Can Battered Cornhusker Crops Still Bring Big Yields?

06:44AM Aug 20, 2014
sun NE
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Like a boxer on the ropes, Nebraska farmers seemed to keep getting hit in 2014. The punches came in the form of late frost, multiple hail and wind events, and even a tornado or two that ripped through the state. Some farmers missed the worst of the action, although Tim Lewandowski, a Pioneer product agronomist, says one of his farmers got hit with "frost, frost, hail, hail, hail, tornado and hail again."

Significant weather events included a May 11 frost in areas of the state, along with significant hail events on June 3 and July 9, and many more minor hail events. Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour scouts saw ample evidence of the damage as they scoured the Cornhusker State Aug. 18-19, collecting 275 corn samples and 265 soybean samples.

Fields that were hailed on but appear to have fully recovered still need to be checked – even if they look perfectly fine from the road – urged Crop Tour scout Brent Judish.

"If you got any hail in your area, walk your fields," he says. "Every field with hail, we had trouble getting through the corn. There were downed stalks, and there was wind damage and hail damage. You have to walk around in your fields to see what there really is to see."

Hail can also vector disease, but even minus hail events, the relatively cool Nebraska summer, coupled with an above-average wet June, means certain diseases are favorable and farmers should continue to scout diligently, says Iowa agronomist Jason Franck.

"Disease occurrence was more prevalent this year [in the Crop Tour fields we scouted]," he says. "Every field I was in had some disease."

In the video below, Channel Seed agronomist at Matt Bennett further describes some things to look for when scouting fields this time of year.

As of mid-August, the corn and soybean crops in Nebraska are far from KO’d, however.

Crop Tour samples added up to an average of 163.77 bu. per acre corn yield estimate in Nebraska. That’s well above last year’s results, which netted a more modest 154.93 bu. per acre yield estimate, and the three-year average (2011-13) of 146.81 bu. per acre.

The Crop Tour yield estimate still lags a bit behind the USDA August estimate of 173 bu. per acre, however. Pro Farmer’s Chip Flory admits the Crop Tour can undercount yields by 10 to 12 bu. per acre due to scouting more heavily in eastern Nebraska, where irrigation-to-dryland ratios are not as tilted as they are in the western part of the state. About half of the 2014 samples were taken from irrigated fields, versus a statewide irrigation adoption rate of around 60%.

Soybean pod counts on a 3"x3" square came in at 1,103.26, which was slightly down from 2013 but right in line with the 3-year average. Crop Tour scouts say they were encouraged by overall crop condition and yield potential, with some concern over the amount of resistant or poorly managed waterhemp prevalent across numerous fields.

For More Information

See full coverage of the 2014 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, hosted by Pro Farmer.

Follow the tour on Twitter with the hashtag #pftour14.