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From the Rows 2014, Chip Flory, Day 2

August 20, 2014
By: Chip Flory, Pro Farmer Pro Farmer Editorial Director

From the Rows - Chip Flory - Western Tour Day 2

This is weird. When I get ready to write my about my observations of each year's Tour, I always go back and read my previous year's report, just as a reminder of conditions we saw last year. I'm really glad I did that tonight because it's going to cut down on my typing time.

Last year I wrote: "The irrigated corn crop is normally consistently good. I'm not saying every irrigated cornfield 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 2012) 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 story is very similar this year, but -- believe it or not -- the dryland yield is actually helping to support the average yield in the state. While last year's dryland corn yield helped to hold up the average yield in Nebraska, this year's dryland crop is likely pushing the average yield up, compared to year-ago. The best of the dryland yields basically equaled the bottom end of the range of irrigated corn yields. Just like last year, the top-end of the irrigated yields didn't blow through the roof, but the dryland yields pushed closer to last year's all-sample yield for Nebraska.

Last year I also wrote this: "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 seen went in the ground."

The same is true again this year. There seemed to be way too many skips in the row in irrigated fields that left me wondering what the yield might have been if a higher percent of the seed would have made a stalk and that stalk would have made an ear. In many irrigated fields, that would have added 4 to 6 more ears. And with the Crop Tour calculated corn yield up from last year's Tour yield, the additional ears could have made this year's irrigated corn crop "exceptional" rather than the "ordinary" irrigated crop we sampled the past two days.

There was a major change in the samples we pulled from Nebraska this year. Normally, we pull about 60% dryland samples from Nebraska and 40% dryland. That's one of the reasons we've consistently measured the Nebraska corn yield "light" since we started the western leg of the tour in 1998. This year, the mix was 50% irrigated and 50% dryland. That was a shocker tonight... something that I did not anticipate. But, it does help explain a lot of the changes in the numbers compared to last year.

For example, even though scouts consistently said they saw skips in corn rows in irrigated fields, the average ear count in two 30-foot plots was 86.86, up about 3.5% from last year. But with an increase in the percentage of irrigated samples on this year's tour, we should expect the increase in the ear population.

We also measured longer ears than year-ago. The average length of grain this year was 7.07 inches, up from last year's 6.91 inches. That's a 2.3% increase in the average grain length... and again might be attributable to the higher-than-year-ago percentage of irrigated corn yields.

The average kernel rows around the ear this year was 16.16, up 1 full kernel row from year-ago. That's a 6.6 increase in the number of kernel rows around the ear. I'm not sure if that's directly attributable to the increase in the percent of irrigated corn samples... but it shouldn't hurt the kernel row count.

The end result is a calculated Nebraska average corn yield of 163.8 bu. per acre, up 5.4% from last year's tally.

In soybeans, the average number of pods in a 3' X 3' square was 1,103.26, down 3.1% from year-ago. I really didn't see much difference between this year's bean crop and the 2013 bean crop. But I do know this about the bean crop in Nebraska... we've got to get the water hemp problem under control. There are way too many bean fields with way too much water hemp and if we don't get it under control now, it's only going to be a drag on yields in the years ahead.

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