Western Tour From The Rows | Jeff Wilson (West)

Posted on 08/18/2019 6:46 PM

Plenty of uncertainty with this year’s crops as we hit the fields… The “goal” of Crop Tour isn’t to prove or disprove USDA’s August crop estimates, but the comparisons are inevitable. Lance Honig, Crops Branch chief for USDA’s NASS, will be at the nightly meetings in Nebraska City (Aug. 20), Iowa City (Aug. 21) and the finale in Rochester (Aug. 22) to answer questions about USDA’s latest crop estimates. We do not measure planted or harvested acreage, this tour is about defining yield potential. The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour will be the first boots on the ground check of yield potential after USDA halted its own Objective Yield Surveys in 10 states this year. So, the August USDA crop forecasts were based on farmer surveys, satellite imagery and weather. USDA will release Objective Yield Survey results in September, October and November. In the 10 objective yield states for corn there will be 1,015 samples and in the 11 states for soybeans there will be 1,050 in those three months.


The lateness of the crop and the high level of variability across the Midwest this year puts even greater attention on what we find as we sample roughly 3,000 corn and soybean fields across the Corn Belt between Aug. 19-22. Still, we’ll do what we do every year on Crop Tour — give the industry a realistic idea of yield potential across the seven Tour states.  We have a great group of veteran scouts to collect this week’s data and share it with you.

Consistency in tour data is the key to accurately analyze this year’s crop potentials. Tonight’s meetings in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Columbus, Ohio will go over all the measurements with all the crop scouts and emphasize the importance of measuring each field the same way.

In each corn field--  

  • Get past the end rows and then take 35 paces into the field.
  • At the 35th pace, lay out a 30-foot plot and count all the ears that will make grain on two 30-foot rows. We are measuring ears, not plants. The key here will be kernels that make grain. For some fields this will be difficult if the field recently pollinated.
  •  From one of those two rows, pull the 5th, 8th and 11th ears. This gives us a consistently random process to select sample ears.
  •  Measure the length of grain (in inches, rounded to the nearest one-quarter inch) on each ear.
  •  Count the number of kernel rows around each ear.
  •  Record the row width in the field.

** To calculate the estimated yield, take the average number of ears in the two 30-foot rows TIMES the average length of grain per ear TIMES the average number of kernel rows around; DIVIDE the total by row width.
For Example: (50 ears X 6.5 inches X 16.7 kernel rows) / 30-inch rows = 180.9 This example gives you an estimated yield at that spot in the field of 180.9 bu. per acre.

In each soybean field

  • Pick a ‘representative spot’ in the field.
  • Measure 3-foot of row and count all the plants in that plot.
  • Randomly select three plants. Count all the pods on those three plants and calculate the average number of pods per plant.
  • Record the row width in the field.
  • Multiply the average number of pods per plant by the number of plants in the 3-foot plot. Multiply that number by 36, and divide by row width.
  • For Example: (14 plants X 32 pods/plant X 36) / 15-inch rows = 1,075.2 pods in a 3’X3’ square.
  • There is no way to calculate a rough yield based on pods counts. But these pod counts can be compared with 2018 and the three-year averages to get an idea of the size of soybean factory. We will also be measuring soil moisture and plant maturity to get an overall look at the impact early, normal or late freezes will have on this year’s yield potential.

Where to get up-to-date information from Tour… There will be exclusive daily route reports from Tour leaders on www.profarmer.com/crop-tour. You can also access daily Tour results each evening and compare this year’s Tour data to last year and the three-year average.

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