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From the Rows 2014, Chip Flory, Day 1

August 18, 2014
By: Chip Flory, Pro Farmer Pro Farmer Editorial Director

From the Rows - Chip Flory - Day 1 Western Tour

First route report in a year that's expected to confirm record-large corn and soybean yield potential... and South Dakota left us kind of scratching our head. But there are a couple of important trends going on in the state that we all need to keep in mind when looking at today's Tour results. Back in 1998 when we laid out the Tour area for South Dakota, we focused on crop district 9 in the southeastern corner of the state because that's where the bulk of the corn crop was grown in the state. Since then corn production had steadily expanded northward and now east-central and northeastern S. Dakota are just as important to to the state as crop district 9 where South Dakota meets Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Last year, the southeastern portion of the state (where the Tour samples), was probably the highest yielding area of the state and we ended up with a very high average yield of 161.75 bu. per acre.

This year, the southeastern portion of the state might be pulling down the average yield for the state as later-planted corn in the central and northern crop districts on S. Dakota's east coast is actually performing better than earlier-planted corn in the southeast. That's because the southern crop was planted earlier, emerged earlier and was starting to grow when it was frosted. It didn't do enough damage to force a replanting, but it did enough damage to knock a couple-thousand plants out of commission.

This problem, however, was not completely evident in the sample we collected in South Dakota today, but enough scouts mentioned the "missing plants" in rows (skips) that likely resulted from the late-spring frost.

Just one route through S. Dakota mentioned some significant disease problems in corn, but most scouts were impressed by the general health of the corn and soybean crops. Weed control, however, is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge to some growers on an annual basis. Weed resistance seems to be building in the northwestern Corn Belt.

Scouts generally agreed the health of the bean crop is good and that insect pressure is light, but as in the corn fields, week pressure is limiting yield potential in some fields.

Okay... on to the numbers. (Be sure to check out Jason Franck's report for more on the agronomic issues in South Dakota.)

The South Dakota corn yield this year was calculated at 152.71 bushels per acre. That's down 5.6% from last year's Tour results, indicating that maybe USDA went in the wrong direction from year-ago when it raised the S. Dakota yield 1 bu. from last year, to 139 bushels per acre. However, if the acres further north of the Tour area can beat last year, there's plenty of acres up there to pull the state yield back to year-ago levels.

While several scouts mentioned the "missing plants" in several South Dakota corn fields, the average number of ears in two 30-foot rows was 83.76, up 1.1% from last year's 82.85 ears. By the way, the 83.76 ears calculates to about 24,300 ears per acre. So, the reduction in yield from last year's Tour is not the result of fewer ears.

The problem is in the length of grain. Ears in South Dakota this year averaged 6.6 inches, down 7.7% from last year's 7.16 inches. There was some tip-back on ears, but the real problem is that this year's ears in southeastern South Dakota are just... well... shorter than last years.

The average number of kernel rows around the ears in South Dakota this year is 15.97, down just 1% from last year's 16.13.

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