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PF Crop Tour finds varied results

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

-Farm News photo by Karen Schwaller Chip Flory, editor emeritus and director of the tour visits with attendees of the Pro-Farmer Midwest Crop Tour in Spencer on Aug. 21. Producers heard that, while many crops look surprisingly well, they may want to brace themselves for some high drying bills this fall, based on the current maturity of crops overall.



SPENCER-Scouts on the Pro-Farmer Midwest Crop tour estimate an average to above-average corn crop for parts of western Iowa following their tour Aug. 19-23.

“The next five weeks are going to be unbelievably critical for this crop,” said Chip Flory, editor emeritus and director of the tour.

The western leg of the crop tour stopped in Spencer on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Flory said those five weeks would reveal what the risk and opportunities are for corn and soybean yields.

“This isn’t an easy crop to figure out. If we have a perfect five weeks, this corn and soybean crop is going to surprise us,” he said. “But if we have a normal five weeks, people are going to be disappointed and there will be big dryer bills.”

National figures released Aug. 23 by the Pro-Farmer Midwest Crop Tour estimated the corn crop at 13.358 billion bushels, with an average yield of 163.3 bu/acre, while the national soybean crop came in at 3.497 billion bushels, with an average yield of 46.1 bu/acre.


Iowa corn results as of Aug. 21 showed District 1 (Northwest Iowa) coming in at 184.9 bu/acre, down 1.1 percent from one year ago, and almost exactly at the three-year average.

District 4 (West Central Iowa) corn results showed an increase of 3.2 percent at 192.7 bu/acre, and District 7 came in at 186.3 bu/acre, up 3.6 percent from one year ago.

Scouts in Iowa corn fields reported crops that struggled getting started with wet springs, followed by almost ideal pollinating conditions that brought the crop forward dramatically.

Iowa corn yields were estimated by scouts to yield between 70-255 bu/acre.

Scouts also reported some diseases starting to make their way into the Nebraska corn crop, with rains causing applied fungicides to begin losing power.

The soybean estimates in District 1 came in at 1,095.93 pods, up 1.3 percent from one year ago, but unchanged from the three-year average. District 4 showed 1,196.06 pods, down 5.1 percent and down 2.6 percent from the three-year average. District 7 showed 1,221.13 pods, down 3.6 percent from last year, and down 7.5 percent from the three-year average.

Soybean pod counts ranged from 137 to 3,013 pods.

Scouts in District 7 said moisture levels were high, which could lead to disease entering the picture towards the end of the growing season.

One scout worked from Sioux City to Rock Valley and found good yields in both corn and soybeans, but found one corn field near Rock Valley that was not pollinated yet. He said he was in a field similar to it in South Dakota that Monday. He also said he found prolific gray leaf spot in Nebraska corn as well, but that in his seven years on the tour, this was “the healthiest crop” he had seen in all his scouting years. He said soybean pod counts were lower than normal, but they saw no sudden death syndrome in that route and only a little white mold. He said the bean crop on his route has the potential to finish because of the least amount of disease he’d seen.

A Nebraska farmer scout said his route came from Mapleton to Spencer and found good crops, with the exception of some corn aphids near Mapleton. He said they estimated 169.4 bu/acre on the corn and estimated an average pod count of 1,043.8. He said the crops looked good and all would mature before the frost.

One scout said he worked in West Central Iowa from I-80 to Hwy. 20, to Hwy. 71. He estimated that crops there will do better than they did last year, which he said he would never have guessed 60 days prior. He said they had record crops in most of that area last year, and he suspects this year’s crop will surpass it. They estimated 190- to 270-bushel corn pulls.

He said soybean fields he walked and heard about in Districts 1 and 4 were “ho-hum.” He said soybeans south of Hwy. 20 were “okay,” but soybeans north of Hwy. 20 (year on year) are in better shape because they don’t have the “massive holes” in fields that were there last year. Yet, he said the crop has a long way to go in District 1 (Northwest Iowa) and in parts of Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.


Nick Hansen, Pioneer Seeds Agronomist, told producers much of Northwest Iowa is tracking 20 to 30 inches above normal in precipitation. Having begun in June of 2018, he said it created a full soil profile going into this past spring.

Hansen said the current growing season as a stand-alone has been fairly normal, with many areas of Iowa falling behind normal in precipitation and have been thankful to get rains. Northwest Iowa, he said, is still well above normal, with areas of standing water.

He said growing degree units (GDUs) have to be thought of differently this year due to widely varied planting dates resulting from wet spring soil conditions. Planting dates in Northwest Iowa ranged from an Easter time start, up to and including the first week of June. He said much of the crop in that area was planted in mid-May, but much tillage and planting were both done in soils that were simply too wet.

“We have corn now from blister stage to almost denting; our days are getting shorter, our temps are a little cool, our corn and soybeans are not used to being in those growth stages as our days are getting shorter,” Hansen said, adding that crops are falling around 90 GDUs behind normal. “Much of that came just prior to pollination and during grain fill, so we’ve seen some tip back and some kernel abortion and slower crop advancement.”

Black layer dates, he feels, will vary widely in Northwest Iowa due to varied planting dates and various corn maturities. He gathered ears from fields near Plover and Estherville, with black layering dates ranging from 17 days on the ear from the Plover area, to as many as 42-56 days on an ear planted June 7 near Estherville.

“Things can come faster if we get some wind and heat, but we could be well into October for some of those really late planting dates,” he said.

Hansen said many soybeans are in the R-4 or R-5 stage, so he expects maturity to happen within the next 30-40 days, leading to a beginning harvest time of early October.

There is more corn rootworm feeding than usual, mostly on rotated acres. He said many producers are cutting back on spray applications, but he said as a result he’s seeing significant grid lodging and yield decreases.

He also said he knows of gray leaf spot in areas south of Northwest Iowa, which he said is a concern in an immature crop. Northern Corn Leaf Blight is showing up in eastern areas of Northwest Iowa as well.

Soybean pests include aphids, which he said will need to be monitored through the R-6 stage, and the Thistle Caterpillar, which is new to the area and can defoliate soybean leaves quickly. Threshold is 20 percent defoliation.

Illinois and Indiana

Crop tour scouts in Illinois measured corn at 171.2 bu/acre in Illinois, down 11.1 percent from one year ago. USDA reported earlier this month 181 bu/acre, down 13.8 percent.

Illinois soybeans on the tour measured almost 990 pods in a 3 by 3-foot area, down almost 25 percent from one year ago. The USDA number was down 15.4 percent at 55 bu/acre.

Scouts there said they saw prevent plant acres and crops that weren’t of good quality, both of which are not typical for that state. He said many acres won’t come close to 200 bu/acre this year.

He said crops on the eastern side of the state are lacking in maturity, while some of the western areas are seeing average to below-average maturity.

Pod counts in Indiana were reported to be down almost 30 percent, and almost 39 percent in Ohio.

Flory said a typical Midwestern (Corn Belt) Sept. 20 frost would be disastrous for producers.

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