Corn Yields Are A Mixed Bag

September 7, 2016 02:40 AM

Good moisture means soybeans generally have the potential to produce a big crop


Two storylines emerged during the 2016 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour held Aug. 22-25. 

One is that planting issues and regional weather nicked corn yields in some areas this year. Scouts in Illinois and Iowa saw big and healthy crops that had help from timely rains, while those in Nebraska and South Dakota saw yields pull back amid warm and dry conditions, even with irrigation. 


The other storyline is Midwest soybean yields could live up to USDA’s estimated national average of 48.9 bu. per acre, despite disease pressure and poor pod counts in places such as eastern Minnesota.

“In the soybean fields on our route, we saw relatively light disease and insect pressure,” says Mark Bernard, Eastern Tour consultant, describing his group’s route from Bloomington, Ill., to Coralville, Iowa. “Another positive was the general abundance of soil moisture to finish the crop out.”

In all, scouts nearly 2,800 crop samples. Pro Farmer analyzed the data (see below) to reveal yield potential.

 Pro Farmer corn and soybean crops are estimated in a range. For corn, Pro Farmer puts a /– 1% on its  crop estimate. For soybeans, it’s /– 2%. *In bu./acre. **Third corn column shows Tour-calculated yield  in bu./acre; right column is adjusted for crop maturity, areas outside of Tour sampling and other  factors. ***Soybean pod counts are calculated based on a 3'×3' area. ****The average of all Tour  samples

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Day 1: Aug. 22

Western Tour: Grand Island, Neb.
Scouts began the day in Sioux Falls, S.D., and made their way south into Nebraska. Although corn ear populations have been trending higher, this year’s ear counts fell 3.7% from year-ago levels in South Dakota and were down 1.1% from the three-year average. Disease and insect pressure proved minimal on the soybean crop, upping the odds of a strong finish.


Eastern Tour: Fishers, Ind.
After leaving Dublin, Ohio, scouts found lower-than-expected corn ear counts and a smaller number of pods. Grain length fell from the three-year average and scouts noted tipped-back ears in most samples. Despite lower soybean yield hopes, scouts found soil moisture up from a year ago.

Day 2: Aug. 23


Western Tour: Nebraska City, Neb.
Grain inches were shorter than year-ago in parts of Nebraska as scouts moved through the eastern part of the state. Ear counts proved comparable to those in previous years, though dryness could cap yields. Soybean pod counts lined up with 2015, when the state had a record yield.

Eastern Tour: Bloomington, Ill.
This leg of the Tour revealed a healthy corn crop and an equally promising soybean crop. Scouts noted variability in many Indiana cornfields, but still expect an above-average (but not record-breaking) yield. For soybeans, strong soil moisture is pushing soybean potential, as multiple scouts reported chest-high or even shoulder-high soybean fields with impressive pod counts.

Day 3: Aug. 24

Western Tour: Spencer, Iowa
Scouts spotted more significant storm damage in Nebraska as they left that region and entered the state of Iowa. On routes in western Iowa, scouts found just a few fields with corn exceeding 200 bu. per acre. West-Central Iowa overall saw average corn yields down 2.1% from a year ago. Soybean pod counts throughout the region appear to offer promising yields provided weather is supportive of the crop for the balance of 
the growing season.


Eastern Tour: Coralville, Iowa
Observers here found a corn crop almost as good as the outstanding crop seen in 2014. The soybean crop also looked poised to finish strong. Scouts had minor concerns about Illinois’ corn crop health, which could rob yields. On the flip side, adequate precipitation and light disease and insect pressure should help finish out a good-looking soybean crop.

Day 4: Aug. 25


Tour Finale: Rochester, Minn.
On the last day of the Tour, scouts on the western leg noticed several early season stresses that negatively impacted ear development in Minnesota. Producers in Minnesota experienced problems beginning at planting, reflecting a trend for the entire Corn Belt this year: The corn crop had several nicks to yield potential over the season, but no single big blow to limit production. In routes through eastern Iowa, scouts found skips in rows and blank stalks.  


Soybeans looked solid from western Iowa into western Minnesota. Disease and weed pressure were limited. Pod counts are strong but have a long way to go. Node placement is very good, allowing for several clusters. Many  plants had a final cluster at the top, suggesting the plant is still trying to add yield. By contrast, scouts in eastern Minnesota saw disappointing pod counts, Sudden Death Syndrome and septoria brown spot in many fields.

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