Rain doesn’t always make grain
“Rain makes grain” is the often heard maxim said by grain traders on the Board of Trade to explain why grain markets tend to fall after hearing of reports of rain during the growing season.
But don’t say that to northern Iowa farmers who have been harvesting in recent weeks after a wetter than usual growing year. They have seen from their combines what too much rain has done this year.
The wet year started at planting time and rain was too frequent and heavy all through the growing season right into harvest.
Randy Westhoff, of the North Iowa Co-op at Thornton, was running the scale Saturday and he estimated soybean harvest was 85 to 90 percent complete in that part of southern Cerro Gordo County.
Jeff Rahe, of State Line Co-op’s north Burt location in Kossuth County, give a similar figure of soybean harvest of 85 percent completed.
The scale operator at Garner’s Max Yield office in Hancock County was too busy to answer questions but a congenial farmer from north of Garner, who identified himself only as Tim, said he believed soybean harvest was 90 percent complete.
No one had any better than expected numbers for soybean yields.
Westhoff said reports of bean yields were in the upper 50s to mid-60s. He estimated there was a 5 to 10 percent yield reduction from too much rain.
“It was because of ponds and stuff,” said Westhoff.
The farmer from Garner said bean yields of 45 to 50 bushels per acre were common.
Over in Kossuth County, where rainfall was heavier, Rahe gave his estimate of 50 bushels per acre.
“Yields are down,” said Rahe. “It’s sort of a disappointment.”
All three men said corn was at the halfway point with Westhoff estimating 50 percent and Rahe and farmer Tim saying 60 percent.
Corn yields were holding their own in Cerro Gordo and Hancock counties, with Westhoff estimating corn yields at 200 bushels per acre and up, and farmer Tim saying that 160 to 170 bushels per acre was common in his neighborhood.
Rahe reported a significant drop in Kossuth County.
His estimate of corn yields around Burt was in the range of 120 to180 bushels per acre, which is well below average when compared to the last three years, according to Rahe.
“It’s all got to do with moisture,” he said. “There were a lot of drowned out spots.”
Rahe heard a report that crop conditions were not improving as far west as Estherville.
When asked about farmer selling of this fall’s harvest, the three men were in agreement that farmers are trying to store their corn and soybeans.
Rahe said the corn that is coming in to his location is corn that has already been sold on contract.
“They’re trying to keep it on the farm,” he said.
Westhoff said North Iowa Co-op’s customers were storing the grain not contracted, and farmer Tim, of Garner, said most of the grain he knows of is being stored.
With so much grain being stored, the three men were asked about storage capacity.
Westhoff said they moved out corn ahead of harvest to free up capacity.
“We’re still okay,” said Westhoff.
Rahe said their storage was adequate.
Farmer Tim said his storage on the farm was full with the rest of his corn going to the elevator for storage.
“I might sell some to raise some money,” said farmer Tim.
Once conditions allowed, harvest proceeded quickly.
“Harvest was late to start, but once they got started, a lot got done in a short period of time,” said Westhoff.
He added the Thornton location was going to be open Sunday to take in soybeans.
“Otherwise, we’re drying corn,” he said.
Rahe said corn quality was good with test weights in the range of 57-58 pounds per bushel.
Polk and Dallas counties
Saturday night, near the Polk-Jasper county line, pickups and semis had their headlights on, attempting to illuminate the corn fields where combines were rolling, hoping to knock down as much of the crop as they could before another round of rain-snow mix possibly invades the state this weekend.
There also are lower lying fields completely submerged under water from earlier heavy rains that had to be abandoned. In Jasper and Dallas counties, there are reports of soybean crops too moldy to harvest, but those are spotty, said Spencer Funk, with Heartland Co-op.
“Harvest is coming along,” Funk said. “Most beans are probably done. Corn is still coming in.”
Some of the rain that fell last week during harvesting upped the moisture content, Funk noted.
“There’s still some wet stuff out there,” he said.
North central and northwestern Iowa
By Oct. 25, farmers in north central Iowa in Gold-Eagle Cooperative’s trade territory were about 90 percent finished with the soybean harvest and 30 percent complete on the corn harvest.
“Yields have been below average on beans and about the same as last year on corn,” said Brady Hess, grain merchandising manager for Gold-Eagle Cooperative. “Around 58 bushels per acre is average for beans in this area, while average corn yields last year and this year have been around 205 bushels per acre.”
Soybean quality has been very good in Gold-Eagle’s area, Hess said, but co-op employees have noticed some damage (about 5 percent) from stalk rot in the corn.
“Overall, we are disappointed in the yields in the area, but fungicide has again proven to be worth the investment,” he added.
MaxYield calls yields “disappointing”
Harvest has been progressing well in MaxYield Cooperative’s territory in northwest and north central Iowa.
Harry Bormann, grain team leader at MaxYield Cooperative, estimated that 85 percent of the soybean harvest and 40 percent of the corn harvest were complete in the co-op’s region by Oct. 25.
Yields have been disappointing, though.
“We’ve heard of a few corn fields that hit 200 bushels per acre, but the most common range is 140 to 185 bushels per acre. That’s 15 to 20 percent off from last year,” Bormann said. “Ouch.”
Some area soybean growers reported good yields of 65 bushels per acre or more at start of harvest, but yields in the lower to mid-50s range seem to be the average.
“That’s 10 to 12 percent less than last year,” Bormann said. “Lower yields and sub $8 prices will negatively impact clients.”
On a more positive note, grain quality has been better than expected. While hail hit some areas within MaxYield’s territory earlier this year, damage to beans from these fields ranged from 4 percent to a high of 12 percent damage.
“Fortunately, there wasn’t a large amount of damaged soybeans,” said Bormann, who noted that soybean moisture levels dropped rapidly from 15 percent to 11 percent as harvest progressed.
Corn quality seems normal, with decent test weights, he added. MaxYield has seen only small amounts of corn with field damage, although some corn seems to have more foreign material. Corn moistures have been ranging from 19 percent to 15 percent out of the fields.
“Most clients are glad the 2018 crop year is coming to close,” Bormann said. “Those who ‘mudded in’ while planting are seeing very low yields. Saturated soils in June, restricted root growth and plant growth followed by a hot, dry period in late July all stressed the crop at the exact wrong time. Then the rain delays at harvest just added to the stressful growing year.”
Unfortunately, these challenges have been fairly widespread.
“My comments reflect a large portion of Iowa north of (U.S.) Highway 20 and west of Interstate 35 — a region that’s usually one of the most productive crop areas in Iowa,” he said.
FAC: “It has been a very good harvest so far”
Harvest has been speeding along in west central and southwest Iowa after the rain quit falling in October.
“In our territory I would put bean harvest at 90 percent complete and corn harvest at about 50 percent done by October 27,” said Nate Fara, grain division manager with FAC Cooperative in Arcadia. “This harvest has seemed to be a struggle from the get go, but it’s amazing once we hit this stretch of dry weather how fast the crop can come out and how fast the corn has dried down.”
Soybean yields in FAC’s territory started out strong this year, with many early-maturity beans producing more than 70 bushels per acre.
“After the spell of two and a half weeks of wet weather, though, we saw a drop on yield,” Fara said. “A lot of this I would attribute to the wet weather. Once beans dried down, they got down to 9 to 10 percent moisture. Also, late-maturity beans don’t seem to have performed as well as the early ones.”
He projects the soybean harvest in FAC’s trade territory will end with yields in the low 60s, on average. That’s a little less than last year.
Corn yields are all over the board in the region.
“I think we’ll average in the 225- to 230-bushels-per-acre range, which is about the same as last year,” Fara said. “The only difference is the range of yields in this area is a lot bigger than last year.”
Weather challenges in 2018 created a lot of wind-damaged corn and some stalk quality issues, Fara said. Grain quality in the area has been fairly good, though.
“Once bean harvest started to roll again, there was a small percentage of discolored beans, but in general the quality was very good,” he said. “The only thing I’ve seen on corn quality is the test weight is down from a year ago, but it’s still very acceptable. Overall, it has been a very good harvest so far.”
Yields vary in Webster and Humboldt counties
Tyler Hofer, agronomy sales specialist for NEW Cooperative’s Badger location, said in the northern half of Webster and southern part of Humboldt counties, there are very few beans that are left out into the field and producers also made huge progress last week in corn.
“The beans are all but done; maybe 5 to 10 percent left,” he said. “And we’re looking at 50 to 60 percent of the corn harvest is completed.”
Hofer said soybeans have been yielding in the mid-50 bushels to the acre. Soybeans that were planted earlier in the season — April and early May — are proving to be better.
“They are better; upper 60s to 70s, or beans coming off corn on corn in the upper 50s and 60s,” Hofer said. “Poorer beans in heavy rain areas are coming in at 30 to 40s.”
Corn yields in his area have ranged widely, from the 160 bushel to the acre on the lower side up to 240 bushels to the acre on the higher end.
“Corn yields are all over depending on tile or ground and where you are for rain amounts,” he said. “But most is coming in at 200 to 220.”
NEW Cooperative, Hofer said, has been keeping an eye on any quality issues potential affecting soybeans, but fortunately, they have seen little to no damage.
Regardless, the 2018 harvest has brought plenty of challenges.
“Wet ground led to more break downs, it seemed,” said Hofer. “Stuck equipment, getting semis out of the fields was an issue also. Adding on tow kits to combines is popular, along with tracks or wide tires.”
Now that harvest is wrapping up, will there be much post-harvest field work completed, including fall nitrogen?
“You will have to pick and choose your fields at the start, but the fields I have watched anhydrous being applied went on great and sealed,” he said. “I would say the majority of the fields that need nH3 this fall will get applied. You may have to wait on wetter fields until last thing before the ground is frozen or go to a spring nitrogen program. I would say to try it and see for yourself how it works before throwing in the towel.”
Wet conditions and other weather events largely impacted Dickinson County
Jeff Smith, location manager with Cooperative Farmers Elevator in Lake Park, said the soybean harvest is 85 to 90 percent completed, but the yields are less than to be desired.
Smith is expecting a 25 to 30 percent drop in soybean yields this year compared to 2017 and mostly is due to large drown out spots, but also a swath of hail that struck northeast of Lake Park.
Smith has heard of soybean quality being compromised, but hasn’t seen the issue personally.
But they are not going to let their guard down.
“With the bean price the way it is, I think there is a lot of grain bring stored on the farm, so that is something we will have to keep a close eye on has it comes in,” he said.
Corn, much like soybeans around Smith’s area in Dickinson County, has taken a hit.
“We have a lot of rolling ground with a lot of pockets,” he said. “And I would say, again, there is a 25 percent yield reduction from last year.”
The extensive water and weather issues that have caused the poor yields have subsided for now, Smith said, allowing producers to make some great headway with their harvest. He figures 50 percent of the corn harvest is completed.
There have been some reports of aflatoxin-positive corn samples, but Smith said they have been checking all of the corn coming into the elevator and have not run into that yet at his location.
Farm News staff writers Clayton Rye, Darcy Dougherty-Maulsby, Kristin Danley-Greiner and Kriss Nelson contributed to this story.