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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2017

Despite dry conditions, crop specialist sees average soybean yields for Henry County, southeast Iowa

Sep 07, 2017

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Someone once said things are never as good nor as bad as they seem.

The latter half of the phrase could be applied to this year’s soybean crops, said Virgil Schmitt, regional crop specialist for the Iowa State University Extension Service.

“People are going to be happy with what (soybean yields) they get,” Schmitt said. “Given what the crops went through weather-wise this year, farmers may be amazed at their yields.”

Schmitt said he doubts yields will come close to matching last year, but said that a dry summer should not be misconstrued as a disaster.

As of late August, Henry County had received only 2-2-1/2 inches of rain in the past 30 days and 1-1-1/2 inches of rain in the last 14 days, according to the National Weather Service.

That’s not good when soybean yields are made in late July and early August and the lack of rain at those junctures. However, Schmitt said that some producers could have normal yields this year. “Most people will be very happy if they get normal yield,” he remarked. “We haven’t had any real disasters, so I think Henry County farmers will have average to slightly below average yields.”

The reason rain is so key to soybeans in late July and early August is that is when soybeans are setting and filling pods. The lack of rain impacts both, he said. He said dry conditions also lead to a reduction of nodes, something he hasn’t seen much of. “That’s (lack of reduction of nodes) is a good thing,” Schmitt stated. “However, I think the size of the pods has been reduced.”

The key to this year’s crop was good subsoil moisture at the start of the growing season, Schmitt explained. “Moisture was deeper this year (at the start of the growing season) which carried the crops early on. A dry June actually helped. When June is wet, plants tend to develop shallow roots but a dry June made roots go deeper and pull moisture from deeper levels. That is why crops look so good.

“Normally, we have a wet June which accounts for dry spells in July and August,” Schmitt continued. “This year, however, that didn’t happen.”

Schmitt is one of 10 crop specialists on the ISU Extension payroll and covers 11 counties in east-central and southeast Iowa. His territory ranges from north of U.S. Highway 20 south to the Missouri border and all of the counties bordering the river in that region along with Henry, Delaware and Cedar counties.

Glancing at his precipitation map, he said about half of his counties have about the right amount of moisture, one-fourth have too much and the remaining one-fourth too little.

He said that rain now will be of no help to the soybean crop. “When you see the pods turning color, they are done filling. I would imagine we will see them turning color very soon.”

Compounding the problem this year for soybean producers is that dry conditions were not seen in that large of an area in the Midwest. “We are looking at high yields in some places, so prices may not rise. Lower-than-normal yields and low prices don’t bode well for the farmer.” Current prices are about 30 cents per bushel below last year’s prices at the same juncture.

All is not lost, though, Schmitt concluded. “They (soybean crops) are better than they have the right to be given the weather, but we won’t be challenging any yield records this year.”

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