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Harvest picking up steam in northeast Iowa

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 10/22/2013 9:50 AM

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BENSON, Iowa —Harvest picked up steam last week in northeast Iowa.

Rick DeGroote, of DeGroote Farms in Parkersburg, have two combines working on soybeans and two on corn.

"Things are going really good," DeGroote said. "Surprisingly, yields are better than we expected for both beans and corn. A lot of our beans are in the mid-50 to low-60 bushel range. For corn, it depends on the field. A couple fields were a little disappointing, but we're averaging about 200 bushels per acre. So far, harvest has been the silver lining in what was a terrible year."

With rivers and creeks flooding out of their banks several times this summer, DeGroote said they still managed to get everything planted except for a couple hundred acres.

"It's the first time ever that we just couldn't get into those fields to get them planted," he said.

Matt Schwab was combining soybeans for DeGroote Farms on Oct. 9 just outside Benson between Cedar Falls and New Hartford.

Schwab said the field he was combining was dry and dusty. The late summer drought burned up the crop resulting in smaller beans.

Schwab likes harvest time even though the days are long, stretching from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"It's the time of year where you really feel complete," he said.

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship state climatologist Harry Hillaker last week said that the prior week's rain totals included 5.19 inches near Colwell while statewide average precipitation was 1.19 inches, the wettest week since late June.

Keith Westergard, a Pioneer sales representative west of Colwell, said he received four inches of rain the first week in October and there was water over the road in a couple of spots.

"But prior to that, there were cracks in the ground big enough to stick your hand into, so for the most part, the heavy rain wasn't so much of an issue," Westergard said. "We were glad to get the moisture but it would have been better if it had been spread out. We desperately needed rain."

Farmers in Westergard's area were just getting a good start on harvest.

"I've got guys harvesting high moisture corn and combining corn because they're concerned about stalk strength due to rootworms, wind and stalk rots," Westergard said. "It's not at the moisture they'd like it to be, but they don't want to wait."

He's heard of corn yields in the 180-bushel range and beans in the low to mid-50s.

"Farmers are happy with those yields, but with the June-planted beans and corn it remains to be seen what they will yield," he said.

Farmers are breathing a sigh of relief that there hasn't been a killing frost.

Oct. 9 was the first big day for harvesting in the Riceville area, said Barry Christensen, who farms with his parents, Steve and Rosalie, near Riceville.

"Quite a few started on soybeans that they planted the first part of June," Christensen said. "Some started on beans they planted in May last week."

Soybean yields have been in the low 40 to upper 60-bushel range.

"There were some really good fields and some lower ones," he said. "A lot of it had to do with aphid pressure and whether the field got sprayed. Guys that sprayed fungicide and insecticide are seeing the higher yields, and those that sprayed neither are in the low range."

The beans being combined now are the earliest plantings and as farmers get into the later plantings, he expects yield will go down.

"We've been extremely lucky with the last two weeks of nice weather," Christensen said. "It will make a difference in yield. If there had been a Sept. 20 killing frost, we wouldn't have a crop in some fields."

After another week or so, a frost may help even out fields where beans in the pods are dry and stems are still green.

Christensen received four inches of rain Oct. 4 and two days later was back in the field because it has been so dry.

Christensen said there wasn't very much corn planted in his area this spring. He predicts the corn that was planted will yield 200 bushels in the rows on tile lines and 100 bushels in between. The corn on tile lines has reached black layer, while in between it hasn't matured yet.

"It's going to be hard to know where to set the dryer," Christensen said. "There are places in some of our corn fields that will yield zero. There was so much moisture after we planted that the corn plants could not survive. The water couldn't drain away fast enough.

In Howard County, 54,000 acres weren't planted, Christensen said. Half to two-thirds was later planted to a cover crop.

"Harvest is exciting no matter how bad the yields are," Christensen said. "I enjoy this time of year. You get to see what 12 months of planning and work have turned into."