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Late August rains may save soybean yields

Despite wet spring and dry summer, a few rainy days in August may still help crops

Union photo by Ashley Duong

Despite a wet spring and a dry summer, soybean farmers say decent rain in August have helped save yields. Larry Markek, a soybean farmer from Washington County whose soybean field is pictured above, says he’s optimistic about his soybeans.
Union photo by Ashley Duong Despite a wet spring and a dry summer, soybean farmers say decent rain in August have helped save yields. Larry Markek, a soybean farmer from Washington County whose soybean field is pictured above, says he’s optimistic about his soybeans.
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After a particularly wet spring and dry summer, soybean farmers are looking at a drop in yields for this upcoming season.

Virgil Schmitt, a field agronomist in southeast Iowa from Iowa State University Extension, noted that two major factors are contributing to the lower yields.

“We had a very wet spring so many of our soybean acres were planted late and later planting means yields do go down. And then … we flipped from being way too wet to way too dry, which can cause moisture stress on soybeans,” Schmitt noted.

The field agronomist noted that he had noticed the lack of rain had, in some soybean fields, a noticeable effect.

“Soybeans have this phenomenon where the leaves will flip over as a defense mechanism to try to conserve water. We’re seeing a silver-ish cast … in quite a few fields, and courser texture and areas of fields with compaction issues, which means the roots are not functioning very well,” Schmitt said.

However, Schmitt also noted that soybeans are a more forgiving crop than corn and that well-timed rains in August may have saved soybean farmers from complete despair. Because soybeans are indeterminate crops, meaning much of a maturing process can happen simultaneously, if conditions improve, even a setback of a couple weeks of bad weather, means the crops can still have an opportunity to recover.

Rebecca Vittetoe, also a field agronomist from Iowa State Extension, said, “There’s a saying that soybeans are made in August and because we got a couple good inches of rain, people are a little less concerned than they were before.”

Vittetoe noted that even just a couple inches of rain has been “a game changer because of how dry it was before.”

Still, Vittetoe stated there were some signs of stress in the soybean fields, including some yellowing in the plants, which can be attributed to dry conditions.

Farmers in the area are resigned to the fact that their yields will be smaller than those of previous years.

Lindsey Greiner, former Iowa Soybean Association president and a soybean farmer from Keota noted that farmers “had a lot of challenges getting the crop in” this year, so expectations among farmers on yields are rather low and anticipates about a 25 percent drop.

“Last year, a good yield was 60 to 65 bushels. This year I’m guessing it’ll be 50 to 55 bushels, tops. If my beans make 50 bushels, I’d be happy,” Greiner said.

The soybean farmer says that he won’t know his exact yield until he begins to harvest, which will not be until October due to late planting.

Greiner also added that the low yields, combined with price drops for soybeans that have been affected by the current trade wars, will inevitably be putting soybean farmers under some financial stress.

Larry Marek, a soybean farmer in Riverside, also stated that he was cautiously optimistic about yields.

“I’m pleased with what I’m seeing. We didn’t have any insect problems or anything like that … It’s not going to be over-the-top bean yields but we got a lot planted in June so I’m anticipating a decent yield,” Marek said.