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Aerial View of Iowa Shows Crop Stress

September 19, 2013
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor

In the first of four segments, AgDay flies high above some key crop districts in Iowa to see how the crop has progressed since the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. 

dead spots

Chip Flory took this photo during his flight. He says there were plenty of dead spots out there in corn fields of north-central Iowa. See more photos from his flight.

Knowing that this year’s fields contain enormous variability that is difficult to spot from ground, Farm Journal Media launches Eye in the Sky to help track progress through harvest.

Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory went high into the air this week to take an aerial view of the crops in several key crop districts in Iowa. He flew from Waterloo, Iowa, diagonally toward Mason City.

"The most evident thing out there was stress on the crop," he says. "Time does not heal all wounds. The problems we had in the spring are still very evident out there in the field."

Flory says he saw many areas in fields that have prematurely died. "The stress wasn’t just on the sandy soils," he says. "A lot of the prematurely dying spots were next to ponded out areas, which suggests that it was heavier soils that were holding water earlier in the year. I think it comes down to delayed emergence. The stuff that emerged last was most vulnerable to the stress we saw on the crop earlier this summer."

On the up side, Flory says he did see some healthy crops – the cover crops. "The cover crops on those prevent plant acres are by far the greenest crops we saw," he says. "At least the cover crops are doing well because of the September rains we’ve been receiving."

In addition to the flyover videos, GEOSYS is providing satellite maps and information to Farm Journal to demonstrate new tools available to track crop progress and field variability. Using NDVI, GEOSYS creates in-season crop health maps. Crop health has a high correlation to final yield, particularly after Aug. 15 for corn.

Here’s a video showing the progression of crop health, courtesy of GEOSYS:


A dark green color equals strong plant health, yellow to light green is average and dark red is the worst.

After the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, which wrapped up Aug. 22, Pro Farmer editors had this to say about the crop in Iowa:

Expected corn yield: 163 bu. per acre. Iowa is a prime example of why perspective must be applied to raw Crop Tour data. Samples indicated Iowa has the potential for big yields, but problems with late maturity and major uniformity issues means we don’t expect this to be realized.

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