Damp Fields Darkening Iowa Corn Prospects

November 13, 2008 06:00 PM
 
Stefanos Chen, Storm Exchange 

As harvest drags on across the Midwest, damp fields in Iowa are darkening prospects for state corn farmers. Persistently wet weather has set Iowa farmers behind harvest schedule by approximately two weeks and now threatens to push them even further behind.

In the most recent weekly crop report from the Iowa agriculture secretary's office, corn was only 62 percent harvested. With rain forecasted through Thursday, delays could become even more pronounced, according to Associated Press. 

Brad Foster, the grain department manager at the Farmers Co-op in Manly, about 10 miles north of Mason City, said the problem started in the spring when heavy flooding carried through to the harvest season.

''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.

Looking to avoid some of the high costs associated with mechanical drying methods, many farmers wanted to leave corn out in the fields longer to advance natural drying. Unfortunately, persistent rains have doused those plans.

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 proper storage.

While the corn harvest in Foster's area is about 90 percent complete, yields are down by 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.

He said the greatest obstacle now facing Iowa farmers is avoiding more menacing weather conditions like snow and mud.

''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.

Nevertheless, Iowa farmers are keeping their eyes fixed on the silver lining beyond the clouds.

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


Stefanos Chen is a reporter for Storm Exchange working in cooperation with AgWeb. Contact AgWeb at editors@agweb.com.
 

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