Pro Crop Midwest Tour in Iowa:
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER -Anticipated crop yields are up, sometimes significantly, this growing season, according to estimates by scouts on the annual Pro Crop Midwest Tour.
Scouts on the western leg of the tour and local producers gathered in Spencer Aug. 22 to hear reports of increased yields, growing degree units that had caught the corn crop up as the growing season progressed, and timely rains that made soybean plants flourish.
Corn yield estimates for District 1 (northwest Iowa) came in at 186.87 bu/acre, up 4.6 percent from last year’s estimate of 178.67 bu/acre. District 4 (west central Iowa) estimates came in almost identically at 186.77 bu/acre, up 4.1 percent from last year’s 179.36 bu/acre, and the only corn estimate to go down in number was in District 7 (southwest Iowa), with an estimate of 179.82 bu/acre, down from last year’s 185.65 bu/acre.
The number of ears counted in the same 60 (systematic) rows in all three districts were down from one year ago. Fewer plants were available, but they had better-than-expected grain lengths.
Soybean yield estimates came in much the same, and may have provided the bigger story than its corn counterparts, with estimates up significantly.
Northwest Iowa’s yield estimates came in at 1,082 pods per 3 foot by 3 foot square, up 9.7 percent from last year. West central Iowa’s soybean yield estimates came in at 1,258 pods per 3 foot by 3 foot square, up 8.7 percent. And in southwest Iowa, they counted 1,445 pods per 3 foot by 3 foot square, up a whopping 27 percent from last year in the same area where corn yield estimates are down.
Illinois average corn data showed 192.6 bu/acre, up 6.6 percent from one year ago. USDA has its yield at 207 bu/acre. Crop scouts were concerned about whether or not that crop was going to finish.
Jeff Wilson, leader of the western leg of the tour, said crop scouts saw mostly dented corn fields in Nebraska, while in Iowa they saw dough stages to early denting. But, he said, the corn crop is moving along nicely in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Illinois soybeans showed an 8 percent increase from a year ago, according to Wilson.
“The story is all about how the crop comes to the finish line,” he said. “When we were here last year the story was all about potential. This year we measured yield. It’s not getting a lot bigger than what we measured here in the last three days.”
Indiana corn suffered through dry conditions early on, taking 20-plus bushels off the top for corn yields, but its soybeans are looking like the best they’ve ever had, according to a scout from Indiana.
South central Minnesota crops were planted late due to excessive spring snow, then were followed with heavy rains that would not stop. That crop scout said a person can estimate 200-bushel corn in one part of a row, then, further down in the same row, average 50 bu/acre.
The Minnesota scout said if their corn makes 175 bu/acre on the average it will be good, and added soybeans there look good.
The northeast South Dakota scout said he didn’t know if their producers would even harvest their crops because they become visibly worse each day.
One scout started just north of the Missouri border and followed Iowa Highway 25 to Greene County. He saw good corn starting out and began to see “burned up corn” the further north he went. The scout saw lodging from a wind storm, green snap and dry conditions.
Greene County showed the poorest corn yields of the day at 114 bu/acre. He says soybeans in the southern part of the state were far better than soybeans further north.
Another scout came from Nebraska City, Nebraska, and mostly took U.S. Highway 71 to Coon Rapids. Corn was dry in the southern part of the state and green snap was found in Adair and Guthrie counties. Corn yield averages were 168.7 on that route. Cass County had soybeans that were beginning to turn, and waterhemp ran wild in Guthrie County, but still managed a 1,325 pod count.
A third scout traveled from Nebraska City to northeast of Storm Lake, finding worse yields as they moved east on Iowa Highway 3. That scout found some 119, 116 and 112 bu/acre corn in Pocahontas County.
As he traveled to Humboldt, Webster, Hancock, Kossuth, Emmet and Palo Alto counties, the scout noticed drowned out spots that were worse than expected, along with a lot of nitrogen deficiencies.
The corn yield average on that tour was 159 bu/acre. Soybeans there were fair, the scout said, with obvious differences between fields planted in May and those planted in Junel; those fields had pod counts in the 500’s and 600’s and had no more blooms. Pod counts in good fields were in the 1,100 to 1,200 range.
Another scout came from Audubon up U.S. Highway 71 to Carroll then jogged over to Iowa Highway 4 to Lake City, then Pocahontas and Emmetsburg, which he called “the war zone,” and went on to Spencer.
The scout’s findings in northwest Iowa were sub-135 bu/acre, even with ear counts that were at or just above average. He said his team had concerns about the corn plant’s ability to hold onto an ear until harvest time.
“It didn’t take much effort to drop an ear from the plant,” the scout said, adding that kernel sizes along their route were small and disappointing.
Soybeans on that route showed mixed results, with fields north of U.S. Highway 20 showing “spindly” plants, with average pod counts at 1,200.
Wilson, from Guthrie County, said the 2018 crop is “interesting.”
“We have a lot of corn down there that will start to be harvested in the next two weeks,” he said. “The shanks are completely collapsed, ears have been down for two weeks. We had too much moisture in rains in the first part of June and then it shut off on July 1.”
The overall synopsis on the tour was that the corn crop has run out of nitrogen, and that the crops overall have finished growing.
Nick Hanson, Pioneer agronomist, told producers that northwest Iowa is 150 to 300 growing degree units ahead of normal when he compared May 1 to historical data pertaining to May 1.
“It’s been a year of extremes, both in heat and precipitation standpoints,” he said, speaking of the cold temperatures and snow storms that occurred in April, and areas later on that received 16-17 inches of rain in 10-14 days in mid-June.
Hanson talked about the accelerated GDUs this growing season and how they moved crop production along quickly.
“If you planted on May 15 this year, it’s similar to a historical planting date of April 15 according to GDUs,” he said, adding that a planting date of May 25 was similar to a historical planting date of May 1, and a May 30 planting date was historically similar to a May 15 planting date.
Hanson said the advanced GDUs may have saved the crop with the late planting dates.
“Because of May and June we were able to catch up and keep things on pace,” he said, adding that crops planted May 1 – which happened more south of Highway 3 – are currently in the dent stage and at 2,200 GDUs.
He said they need 200 more GDUs to finish out 103-day corn, and the crop can pick up 15-25 GDU’s/day.
Hanson expects black layer by early September.
A May 25 planting date shows corn in the dough stage and expected to black layer by mid- to late-September. Hanson said some hybrids have been designed to “shift” its ability to pick up GDUs more efficiently as time goes on. GDUs currently lag behind, but he thinks there is a good chance of them catching up in time.
“I have less concerns about finishing the crop than I did last year, when we were 200-300 GDUs behind at this same stage of the game,” said Hanson.
The Pro Crop Midwest Tour takes place the third week of August every year, covering 70 percent of the corn and soybean acres across seven Midwestern states from Ohio to South Dakota and Nebraska.
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