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From the Rows - Day 2 Western Tour - Chip Flory

August 21, 2013
By: Chip Flory, Pro Farmer Pro Farmer Editorial Director

From the Rows - Chip Flory - Western Tour Day 2

Ordinary. Normal. Average. All of those do a good job of describing the 2013 Nebraska corn crop. That, however, does not mean the crop isn't without some problems... but there are also some really good things about the crop as well.

On day 1 of the Tour as we made our way into northeastern Nebraska, we started to see some moisture stress on dryland corn and soybeans in Antelope County. It was kind of surprising at the time because it was the first moisture stress we saw after traveling through southeast South Dakota and the northern tier of two counties in Nebraska. But... it's Nebraska. Of course we're going to see some moisture stress.

The stress was "here and there" on day 1 down to Grand Island and continued from the first overnight stop to our second in Nebraska City, Nebraska. But that's what we should expect to see in Nebraska. That's why the state in about 60% irrigated and 40% dryland... crops need to be watered in Nebraska.

The irrigated corn crop is normally consistently good. I'm not saying every irrigated corn field is as good as the next, but there is consistency to the irrigated crop that helps build the Nebraska corn yield. The real variable in Nebraska is the dryland crop. It can be really bad (like last year) or really good... or really ordinary. But when there's consistency to the dryland crop (even if it's just an ordinary crop), it helps support the overall yield in the state.

That's a long way of saying dryland corn is supporting the bottom end of the Nebraska corn crop. The "problem" we saw on Tour is the irrigated crop didn't "blow through the roof" to lift the top end of the yields. The result... a really ordinary, normal and average corn crop in the Husker state.

Disease? Not and issue. Pests... no widespread problem. Hail... yes, there's always some hail damage in Nebraska and it's devastating in Clay Co. for growers there, but Nebraska almost always has some hail damage.

Holding back yields in irrigated corn this year is a couple of things. First, many of the problems go back to the start of the season when seed went in the ground. The first half of the crop was planted about on time, but the second half of the crop was hustled into the ground. Not only were the plantings delayed, they were also done into less-than-ideal conditions and (with more rain in the forecast) growers hurried to finish up plantings. The result are skips in plantings, irregular stands and "clumping" of some plants that resulted in too many "runt" ears in many Nebraska corn fields.

Another issue is inconsistent ear set, which indicates scattered emergence of plants this spring. Many times, the ear that is set lower than the two ears on both sides of the plant is shorter in length and further behind in development. Those ears will be weighing on final yields this year.

Also... and maybe most importantly was a 3 to 4 week period of below normal temps and cloudy conditions that reduced the solar energy available during the early kernel-fill period on corn. That may be causing some tip-back, even in irrigated corn.

The bottom line on Nebraska corn is too much of it was planted after the middle of may, it was planted into less-than-good conditions and it hasn't had enough sunlight (and warm temps). That's not how to build a big corn yield.

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