MEDIA ADVISORY: Iowa State experts available to comment on 2013 harvest


Agriculture experts at Iowa State University are watching the trends that will shape the 2013 harvest. Photo by Robert Elbert. Larger image.

AMES, Iowa – As U.S. farmers rev up their combines and hit the fields, the following faculty at Iowa State University are available to comment on the 2013 harvest.

Roger Elmore


Elmore is a professor of agronomy and an ISU Extension and Outreach corn specialist whose research interests concentrate on management information for corn growers.
Elmore said the sudden weather swings Iowa experienced throughout the spring and summer could result in a corn crop marked by wide ranges in both maturity and quality.  The slow, cold start to spring created planting delays across Iowa, meaning corn planted in April is at a much more advanced stage of maturity than corn planted in June.
“This year, you had planting spread out over about two months, so you’re going to see various stages of maturity, often in the same field,” Elmore said. “Combine that with the heat and the drought in recent months, and you could start to see some yield losses.”
Chad Hart


Hart is an ISU Extension and Outreach grain markets specialist and associate professor of economics. His research focuses on market outlook and agricultural policy.

Hart said he expects better yields than last year’s drought-withered corn crop. Additionally, a record number of acres were planted with corn this year, meaning prices will drop as supply grows, he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast calls for this year’s harvest to bring in 700 million more bushels of corn than the previous record crop, a major jump that Hart said is shaking up the markets.

“The size of the crop has driven corn prices well below where they were last year,” he said. “Some farmers are having a tough time getting excited about selling this year’s crop.  Right now, the market’s a break-even ballgame.”

Elwynn Taylor


Taylor is a professor of agronomy who studies the impact of climate on crops.

Taylor said the state of Iowa appears to be entering a normal weather pattern for this time of year, a good sign for farmers who want predictability when getting ready for harvest.

“We’re now in the first full week of fall weather and with really quite a normal situation as far as weather patterns go,” Taylor said. “There’s always some risk of having things be too wet when you want to be out harvesting, but that’s not a high probability. There’s a higher likelihood of hitting normal weather patterns now, which hadn’t really been the case until the middle of September.”

Taylor said farmers also will be keeping an eye on when the first frost could hit their crops. Weather folklore often associates the first frost with a full moon, but Taylor said historic data for central Iowa indicate that the lunar cycle doesn’t have a bearing on frosts.

“The first frost is often on a clear night when the moon appears very bright, and that leaves an impression on people who then associate a full moon with the first frost, but there really doesn’t seem to be a correlation,” he said.

Michael Duffy


Duffy is a professor of economics who tracks the value of farmland and the cost of agricultural production. He also studies sustainable agriculture and conservation practices.

Duffy said the projected decline of commodity prices will lead to a drop in land values. He said land values and farm income are closely linked; when farm income takes a hit, land values will almost certainly follow suit. A drop in income doesn’t necessarily lead to a perfectly proportional drop in land value, but the correlation is strong, he said.

“What drives land values is farm income,” Duffy said. “The last couple years land values just exploded because we saw prices rise so high.  Basically, what’s going to happen to income is what’s going to happen to land values as well.”

But Duffy said he doesn’t expect the coming years to be a sequel to the farm crisis of the 1980s. The speculative practices that caused the bottom to fall out of land values back then aren’t nearly as widespread today, he said. For instance, Duffy said more than three-fourths of Iowa farmland is held without debt today.

“The market today is based more on solid fundamentals,” he said. “For some people who are overexposed, there could be trouble, but it’s not going to be another 80s for the most part.”     

Mark Licht


Licht is a field agronomist for ISU Extension and Outreach whose areas of expertise include crop production, soil quality and conservation practices.

Licht said Iowa’s soybean yields will likely dip this year due to hot and dry conditions that settled over the state for much of last month. Moisture in the month of August is crucial for soybeans, he said. During the drought of 2012, showers fell at critical points in August that gave the soybean crop a shot in the arm, but Iowa soybeans simply didn’t get that timely rain this year, he said.

“Typically, if we get rain in August it really helps soybeans,” he said. “We didn’t get the moisture we needed to help them out this year. When we did get rain last week, it was too late.”