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Eastern Tour Day One: Roger Bernard''s Ohio Wrap Up

00:00AM Aug 18, 2008

Roger Bernard

Got Tour? Yeah we do! This year's eastern leg of the Crop Tour has a huge batch of scouts -- over 50 this year. And by the time we hit Austin, Minnesota, our numbers on this leg of the Tour alone will swell to close to 70. That's darn impressive when you consider these are all folks who are giving up a few days to a week of their time to sample corn and soybean fields across some of the key production areas of the United States. They're a great group this year and are unmatched with their enthusiasm for what we do each year. Best part is: We arrived in Indiana tonight with the same number of scouts we left Ohio with!

Ohio: Our scouts trek through the heavier production areas of the state -- primarily in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5. And we found more yield potential this year in the corn fields than we did a year ago on the Tour. Our Tour yield this year in Ohio at 148.75 bu. per acre was 3.1% from year-ago.

I gotta admit, the number did surprise me a little. Why? Because of the route I took traveling north/northwest out of Columbus and eventually moving about straight west into Indiana near Fort Wayne. In part I say eventually due to the detour that took us some 20 miles in a roundabout before returning us to the road we wanted to be on! Guess that's to be expected in road destruction season.

We had to go through two samples before we even found "roasting ears" out there. And even managed to scout a field that was still pollinating -- something I've never seen in the seven years that I've been on this Tour (the last five years as a Tour leader and two years back in the 90s as a wire service reporter for those who are keeping score...)! It also provided a quick reminder of just how itchy corn pollen can be! I kept expecting it to get better -- at least see something a little more advanced. We did see things a "little" more advanced, but pulled no samples in Ohio on our route that had reached dough stage. That was not something I expected when this began, especially after last year when we sampled a lot of fields that were in dough to dent stage.

So yeah, I was worried about this Ohio corn crop after running my route. But talking with a couple other scouts But after checking in with a couple other routes who had found corn reaching into the dough stage to early dent, I felt a lot better. And talking to scouts as we gathered tonight in Fishers, Indiana, I felt even better as fewer scouts had seen the same disappointing corn results that I sampled.

Bottom line on corn: Potential. When we're measuring fields that are this far behind in terms of maturity we've got to view these yield numbers as yield potential. That means we need a favorable to very favorable finish to the growing season to garner all the potential in these fields. This corn crop spent too long in the bag before getting in the ground.

So what about them beans? The first thing you notice about this Ohio bean crop is that it isn't a tall crop. Not by any stretch. We have some shorter scouts on the Tour, but even those found it easy to walk into fields, especially those that barely tickle your calves.

And the pod counts were very variable, with some plants still putting on blooms to build more of that bean production potential. Some fields has just finished that effort and proudly displayed a host of those "little fuzzies" that aren't even a quarter of an inch. And if they're not a quarter of an inch, we don't count 'em. Those are beans that could still add to yield potential, but that would take some weather help and the forecast doesn't hold a lot of hope on that front.

Our Ohio pods in a 3ft. by 3ft. square for 2008: 1103.61, down 10% from the 2007 result of 1226.70. That's primarily due to pod counts being off considerably from last year. In our 3 ft. of row we measure, we found about 30 less pods than we did a year ago and that makes it tough to get that pod count up to last year's level. And variability in height was noted in the same field.

Another word I need to mention: Dry. Oh my was it dry. In some fields, it was easier to break a bean plant off rather than pull it out of what in some cases was near cement-like ground. And it was dry deep down. Especially when you could see several inches down via the cracks that opened up in a few of the fields.

And that wasn't just the case on my route, either. We measure soil moisture on a scale of 1 to 6 (six is water standing in the fields; 1 is dry with large cracks in the ground). Last year, we sampled in thunderstorms and had a soil moisture rating of 3.97. This year: 2.0. That's dry.

Bottom line: These Ohio crops need a rain and they need it bad -- especially the soybeans.

Next up? Finish off our sampling in Indiana and tally up the final numbers for the Hoosier state as we move to Bloomington, Illinois, tomorrow evening. Will we find more yield potential than year-ago? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Click here for complete 2008 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour Coverage.