Corn, soybean crops facing long odds

  • 01

    The thermometer in the the car already said 90 degrees by the time we got to the first field in Warren County, Iowa, with Dereck Klaassen, field supervisor for Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa, and farmer and Pioneer seed representative Blake Reynolds, to take stock of corn and soybean conditions on Tuesday, August 7.

  • 02

    Here, Blake chats with's Mike McGinnis about this soybean field, which has set a good number of pods, but could start struggling as the plants try to fill those pods in the next couple of weeks. Without rain, that could be tough. Klaassen says he's seen fields in other parts of southern Iowa where each plant has only 3 pods.

  • 03

    We just need to continue getting little, timely rains," Blake says, adding he received about .60 of an inch over the last weekend. "This plant's gone ahead and filled out with a few more pods. Earlier pods are going ahead and filling out at this point."

  • 04

    The corn's another story. Klaassen says the field from which this ear came could yield up to 100 bushels/acre, but in south-central Iowa, that's "on the higher side." Most fields in the area could see yields as low as 45 bushels/acre, he says.

  • 05

    This ear's from a field just up the road from the last shot. This field may have trouble yielding 40 bushels/acre, Klaassen says. With variable, yet poor yields like these, it's important to keep your agronomist in the loop to help you "make the best possible decision" on what to do with drought-slammed corn like this, he says.

  • 06

    "Not only is this ear small, but very flexible. When goes through the combine, it will twist this ear and I'll get small pieces of cob in my tank," Klaassen says. "Setting your combine correctly and turning your fan to proper speed and setting sieves right will be key to getting these smaller kernels out."

  • 07

    These corn plants have root systems that are a mess. Notice the central line in the roots, showing they followed the planter furrow after being planted when the soil was on the damp side. Then, the brace roots were nipped by corn rootworms. Both problems have been magnified greatly by the drought, Reynolds says.

  • 08

    Ironically, though, the plants in this field aren't totally devoid of moisture. When twisting this stalk, Reynolds found ample moisture. But, it's locked in the stems and never made it to the leaves or ears. This could be a big problem in fields like this if they're being chopped for silage.

  • 09

    "If we were to use this as silage, getting those drier leaves to pack in a pile or silo is not a possibility," Reynolds says. "The total plant moisture might be correct at 65% to 72%, but we're not able to get that pack and get the fermentation started and get the oxygen out of that pile."

  • 10

    The larger ears -- of which there are very few -- in this Warren County field are already drooping severely. Some are still firmly affixed to the stalk, Klaassen says, but others will have a lot of trouble hanging on until the combine rolls through.

  • 11

    In a brief count of 1/1,000th of an acre in this field, Klaassen and Reynolds did not see a single ear that wasn't either extremely flexible, seriously undersized, or both.

  • 12

    But at the same time, there's still moisture not far below the soil's surface. This is what's left after Reynolds pulled one corn plant. But, despite a few recent rain showers, this moisture's likely not making its way to the plants, and even if it is, it's too late to do much good, Klaassen says.

  • 13

    This ear's in a field that was planted in mid-May (the last field was planted in late April). "We still have some yield potential at this point," Reynolds says. "If we don't get more rain in next 2 weeks, this corn will start showing the same stress that earlier corn is already showing."

Take a quick field tour and see some specific issues farmers could face this fall.

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