Despite a late-season drought in the two most productive states in the Corn Belt, Quad-City area farmers say they are awed by their corn yields.
Those grand yields are why the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is estimating a record corn crop of 13.8 billion bushels, up 28 percent from last year’s production, which was hit hard by an extreme drought.
Nationally, average yields are forecast at 155.3 bushels per acre.
“We’ve been rolling since last week and frankly, I’m in awe,” Milan farmer Jim Coyne said of his harvest.
“My yields have been averaging 225-270-bushels an acre,” he said. “When we started out that first day, I was looking at the monitor when I was about 40-feet into the field and I thought, ‘No, it can’t be.’”
Coyne said he stopped and has his monitor calibrated, and sure enough, “it was showing me 260 bushels an acre."
On top of that, Coyne said, his weights are right where they need to be. Corn is sold by weight and it takes 56 pounds to make a bushel. The smaller the kernel, the less weight it has and it takes more corn to make a bushel. But that’s not the case this year.
“It’s a big sigh of relief,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I haven’t had but one measureable rain since the end of July, and that was Thursday last week when I got a half inch.”
Bennett, Iowa, farmer Mike Wilkins said he is averaging 236 bushels of corn an acre.
“I didn’t expect it to do that,” he said.
Wilkins said he farms with his brother, a nephew and his 83-year-old father.
“I’ve got another farm near Wilton and it hasn’t gotten rain since the second week of July,” he said. “It’s on rolling ground, but we’ll get 180-190 bushels an acre there.”
Agronomist Virgil Schmitt of the Iowa State University Extension office in Muscatine said there are many farmers getting yields similar to what Coyne and Wilkins report.
Some aren’t getting quite that much because they got too dry, and there are a few fields that are totally wiped out, he said. For the most part, though, the corn looks good.
“The difference is that last year’s drought was widespread throughout the Corn Belt,” Schmitt said. “This year, it was late in the season and more localized."
Iowa farmers are expected to produce about 2.2 billion bushels of corn this year, while Illinois farmers are expected to produce 1.9 billion bushels.
News of the record crop, however, has hit the future and cash markets, sending corn prices spiraling from well above $6 a bushel to the $4.50 a bushel region.
Although the prices to farmers have dropped, Wilkins said, "I'd rather have a great yield and low prices than have high prices and little to no product to sell."