After a fast planting season and a wet, cool May, harvest was expected to come sooner than in past years. Now, drought conditions throughout Iowa and northern Illinois have some experts guessing the combines could be out sooner than later.
“It’s going to be an early harvest for sure,” Mark Storr said. “The dry weather certainly advanced crop development. We started to see the corn drop ears probably the week after the (derecho) hit Iowa. The heat and lack of water has really advanced crop development.”
Nearly the entire state of Iowa is showing up on the last Drought Monitor report for August, and farmers in the northern half of Illinois have also been seeing drought effects in their fields. A shot of rain came through central Illinois to start September.
“This rain that we just got is definitely going to add more bushels,” said Ryan Damerall, a seed and technology specialist with Evergreen-FS in Bloomington.
“When it gets hot and dry, the soybeans will actually start to abort pods and I hope this rain will limit that factor.”
DeWitt County, Illinois, farmer Marvin Finfrock says the yields “will probably be all over the board.”
“This corn has a lot of holes in it,” he said. “I think there is going to be good, bad and ugly. I don’t see a bumper crop, let’s put it that way.”
Some areas of the state needed rain even more. Alyssa Nelson, a CropWatcher for Illinois Farmer Today, described the need for rain in northwest Illinois as “desperate” on Sept. 1.
In the Aug. 31 crop progress reports from the USDA, Iowa saw crop conditions rated relatively low. Twenty-five percent of the crop was placed in the poor or very poor condition category, with 30% rated fair, 41% good and 4% excellent. Soybeans had 18% rated poor or very poor and 50% good or excellent.
In Illinois, the overall drought effects haven’t been as severe, with southern Illinois free of drought. The state is showing corn condition at 70% good or excellent, with only 7% in the poor or very poor categories, while soybeans were placed at 72% good or excellent and 6% poor or very poor.
The derecho that flattened crops along some of the drought-stricken areas of Iowa on Aug. 10 could cause some problems for those looking to create silage or other products out of their grain.
Iowa State Extension field agronomist Virgil Schmitt said there could be some nitrate issues in silage this year for central Iowa, because the corn ears didn’t develop as far due to the drought conditions. He also noted that aflatoxin could occur in some of those areas as well due to the drought.
“If we take a look at particularly Central and West Central Iowa where it was exceptionally dry before all this, that compounds felonies, so to speak,” Schmitt said.
Charles Hurburgh, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State, noted that watching grain quality is important as well in these conditions, especially as the moisture in crops dry down.
“In drought areas, the biggest concern will be field molds, especially the mustard green aspergillus flavus fungus that produces aflatoxin,” Hurburgh said. “This will show up primarily after maturity, from about 30% moisture down through 18%.”
Hurburgh also said to check with processors and elevators to understand their policies regarding grain quality and what they will or will not accept come harvest time.
Kevin Barlow of The Pantagraph and Phyllis Coulter with Illinois Farmer Today contributed to this report.