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FARM LIVING: As harvest approaches, Iowa farmers are about a week ahead

By James Grob,

Iowa farmers are at least four days ahead of schedule, and in some areas more than eight days, as the time for fall harvest approaches.

Earlier this month, Terry Basol, field agronomist and crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach out of Nashua, said that typically in this section of Iowa, the corn harvest will start in mid-to-late October and run through November.

“We might be a little bit ahead of that,” he said this week. “Some of the more southern area might be starting in late September or early October. A lot depends on the weather and the field conditions.”

Basol said that soybeans could start harvest as early as mid-September this year.

“We just want some nice, low-stress weather conditions so it doesn’t develop too rapidly,” Basol said. “We want it to develop slow so it will accumulate the dry matter as much as possible. The higher the dry matter, the higher the yield.”

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig commented on the latest Iowa Crop Progress and Condition report released by the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service. The report is released weekly from April through November.

“Farmers are chopping silage and we have started to see seed corn harvest getting under way as well,” Naig said this week. “Much of the state received significant rainfall last week, including parts of southern Iowa which have been in drought condition. Even with that recent rainfall, more than 90 percent of subsoil in south central and southeast Iowa is still rated as short or very short of moisture.”

According to the report this week, Iowa farmers had four days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Aug. 26. Topsoil moisture levels rated seven percent very short, 14 percent short, 70 percent adequate and 9 percent surplus.

Subsoil moisture levels rated eight percent very short, 16 percent short, 70 percent adequate and six percent surplus. In spite of recent rains, subsoil moisture levels in south central and southeast Iowa continue to remain critically low with greater than 90 percent rated short to very short.

“We’ve seen some drought conditions in isolated places,” Basol said. “The bulk of the dry acres are in southeast Iowa, and some in southwest.”

Basol said there were other isolated pockets of extremely dry conditions in the northwest corner of the state, but that isn’t the case in this part of the state.

Ninety-two percent of the corn crop overall in Iowa has reached the dough stage or beyond, eight days ahead of the five-year average, according to the report. Corn dented was at 63 percent, nine days ahead of last year. Seven percent of the corn crop was mature, nine days ahead of average. The seed corn harvest has begun, according to the repost. Corn condition rated 73 percent good to excellent.

Due to the late and wet spring, many area crops were planted late this year. According to the National Weather Service, Charles City recorded the wettest June on record, with nearly 12 inches of rain. The normal is 5.26 inches. Just over six inches fell in 2017.

In June and early July there was concern about the onset of some crop diseases, such as grey leaf spot fungus, and there was some herbicide application in the area. The fungus survives in corn residue, and spores are spread by wind and splashing rain. Hybrid susceptibility and weather conditions strongly influence disease development.

“The cooler temperatures kind of pushed that off,” Basol said.

The report said that 96 percent of the soybean crop was setting pods with 11 percent coloring, four days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average. Soybean condition rated 70 percent good to excellent. Ninety-eight percent of the oat crop has been harvested for grain.