WATERLOO — Recent sunshine has dried out the ground and grains after record rainfall in September and wide-ranging temperatures have delayed the harvest for many Northeast Iowa farmers.
Temperatures peaked this week at 66 degrees Tuesday in Waterloo, with sunshine and temperatures reaching the 60s again Wednesday.
“They fought hard trying to get the crop planted through the growing season, fighting rain to be able to do timely application,” said Terry Basol, agronomist in north central Iowa and field specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
A mild August gave growers a sigh of relief, and then it rained.
“And it continued to rain,” Basol said. “They’re now fighting hard to try to get the crop out.”
Total precipitation so far for October is recorded at 5.5 inches, nearly 4 inches more than normal, according to the Des Moines Bureau of the National Weather Service. Precipitation since Sept. 1 is 14.4 inches higher than normal.
Conditions are ripe for some crops to develop mold.
“We’re seeing some ear molds, depending upon the hybrid and the variety,” Basol said.
“It’s not just the rain, but the temps we’ve had from the beginning of the excessive rainfall, the moisture, mashed with the temp ranges we had set up a conducive environment for disease development and mold development for the growers,” Basol said.
Basol said corn hybrids that typically have ears that stand straight up are seeing more mold as opposed to ears that have tipped, repelling rain. Some farmers have reported mold issues with soybeans as well, he said.
Ear mold, or ear rot, is a concern because it can turn into micotoxins, which create a major concern for livestock feeding on the grain.
Unseasonably cool weather brought average temperatures five to 10 degrees below average last week. On Saturday, a cold front moved through Iowa with high winds, causing some breakage. Winds reached 43 mph Saturday, the second highest for the month next to 45 mph on Oct. 3, according to NWS.
Brad Bovy with Bovy Farms in Waterloo said recent warmer temperatures sped up his harvest, and he has seen no sign of mold or loss of quality.
“None of our corn ever had any water standing in it. ... We’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
Although Bovy said he’s happy to be out in the fields, but he’d like to be further along than he is.
“But we’re making up a lot of ground in a hurry now,” he said.
Last week there were 3.7 days suitable for working in the fields in Northeast Iowa, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Adequate work days across Iowa averaged 4.4 percent.
In Iowa, 29 percent of corn had been harvested as of Monday, three days ahead of last year but four days behind the five-year average. Farmers in Northeast Iowa, however, have not yet harvested one-fifth of their corn.
Soybean harvest was 37 percent complete — 12 days behind the average — as of Monday. It is the smallest percentage of the soybean crop harvested by Oct. 21 since 1985, according to the report. Soybean harvest in Northeast Iowa is at 22 percent.
“Our hope is for everybody to get everything out as soon as possible and keep that yield as high as they can from field losses,” Basol said.