homepage logo

2017 harvest yields better than expected

By Staff | Oct 27, 2017

-Farm News photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby Jason Dougherty combines a soybean field late last week northwest of Lake City. By Oct. 21, most of the soybeans in our area had been harvested, and farmers were starting on corn.



NORTHWEST IOWA – While the weather made it a challenge to get rolling with the soybean harvest in parts of northwest Iowa, all that changed during the week of Oct. 16. By mid-October, farmers were making rapid progress on soybean harvest, said Wayne Pingel, grain merchandiser for First Cooperative Association (FCA) in Cherokee.

He estimated that more than 70 percent of the soybeans in the co-op’s trade territory were harvested by the week ending Oct. 20.

“Soybeans yields have been variable, as expected, due to the erratic weather this growing season,” Pingel said. “As a rule, the beans are yielding better than expected.” While 2017 yields in the area are estimated at 5 to 7 percent less than last year’s record crop, quality has been good, Pingel added.

By the third week of October, very little corn had been harvested in FCA’s trade territory, other than silage acres. Pingel estimated that less than 5 percent of all corn was harvested at that point.

“Crop insurance assessments on silage acres have shown yields to be all over the board, from 0 to over 200,” Pingel added. “There have been reports of some sprout/germination damage where kernels are sprouting on the ear in the field already, due to ears not being tipped over for dry down, and lots of late September rain. Otherwise, quality has been good, although moisture levels are still quite high because of a lack of field drying conditions.”

Harvest is expected to progress at a good clip during the final week of October.

“It appears we have a pretty wide-open harvest forecast for the near future, so pace will continue to be fast,” Pingel said.

Better-than-expected yields in MaxYield trade territory

While MaxYield Cooperative started receiving the first grain deliveries from the 2017 harvest on Sept. 18, weather challenges in early October put the brakes on harvest.

“Once again, this was a year where we had less than seven good days to harvest beans, since we had only one day each week in early Oct.,” said Harry Bormann, MaxYield’s grain team leader. “The week of October 16 was the big bean harvest week.”

While approximately half of the soybeans in MaxYield Cooperative’s trade territory in northwest Iowa and north-central Iowa had been harvested by October 16, this jumped to roughly 80 percent complete by the end of that week. Soybeans in the area have been yielding 5 to 8 bushels per acre less yield than 2016, Bormann said.

Only 10 percent of the corn in MaxYield’s trade territory had been harvested by the third week in October, Bormann added. “It seems if corn is over 22 percent moisture, the farmers stop harvesting.”

While corn yields have been highly variable, they are better than expected, considering the dry weather during the 2017 growing season.

“We’re seeing a range of 150 to 200 bushels per acre, with some yields above 200 bushels in areas that received timely rains,” Bormann said.

Corn quality is good, he added.

“We’re seeing moisture levels of 20 to 21 percent. This should be under 20 percent when farmers return back to the corn harvest after beans are done.”

The last time farmers in MaxYield’s territory saw this many weather delays at harvest was 2009.

“Back then, we had harvesting completed in October,” Bormann said. “Then we had nearly perfect harvest weather all of November before it started snowing on Dec. 4. After that we had snow cover the rest of the winter.”

Central Iowa

Harvest across central Iowa is splotchy with some farmers almost done and their fields cleared to areas where crops haven’t even seen a combine yet. In fact, Mark Johnson, Iowa State University Extension specialist, said less than three-fourths of the crops in this area has been harvested as of the weekend of Oct. 21.

“Combines were rolling for a bit, then the rain came. But that delay should have very little impact on kernel quality. The only problem farmers will have from getting the crop out late is that it will take more dryer gas to dry corn at any given moisture when heating up colder air,” Johnson said.

Doug Watt, with Heartland Co-op, said he’d estimate upwards of 80 percent of the soybeans have been harvested in Polk, Dallas and Marshall counties, while less than 20 percent of the corn has been brought in.

“Yields have been surprisingly good. In fact, we’re seeing some record yields for some farms, particularly in Polk and Marshall counties,” Watt said. “I would expect we will be above trend line yield for beans and corn for this area. We’re doing some mycotoxin testing in some of the drier areas outside of the three-county area that were drier but all the tests have been negative so far so we don’t think there’s a problem. Aflatoxin can be a problem in dry years but It appears it was too cool for it to develop.”

So far, the corn harvested has been in good quality with a heavy test weight unlike last year’s crop, Watt said, and came out of the field with only 3 to 5 percent damage. All farm and commercial storage should fill up this year, he said, along with temporary bunkers, bags and uncovered ground piles.

John Grandin, with GROWMARK, said corn yields have surpassed everyone’s expectations from Labor Day thanks to August rains and cooler temperatures, which has allowed the corn to finish slowly and improve kernel size and test weight.

“Most growers’ comments and plot results have all been 230 plus BPA. Soybeans have been a bit mixed with yields averaging 60 to 65 BPA. Timely, spotty rainfall in areas during the growing season has produced some mid-70s field averages. The areas that remained drier in August seem to have better yields in the earlier maturities versus the later maturities, likely a result of the fuller season soybeans being under stress while attempting to add more pods and fill out the existing beans. I observed quite a few three-bean pods with only two mature beans in them and four-bean pods with only three mature beans,” Grandin said.

Johnson noted that the soil not being saturated by the summer rains allowed the crops’ root systems to establish a strong base, so when the weather turned dry, the roots were still able to draw moisture and nutrients from the soil and survived that dry period.

“The warm bursts did help the crop mature sooner than if we had not had them. Crops did mature slightly later than normal, but then lack of good drying weather has kept them from drying down as quickly as we would have liked,” he said. Yields overall are reasonable, respectable. Some pockets are actually higher than last year, many pockets are a little off from last year, some small pockets are off considerably from last year. Lots of areas are similar to the trend line yields for that area.”

Grandin saw some corn fields struggle with getting established in the spring due to the “excessively” wet and cool weather resulting in a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in plant stands which will impact yield potential, particularly in “fixed-ear” hybrids. Otherwise, corn dry-down has been good and there hasn’t been much concern with stalk quality and standability issues.

“Soybean harvest is at about 85 percent complete and corn harvest is at about 20 percent complete in the counties I cover,” he said. “The recent rain should help make the soils fit for anhydrous ammonia application later this month. Prior to the recent rains there was much concern about being able to penetrate the soil with the applicators and then even greater concern for the knife tracks to properly seal, preventing loss of the NH3 to the atmosphere.”

Grandin said he advises growers to be cautious about implementing any significant changes for 2018 based upon 2017 performances. He recommended growers manage their environmental risks by planting a range of corn and soybean maturities, since the early soybean maturities yielded well this year.

Ron Groskreutz, director of grain origination with Heartland Co-op, said the rains haven’t been consistently wet enough to cause mold issues or field loss. The planting season progressed as usual with enough moisture to germinate the corn and soybeans and prompt them to progress. But when the weather turned dry and hot, plant progress was slowed.

“Getting average yields that we are seeing, after the weather conditions we experienced, is a pleasant surprise,” Groskreutz said. “Soybeans started too dry, but some harvest rains have raised them moisture levels back up to a more desirable level. Corn has been continuing to dry a little every week or day.”

Groskreutz said in his position, he sees farmers losing more money letting the crop dry down than by harvesting wet grain. Farmers can see a drying charge or discount on paper, but cannot measure or see phantom yield loss.

“When harvest started, we were dumping 8 to 10 percent moisture soybeans. Since you are allowed 13 percent, and we average to boot, waiting for beans to dry too much drains your pocketbook. If you bring in 8 percent soybeans, that is 5 percent of the crop you lost in moisture alone,” he said.

Johnson said Polk, Marshall and Dallas are the bright spots this year out of his coverage area, and he anticipates that it will come in between trend line and last year.

“The biggest surprise was how good yields are considering the challenging summer we had. It was a relatively low insect year and a relatively low disease year,” he said.

Ryan Rice, field sales agronomist with Landus Cooperative, said harvest has been progressing when the weather permits in his region around southwest Webster County.

He predicts that the soybean harvest in his area is 85 to 95 percent complete.

“Most guys are within a day or two of being done and a lot of guys have finished and are switched over to corn now,” he said.

A surprise has come to many producers this year in the form of decent yields.

“Soybeans were better than expected,” Rice said. “A lot of reports I have heard and seen in the combines are 10 to 15 bushels better than we expected going in to harvest.”

Rice sexpects an average of 60 bushels per acre in his area, but added the soybean crop needs to brought out of the fields soon.

“Yields started out high, but as it’s gotten later they have started to drop off, but I say 60 bushels will be a good average,” he said.

An issue with late season yield loss, Rice said, will be due to the pods opening up and dropping beans on the ground as the soybean plants continue to become drier.

Weather has been the biggest enemy to the soybean harvest his year, Rice said, causing to extend the harvest season.

“It’s been mostly weather related issues. – getting those good days to combine,” he said. “A lot of soybean harvest didn’t get started to mid to later afternoons. It took a long time for the dew to come off and for the beans to dry down. Beans were holding moisture this year as far as the plants go – we had dry beans, but the some of the plants were tough to cut.

Rice said last week provided an opportunity to get a lot of corn harvested. He assumes that the southwest Webster County area is 30 to 40 percent down with corn harvest as of Monday.

“The weather helped out We had nice consecutive days to get running,” he said. “This week looks good as well, so we will get a big dent on corn done here this week.”

Corn is also showing some impressive yields considering the weather this growing season, Rice said.

“Yields again like beans, they’re better than expected,” he said. “A lot of guys are pleased with how their corn crop is doing, given the growing season we had.”

Those acres that were put into rotation seem to be yielding better versus corn on corn acres, Rice said.

“Rotated acres have been really good – yields up over 200 bushels pretty consistently,” he said. “Corn on corn has been tough, in the 170-190 range, but rotated ground is doing really well this year.”

This drop in yields on corn on corn acres, Rice expects, has something to do with nitrogen issues. However, he added, historically, corn on corn is just a tougher acre to grow.

“I think guys that have good fertilizer and management on their ground are being rewarded this year,” he said. “Rain is always a factor – guys that got timely rains on their fields are definitely reaping that benefit.”

Rice said he hasn’t seen any mold issues this year, and the grain being brought to the elevator seems to look good. Moisture, however, could be a problem.

“Moisture is always a concern,” he said. “We’re not going to get this grain dried down in the area to 15 percent. I think 16 to 17 percent is going to be where that moisture stops. If guys can get it in the bin, get air on it and get it dried down, that’s going to help I think our in-field drying days are pretty much over.”

Standability out in the corn field, Rice said, has also been better than expected. Some areas that were hit with wind and hail have had issues, but so far, corn has been standing well. But as the growing season progresses, that will change.

“As we get later in to the growing season, as this corn stands out here longer, and we get some windy days like they are forecasting this week, we could start to see some corn blow over, but so far, standability has been good, but the longer go, it does become a concern.”

Rice said over the 2017 harvest has been a good, but also a long one.

“Both crops have been yielding better than expected, but it’s starting to get long,” he said. Guys are starting to get tied and want this crop out, but we’re over into corn now, we’re getting towards the end of it, if we can keep the weather nice we’ll get this crop out pretty quickly.”

Also, Rice recommends taking a close look at the crop to help make decisions for next year.

“Always be evaluating your hybrids and varieties as you’re combining,” he said. “What do you think is working good for you? What numbers did you like this year? Definitely be having those conversations with your seed sales person and start planning for next year.’

“Everyone’s concern is the commodity pricing, being smart with your input costs – put those dollars in to get the best return,” he said. “The producer really needs to lean on to the resources he has, whether that be his agronomist or crop consultant. Leverage those resources he has in his operation to provide the best return going into 2018.”

Kristin Danley-Greiner, Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, and Kriss Nelson contributed to this story.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page