FIRST corn harvest

Even with all the challenges of the season, FIRST field manager Bill Schelp said the information from these tests is going to be extremely valuable.

As farmers hit the middle of November, there was a lot of corn left in the fields.

That was true for those running the Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) field tests in 2019.

Harvest has been behind for everyone this season, but especially in southern Iowa. According to Randy Meinsma, who manages the area tests for FIRST, as of Nov. 11 he was only about 30% done with his plots due to the late planting and high moisture levels. With additional drying needed, that has led to even more delays as farmers are trying to get their crop in good shape for storage.

“Now we have a propane shortage which has been heavy in the eastern part of the state, so that’s delaying everything,” Meinsma said. “Guys aren’t picking corn because they can’t dry it.”

He said despite the delays, yields so far are better than anticipated in the fields he has harvested. While the corn crop dealt with a little leaf disease in his area, Meinsma said the most impressive thing has been the standability of the stalks. The pollination this year also stood out to him.

“Almost everything I’ve harvested … has been pollinated clear up to the tip,” Meinsma said.

Challenges were also felt further south, according to FIRST Missouri and southern Illinois test manager Bill Schelp.

In Missouri, planting got off to a good start, Schelp said, with 10 of his 12 sites getting in the ground in April. Then he started losing sites due to some stand establishment issues.

“We just started getting persistent rainfall. It was relentless,” Schelp said. “I started losing sites to flooding on the Missouri River bottom and Mississippi River bottom. I had more farmers tell me they were replanting this year than ever before.”

In Schelp’s southern Illinois sites, he noted they did not have as many issues despite getting in a little later in the growing season.

Even with all the challenges he dealt with, Schelp said the information from these tests is going to be extremely valuable.

Harvest was not as much of an issue in the northern regions, but yields were notably down in the northern Iowa test plots, according to Corey Rozenboom, northern Iowa manager for FIRST.

He said across the geography of northern Iowa, he saw yields hit the 240-bushel per acre mark, but for every good number, there were instances that saw low yields, caused largely by the late planting dates.

“The earlier crops that got planted had great yield potential,” he said. “Several fields were averaging in the 240s and had very good crops. But just 30 miles down the road, one of the regions I cover, they had some damage from wind that caused a lot of green snap which took off a lot of yield.”

The issue facing most corn growers in northern Iowa was increased moisture levels. Rozenboom said the biggest question throughout the year was if there were enough growing degree units to bring the crop to maturity before black layer.

Across the Mississippi River, harvest was nearly done in the northern Illinois region, but high moisture was prevalent.

As of Nov. 11, Jason Beyers with FIRST said the only field he had not harvested yet was one planted on June 11. At that time, he said the corn was sitting around 30% moisture and because of that, the farmer hadn’t opened the field yet.

He said several of his test sites had to plant in early June.

“They never had much of an opportunity (to plant) with dryer soil,” Beyers said. “They did have a window between April 24-25, but after that it was saturated until the first week of June,” he said.

That meant some of the harvested corn was running in the upper 20s and even 30s in moisture levels due to a lack of good drying days.

While yields are down 20-25 bushels per acre compared to the three-year average, Beyers said that based on the spring issues, yields were “good to excellent.”

FIRST conducts seed trials throughout the Corn Belt. The corn results are included in this week’s issue of Iowa Farmer Today, and soybean results ran in the Nov. 23 issue.

Results for other regions may be found at

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