The Ottumwa Courier

October 20, 2012

Early harvest nearly complete

Impact of summer drought results in inconsistent quality

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA —  Whether you’re a farmer, grain dealer or crop specialist in southeast Iowa, 2012 has clearly been one of the worst years for crops.

Mark Carlton, a field agronomist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, said that 70-80 percent of the corn in southeast Iowa has been harvested and about 80 percent of the beans are complete.

“Farmers were combining corn early because the corn matured early,” Carlton said.

This year, the yields were reduced overall, according to Carlton. But, if the farmer had good soil, planted in a timely manner, and missed some of heat, then he had a chance at yields.

Carlton noted Davis County,  where some of the farmers got as little as 20 bushels of corn.

Moving north toward Monroe County, Carlton said the yields were in the 70-bushel range.

“But if you have good soil, the yields could increase to 160 bushels per acre or even to 200 bushels,” Carlton said.

The Monroe County yields weren’t good for beans and corn. There were some 50-bushel acres but the yields were less.

“In that area, the soils don’t hold water very well,” Carlton said.

Other places, such as Keokuk and Washington counties, had good yields, he added. Additional factors include how good the soils are and how well they hold water.

Carlton said he hopes southeast Iowa gets 3 or 4 inches of rain before the grass freezes up. Cattle owners told him more rain will be needed to fill up pond levels for animals.

“The Des Moines River is pretty low now, and we want it to be in good condition for spring,” he added.

Jerry Main of rural Jefferson County grows corn and beans, and he’s amazed at how the crop has varied in southeast Iowa.

“Because of a rain or two — like that one decent rain in August, the soybeans are better and were better than the corn,” he said. “It’s about half of what ‘normal’ would be.”

Growers these days expect to average 200 bushels of soybeans, with the corn averaging 100 bushels per acre, Main said. Some in Davis County had less than that.

Most farmers carry crop insurance and will make up for some of the loss.

“But, most insurance never replaces the crop, but it keeps growers from going broke,” he said. “And, it helps keep farmers at their places.”

Main moved to the northwest edge of Fairfield in 1966 and has farmed there for 46 years. He said 2012 is one of the driest years he has experienced. Also on the dry list are 1983 and 1988.

“Every year is different, but this is one of the extreme years,” he added.

Robin Franklin, manager of Wapello County Grain, said grain dealers have been affected like the farmers.

“For us, it’s often worse because we have no federal government programs,” he said. “The weather directly influences a grain dealer. If [the farmers] don’t raise crops, I can’t trade or sell it. And this has been one of the three worst years in 32 years.”