After a summer of dour, drought-driven forecasts for Iowa’s corn and soybean crops, a growing sense of optimism is coming from the yield monitors on Iowa’s combines, Iowa State University Extension reports this week.
“Some farmers are pretty happy going through the fields because things are a little better than the catastrophic scenarios that people were expecting,” Extension agronomist Roger Elmore said. “Yields are going to be less than they have been in recent years, but they aren’t quite as bad as we might have expected considering the historic nature of this year’s drought.”
Because of the drought, farmers reversed their normal harvest rhythm and took out corn first because of fears of weaker stalks. Early reports from the one-quarter of the crop already harvested indicate a wide range of yields, but enough farmers have logged reports of 200 bushel-per-acre corn to have been noted this week by the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans are further behind, with just 6 percent harvested through Sunday. But again, some early indications are encouraging.
On the Babinat farm east of Clutier in Benton County, early soybean yields have averaged 53 to 55 bushels per acre, well above the 35 bushels per acre the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast for Iowa. The state’s 2011 soybean average yield was 50.5 bushels per acre.
“That’s below average for us, but it’s better than we expected,” Steve Babinat, 20, said as he guided a combine over a soybean field.
Steve’s father, John, watched the combine unload the soybeans into a truck. “I don’t know where it’s coming from, as dry as it has been this year,” he said.
The hottest summer since 1936, on soils as much as 90 percent moisture-deficient, gave rise to forecasts through the summer of corn yields as low as 110 bushels per acre in Iowa. That would be well below the 172 bushel-per-acre yield average for the past three years.
Those predictions gained more weight by what appeared to be, even in the eyes of untrained urbanites, exceptionally ugly-looking cornfields in Iowa this summer.
“When you put corn under stress, it matures faster and usually looks uglier,” Elmore said. “The plants shut down faster, and you start losing leaves. The ears of corn start tipping down earlier, and you end up with smaller and/or fewer kernels.”
But he added: “The stress from the drought will also lead to greater yield variability from one field to the next. In some cases, yields can even vary widely between two different rows in the same field.” The stress endured by the plants throughout the summer amplifies the effect other important factors, such as seed depth and soil quality, have on the growth of the crops, resulting in a wide range of yields.”
The actual state average yields won’t be known until the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final crop report next January.
Iowa farmers have been reporting, anecdotally, yields as high as the 200 bushels per acre that have become normal in the state in recent years on their better soils and sub-100 bushel-per- acre yields on the lower quality, sandier soils.
Iowa’s corn crop is the largest single chunk of the state’s agricultural complex. In 2011 it amounted to about half of the $30 billion Iowa farmers took in cash receipts from corn, soybeans and other grains and hay as well as hogs, cattle and lamb.
Agricultural economist Chad Hart said the crop fared better than the “gloom-and-doom predictions. It bodes well that we can have a severe drought and production can still carry through,” he said...
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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