Soybean harvest crawled to a slow start in Iowa, but early reports suggest yields are beating expectations after a challenging growing season.

Just 5 percent of the state’s 10 million acres of soybeans were harvested as of Sept. 24, two days behind the five-year average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress report.

“Combines are just starting to get rolling,” said Iowa Department of Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey.

Farmers and agronomists say yields are generally coming in below last year, when Iowa’s state average was a record 60.5 bushels per acre, but are surpassing the expectations of many after the dry summer weather that blanketed most of the state. Precipitation in Iowa averaged below normal for all three summer months with a statewide average of 10.66 inches, or 3.05 inches less than normal.

Still, Iowa farmers are expected to harvest 567 million bushels of beans with an average yield of 57 bushels per acre, the second highest production and yield on record behind last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast.

Soybean harvest in north central Iowa was still in the very early stages last week, said Rich Judge, a DEKALB Asgrow technical agronomist in Clear Lake.

“I think the story for this year will be our wide range of yield experiences just depending on timing of rainfall, planting date and those sorts of things,” he said. “We were limited on rainfall like a lot of Iowa. What I’ve heard on the beans is very solid yields where the good, heavy ground is. One guy told me he had a field with light to heavy soils where he watched his yield monitor go from 40 to 80 (bushels per acre).”

Judge said there seems to be a correlation between early planting and better performing crops again this year for both soybeans and corn.

Soybeans in northwest Iowa came on strong following August rainfall that snapped an intense early-summer drought, said Joel DeJong, an agronomist for Iowa State University Extension in Plymouth County. He predicted soybean yields could still be above average but, like Judge, said ranges will vary widely depending on location because of the summer’s spotty rains.

“It’s mixed,” 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.”

Below-average temperatures in August and a full soil moisture profile entering the growing season helped crops weather the adverse conditions, said DeJong.

This article is provided for Asgrow by the Spokesman.

For more information go to