From the Rows - Chip Flory - Day 1 Western Tour
First route report in a year that's expected to confirm record-large corn and soybean yield potential... and South Dakota left us kind of scratching our head. But there are a couple of important trends going on in the state that we all need to keep in mind when looking at today's Tour results. Back in 1998 when we laid out the Tour area for South Dakota, we focused on crop district 9 in the southeastern corner of the state because that's where the bulk of the corn crop was grown in the state. Since then corn production had steadily expanded northward and now east-central and northeastern S. Dakota are just as important to to the state as crop district 9 where South Dakota meets Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
Last year, the southeastern portion of the state (where the Tour samples), was probably the highest yielding area of the state and we ended up with a very high average yield of 161.75 bu. per acre.
This year, the southeastern portion of the state might be pulling down the average yield for the state as later-planted corn in the central and northern crop districts on S. Dakota's east coast is actually performing better than earlier-planted corn in the southeast. That's because the southern crop was planted earlier, emerged earlier and was starting to grow when it was frosted. It didn't do enough damage to force a replanting, but it did enough damage to knock a couple-thousand plants out of commission.
This problem, however, was not completely evident in the sample we collected in South Dakota today, but enough scouts mentioned the "missing plants" in rows (skips) that likely resulted from the late-spring frost.
Just one route through S. Dakota mentioned some significant disease problems in corn, but most scouts were impressed by the general health of the corn and soybean crops. Weed control, however, is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge to some growers on an annual basis. Weed resistance seems to be building in the northwestern Corn Belt.
Scouts generally agreed the health of the bean crop is good and that insect pressure is light, but as in the corn fields, week pressure is limiting yield potential in some fields.
Okay... on to the numbers. (Be sure to check out Jason Franck's report for more on the agronomic issues in South Dakota.)
The South Dakota corn yield this year was calculated at 152.71 bushels per acre. That's down 5.6% from last year's Tour results, indicating that maybe USDA went in the wrong direction from year-ago when it raised the S. Dakota yield 1 bu. from last year, to 139 bushels per acre. However, if the acres further north of the Tour area can beat last year, there's plenty of acres up there to pull the state yield back to year-ago levels.
While several scouts mentioned the "missing plants" in several South Dakota corn fields, the average number of ears in two 30-foot rows was 83.76, up 1.1% from last year's 82.85 ears. By the way, the 83.76 ears calculates to about 24,300 ears per acre. So, the reduction in yield from last year's Tour is not the result of fewer ears.
The problem is in the length of grain. Ears in South Dakota this year averaged 6.6 inches, down 7.7% from last year's 7.16 inches. There was some tip-back on ears, but the real problem is that this year's ears in southeastern South Dakota are just... well... shorter than last years.
The average number of kernel rows around the ears in South Dakota this year is 15.97, down just 1% from last year's 16.13.
The average row width in the state narrowed by 0.57 inch. That's a 1.4% narrowing of row-width that actually helped to hold up the average yield on Day 1 of the western Crop Tour.
In the soybean fields, the average number of pods in a 3'X3' square was 1,057.8, up 4% from last year. USDA sees a steady-with-year-ago yield in South Dakota of 40 bu. per acre. And while we've got a few more pods than we did a year-ago, it's close enough to last year to say the Tour basically saw the same yield potential that USDA did as of August 1.
And last year's South Dakota bean crop finished strong, thanks to some available moisture during last year's Tour and another shot of rain the week following the 2013 Tour. This year, the soil moisture rating is very similar to last years 3.6, at 3.56 in 2014.
Finally, it might be a little surprising to some, but the average row width in corn widened 1.29 inches from last year to 26.96 inches. Equipment upgrades to high-quality 30-inch row planters is likely the reason for the widening of the average row width from last year.
A quick peak at northeastern Nebraska -
In addition to covering southeastern South Dakota today, scouts also covered everything east of highway 281 and north of the Platte River in Nebraska. The problem with the "missing plants" continued... and picked up momentum, according to the observations of the crop scouts. But, this is where I need to issue at little warning: Nebraska has a long history of either impressing (or disappointing) scouts on day 1 of the Tour, only to see attitudes reverse on day 2 as scouts make their way over to Nebraska City and cover everything south of the Platte River and east of Grand Island. So... if scouts were unimpressed today, odds are they'll be impressed tomorrow. Unfortunately, growers in south eastern Nebraska told us tonight in Grand Island that corn north of the Platte is supposed to be better this year -- we'll find out on tomorrow's trip.
And many of you know that I've been telling everybody listening to Market Rally radio that all the talk about double-ears has been way overblown this year. I still believe that's true, but it's funny how "fate" sometimes deals you a lesson... like it did today. I walked into a corn field in Nebraska today and nearly every... and I mean EVERY... plant was carrying two viable ears. I could not believe it... absolutely amazing. Of course, it was because the plant population in this field was calculated at about 10,400 per acre and... believe it or not, the ear population was about 19,000 ears per acre. And they were good ears. The average yield calculated out to about 135 bushels per acre. So there you go... if you've got about 10,000 plants per acre, nearly every stalk can support two ears. I talked with several growers that agreed the population was likely cut by a late-spring frost as many of the plants just... looked weird. They were damaged at some point, but are doing what they can to make corn.
Soybeans in northeastern Nebraska are similar to what we saw in South Dakota regarding plant health and insect and weed pressure. And there's no way I'm going to try to guess the trend on Nebraska pod counts until the numbers start rolling in tomorrow afternoon.
We're heading to Nebraska City in the morning. I'll be broadcasting Market Rally from the AgriVision John Deere dealership in Pacific Junction, Iowa, tomorrow afternoon. If you're in the area, come on over to get a firsthand account of the Tour from me and TGM's Matt Bennett. We'll also be talking live with Brian Grete from the eastern leg of the Tour on tomorrow's show.
Guys, it's great to be back on on the Tour. We're meeting new friends... looking at some good crops and we're letting the Tour be what it is... a discovery process. We've got to learn this lesson every year, but no two years are alike and this year is just proving that again. We'll talk again from Nebraska City tomorrow night!