Sustainability

2020 Ground Work: Iowa Crops Need Rain

We need rain. I typically judge dryness by how often I have to mow the lawn. The last time I mowed, the grass really didn’t need to be cut.

Our crops continue to grow, and they still look pretty good. But we are starting to see signs of stress because of our dry weather. This season, we have gotten more rain in our immediate area than other parts of Iowa. Drought is becoming a problem in some parts of our state and the U.S. Midwest, and Iowa is annually among the top soybean-producing states in the U.S. And on August 10, the nasty storm pictured, called a derecho, brought hurricane-force winds.

Although our soybean fields have looked good, stress due to lack of moisture is starting to show. Plants are losing their deep green color, especially in lighter soils that dry out more quickly. The soybeans are setting pods heavily. However, due to the lack of rain, we’re seeing quite a few of those pods aborted. Soybean yield comes from the size of soybeans, rather than the number of pods, so we still have time to make a good crop, if the weather cooperates.

We applied fungicide to some of our soybeans during the last week of July. We used our own sprayer so that we know the exact location of our test strips. That will help us figure out the return we get on the investment in fungicide. We do not plan to apply any insecticide on soybeans this year. Typically bugs just become a problem in our area when it gets dry and they run out of other things to eat. In those conditions, controlling insects is unlikely to save enough yield to be worthwhile. Spraying the fungicide ourselves also saved money, something we are very focused on this season.

Soybean prices have been decreasing based on reports that crops are in good condition. However, the next crop condition report will likely show a decline because we need moisture. That may impact prices. We have not yet sold any of the soybeans growing right now because we are on the edge of having a really good crop if we get timely rains, and a really poor crop if we don’t get rain. I’m reluctant to sell when I don’t know what our yields will be.

Our corn also looks good. We have a good stand and it pollinated well. But it is also starting to show signs of stress. In mid-July, I expected a bumper corn crop, but I think we are losing yield each day it doesn’t rain. Again, yield depends mostly on corn kernel size. As the corn starts filling out in a couple weeks, the quality will be excellent but the kernels could be small if we don’t get rain.

We did mow our filter strips at the beginning of August to prevent the little trees from growing.

The pigs are doing well, and we continue to move closer to our normal production schedule. Processing plants continue to work through the backlog of pigs created while they shut down a few months ago. But our pigs are back on normal diets that include soybean meal for energy and growth, as well as corn. We are still a couple months away from normal as it was before the COVID-19 outbreak started in the U.S., but the progress is encouraging.

Our next project will be to start preparing for harvest. We finished delivering our soybeans and corn to customers in July, so our storage bins are empty and ready for the 2020 crop. We will start checking our harvest equipment to make needed repairs and get it ready for harvest, which I expect to start in mid-September.

We need rain. Although we can’t control the weather, I am looking forward to harvest. It’s my favorite time of year – and the reason I farm.

Lindsay Greiner
Lindsay Greiner

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Iowa

Lindsay Greiner is an Iowa soybean farmer and a director for the United Soybean Board (USB).