Day Two: 2016 Midwest Crop Tour Leader Reports

Posted on 03/09/2017 10:21 AM

Western Tour Leader Chip Flory:

Hello from the western leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. We made our way on 10 routes from Grand Island, Neb., to Nebraska City, Neb., and everybody made it safely from point A to point B - that's the best news I can share with you today.

The second piece of good news I can share is the bean crop looks about the same as last year's... and last year was a great bean crop. As I'm writing this, lightening is flashing and rain is falling and it looks like for the first time on the 2016 western leg of the Tour, we'll have mud on our boots tomorrow morning. It'll be a great help to the soybean crop... we'll check the maturity of the corn crop in western Iowa tomorrow before deciding how much help it will bring the corn crop. But, in southeastern Nebraska, there are plenty of corn fields -- and 100% of the soybean fields -- that this "drink of water" will help.

On to the numbers. As a reminder, what you'll get from me is the raw data... that's it. I'm not putting any "spin" on the data. But I will remind you of this, on average since 2001, the crop tour has measured the Nebraska corn crop about 15 bushels too light. That's because, historically, we pull about 40% irrigated samples and 60% dryland, which is just the opposite of the state. Nebraska is about 60% irrigated. This year, however, our irrigated samples jumped up to 44% of the 258 samples we pulled from the state. That's enough to potentially sway the yield results.

As we made our way from Grand Island to Nebraska City, it "felt" like we were missing an ear or two from the ear counts. But, after checking with last year's results and the three-year average, the ear counts actually lined up with what we'd seen in previous years. And at the end of the day, we averaged 87.65 ears in two 30-foot plots. That .93% increase in ear pops from year ago, however, was offset by a 1.4% increase in the average row spacing that we measured.

That left two variables... grain length and kernel rows. The number of kernels rows is historically close to 16... and this year was no different at 16.26. That was a 1.6% increase from last year. That was more than offset by grain length. This year's 6.8 inches was down 5% from last year.

The end result was a Nebraska average yield of 158.6 bu. per acre, down 4% from last year's Tour findings. Again, as a reminder, we historically measure Nebraska about 15 bu. too light.

The soybean crop was repeat of last year. Pod counts in a 3-by-3 foot row were 1223.07, up just 0.2% from last year. The rain that is falling right now puts last year's yield of 58 bu. per acre in play, and means a 1 bu. per acre increase from year-ago (as predicted by USDA as of Aug. 1) is a real possibility. One other interesting "move" in this year's data is a 4.4% increase in the average row width to 25.49 inches. The wider row-width trend seems to be consistent with what we are seeing on the edges of the Corn Belt this year.

It's looking like a wet start to our third day on the 2016 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, but it will be worth it. The area farmers that came to view Nebraska results this year added so much to the meeting... thank you for being there and thank you for participating in the meeting. It was a lot of fun!! We'll let the discovery process continue on Wednesday as we make our way to Spencer, Iowa!

Western Tour Consultant Emily Carolan:

What an exciting day! As we made our way across eastern Nebraska, the entertainment level of the scouts has heightened. The scouts this year are top notch and are putting in the hours to get the best data in a year where uncertainty is the name of the game. After spending a day and a half in Nebraska, the numbers were revealed with no surprise after seeing the crop through the area covered.

We were on a route that took us north of Interstate 80 across crop district 6 where we were along a storm path for about 60 miles. After hearing from other routes, the July 7th wind storm that caused minimal goose necking to 50% greensnap came at the wrong time. It may not have limited ear counts, but it did limit the grain inches per ear.

When scouting fields with greensnap overall ear counts were actually around average making it hard not to believe that the Nebraska growers may have started to pump up their populations a little to shoot for a higher yield under irrigation. As we moved east, the stands became more consistent, but irrigated fields also became harder to find and populations were in the 25,000 ear/acre range.

The ears found on our route showed a little different story from what we saw yesterday in northern Nebraska and southeast South Dakota. Tipback was not as big of an issue, but grain inches were shorter. Now- 'why' is the first question that was in everyone's head, and early growing season conditions coupled with above-normal temps are the main issue growers from this area experienced.

The first stress that hit this area was the heat in mid to late June. Pioneer Account Manager, Trevor Houghton from the Nebraska City area, showed a temperature graph of the season at tonight's meeting. One of the main indicators that kernel development was potentially going to be off happened back around June 20th when daytime temperatures reached 90 degrees and night time lows were above 70 degrees for a full week. At this point in the growing season, the majority of the crop was between V12 to V18. This is a crucial time for kernel development because it is when the plant is determining how many kernels will fill a kernel row. This is one reason why this crop is going to be limited, along with the greensnap found across the routes today.

Disease pressure was limited with spots of Gray Leaf Spot and Southern Rust starting to make an appearance in fields. With the stage the crop, little to no yield damage should come from either disease. As we progress through the season, diseases like Anthracnose can still limit yield during the grain fill period, but right now not much is expected. More importantly, monitoring these diseases should help you prioritize which fields should be harvested first this fall.

As some routes moved south of us, many questions started to arise about the waterhemp in soybean fields and just how big of an impact it was going to make. It seems to me the growers who were able to apply the right concoction of weed control at the right time were showing better weed management than we saw last year. But, of course, there are always going to be two tales to a story. The early August rains this area experienced brought moisture back to the canopies and mixed with the heat we have experienced, it was perfect conditions for another outbreak of waterhemp in the soybean fields. Waterhemp can germinate at any part of the year and given the right environment, this weed will shoot out of the ground before there is anything that can be done about it.

The yield limitations of waterhemp are going to be determined by how early the outbreak started and if multiple germinations have happened within a field. But, overall, it seems like the soybean crop has the ability to put out a large enough pod count and is far enough along that the waterhemp (in "manageable levels") will not make a big impact.

The bean yields found are extremely consistent and when very little issues arise except for a little rain stress come mid-July, we know the bean counts should be around average. One big thing that is helping us put our faith in this bean crop is the fact that rain is bouncing off of the window as I type this right now. This is going to help finish the crop if enough areas see the rains tonight.

Tomorrow we are going to head into western Iowa where we'll take a look at what crop districts 1, 4, and 7 have to offer. We're excited about the opportunity. Fields across the river from us right now are waiting for us and we'll make sure to keep everyone posted as we find new things in one of the powerful 'I' states in a predicted record-breaking crop year.

Eastern Tour Director Brian Grete:

Day 2 of the 2016 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour had scouts sampling fields from Fishers, Indiana, (a suburb of Indianapolis) to Bloomington, Illinois, along 12 designated routes.

My route took me west/northwest out of Fishers through crop districts 5, 4 and 1 in Indiana. In crop district 5, we took one corn sample from Tipton County and two from Clinton County, with a range from 129.1 bu. to 211.6 bu. per acre. As we moved west into crop district 4, our corn yields became more consistent. In three stops in Tippecanoe and Warren counties, our yields ranged from 191.8 to 228.6 bu. per acre. The two samples we took in Benton County in crop district 1 were 170.8 bu. and 151.2 bu. per acre. In total, the eight corn samples we pulled in Indiana today averaged 182.4 bu. per acre.

Our soybean samples continued to show a lot a variance in pod counts, though not as much as in Ohio. In crop district 5, our samples ranged from 1,080 to 1,626.24 pods in a 3'x3' square. In crop district 4, our range was 811.8 to 1,332.8. And in crop district 1, our pod counts were 1086.72 and 1103.04. In total, our Indiana pod counts in a 3'x3' square averaged 1,166.5.

For all 12 routes on the eastern leg of Crop Tour, our Indiana corn yield came in at 173.42 bu. per acre, up 21.3% from what we found on Tour last year. USDA's Aug. 1 Indiana corn yield was 187 bu. per acre, up 24.7% from last year. While the object of Crop Tour isn't to prove or disprove USDA's Aug. 1 estimate, the percentage change in yield relative to year-ago USDA found and that of what we found are in the same ballpark.

Our soybean pod count for Indiana was 1,178.41, up 7.8% from last year. USDA's Aug. 1 Indiana soybean yield estimate at 55 bu. per acre was up 10% from 2015.

As my route moved into Illinois, the corn yields improved and the crop became even more consistent. We pulled seven yield samples in Vermillion, Iroquois, Livingston, Ford and McLean counties in crop districts 4 and 5. The range on those samples was 163.4 bu. to 235.4 bu. per acre, with an average of 202.4 bu. per acre.

For soybeans in Illinois today, my route had an average 3'x3' pod count of 1,296.4, with a range of 630.6 to 2,995. Soybean pod variability remained high.

Final Day 2 observations

Indiana has a good corn crop, but i don't think there's quite the consistency needed to produce a record yield in the state. The fields I sampled had enough variability in ear counts or grain length to make me believe the state will come up short of the 188 bu. per acre yield it produced in 2014. And USDA may have been a little optimistic with its 187 bu. per acre yield in August.

As expected, corn yields have improved as we moved west across the eastern Corn Belt. I anticipate they will be even better on Day 3 when we sample from western Illinois and eastern Iowa. After completing our sampling in Illinois tomorrow, it will give us a better idea of whether the state can reach the 200 bu. yield USDA forecast for the state in August, which would tie the 2014 record. In 2014, corn fields and yields in Illinois were very consistent. I'm not convinced after seeing the eastern side of the state today the Illinois corn crop is as good as 2014. And even though we don't sample in the southern portion of Illinois, I'm fairly certain that area won't be as strong as in 2014. I'm anxious to see the corn crop in the western portion of the state Wednesday.

For soybeans, the soil moisture is there to fill pods. Typically when that's the case, soybean yields build.

On Tuesday, scouts will sample fields on routes from Bloomington, Illinois, to Iowa City, Iowa. I expect to see better and more consistent crops on Day 3 as we push westward.

Eastern Tour Consultant Mark Bernard:

Today’s route was a split route with Katie and Chad from RCIS taking the bulk of the northern Indiana fields and the rest of us heading to northwest Indiana to begin sampling at LaCrosse. We had as participants: Steve Matthews, driver from Tudor Investments in Greenwich, Connecticut, Uriel Gordon from Aimidones in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Patrick McGroarty from the Wall St. Journal based out of Chicago. I had been on routes through that area before and it means seeing a lot of irrigation and crops other than corn and soybeans such as popcorn.

The 4 samples we did pull from Indiana came from the counties of Starke, Porter, Jasper and Newton. The corn samples in Starke and Porter were typical of what we’ve seen in previous years on dryland production at 139 and 152 bu./acre respectively. Yields picked up in Jasper where we pulled a 179 bu./acre sample and out high in Indiana for the day was in Newton Co. with 194 bu./acre. This corn was planted in 20” rows. All the corn we sampled in Indiana was maturing rapidly with the milk line already halfway down the kernel. Not so surprisingly we spotted silage being chopped in the area.

The soybeans samples jumped around more with the high in the 3’x3’ in Porter Co. at 2600 thanks in large part to one plant in the sample having over 230 pods on it! The low was in Jasper with a pod count of around 1400. Not bad considering these weren’t necessarily great looking beans from the road. With little disease or insect pressure noted, and ample soil moisture with the promise of more to come, it could be a pleasant surprise for producers come harvest time.

We sampled more heavily in Illinois today on our route and I’ll preface it by saying at least in the samples we pulled anyway, the corn crop appeared to be one of the Illinois corn crops I’ve come to expect in 13 years of the Crop Tour. In the seven corn samples we pulled today, four were over 200 bu. per acre with the high at 244 in Iroquois Co. In the sample from Ford Co., it probably would’ve been in the 200 bushel club to except that green snap had reduced the stand by nearly a third in places including the sample area.

Soybeans were more of a mixed bag with pod counts in the 3’x3’ varying from a high near 2600 in Livingston with a low of 1300 in Kankakee. There were more diseases noted as we were travelling across Iroquois and Livingston Co.’s., with SDS and BSR both being identified on the same plant! Most fields weren’t bad enough to cause concern while occasional adjacent fields did show some serious disease pressure.

On to finish Illinois tomorrow and to Iowa City for the largest gathering we are likely to see on this year’s Crop Tour. Hope to see you there!

Follow #pftour16 Leaders Chip Flory and Brian Grete, as well as Consultants Mark Bernard and Emily Carolan on Twitter. Follow Julianne Johnston for official Tour results.

Additional Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour information is available on



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