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Eastern Tour Day Two: Roger Bernard''s Indiana Wrap Up

00:00AM Aug 19, 2008

Roger Bernard

Not a cloud in the sky. While we sure don't mind the only moisture you come in contact with on Crop Tour is via dew on soybeans for the first few samples of the morning, this lack of rain in the eastern Corn Belt sure has to be frustrating for farmers in the region. Some have been without a meaningful rain for the better part of a month. What a cruel twist of fate from Mother Nature after the drenching (okay drowning) that some areas of the Midwest had to try and start the growing season. That again underscores the need to emphasize "potential" on this year's corn and soybean crops.

I had another first today on the Tour. Yesterday, it was being in a corn field that was still pollinating. Today it was seeing "crazy top" in a field with the top sprouted! I've seen it before, but typically only with the ear sitting on top of the corn plant like a corn dog on a stick (or any of the other 35 such foods on a stick at the Iowa State Fair). It was all sprouted and looked like a green, leafy feather duster! And, there were at least six plants like that in the corner of one of the fields we sampled today. Just another piece of evidence of a corner of this field that was under water this spring.

And, the Brick Street Cafe in Sidell, Illinois, has some incredible coconut meringue pie. Hey, crop scouts gotta eat, ya know!!

On to the numbers -- Indiana: The Hoosier state yield we measured on the Tour at 163.82 bu. per acre on corn was up 10.6% from year ago. How'd we get there? That bigger yield was built on more ears in 60 ft. of row -- 95.32 this year compared to 91.64 last year; more grain length -- 6.49 this year vs. 6.20 last year; and an uptick in the average kernel rows -- 15.98 this year compared to 15.75 in 2007. Combine those together and you end up with bigger yield "potential."

The Indiana crop in general is further along than what we saw in Ohio. But it is not as far along as we saw it in 2007. That, again, puts an incredible focus on the finish to the 2008 growing season.

The route I traveled today took me straight west from Indianapolis about straight west into Illinois where we shifted north around Champaign/Urbana and worked our way to Bloomington, Illinois. We found no sub-100-bu. corn numbers, but also didn't best that magical 200 bu. mark in Indiana.

As we moved into Illinois, the maturity continued to advance. But unlike last year, we saw no corn that was likely to be run through the combine within the next month.

For soybeans, we measured 1298.77 pods in a 3ft. x 3ft. square, up 11.1% from what we found in 2007. And like corn, it was "built" by some key increases. The average number of pods in 3 ft. of row rose to 485.50 this year vs. 472.29 last year. But it was nearly spot on with the three-year average of 487.72. Row spacing continues to contract, as we are at 14.09 inches vs. over 15 inches (15.59) in 2007.

For perspective, this year's pod count was up just 4 pods from the three-year average.

But again, we've got to note that this count does include some samples that had more than few of those pods that are pretty small. We count pods that are 1/4" inch or bigger as with a normal finish to the growing season, they'll make at least a bean. In fact, a lot of these plants contained "pods" that haven't even made the 1/4" mark. So those counts for Indiana could have been even bigger. But there were also more than a few of those pods that were flat.

And this is another spot where moisture comes into play. If there's not a rain in these fields, those little pods aren't going to be there much longer.

Bottom line: Like Ohio, most Indiana crops need a drink and they need it fast. Will they get it? That is the $64,000 question.

Next up? Finish off our sampling in Illinois tomorrow and start into what could be key Iowa crops with a goal of making it to Iowa City where we'll put our final Illinois numbers together.

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