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Crops are out, yields better than expected after tough year for farmers

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

The weather didn’t want to allow it, but after much delay farmers managed to get their crops out this year.

“I think we can say it’s a wrap,” said Terry Basol, field agronomist and crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, who works out of Nashua. “Despite the way that the year went, the guys were able to get everything out of the field.”

The USDA statewide survey this week showed 96 percent of Iowa’s corn crop has been harvested as of Nov. 25, which is four days behind the five-year average. Farmers in northwest, north-central and central Iowa have harvested 98 percent of their corn for grain, while farmers in southwest Iowa have 13 percent of their corn remaining to be harvested.

Iowa’s 2018 soybean harvest is 98 percent complete, nine days behind last year and 12 days behind the five-year average.

The weather this year made things difficult for farmers from the start. With late heavy snow followed by record rains in the spring, it was too cold and wet for farmers to begin planting when they wanted to, and things went downhill from there.

“The guys were fighting through the whole growing season,” Basol said. “We had a little window of good weather, then more rain when it was time to be putting out applications. The guys were really pushed to the max, and the weeds got too big.”

Basol said the farmers had a brief break in the weather in August.

“They had a little breather — a sigh of relief — but then it started raining again and wouldn’t quit,” he said.  “I really felt bad for both sides, the retailers and growers.”

Basol said that the yield was better than expected, considering the circumstances.

“There were some fluctuations, but you’re going to have some of that regardless of the situation,” he said.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said this week that farmers have dealt with many challenges this growing season, including flooding in northwest Iowa and serious drought conditions in the southeast.

“The record precipitation we have received this fall has resulted in one of the slowest harvests on record,” Naig said. “Even with those challenges, many parts of our state reported record or near-record yields. We are fortunate to have tremendous farmers who do an amazing job raising the crops and livestock that help keep us fed and fueled.”

Basol said he was pleased to hear that the yields are good in this area of the state, and said that it was a tribute to the intelligence and hard work of area farmers — and as always, a little bit of good luck.

“There were huge dynamic swings in the field conditions around the state,” Basol said. “While we were getting all that rain up here, in southeast and south central Iowa, the drought really had an impact.”

Basol said that now, with everything frozen, there is a fair amount of nitrogen that hasn’t gotten applied due to the delayed harvest.

“There are acres out there, slated to get anhydrous ammonia, and it hasn’t gotten done,” he said. “The spring will be more compressed as to getting everything done. I’m crossing my fingers that we have a spring that opens early for timely planting.”

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