Iowa soybean farmers find variable, some “better than expected” early harvest yields

Written by on October 11, 2013 in News

Partial government shutdown shutters USDA reports; farmers concerned with impact on prices, markets

Ankeny, Iowa – Nothing was shutting down at Justin Dammann’s Page County farm this week. Despite the partial federal government shutdown that has put a lock on reports regularly provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Dammann, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member and Farm & Food Ambassador, had progress to report.
“There’s no shutdown here. We can’t put harvest on hold,” joked Dammann, who was combining soybeans and corn. “Things are still hit or miss regarding yields.”
Dammann, who had success with early spring planting, said southwest Iowa soybeans took a hit in when things went dry in August. “We didn’t get any rain that month,” explained Dammann. “So yields are averaging about 30 bushels an acre. Our corn is doing better than expected, ranging from 150 to 180 bushels per acre. We still have quite a bit of both crops to harvest, so we’re hoping to find stronger numbers.”

Iowa harvest progress
Iowa’s soybean harvest is 29 percent complete as of today, based on estimates from Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach field agronomists. Northwest Iowa appears to be the furthest along at 42 percent, while 20 percent is common in other parts of the state.
For updates on this year’s soybean harvest, go to the ISA Soybean Brief at
Clarke McGrath, ISU field agronomist based in Harlan, said harvest is in high gear in southwest Iowa with farmers concentrating on soybeans. Producers are trying to avoid issues with low-moisture beans prone to shattering like they’ve experienced before, he said.
“A light switch went off and they are hitting beans hard,” McGrath said. He added that farmers in the area were hoping for soybean yields in the low to mid-40s in early September. He said many are finding yields in the 50s, with some fields pushing 60 bushels per acre at about 12 percent moisture.
“Farmers from Creston to Schleswig are pleasantly surprised; shocked may be a better word,” said McGrath. “Good genetics are a big factor. Those areas got a few timely rains and favorable temperatures at the right time.”
Soybean farmers are harvesting fields with varying yield levels. While some yields are better than expected, other farmers may face yields worse than last year.
Terry Basol, ISU extension agronomist based at the Northeast Iowa Research Farm near Nashua, said soybean yields are extremely variable, ranging from 35 to 70 bushels per acre. Corn, for the most part, is averaging 180 to 200 bushels per acre. “All in all, most growers are surprised with their yields; a little better than originally thought,” Basol said.
In Wapello County, ISA Food & Farm Ambassador Pat Swanson reported that an inch of rain this past weekend slowed down harvest a bit.
“Our soybean yields have been averaging between 42 to 58 bushels per acre, with moisture around 12 percent,” she said. “So far, we have harvested corn planted in May with yields ranging from 150 to 200 bushels per acre, with moisture from 18 to 23 percent. We expect the yields to go down as we get into the later-planted fields.” The Swansons have also planted cover crops.

Shutdown impact
Chad Hart, ISU Extension grain economist, said a lack of government harvest and production reports hasn’t affected commodity markets yet. But that could change when combines are parked for the season.
Since the partial shutdown of the government started, Hart said November soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade have only fluctuated 25 cents. At noon today, November beans were $12.93 per bushel.
“As we move past harvest into winter, that’s when we would see the lack of information (especially demand) have an impact on markets and marketing,” Hart added.
While ISA President Brian Kemp was pleased with soybean yields that were five to 10 bushels better than he expected a month ago, he’s not happy about the lack of information available for farmers at one of their busiest times.
“It concerns me that farmers and others are relying more on anecdotal or unfamiliar sources for information,” said Kemp who farms near Sibley.
Grant Kimberley, ISA market development director, echoed Kemp’s concern.
“We’re not receiving those export commitments and reports, which doesn’t allow us to track changes (in sales),” said Kimberley. “Theoretically, we aren’t seeing the pricing info, either. With the lack of a Farm Bill and compounded with not having access to the Foreign Agricultural Services information, U.S. agriculture and organizations such as the U.S. Soybean Export Council can’t function as needed. Information is vital in this day and age. The shutdown prevents that access, but the work (of farmers, traders, etc.) continues.”
To learn more about ISA, go to

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