From the Rows
Here we go again! I meet 22 crop scouts in Sioux Falls, S. Dakota, tonight while Roger and Mark Bernard sat down with nearly 50 scouts on the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. And (believe it or not) they are fired up to go out and take a look at the corn and soybean crops growing in the western Corn Belt. Quick conversations with scouts tells me they expect to see a good corn crop... but certainly not a great corn crop. They certainly expect to step into some great fields... and some very poor fields. The same is true for the soybean crop... although growers on the Tour this year are a bit pesimistic about the yield potential for the bean crop.
A lot of the conversation at the orientation meeting centered on the maturity of the crop. We know the crop won't match up to the last two years on the maturity scale. The last two years, we sampled from a crop that was dented across the Corn Belt. This year, we'll see some corn that has pollinated in the last ten days... and we'll see corn that's in the mid-dough stage. The group will be surprised if we see any corn that's in the dent stage.
And I explained a couple of important changes to this year's Tour. First, the corn yield calculation. I've explained a few times to Pro Farmer Members that we're making a change to the yield calculation for corn. The only reason we can make this change is because the new calculation uses the same data as the old calculation. That means I could recalculate yields from past tours using the data we've collected. All the media on both the eastern and western legs of the Tour have been briefed on this change and they understand the data from year-ago and the three-year average yields for each state and each crop district within each state has been recalculated using the new yield calculation. Therefore, the comparisons to past yields will be an "apples-to-apples" comparison.
Why we made the change. First, with the exception of Minnesota, the new yield calculation gives us a more realistic yield estimate for each state. That does not mean the "raw data" for each state should be considered a "final" yield estimate for each state. We know the calculation misses USDA's final average yield for each state... but we know by how much the Crop Tour yield typically misses USDA's final for each state. We call it an "historical error."
We've always tried to make this Crop Tour a very "transparent" event. We don't hide anything and anybody that wants to come on the Tour is invited. With that in mind, here is the average miss (2001-2007), or the "historical error," for each of the Tour states.
Ohio: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 4.72 bu. below USDA's final yield peg for the state.
Indiana: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 3.41 bu. below USDA's final yield peg for the state.
Illinois: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 4.29 bu. above USDA's final yield peg for the state. (We don't sample lower-yielding areas in far-down-state Illinois.)
Iowa: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 5.82 bu. below USDA's final yield peg for the state.
Minnesota: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 12.09 bu. above USDA's final yield peg for the state. (We don't sample lower-yielding areas further north.)
Nebraska: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 16.31 bu. below USDA's final yield peg for the state. Don't let that "big" historical error scare you. The consistency of the miss is exceptional. The reason the Crop Tour is that much too low is because we sample the dryland-heavy eastern areas of the state. We sample about 40% irrigated fields and 60% dryland fields. In reality, the state is about 60% irrigated and 40% dryland.
South Dakota: On average, since 2001, the Crop Tour yield has been 5.27 bu. above USDA's final yield peg for the state. (We sample a sliver of the state in the higher-yielding southeast corn of the state. The area we cover is Mitchell to the southeast corner.)
So... there you go. That's how to use the Crop Tour data. In Ohio, add about 4.5 bu. to the Crop Tour yield; in Indiana add about 3.5 bu. to the Crop Tour yield; in Illinois take about 4.3 bu. off the Crop Tour yield; in Iowa, add about 6 bu. to the Crop Tour yield; in Minnesota, take about 12 bu. off the Crop Tour yield; In Nebraska, add about 16 bu. to the Crop Tour yield; and in South Dakota take about 5 bu. off the Crop Tour yield to adjust for the historical error in each state.