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Midwest Crop Tour

By Staff | Sep 1, 2017



SPENCER – While corn and soybean crops in the Midwest are not going to have bumper status, they will not necessarily be the worst on record either.

That’s according to early results of the 25th annual Farm Journal Midwest Crop Tour, which stopped in Spencer on Aug. 23.

Day three of the tour had the eastern leg traveling from Bloomington, Illinois, to Iowa City, while the western leg began in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and ended in Spencer.

Corn fields in the eastern leg showed lower ear counts, grain length and kernel rows compared to last year’s tour. The western leg showed an increase in ear counts and a decrease in grain length and kernel rows from last year.

District One (Northwest Iowa) showed corn yield samples coming in at 178.67 bushels, down significantly from last year’s 189.7 prediction; District 4, which includes West Central Iowa showed yields of 179.36 bushels, down from 181.07 bushels from last year, and the southeast part of the state, District 7, showed yield predictions of 185.65 bushels, also down from last year’s number of 191.87.

Scouts took 85 samples in District 1, 69 samples in District 4 and 39 samples in District 7. Criteria include ear count in a 60-foot row, grain length in inches, kernel rows around and row spacing. They stopped every 15 to 20 miles along the route, took 35 paces in past the end rows, and pulled the 58th and 11th ears in the row everywhere they went.

Soybean pod counts in District 1 came in at 986.49 pods in a 3-by-3-foot square, down 19.5 percent from last year’s count of 1,226.21 pods. District 4 showed a count of 1,158.06, down 8.5 percent from last year’s count of 1,265.39 pods, and District 7 showed a pod count of 1,133.76, compared to last year’s count of 1,380, which was down 17.9 percent.

Criteria included pod counts in three feet, soil moisture, growth stage, row spacing and the pod count in a 3-by-3-foot square.

Throughout the Iowa leg of the tour, scouts found crop yields to be steady to down – some moderately and some significantly. Iowa’s District 1 showed the most profound yield reduction numbers in soybeans, down 19.5 percent from last year. That same district showed the biggest yield reduction in corn as well, coming in 11 bushels lower than last year.

Midwest Crop Tour scouts said they saw corn conditions that were all over the board. One scout from Illinois said he thinks he will realize the best corn yields he’s ever had since he started farming. Yet in South Dakota, the drought has all but decimated the corn crop in many areas along the route.

In Iowa, one scout who was working in Pocahontas County said he was in a field that showed a 99 bushel-per-acre yield estimate, and just 10 miles away, a corn field came in at 233 bushels. During that leg of the tour, they stopped 20 times and found only four fields that estimated yields more than 200 bushels per acre. They saw good crop stands overall, with the exception of some fields in and around Pocahontas and Humboldt counties, where stress was consistent, and they saw some ears dropping to the ground. Those counties, they said, showed the most drought stress.

One scout started out in Dallas County and took U.S. Highway 169 north. He said he saw corn crops that were stressed because of hail, drought conditions and flooding – on top of a late, cool planting season. He said his team only saw one field all day that estimated a 200-bushel yield.

“We saw as much variance in corn crop maturity there as we’d seen in the previous two days,” he said. “Some was not close to maturing and some was denting.”

One Illinois farmer who was scouting with the tour said, “…we saw a lot of pretty ears out there, but not too many pretty corn fields.”

Chip Flory, leader of the western leg of the tour, said test weight will be a concern this year, but there is no way to measure that. He added that some of the corn crop on the tour was too far gone to bring back.

Flory said strong corn genetics has helped pull this year’s crop through, adding that producers know more about raising corn today than they did 10 years ago, which also helped a stressed crop situation.

Drop-offs in yield were noted in and around Cherokee, Buena Vista, Humboldt and Pocahontas counties, due to drought stress.


Soybean pod counts were considered good on the western side of the western leg – in the 1,250 range, then dropped to the 1,050 and 1,070 range for the rest of the route.

Soybeans from Shenandoah into Carroll County and Pocahontas showed signs of a dry year, with pod abortion that was reflected pod counts. Scouts said there were fewer pods in the southeast corner of their route, and that in areas of Plymouth, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola and Dickinson Counties they “…didn’t see any flowers all day.”

Flory said they have been seeing many single and two-bean pods, and he thinks 2.5 beans per pod will be average this year, given the wet spring and drought conditions from mid-July through mid-August.

“One or two beans per pod won’t become three or four, and three- and four-bean pods could become one or two,” Flory said, adding that late-season rains could still help some soybean crops finish maturing. “We’re seeing fewer pods on the plants, fewer plants and nodes that are further apart on the plants.”

“The crop isn’t going to add many pods from this point forward … even a light rain between now and September 20 will help the bean crop in the western part of the state,” he added. “I know how good the Iowa corn is that the scouts on the eastern leg of the tour will sample tomorrow (Thursday), so I refuse to pass judgment on the Iowa corn crop until I see what they sample then.”

Flory said they had seen some issues with Dicamba drift this year, and that aphids were seen, but not in huge numbers. His group also saw water hemp issues.

Western Tour Consultant Emily Carolan said “The bean crop we toured was an interesting one with better weed suppression than the scouts saw in Nebraska, but still more than we’ve ever seen on the crop tour during the third week of August. The weeds are especially taller this year … not only was waterhemp an issue, but giant and common ragweed as well.”


Nick Hanson, field agronomist with DuPont Pioneer, said fields this year vary extremely from one to another and from “neighbor to neighbor.”

He said areas north of U.S. Highway 18 received normal precipitation this growing season, while areas south of Highway 18 to U.S. Highway 20 were behind the moisture pace.

He added soybean maturity was at the R5 and R6 stage as of Aug. 23, and needed 20 to 25 days for full soybean maturity. Corn, he said, needed 400 heat units to help a 103-day hybrid to finish out, and the later the corn was planted, the more serious the deficit becomes.

Even with a normal frost date, Hanson said some crops may not be at full maturity.

Flory said “variance” is the key word for this year’s corn and soybean crops, with some areas of the tour realizing strong corn yield estimates and other parts down significantly for corn and soybeans.

Interestingly, Flory said projected Illinois yields often accurately reflect USDA predictions. Illinois samples resulted in an average corn yield of 180.72 bushels per acre and an average soybean pod count of 1,230.77 pods in a 3 by 3 square.

The Farm Journal Midwest Crop Tour covers almost 70 percent of US corn and soybean acres, traveling areas in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The eastern leg travels from Fishers, Indiana to Bloomington, Illinois, to Iowa City and ending in Rochester, Minnesota.

The western leg begins in Grand Island, Nebraska. and travels from Nebraska City, Nebraska, to Spencer and ends in Rochester, Minnesota.

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