MOVILLE, Iowa | Eric Nelson described this year’s crop-growing season as a “roller coaster” and one of “extremes.”
“We were extremely wet, extremely cold in late May and by mid-July we were extremely hot and extremely dry and by mid-August we were back to being cool — extremely cool — and favorably moist,” said Nelson, who farms outside of Moville and near Marcus, which gives him a chance to check out a lot of fields between that 30-plus-mile stretch.
The 55-year-old, who is growing corn and soybeans at his operation, has farmed in some capacity since he was 10 but said he hasn’t seen nor experienced a season quite like this one.
“I’ve been almost farming for 45 years and it’s been a growing season of extremes like I can’t really remember,” Nelson said. “And, we’re still going to have a pretty decent crop and the attitude of most farmers is: How can that be possible?”
Iowa farmers are projected to produce 2.45 billion bushels of corn this year — third highest yield on record — and 567 million bushels of beans — second highest yield on record — despite less-than-ideal growing conditions, according to the latest crop report from U.S. Department of National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Like Nelson, Joel DeJong, an agronomist for the Iowa State University Extensionand Outreach Office covering Northwest Iowa, is surprised at just how well crops are doing in this corner of the Hawkeye State.
“It’s mixed; we are making great progress,” he said. “The summer took a toll on some fields (but) late summer weather really helped a lot of them. If you had told me things were going to look this good on the 20th of July, I might have doubted it, but we still have some fields that are pretty rough.”
Many experts are expecting harvest to ramp up soon, and DeJong has seen a few rows emptied near Remsen.
Several Northwest Iowa cooperatives said they expect farmers to start delivering beans next week. DeJong noted plants are starting to turn color and he’s seeing leaves drop on beans in some fields and Nelson even plans on harvesting some high-moisture corn from several of his fields next week.
“Depending on what the weather does, next week could be a really active week,” DeJong said. “I think there will be a few acres going this week, but quite a bit next week.”
As for as local yields go, DeJong said he hasheard predictions ranging from 70 to 270 bushels per acre on corn, while Nelson has heard estimates from 101 to 210 bushels per acre in the same neighborhood.
“Although I’m saying it’s going to be a pretty decent crop, my yield expectations are probably 25 percent below what they were a year ago per yield,” Nelson said. “That’s still a pretty good hit — we are definitely not facing a record crop like we did this year."
While no records will be broken, what helped farmers overcome the myriad of weather-related issues they faced this year were high levels of soil moisture that accumulated before the ground froze.
“We were really happy we started the year with soil moisture profile that was good and pretty much full of water because we need it with the extended dry period through a big chunk of Northwest Iowa,” DeJong said.
Soil moisture will go down as the unsung hero of the 2017 growing season; however, Nelson is uncertain how 2018 will go.
He has heard from forecasters that La Niña — an ocean atmosphere weather phenomenon — will impact South America and the Central United States next year, so he plans to keep an eye on its progress.
“We are going to be watching, anxiously, in South America to see if they get impacted and continue to watch that weather pattern to see if it develops further for us next year,” he said. “ La Niña, for us, would mean hot and dry.”