leaf blight, corn aphids and soybean aphids. These diseases and pests were around for the short term, and were under control in good time, Kassel said.

Steve Schany, seed solution specialist for Maxyield Seed, said crop conditions are favorable in and around his area of Palo Alto and Clay counties.

Aside from a few leaf diseases on both corn and soybeans – NCLB, white mold and sudden death syndrome – crops are on track this growing season.

“We don’t have a lot of nitrogen stress showing up” and “stress on the corn has been pretty minimal,” he said. “The corn crop looks great.

On soybeans, the crop looks great with not a lot of drought stress showing up yet. The (Aug. 9) rain will result in some yield increases.”

Schany estimated corn yields at around 185 bpa based on what he’s seeing in the fields, and soybeans at 50-plus bpa.

“We don’t have the drowned-out areas, so hopefully we can combine a few more acres than we have in the past,” said Schany. “They’ve had a lot of rain in eastern Iowa and further east of there, so we’re in the garden part of the state.”

Schany said producers should watch for development of white mold or sudden death syndrome on their soybeans. Once those diseases are in the field, he said, it takes time to get rid of them.

Fran Marron, vice president of the grain department at Ag Partners in Albert City, said he’s seeing little insect pressure on soybeans in that 12-county crop district, but the crop potential will be above average.

“It certainly looks like it will be better on the eastern side of the business area,” he said. “Our yield checks show we could be doing 185 or 195 bpa there. The western side wont’ be quite as good as that-maybe 10 bushels less or so.”

Marron attributes the high yield potential to timely rains, no extreme heat and getting the crop in earlier this year.

Ken Smith, Northwest Iowa manager at The Andersons headquartered in Everly echoed thoughts of other elevator managers regarding the potential for strong-yields in corn and soybeans under optimal weather conditions.

He said pollination was successful this year and insect issues – primarily corn and soybean aphids – were handled in a timely manner, resulting in minimal damage to crops.

“The cool nights we’ve been having adds test weight and gives that plant a break, so we’ve had ideal conditions for crop development.

There’s still time (for that potential to be) taken away, but today it’s extremely high, and as we get later into the season we’re closer to that finish line, so it’s exciting.

“It’s what farmers work hard for.”

Osceola County

Mike Rosenberg, grain originator at Cooperative Elevator Association in Ocheyedan, said his area shows potential for some of the highest yields he’s seen.

“Some of this is because of the access we have to technology – GPS and precision planting,” he said. “Yield-wise, the norm on corn (if things finish out), I think will be 200-plus bushels.

“Some exceptional fields could average 235 bushels, if the crop finishes out to full physiological maturity and we don’t have an early killing frost.”

Rosenberg said soybeans will be seeing yields of 50-plus bpa, and possibly up to 70 bpa for producers who utilize prescription farming practices.

He said weather is allowing producers to maximize that opportunity with a mild-temperatured growing season.

“We have some of the greatest potential that I’ve ever seen for corn and soybeans,” said Rosenberg.

O’Brien County

“Locally, everything looks really good,” said Mike Thompson, manager of the Paullina Farmers Co-op Co. in Paullina, Granville and Hospers. “It looks like we’re going to be blessed with a good crop, if we can get it in the bin.

“Corn yields, I think, will be better than last year,” Thompson said. “I think we’ll be in the 190s (bushels per acre). I think we’ll be set pretty good, on average. We’ve got to get it in the bin first.

“We’ve got a long time before we get it in the bin,” he added.

Thompson said that the soybeans seem to be doing well, too.

“The downside: the aphids are here again,” he said, adding that spraying costs $20 per acre and the predicted market price of beans is down.

The market outcome won’t be known until the harvest is in, however. Some of that harvest could be less than hoped, due to spotty rain shortages.

“We’ve got some dry areas,” Thompson acknowledged.

Sioux County

Troy Upah, chief executive officer and general manager for Ag Partners, said grain that will go through the company’s facilities at Alton – one of its 16 Iowa sites – was among those he called “a little mixed bag.”

“We’re seeing some drier conditions now taking a little (corn) off the top,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll quite hit 2013 results – 195 bpa. – but we’ll be above 2014.”

Upah said that, as far as the soybean outlook for Sioux County, it is too early to tell.

“Beans are really made in August,” he said. “It’s really hard to guess a yield in mid-August.

“We think bean (yields) might be down a bit this year, just a wild guess.”

He estimated that Sioux County would be among the top 12 counties in soybean production.

And, Upah said, Ag Partners is spraying “quite a few acres” for aphids.

In addition, the company is spraying some corn leaf blight blight south of Sioux County

Lyon County

Wes Koedam, who manages the Rock Rapids location, one of FEC’s nine sites, said he thinks everything, so far, indicates a strong harvest.

“We watched how the sweet corn came in,” he said. “Sweet corn always gives us a test run on how the field corn will be; It germinates earlier than field corn. If you’ve seen any of the sweet corn, the ears are completely filled out.

“I don’t know if it will be the biggest (yield), or close to it,” Koedam said. He noted that rain would be good for the corn, but at this stage, it would benefit the beans more.

“We’re ahead on growing-degree units; the corn is pretty set,” he said. “Corn grows on heat, beans grow on sunlight hours.”

Koedam said spraying for aphids is widespread.

“We feel we got there quickly enough that it shouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “I suspect it’ll be one of the four or five best crops we’ve ever had. Things just look really good.”

However, Koedam said some of the rainfall this year has been spotty. Farms that feed the elevators at Hawarden and Rock Valley are shorter on rain than others.

For instance, on Aug. 9, Rock Rapids got .75 inch rain, while 2 miles south of that city got no rain.

Even so, Koedam said, “A lot of things look good. I don’t anticipate a whole lot of difference.”

Osceola County

Jim Sarringar, the location manager Cooperative Elevator Association, based in Sibley, is optimistic about the 2015 harvest.

“I think the corn overall is real good,” he said. “Two dryer spots are not getting the same rain.”

Even so, Saringa put his estimate of corn yields “right in the neighborhood of 200 (bpa), some under, some over.”

Sarringar estimated the soybean yield at 50 to 60 bushels per acre, and a price range between $3.30 and $3.50 per bushel.

“I would say we’re going to be in this price range, 30 cents up or down.”

“We’ve never had too much rain at one time,” he said, explaining one reason for his optimism. “We’ve had timely rains and have been spraying for aphids for a couple weeks now.”

He allowed that the area has a couple dryer spots.

“It’s hard to find out (exactly what the harvest holds) until you get into the fields and combine,” Saringar said. “Still, overall, I think we’ll be looking really good.”

“I’m an optimist on the yield,” he said. “I’m kind of concerned on the prices.”

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