What is This Thing Called CSR?  (corn suitability rating)

What is This Thing Called CSR? (corn suitability rating)

His name was Brad


It was one of those first-thing-out-of-bed and my hair-is-still-wet from the shower phone calls. 


You know what I mean. 


A still I’m very groggy and I-haven’t-had-a-cup-of-coffee yet phone call.


“I just came back from Iowa and I am really excited about finally being able to buy some land out there,” he quipped excitedly.  He was calling from out of state – way, way, way – out of state.   And had just come back from a successful Iowa deer hunt. 


Sounds great, I said.   I’m glad you had a great hunt.  How much land are you looking for and in what part of the state?


“I’m looking for about 200 acres with a good mix of tillable and timber for hunting.  I’m looking to spend up to $400,000 tops, and preferably, less.” he continued.  “I need some good tillable to support my mortgage payment on the land; I need to get a really good rental rate of those acres to an area farmer.”


I really need to have something that brings in at least $20,000 per year in income,” Brad said. “I’m really excited about this and I’m ready to buy right away if I can find what I am looking for.”  


“By the way,”  Brad continued.   What is this thing called CSR that a friend told me about the other day and what does it have to do with the value of land”?


We talked and talked for probably an hour-and-a-half and we covered a lot of bases in regard to his questions.


In the end, though, long story shorter, Brad did not end up buying any land at all – something in regard to a family situation popping up, I guess.   But his call got me thinking of all the questions regarding Iowa’s CSR index  — or corn suitability index — that I’ve had over the years.  

The CSR index is unique to Iowa and I’ve found that many folks don’t really know what it is.  So, I thought it was due time to shed some light on that.



Corn Suitability Rating examined:


The Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) was established in 1971 by Iowa State University as a means to rate the productivity of Iowa tillable soils.


With this system, soil are segregated in a meaningful way based on similar physical properties and are arranged into mapping units.  Corn suitability rating (CSR) is based upon these different soil mapping units (smu’s), average weather conditions for the area, and upon the frequently of use of the soil for row crops. 


Corn suitability rating’s range from 5-100.   Five being soils that are severely limited in being able to be row cropped.   And, with 100 being soils with few or with no physical limitations on being row cropped, having little or no slope, and that can be continuously row cropped. 


As you can see, basically, the higher the CSR unit of the land the more valuable, from a production standpoint, it is to the farmer and to the landowner in general.


Iowa farmland value by productivity chart

Something else to note about the CSR index is that it has gotten more accurate over time, as the overall knowledge base and classification of soils has become more refined.

The New Corn Suitability Rating:


In 2013, Iowa State University came out with a new version of CSR called the CSR2.  You might deem this the new and improved CSR index. 


Well, sort of.


The major difference between the old CSR and the new CSR2 has to do with rainfall.  That being, the CSR2 value does not include a rainfall correction factor, built in, as did the old corn suitability rating. 

It seems that, over time, rainfall rates have generally increased across Iowa so that having the correction factor was not needed. 


Interestingly, that, in general, at least, CSR2 values tend to be higher in north-central and in northwest Iowa, than CSR values.  For the rest of the state, the two indicators are very similar. 


Keep in mind that with both indexes these assumptions exist:  soil management units are adequately managed, are artificially drained when required and that there is no land leveling or terracing.


(Note: part of the above was taken adapted from Sassman, Buras and Miller – “A Comparison of Iowa’s Original CSR index to the new CSR 2 index.  Dept. of Agronomy, Iowa State University).

Will the new CSR2 index affect my real estate taxes? 


In general “NO”.  


Here’s how the county assessor deals with CSR in relation to establishing real estate taxes.


Chart of Iowa county assessors. How land is taxed.

As you may imagine, from our discussion so far, CSR values are directly tied to land values. In fact, The two are generally directly related.  I say generally because this is not always so clearly defined as we’ll discuss in a second.


Iowa farmland prices in relation to CSR.  (Sometimes CSR in relation to land prices is discussed as dollars-per-CSR point in relation to price per acre.  For example a price of $100 per CSR point on X number of acres that have a CSR value of 60:   Equals 60 points x $100 per point == $6,000 per acre)



2013 land value by csr point top sales chart

Segmentation of Acres impacts production and valuation using just CSR Index:



When a  farm is segmented, as so many recreational tracts are, the relationship between CSR value, as may be examined as CSR points-per-acre becomes less clear. 



Example: A

A large crop field with easy access means it’s easy for the farmer to get in and out of to plant and to harvest.  Lots of acres in one place also means the farmer does not have to relocate his equipment to a different location to do the same things.  This saves him time and money.


Example:  B

Suppose we have the same amount of acres as in example A. That is, the same amount of acres but they are broken up or segmented into several smaller fields.  Separated, perhaps, by a creek crossing, parcels of timber, or a few miles distance between the fields. These things mean the farmer will need more time to plant and more time to harvest the same amount of acres as in example A.

It also means more expense because of the travel between fields with big equipment.  Segmented fields also have more edge.  This is great for wildlife, especially deer.  But it does mean that these fields will receive more browsing pressure and predation from animals.


Smaller fields, in Iowa, tend to get heavily browsed by deer.  

And, also, turkeys eat lots of planted seeds. Animals like raccoons, squirrels and, even beaver, eat seed and damage crops too. These things all play against the market and production value of smaller individual fields vs bigger fields with  identical CSR values and the same amount of acres.  


As can be seen in this comparison, two farms, each having identical acres and identical CSR indexes, can have very different real values to the farmer and, hence, to the landowner.  In the market place, these acres would also have different market values. 


So, using CSR values as a direct pricing mechanism when buying and selling can be a bit tricky and subjective. 


Basing the value of acres using just the CSR index alone is not really enough. 

One also needs to take into account these other factors such as field size, ease of access, animal browsing potential, edge component, and total recreational potential (This is not discussed here but we’ll hit this topic in a future blog post.  Do note that the recreational market value potential goes up with field segmentation, in general.  Just the opposite of valuation using of such fields using just the CSR index).



Looking at a Soils map:  The Letters mean Slope


Something else you will see on soils maps are letters after the soils designated classification number.  You see something like 13B.  The number refers to how the soils is classified by mapping unit and the letter refers to the slope of the land.

Part of topographical map showing soils and slopes.

B == 2-5% slopes

C== 5-9% slopes

D==9-14% slopes

E==14-18% slopes

(no letter designates little to no effective land slope)

As you might imagine, CSR and land the slope of the land have an opposing relationship.  That is, the more the land slopes the lower is the CSR value.

And, therefore, usually, too, the lower is the value of the land, from a pure crop production valuation standpoint.  (Not necessarily from a recreational value standpoint).

Stay tuned to our blog, as I’m sure we’ll discuss market valuation from a recreational value perspective – instead of just an income perspective — as it relates to CSR indexes of tillable acres.


Lastly, you might check out this video on soils and soil properties.



Soil Properties Video  (outside link)

No Real Estate Taxes with Iowa Forest Reserve Program

No Real Estate Taxes with Iowa Forest Reserve Program


Do you own a parcel of forestland in Iowa?

Maybe it’s a solid 100, 150, or even 200 acres.  Maybe it’s just 5 acres.  Maybe you have a farm with sections of timber scattered about.  (as is, most commonly the case).


 Are you tired of paying real estate taxes on land?  (Dumb question right?)


We’ll you don’t have to pay taxes on Iowa forestland acres!




Yes, you heard me correct.


If you do own some Iowa forestland and don’t want to pay taxes then, of course, you can’t just stop paying your real estate taxes.


There is an application.  Iowa Forest Reserve Law (brochure)  


But, in general, the rules are minimal and to many Iowa landowners the benefit of not having to pay real estate taxes on their forestland acres far outweigh the rules and stipulations that must be followed to reap the tax saving’s benefit.

To sign up, go to the county assessor’s office in the county in which you own the land.   Take a map of your property with you and circle all the areas you would like to enroll in the Iowa Forest Reserve Program.


Here are some of the basic criteria:

  • Must be at least 2 contiguous acres.

  • Must be at least 200 trees per acre (forestland), or 70 trees per acre (fruit trees).

  • must keep livestock out of the area.

There are some other minor stipulations as well regarding the Iowa Forest Reserve Program be sure to check those out on the link page above.  (from the Iowa DNR)


















Get out that CHAINSAW!

Get out that CHAINSAW!

It’s Prime Time for Habitat Work with your Chainsaw!

Okay, well, let’s just say that it will be in a few days when the Iowa late-muzzleloader season is over.  So we are getting close.

And, I know, I know, some folks will want to wait until the deer drop their antlers to barge into the timber and start cutting.  I often do this too.  But, you know, the truth is, guys and girls in the timber doing chainsaw work doesn’t really bother deer.

Deer know how to sense danger.  And deer know that a chainsaw is not normally associated with danger.

In fact, to a whitetail, the loud moaning of a chainsaw is often a calling card.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve downed trees in the snow and come back the next day to find the place littered with fresh deer sign.  And I can’t tell you how many times, on big multi-day management projects for clients, that we’ve found fresh deer antlers shed on the very slopes that we’ve just spent hours cutting on.

So, that’s right…now is THE time to hit the woods with a saw in your hand!


Man cutting tree with chainsaw in Iowa.

Of course, you probably know some of the reasons why wintertime is often the best time to hit the woods — saw in hand.

It’s cold outside and that means no pesky bugs or stinging nettles and way less chance to make contact with poison ivy too.  I can tell you what – those are three pretty good reasons right there!

In fact, those are great reasons to get out there right now with your saw.  And there are more.

It’s also much more comfortable to be out there horsing and man or woman handling that saw around those trees.  It’s not easy work lugging a heavy saw through the woods from tree to tree and from area to area, that’s for sure.  So it’s easy to work up a sweat – even when it 15 or 20 degrees out!   (don’t forget you are usually lugging a small gas can, bar oil, and maybe a few tools and some lunch around as well).

And I can tell you what, doing all of that horsing and saw lugging around when it’s mid-July and in the 90’s is not as much fun as when icicles are dangling from the trees!

Now is the time.

It’s also the best time to prevent any diseases to be spread from tree to tree via the saw blade (oak wilt).

Of course, before doing any cutting you must first identify what sort of work needs to be done.


Picture of Iowa timber.


Timber stand improvement (TSI) is one such goal.

Under this heading falls the subheadings for TSI:  crop tree release, understory release/management and cull tree removal.

Lots of people talk about doing TSI to help make things thicker so that the land can hold more and bigger deer.  This is generally true and is a side product of the actual process.

The main goal of doing TSI, though, usually and from a forestry perspective, is to enhance the forestry component – that is, to make certain trees grow faster and produce more mast (studies have shown that properly done crop tree release tsi can make the desired “crop” trees grow 2x as fast and with up to 10x more mast production!)

The side benefit of doing TSI is the resulting thicker habitat created because more light can hit the forest floor (so more woody vegetation/and or grasses can grow).

The more light that hits the forest floor, generally, the thicker, and more diverse, the habitat on the forest floor becomes.  This creates bedding, sanctuary and thermal cover for deer and also nesting and escape cover for turkeys.  It also produces better habitat for lots of non-game species like songbirds.

If you want to do TSI, it is first recommended to hire a consulting forester to come out to your property and meet with you to discuss your goals.  Every property is different and each timber has it’s own “prescription” for the proper TSI “recipe” that needs to be created to reach those goals.

You can also call the district forester that works the county that your property is in. She or he will help you.

You should know, too, that lots of cost-share dollars are often available to do TSI – funding for up to 75% of the estimated project cost may be available!

Please be aware:  do not start doing any TSI project before your project is approved (if you are getting cost-share help from the government).

You are not allowed to start a project until the funding comes in and your project is approved or your funding may be taken away.

Okay – maybe your are not doing TSI but just want to get out there and create some better habitat with your saw – what to do? 

Where to start?

First, again, be sure to think about your long-term goals.  Do you want it to be thicker in that little half-acre spot behind the pond?  Or, maybe there is a south-facing hillside that you’d like to create better bedding and thermal cover?  Or, perhaps, you want to help some of those red cedar and honey locust trees in your sanctuary area – you can use your chainsaw to “release” their canopies from surrounding dead-beat trees (trees with little to no wildlife value).

Go ahead….dig in…now is the time! 

Lucas County, Iowa 51 Acres — Home and Lake — For Sale!

Lucas County, Iowa 51 Acres — Home and Lake — For Sale!

Lucas County, Iowa 51 Acres m/l  (Approx. 18 mi S. of Knoxville and 45 miles from Des Moines)

You say you always wanted to have that home in the country overlooking your own private lake?  Well….Your wish has come true!


This is a dream property for sure!  Here’s what you get:


  • 1248 square foot ranch-style home that sits on a gentle slope with gorgeous sunset views to the west looking over the lake.
  • large yard that looks like a huge garden-of-eden with all sorts of flowers and various plantings.  Don’t be surprised to wake up in the morning to a large bunch of
  • deer or turkey walking through the back yard along the lakeshore!
  • The home is a very solid home on a concrete foundation built in 1974.  It has 3 full bedrooms and 1 full bathroom and a full basement.  Also a beautiful porch area on which to sip your cup of coffee on in the morning!
  • The home does have an attached garage and there is also a small detached garage building on the premises.
  • The land offers incredible hunting opportunities for a smaller parcel.
  • Gorgeous and very rare oak/savanna ecosystem with native prairie all around.
  • The tall grasses and thick cover offer outstanding deer sanctuary areas for living in day to day and for security cover.
  • The land offers various successional habitats from early to late stage (large oaks) which offers the ultimate in deer attractiveness!
  • Edge habitat is very abundant and the early successional habitats offer lots of natural, native browse.
  • Lots of tree stand and set-up options, especially for a smaller parcels.
  • There are at least 3 major areas that one could establish food plots in.
  • Abandoned roadway along east side of property allows easy entrance and exit into various stand setups – going into the wind to get to your stand!

And The Lake – Ah yes, THE LAKE!

Fishing on the LAKE!

  • The lake measures right at 6 acres and up to 7 acres (during really wet years).  Here is one pond that is totally justifiable to be called a lake!  (such a lake can easily cost $70,000-$100,000 or more to construct!)
  • The lake has abundant crappie with reports from the  previous owner of numerous crappie up to and over 16 inches!  Those are huge crappies regardless of where you are fishing in the U.S.!  Right in the back yard!
  • Bass too—and some giant largemouth possible here!
  • In 2015 the owner stocked forage fish – golden shiners and fathead minnows at 10X the normal rate!  What this will do is create a huge buffet of food to resident fish and should make them grow super fast and to potentially huge sizes Big fish and I do mean really big fish could easily come from this lake at any given time –  could be a 10 lb largemouth bass or a 3 –4 lb. crappie – how great would that be?  Iowa DNR records show that ponds in southern Iowa consistently produce the most and biggest game fish of any bodies of water in the state!
  • Bluegill and catfish also present and could easily get to huge sizes here as well.

Here is a fantastic opportunity to purchase a great piece of Iowa hunting land along with a nice home and your own stocked lake – all in post-card setting?  What in the world are you waiting for?  We don’t expect this one to last very long!

Call me now if you like to make this one your personal piece of paradise!  Rich 641-919-9026.



Rich Waite is a registered and licensed real estate Broker in Iowa with Midwest Property Sales. Midwest Property Sales is an Iowa-based real estate agency. Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC is a web-based marketing platform that showcases properties for sale, or auction, by licensed real estate agents and/or licensed auctioneers, where applicable — both with Midwest Property Sales and with partnering companies through statutory legal agreements. Rich Waite as owner of Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC makes no claims that Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services, LLC is an independent real estate company.
The information provided on these pages is deemed accurate, but is subject to errors, omissions, price changes, prior sale, or listing withdrawal. Iowa Wildlife Habitat Services LLC, and Rich Waite, as owner of, do not guarantee or are not in any way responsible for the accuracy or completeness of given information, and provide given information without warranty of any kind. Individuals should verify questions themselves and/or with appropriate agent of given listing.
Rich Waite is a licensed Iowa real estate broker and owner of Midwest Property Sales located in Eldon, Iowa. He is a member of the Southeast Iowa Board Of Realtors, The Iowa Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors.
Important note: Iowa hunting land for sale and other properties with an * or ** next to the listing header indicate an IWHS owned and managed property.   Rich Waite and IWHS make no claim to be an independent seller of any Iowa hunting land for sale or any other property so indicated with the # symbol. **Adjacent listing header denotes FREE IWHS wildlife habitat and hunt consulting plan comes with parcel. These so indicated parcels are owned and managed by IWHS. * Adjacent listing header denotes a Midwest Property Sales — Broker Owned — Property. Note: Timber cruise estimates of marketable timber value are generally quite accurate– but are estimates only. Actual inventory numbers are the most accurate for indicating marketable timber value. Total inventory of all marketable tree species within the next 10 years on tracts soon to come.  Information on this site deemed reliable and accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, we are not responsible for inaccuracies and prospective buyers should verify property details first-hand. All estimates of timber value are estimates only. Actual board foot showing quantity (quantity) requires a more thorough analysis.