Pro Farmer Scouts May Have Found the Garden Spot in Western Iowa Measuring Near Record Yields

Scouts on the western leg of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour set out Wednesday morning to check corn and soybean crops in western Iowa. Drought dominated headlines in western Iowa last year during day three of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, and even as drought continues to be the talk of Iowa this year, fields in some portions of the state produced a different tone. (Scroll down to the bottom for final yield numbers from day three of Crop Tour)

“It’s a pretty welcome change compared to the last couple years – just great emergence, no skips and pretty healthy-looking cornfields at this point,” says Jarod Creed, owner of JC Marketing Services, and a scout on the western leg of Crop Tour this summer.

Drought is still parked in Iowa this year, with USDA's state-wide yield penciled in at 193.15 bushels, 15 bu. per acre than last year's final yield. And for Audubon, Iowa, farmer Matt Chambers, the majority of his fields are still considered “abnormally dry” on the U.S. Drought Monitor, but it’s almost a 180-degree difference from last year.

“We were kind of in the heart of the worst of the drought last year,” says Chambers. “We went half of this growing season just barely getting by on moisture. I said we needed a rain every week throughout the growing season, in order to even have somewhat of a crop. And we've actually pretty well done that.”

In the middle of July, he says the rains started to fall.

“This farm at the end of July probably had about 7” of rain, which was a lifesaver,” he adds.

The July rains saved the crop, washing away heavy drought concerns for Chambers and reviving hope about the crop’s yield potential this growing season.

“I would say we're going to be close to a record,” says Chambers.  “2019, still on a whole-farm average is our record, and I would say we're going to be real close.”

Right off Interstate I-80, and trekking up to Highway 71 in Iowa, scouts were impressed.

“So far, our average in corn is well over 220 (bu. per acre) average, but I think this is a part of the world that is probably a little bit of a garden spot for the state of Iowa this year,” says Creed.

The “garden spot” of Guthrie and Audubon Counties in Iowa received timely rains that may have been just enough.

“Any rains that this part of the world has received have just been almost exactly what the doctor ordered at the exact right time,” says Creed.

A quick planting pace due to drier conditions is something Creed says produced even corn emergence in fields.

“The ear counts are definitely higher than what I’ve seen on any year on tour,” says Creed.

And heavier, frequent doses of fungicides mean the stage may be set for some eye-popping corn yields in portions of the Hawkeye State.

As the scouts evaluated soybeans in that portion of Iowa, the situation in soybeans was not as impressive to veteran scout Peter Meyer of S&P Global Platts.

“The growth is tremendous, but bean pods are just not there,” says Meyer.

Lush, green plants looked promising from the road, but brought disappointment as scouts waded through fields.

“Everything looks very nice, even and clean, but the pods just aren't there,” adds Meyer. “That is a little bit of a surprise for us. I would have thought that when the beans were stressed due to the dryness, that they would have come back strong. But it doesn't seem to be that way.”

With few flowers on the plants, Meyer doubts the pod counts will grow from this point forward.

“So, the prospect of new pods being added at this point is very low in our opinion,” says Meyer.

In Illinois, USDA has forecast a 214 bu. per acre average yield, which would top the previous record set in 2018 by 4 bu. per acre. And a monster crop is exactly what scouts saw Wednesday. 

“As we progress here to the west in Illinois, I feel like the crop kind of consistently keeps getting better and better,” says Kristi Van Ahn-Kjeseth, a scout on the East leg of the tour this year. 

The excellent ear counts added to the potential for a record crop in Illinois this season. 

“This is kind of the first field that I’ve been in where I’ve seen the cobs, and really they were heavy,” she adds. “They were good-looking cobs; they were completely filled out and denting.”

Pro Farmer Editor Brian Grete, who leads the tour on the East, says he scouted central and west-central Illinois on Wednesday, with his route bringing in an average corn yield of 202.1 bu. per acre. The range on his route went from a low of 164.7 bu. per acre to a high of 247 bu. per acre.

‘With my samples, they haven't been super big, super long ears, they've been a little bit girthy, but smaller,” Grete said on AgriTalk Wednesday. “But the ear counts are just rock solid right now, really, really high. I would say the ear length on all the Illinois samples that we took, aside from one, stood out to me,” Grete said on the AgriTalk PM show.

Some scouts saw recent wind damage and drowned out spots in fields, but that didn’t wash away the overall optimistic outlook for the corn crop in Illinois this year.

Here are the final results revealed in Wednesday's Crop Tour Live:

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