Wet conditions slow Iowa's harvest

Thursday, November 13, 2008

DES MOINES - Wet fields and wet corn are a problem across Iowa as farmers try to finish up the harvest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the Iowa corn harvest is about two weeks behind schedule.

Rain is forecast into Thursday, which could mean more delays.

According to a weekly crop report from the Iowa agriculture secretary's office, the corn harvest is 62 percent complete. Moisture content of corn in the field is at 21 percent, while harvested corn is 18 percent.

Corn generally needs to be dried to about 15 percent moisture for storage.

The soybean harvest is at 97 percent, on pace with last year.

"Let's hope the weather clears up so we can get the remaining corn and beans out of the fields," Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said.

Brad Foster, the grain department manager at the Farmers Co-op in Manly, about 10 miles north of Mason City, said the delays that began last spring with the heavy rains and flooding carried through to the harvest this fall. Usually, farmers would have begun applying fertilizer to fields by now, he said.

"By this time of year we usually have about 50 percent of the anhydrous application down and we virtually haven't even got started," Foster said. "It all started last spring and it carried through this fall and the weather didn't cooperate at all."

While the corn harvest in his area is about 90 percent complete, yields are down up to 15 bushels an acre from last year, plus farmers are spending more to dry the crop because it's so wet.

"You start adding all that up and with the loss in commodity price of $4 a bushel, it becomes a bit disheartening," Foster said.

With the late start to planting in the spring, many producers wanted to leave their crop in the field as long as possible to let it dry itself and reduce their drying costs.

Foster said as disappointing as this year is, it's probably closer to normal than the past few years.

"The past three to four years the harvest has been excellent and by the middle of October we were done, but the weather has just not allowed that to happen this year," he said.

He said farmers now need to worry about muddy conditions or about snow.

"The problem will be getting it out of the field," Foster said. "We're just hoping that it freezes and stays clear. If it snows, the snow sticks to the leaves and they can't get it through their combine.

"The best case is either it has to freeze and stay open or warm up to 80 degrees and be sunny for a week."

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