Combines have started rolling in parts of Iowa, and if it hasn’t started in some areas, the harvest season is on the cusp.

With the exception of northeastern Iowa, dry weather has been the story of the past month. The northwestern and southeastern parts of Iowa have pockets classified as extreme drought, while many other counties are classified under severe or moderate drought. Despite the tough conditions, some agronomists think yields may not be as low as expected.

“The crop is pretty spotty,” said Tanner Day, agronomist with Wells Ag Supply in west central Iowa. “There are some fields that are going to be pretty good (210-240 bushels per acre) but some are going to be closer to 150-140. Field average won’t be as good as last year.”

Those dry conditions have been especially hard on soybeans from Day’s observations. He expects many fields to be 45 to 55 bushels per acre.

“We are going to see a lot of areas that are sub-55 bushel,” he said.

The potentially early harvest, seen particularly in the southern half of the state, has forced many farmers to finish up their silage chopping early, according to southern Iowa agronomist Eric Wilson with Wyffels Hybrids.

“I know it started (in early September) and is wrapping up as we speak. Combines aren’t going to be far behind,” he said.

By crop reporting district, Northwest, West Central, South Central and Southeast all have at least 24% of their topsoil rated at very short moisture. Southwest Iowa can be added to that list when looking at subsoil moisture, based on the Sept. 12 Crop Progress report.

However, not every part of the state has been dealing with drought. The northeast section of Iowa has largely stayed out of the drought monitor all year. Combined with a slow, late planting season, the region may still be a week or two out from harvest.

“I don’t think it’ll be late by any means,” Wilson said. “I would expect some very, very good cornfields out in northeast Iowa, with a few exceptions.”

Northeast Iowa farmer Kollin Brownell, near Calmar, agreed with that sentiment, saying the crop still has a little ways to go in mid-September.

“We are probably a couple weeks out before we start doing any harvesting,” he said. “The crop has been looking good, but it’s nice to have a little downtime ahead of harvest. We are able to get everything ready we need.”

Once the combines are in the field, the next focus will be on off-season work. If the dry conditions hold through October, getting field work done this fall and winter shouldn’t have too many obstacles. However, if those dry conditions persist, that will be a problem for 2023.

“It’s looking pretty bad,” Day said. “We were a lot farther ahead early on last year because of the late rains we had. We’ve exhausted a lot of those moisture resources. It’s going to be pretty bad if we don’t get a good snowfall or substantial late fall or early spring moisture.”

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