Field & Feedlot

Field & Feedlot is a monthly newsletter of current educational topics written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach specialists in Northwest Iowa.
September 2018

Land Leasing and Value by Gary Wright

Are You Ready for Harvest? by Joel DeJong

Beef Update: Iowa State Fair and BQA by Beth Doran

Harvest Around the Corner by Kris Kohl

Archived Issues


Land Leasing and Value

Gary Wright, Farm and Agribusiness Management Specialist

ISU Extension and Outreach recently completed their annual cycle discussing Land Leasing and Values with 17 meetings (approximately 250 registrants) in Northwest and West Central Iowa. Thanks to those of you who attended! One key factor in these meetings’ schedule each year is the State of Iowa’s mandate on lease terminations, on or before September 1. Nearly as important to this timing is our desire to have the most current information on present crop conditions and commodity price trends.

Since its initiation in 1941 the 2017 Farmland Value Survey is sponsored annually by Iowa State University, and since 2014, has been conducted by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD).   Survey respondents totaled 877 this year (November 2017). Like in past years surveys came from individuals “knowledgeable of land market conditions,” e.g. licensed real estate brokers, farm managers, agricultural lenders and county assessors. This ISU Extension and Outreach survey information is one of four sources of information (the others being USDA, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and Realtor Land Institute), that when taken together, are reliable and research-based land value estimates. This survey is the only data source that provides an annual land value estimate by county. The survey is intended to provide information on general land value trends and geographical land price relationships. It is not intended to provide a direct estimate for any one specific piece of property. Land value surveys can provide a good indication of the direction of change, based upon the opinions expressed. Interactive county maps can be found at

The 2017 survey results showed the state average increasing to $7,326/acre, an estimation for all qualities of land. This slight $143/acre (2 percent) uptick followed three consecutive years of decline. The highest land values were reported in Northwest Iowa ($9,388/acre) which was up 1.6 percent from last year. Positive factors bolstering values are lower interest rates, a limited land supply, and stronger per acre revenues (due to yields). The single largest negative factor, not surprisingly, is lower commodity prices, though softening crop input prices allowed a reduction to average corn and soybean production costs. Readers are encouraged to review the full survey report at

The 2018 Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey conducted by Iowa State University showed that farmland cash rental rates, as land values, increased slightly this last year. The statewide average rates increased by $3 per acre from 2017. Northwest Iowa (District 1) showed an increase of $3/acre (1.2 percent increase). Many of the factors discussed in regards to land value trends, can similarly relate to the leasing economies. You can access the complete survey findings at

In the State of Iowa, 53 percent of the farmland is leased, and that number is increasing. Because of the larger proportion of leased farmland, a strong landlord/tenant relationship is important for the efficient, long-term allocation of Iowa’s valuable resources.

Though the legal changes were minimal during this last year, “best practices” are for regular communication between the property owner and the tenant. Because more owners may not have ever farmed, or they may be retired from active farming now, it is important to be engaged in regular, ongoing communication and education concerning changes to crop technology, production costs, etc. A suggested format for this communication can be found at

Finally, this year was the 5th year anniversary of the Iowa Farmland and Tenure Survey 1982-2017: A Thirty-Five Year Perspective. This 2017 survey, sponsored by the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was started in the 1940’s, and since 1989 is conducted every five years, as mandated by the Iowa Code. It is the first of its kind in the nation and the only consistent information on the ownership, tenure and transitions of farmland at the state level. Please see this link to review the documentation of the current situation

Please contact Gary Wright, Farm Management Specialist, with any questions or feedback about the research information contained in this article.


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Are You Ready for Harvest?

Joel DeJong, Field Agronomist

As I write this article it is obvious that corn and soybean harvest will start earlier than normal. Growing degree accumulation since May 1 has been well ahead of normal, and the maturity of the crop is showing it. Looking at corn maturity models in mid-August, these were predicting black layer in corn by early to mid-September. As we approach corn harvest, we shouldn’t just wait for it to get here, we should be ready for harvest when it arrives. Here are a few thoughts about preparing for harvest.

First, get an estimate of how much storage space you might need. There are lots of ways to estimate yields, but I think the most common is to measure out 1/1000th of an acre (a 17 ft. 5 in. length for 30 in. row spacing), and find out how many harvestable ears there are in that area. I randomly pull 3 ears from that area, and get an average of the number of rows per ear and number of kernels per row. Repeat several times in different areas of the field and average those numbers. Multiply those three numbers together and divide by 90 to get a yield estimate.

For example, I measured 30 plants, averaging 16 rows and 45 kernels per row (30 x 16 x 42)/90 = 224 bushels. This equation assumes 90,000 kernels per bushel. If we are filling kernels well on the ears or have a large-kernelled hybrid this might be an underestimate. This is a rough yield estimate, but it is a start for planning the amount of storage you might need.

The second step to prepare for harvest is to walk in the field and check each hybrid, looking for ear molds and stalk rot symptoms. Diseases can increase the risk of stalk rot. We had some areas in Northwest Iowa that experienced a lot of stress from excessive rain in June. I am concerned about how well they will stand. Evaluate at least 100 plants per field per hybrid (20 plants in 5 locations). Use the "push test" or the "pinch test" near the base of the stalk to determine standability. If 10 percent to 15 percent of plants lodge or are rotted, schedule an early harvest.

Third, walk through some corn hybrid demonstration trials. Make notes on some of the visual characteristics you see. Bob Nielsen, corn agronomist at Purdue University, suggests taking notes on ear height (high ear placement can be more prone to stalk lodging); leaf disease resistance; relative stalk health differences; ear size relative to rows, kernels per row, plus kernel set success; and husk coverage of the ear. If looking at the field after the corn reaches black layer, maybe look at if there are upright or droopy ears after maturity. Droopy ears tend to shed rainfall better and so may dry down slightly faster, according to Nielsen. Add other items you feel are important to the list!

Fourth, locate that user manual for your yield monitor. Carefully read and highlight the calibration steps. Calibration requires patience, an accurate moisture meter, accurate weigh scales, and access to the manual to look up all those items you forgot. They should be checked for accuracy as your harvest progresses and re-calibrated when necessary.

A fifth step is to prepare your storage bins. Inspect the foundation, walls, roof, perforated floors, vents, wiring, electrical components, fans, heaters, ducts and ladders for damage. Clean out your bins thoroughly; remove all old grain that might host a future infestation of insects. That also means you should avoid putting new grain on top of old grain. If you are thinking of storing grain until next summer, consider making an application of residual insecticide to the bin after cleaning.

I know I have missed some important steps that should be included, such as being certain all safety equipment is in place and doing its job. Nevertheless, it is better to start before harvest gets here than to wait until after you should be going!


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Beef Update: Iowa State Fair and Beef Quailty Assurance

Beth Doran, Beef Specialist

Congratulations to all 4-H’ers and FFA members who represented Northwest Iowa at the Iowa State Fair! Youth from Northwest Iowa vied for honors in a number of beef events – the Governor’s Charity Steer Show, FFA shows, 4-H shows, showmanship contests and open breeding cattle shows. I am proud of each one for successfully completing their projects and for their sportsmanship – living up to the 4-H motto, “To make the best better!”

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) was front and center Extension programming this summer across Northwest Iowa. Nine field days or workshops certified 341 participants from 21 Iowa counties, South Dakota and Minnesota. 

The Iowa Beef Industry Council and beef checkoff dollars funded my travel and the cost of materials and handouts involved in the trainings. Additional support from private businesses and county cattlemen’s associations helped fund some of the meals.

Who needs to be BQA certified? Certification is not a requirement, unless a producer wants to sell market ready steers and heifers to certain packers. However, it is advised that each producer visit with their local buyers to determine if they require BQA certification and their respective completion date.      

What is the goal of BQA? The goal is to provide the consumer with beef that is safe, wholesome and nutritious and to do it in a manner that is environmentally sound and provides good animal welfare. Consumers want to know how the beef they eat is produced.  And, it’s to the industry’s benefit to take a proactive role in good animal husbandry.

Is there a list of producers completing BQA certification? Once a training is completed, the list of producers completing the program is sent to the Iowa Beef Industry Council. They enter these names into the national data base and will send the attendees their BQA certificate. This list is confidential with only the Iowa Beef Industry having access to the database.

How do I know if my BQA certification is current? Beginning this year, BQA certification is current for three years. Prior to this, the certification was good for two years. If you are unsure about whether your certification has expired, check your certificate or contact the Iowa Beef Industry Council at 515-296-2305.

What if I missed a training? Don’t panic. I will be offering some “last-chance” meetings in Northwest Iowa after harvest in late November/early December. More information about these will be forthcoming. But, if you need to be certified before then, BQA certification is available on-line at

What about BQA transportation? One packer announced they will require BQA training focused solely on transportation, beginning January 1, 2020. I will be offering BQA transportation trainings in Northwest Iowa (in 2019) in order for private and commercial haulers to fulfill this requirement. 

If you still have questions about BQA or BQA transportation, please feel free to contact me at 712-737-4230 or


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Harvest Around the Corner

Kris Kohl, Ag Engineering Specialist

2018 looks like a good crop, with most of the problems being storage and marketing. Crop drying questions will always come up and the challenges of how to economically dry the corn to proper moisture and temperature.

One concern I have in the areas where the corn got too much water is that this will often delay maturity by 7 to 10 days. They are small areas, but when they are combined and put into a bin they act like fines and tend to stay right in the center of a bin, where the air flow is the lowest and the need is the highest. Collect samples for moisture checks right at the top of the cone for the highest moisture, if it is low the bin has few concerns. Bins should be cored to help remove the fines and wet corn in the center of the bins.

The National Weather Service is currently predicting a warmer than normal October for Iowa, which will help reduce our drying cost. Normal field drying in September is almost 3 to 4 points a week, 2 points a week in October, and 1 point per week in November. A warm October may give us that 2 points per week. Because I have had more calls with problems with the 2017 crop, I would make sure it is gone. It is always a very bad idea to put new crop corn on top of old grain that is normally filled with bug eggs ready to hatch.

Get the bins ready for harvest by cleaning and make sure you have 6 to 8 inches of space below the floor for the air to flow. If not, clean up the fines to restore the space. Turn on all fans, stirring machines, and spreaders to be sure they work and lube motors that require it. Have a safe and pleasant harvest season!


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