ICIA corn tests show surprising drought tolerance |

It was a tale of two seasons across Iowa this year.

Traveling to the northern and western portions of the state would show dry fields and crops looking for any water they could get. That wasn’t the case for many farmers in the southern and eastern portions of the state, particularly along the southeastern border.

“They got so much rain (in Lee County), some people had to replant two times over and still had no crops,” said Ryan Budnik, project manager of the Iowa Crop Performance Tests.

However, Budnik said, drought was the major narrative of the state in the 2021 growing season. As Budnik brought together the results for the Iowa Crop Improvement Association’s annual tests, he said yield expectations were often exceeded considering the tough conditions for the corn crop this season.

“The biggest thing I noticed was how insanely well the corn did this year despite the conditions,” Budnik said. “I was surprised, as well as just about every farmer this year. It was cool to see that there are some pretty great genetics out there.”

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Budnik said all the ICIA test plots fared well, despite some of their fields being near stronger storms throughout the growing season. He also said some of the areas that showed yield hits were hurt due to soil types that don’t endure a drought quite as well.

“Some of the areas that got heavily hit, you had a clay soil type, so when that rain came it was so packed it all just kind of ran off,” Budnik said. “We were lucky with our ground, so we didn’t experience much of that.”

While there were some instances of less than exceptional corn yields, Budnik said that was typically the outlier in this year’s results. Seeing an average of 250 bushels per acre was not uncommon when harvesting this season.

“When we were harvesting, it was kind of shocking,” he said. “We had fields that were pretty average, but you also have to be pretty reasonable to think that there was less than 50% of rainfall in some of these areas and we are getting 180 to 200 bushel corn — that’s pretty cool.”

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