First glances can surprise crop scouts. Many of the corn fields on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour look to have small ears and the crop looks relatively poor in many areas, but looks can be deceiving. Higher ear populations and improved stands are leading to better yields than what scouts originally expected.
For the most part, corn yields and soybean pod counts are increasing as the tour moves west to close out Illinois and enter Iowa.
"When you start pulling up to the fields, things are firing up from the bottom. You’re seeing a lot of unevenness on the edge of these fields, some of that is still out there when you get into these fields, but that’s why we do this tour. You really need to get out into these fields and see what’s out there," says Roger Bernard, east tour director.
Bernard sees a trend developing in the Eastern Corn Belt the past couple of years that is leading to this. It starts with higher plant populations.
"If they want to get into some of those big yield territories like we’re getting in Iowa and parts of Illinois, they’re having to push those populations up. That’s starting to happen in the far eastern territories of the Corn Belt."
In many fields the ear length and size still doesn’t look too impressive, but the increased number of plants with viable ears is leading to yield increases. "We’re out there measuring ears in 60’ of row. When you add two or three ears in 60’, that allows you to build a yield as you go across the Corn Belt."
This morning, Bernard started south of Springfield, Ill., and is working his way west to cross into Iowa at Fort Madison.
Further to the north, Doug Miller, a veteran scout from Greene, Iowa, is impressed by the corn yields he’s seen in Illinois. However, as he moves north towards Clinton, Iowa, he says the corn is starting to go downhill a little. The cause, too much moisture. As the tour heads into the excessively wet state of Iowa this afternoon, we’ll see how much that has impacted the yield potential for the nation’s number-one corn producing state.