Questions about Late Harvest, Low Prices Addressed by Iowa State

A news release from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach by Charles Hurburgh, Agricultural and Biosystems and Willy Klein, ISU Extension and

Members of the extension crops team from Iowa State University responded to producer questions related to the late spring, dry summer and slow crop development by holding meetings in north central Iowa last week.

Extension field agronomists Mark Johnson and Paul Kassel discussed crop maturity, crop drying, potential effects of an early frost, and pre-harvest preparations at meetings held in Clarion, Wesley and Sheffield. Charles Hurburgh, extension grain quality and handling specialist, spoke of 2013 crop quality, including moisture and test weight variability, potential diseases, and the best practices for handling and storing the crop.Iowa State specialists Chad Hart, extension economist, and Kelvin Leibold, extension farm management specialist, reviewed the 2013-2014 crop market outlook at the meetings.For the benefit of those not attending the meetings, ISU Extension and Outreach has made video recordings of the presentations available on the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative website at

Get more crop news from ISU Extension and Outreach
The extension crops team makes the most current information related to crop, harvest, storage and handling issues available through the Iowa Grain Quality website and Integrated Crop Management (ICM) News, an online newsletter. ICM News articles are published at; newsletter subscribers receive notification when new articles are published.Hart and Leibold are frequent Ag Decision Maker authors. Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) updates and news are available The AgDM newsletter and updates are published every month; subscribers receive notification of the publication of new materials.As the drought situation continues in Iowa, new material is added to the Dealing with Drought – 2013 webpage. The webpage offers information for dealing with crops, livestock, stress, home and yard and financial concerns during drought situations at

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Harvesting Wet Corn to Provide Challenges

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist,

Johnson_Steve_smWhile half of Iowa’s corn crop was planted by mid-May, much was pushed back several weeks. Some fields were replanted more than once and as a result pollinated into August.

The bottom line for many growers is that corn maturity has been delayed. The problem with harvest may be a wetter than normal crop created by a combination of late planting and then impacted by hot, dry conditions during grain fill.

Iowa farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.5 million acres of corn, that’s 200,000 acres less than last year’s drought ravaged crop. The latest USDA estimate is that Iowa would average 162 bushel per acre, below the 30-year state trend yield by 17 bushels. The variability of corn yields and moisture levels is going to be large across the state. Much depends on the corn planting date and the water holding capacity of the soils.

Some corn plants that died prematurely may already be harvested, but much of Iowa’s crop will be slow to dry down in the field. It will need to be harvested and dried down to near 14 or 15 percent moisture to avoid a discount or extend storage time for bushels to be marketed later. Delivery of wet corn sold will carry moisture discount at roughly 2 percent times the points of moisture above 15 percent times the cash contract price.

For corn harvested at 25 percent moisture and averaging 170 bushels per acre dry, that’s about $90 per acre with corn valued at $4.50 per bushel. This amount roughly equals the cost of commercial drying charges using a 1.4 percent shrink factor and 4.75 cents per point of moisture. Drying and storage of corn may be a problem as harvest gets underway.

Heavy drying needs
The key thing for a grower is to think ahead about corn moisture levels, drying and storage costs — be prepared. There’s an abundant supply of propane out there. The challenge this fall — if harvested grain needs a lot of drying — will be having the propane in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the most important factor in dealing with corn at higher moisture levels at harvest is getting the combine set up right. Some things to remember are:

  • A properly adjusted combine can handle corn between 20 and 30 percent moisture, but expect grain damage to increase unless careful attention is paid to combine settings.
  • Be sure to select a ground speed adequate to keep separator and cleaning shoe at full speed. Adjust your hydrostatic transmission to maintain the engine near rated speed under varying crop conditions.
  • Operate the corn head as high as possible to reduce getting wet plant material in the combine, which can significantly reduce the machine’s ability to thresh and separate the grain.
  • Before changing concave clearance, make sure it is level side-to-side in a conventional combine or front-to-back in a rotary combine so that the adjustment is uniform.

While corn harvest may begin later than normal this fall, farmers will want to be prepared early.

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Some Crops Grow Without Rain (9/12/13)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA report.

97hartsmThe latest USDA updates showed a growing corn crop and a shrinking soybean crop. The projections for corn put the nationwide average yield at 155.3 bushels per acre, up 0.9 bushels from last month and over 30 bushels better than last year. That puts corn production at 13.84 billion bushels, a record by over 700 million bushels. Soybean projections are a nationwide yield of 41.2 bushels per acre and production in the 3.15 billion bushel range. That soybean yield is down 1.4 bushels from last month, but still 1.6 bushels better than last year.

On the demand side, the changes were concentrated. For corn, all of the shifts were on the old crop with feed, ethanol, and export demand being raised. New crop corn demand was left unchanged. For soybeans, the major demand shifts were for the new crop as domestic crush and export demand were both lowered as we enter the marketing year. In the end, corn’s supply gains outweighed the demand shifts, so 2013/14 projected ending stocks are up slightly compared to last month’s projections, to 1.855 billion bushels. With that slight increase, USDA lowered the midpoint of its season-average price range to $4.80 per bushel. For soybeans, the supply moves also outweighed the demand shifts, but the moves were in the opposite direction from corn. So 2013/14 ending stocks tightened back to 150 million bushels and the midpoint of the season-average price range jumped $1.15 to $12.50 per bushel.

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Early Harvest Basis Opportunities

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist,

Johnson_Steve_smWith the heat and dry conditions from late August, Iowa corn fields are maturing quickly. Farmers might want to take advantage of an unusual marketing opportunity this in September.

By harvesting some of their corn early and delivering directly in to local corn users, such as processors, livestock feeders and ethanol plants; farmers could potentially earn a premium of 50 cents per bushel of more over cash prices offered in October. That premium price is likely to disappear quickly in early October, when the 2013 fall harvest begins to pick up more momentum.

It’s really going to be a win-win situation for grain users and farmers. Corn users are looking for corn now after last year’s short crop and farmers could use this to earn premium prices and help their fall cash flow situation.

There could also be a few marketing opportunities on early-harvested soybeans. Like corn, processors and river terminals are looking to secure a local supply of soybeans after last year’s drought-reduced harvest.

Iowa farmers are fortunate because there is a strong demand for corn and soybeans in the state. That can create marketing opportunities that are not  available in all states.

A good strategy for Iowa farmers this month is to keep a very close eye on the moisture content and quality of corn in their fields during September as well as bids from local buyers. If the moisture content of the corn drops down toward 15 percent, or if there are signs of stalk rot or other problems that could trim yields, it may make sense to harvest some of the driest fields early and try to take advantage of a cash bid premium, he said. Even if the grain is still above the target moisture level of 15 percent, the premium for early delivery may more than make up for the dockage.

In years when the crop is less than ideal, there is a tendency for Iowa farmers to store corn and wait for higher bids later in the marketing year. However, those higher bids may not materialize in the upcoming marketing year because other parts of the Corn Belt have experienced better growing weather and may have more corn to market. I think it will be good to take an aggressive marketing approach this year and to look for early opportunities.

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Iowa’s early planting dates: April 11 for corn, April 21 for soybeans

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist,

Early planting dates in Iowa are April 11 for corn and April 21 for soybeans. Acres planted before these dates are no longer eligible for replant coverage payments should it be necessary to replant. The maximum replant payments each year are equal to 8 bushels of corn and 3 bushels of soybeans. Multiply these bushels times the RMA projected price for that year, which is the February average futures price for December corn and November soybeans used to establish the value of the insurance guarantees that the producer purchases. For 2013 the projected prices are $5.65 per bushel for corn and $12.87 for soybeans, so the maximum replant payments are $45.20 or $38.61 per acre, respectively.

Any acres planted before the early planting dates lose replant coverage, even if the entire farm or insurance unit hasn’t been planted. However, early planting doesn’t affect a farm’s actual production history (APH) yield or revenue insurance guarantee, as long as all other good management practices are followed throughout the growing season. Once the crop is planted, that revenue guarantee is still in effect, and any indemnity payments will depend on the final harvested yield and the harvest price.

More information on important crop insurance dates can be found on the Ag Decision Maker website.

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