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From the Rows -- Day 1 Eastern Tour with Mark Bernard

August 22, 2011

Day 1 of the 2011 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour saw our group heading out of Columbus, Ohio, and taking a southwest trek on U.S. Route 62, then after 35–40 miles heading back to the northwest on Ohio 54 to Urbana. From there, we stair-stepped our way to St. Mary’s, or attempted to. We managed to pull about the same number of samples as the number of wrong turns as a result of poor navigation: 14.

The crew today was largely newcomers, composed of Dee Hale of USDA-FAS from Washington, D.C., behind the wheel; Linda Huynh of Dialectic Capital from New York City; Tom Polansek of Dow Jones in Chicago; Arnella Trent of USDA and Greg Preston of USDA-NASS from West Lafayette, Ind., following.

Counties sampled in Ohio by our route included Pickaway, Fayette, Madison, Clark, Champaign, Logan, Auglaize and Mercer. Corn yields bounced around but ranged from a low of 88 to a high of around 240 bu./acre. Soybean pod counts in the 3'x3' square were all over the board as well, with low counts in the 620 range to one high count of over 3,500. Average for our route in Ohio was in the neighborhood of 1,490, about 290 higher than the same route a year ago. Both crops surprised me with their yield potential, something I wouldn’t have bet on a couple months ago.

This is my eighth tour of duty on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour and this crop was similar to last year’s crop in terms of yield on our route. Overall crop health is very good, with disease pressure in both corn and beans generally very light. We did note some gray leaf spot in the corn, but it was very minor in nature. In the fields where it was more common, the corn was more mature than most of the other samples we pulled. On the soybean side, the same was true: some minor leaf disease and earlier feeding that looked to be either bean leaf beetle or Japanese beetle. However, neither insect pest was in evidence. There were a few soybean aphids seen here and there. These were more of a novelty this time around and nowhere near treatable levels.

One thing that stuck out in some of the soybean fields was the weed pressure that had possibly affected some of the pod counts in the drier areas. Of particular note were things like horseweed (marestail), common ragweed and giant ragweed escapes. Just like last year, it was difficult to tell if this was due to glyphosate resistance with the short duration of our visit and not knowing the particulars of each field. Granted, the fields we pulled samples from this year were likely corn last year, but the problem has not gone away.

Something that has definitely changed for the worse is the maturity of the crop in Ohio this time around. Last year, we were dealing with true R6 in most soybean fields and this year we were back to the flat pods we saw in 2009. While most of the soybeans sampled on our route were R5, they have a long way to go to make it to maturity.

The corn crop was equally noteworthy in that department. Most of the samples pulled today included ears that were dough stage yet had not dented. They’re further along than in 2009 by a week or so, but the corn crop will need all the help it can get to make it to the finish line ahead of a typical Oct. 15. And with both crops, unlike last year, soil moisture was a major limiting factor today. In many of the corn fields as we moved north of Columbus, corn leaves were rolling and plants were firing. The soybean leaves were also turned over, especially in areas of lighter soil. The air temperature reached only 77 degrees today.  

Signs of this crop having been mudded in were evident, as stands in some corn fields were extremely poor. Nitrogen deficiency was common in most of the corn where yields were compromised. In some instances, the planter slot was still open. Likewise, soybeans were spotty in places, especially where attempts had been made at double-cropping into wheat stubble.

This crop has a long way to go, but not forever to get there.

Tomorrow, we push on through Indiana and into eastern Illinois. 

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