On Aug. 1, USDA assigned the corn crop a lofty expectation of 175.1 bu. per acre across the Corn Belt. Of those numbers, all eyes were on the Illinois corn crop, which USDA projected at an even 200.0 bu. per acre average statewide yield in its latest report – a full 25 bu. per acre improvement from 2015.
Would Pro Farmer Crop Tour scouts unearth the same mammoth yields lurking in Illinois corn fields? After two days of legwork and more than 180 total fields sampled, turns out the answer is close – but no cigar.
The official 2016 Crop Tour estimate for Illinois is 193.50 bu. per acre, or about 3.25% shy of USDA’s initial August estimate. It was a consistent crop, however – scouts found every single district but one to be within 5 bu. per acre of the statewide average. The lone anomaly was IL7, a 15-county region in the southeast-central portion of the state centered near Effingham, Ill.
Pro Farmer editor Brian Grete says after the first day of scouting, his skepticism over the high-yielding USDA estimates were definitely in question.
“That USDA estimate of 200 bu. per acre may seem pretty unbelievable, but on the 7 samples we pulled [on Tuesday], 202.4 was our average, so we saw some pretty good corn,” he says. “It’s just one route out of 12 – but that’s what we saw.”
Kelly Bassett, Illinois area agronomist with DuPont Pioneer for Illinois, says with a few exceptions, crop season conditions were appealing overall in 2016.
Bassett says optimism was dampened a little bit this June by high temperatures that left leaves rolled for more than a few days, plus high nighttime temperatures. That caused tip back issues that some Crop Tour scouts observed as they moved across Illinois. Even so, overall conditions were nothing to complain about, she says.
“We haven’t had a lot of weather extremes in terms of temperatures or moisture,” Bassett says. “We didn’t have pounding rain early this season to hinder our nitrogen availability, so we were in good shape. Disease and insect pressure has really been minimal this year. We had a pretty good season overall.”
“Pretty good” is also an adequate description of the Illinois soybean crop in 2016. The Crop Tour measures yield potential by taking a comparative measure of pod counts within a 3ˈ x 3ˈ area. This year, scouts found an average pod count of 1,318.09. That’s a healthy improvement over the three-year average of 1,201.87.
Earlier in the day, AgDay reporter Betsy Jibben caught up with some Illinois growers to ask them firsthand about their crop’s potential. Like Crop Tour scouts, they have been pondering USDA’s 200 bu. per acre prediction and whether they think the crop has enough power to push through that plateau.
“There’s tip back, but there’s still enough kernels and potential out there," Ron Haase, a farmer from Gilman, told Jibben. "It’s maybe not as high as I thought but it could still be a record crop at least for our personal operation."
To some, “potential” is a bad word – its’ only unfulfilled success, in other words. Still, Illinois farmers have their fingers crossed that the great potential of their corn and soybean crops will arrive fully realized this harvest.
For more information:
Be sure to follow AgWeb's coverage of Farm Journal Media's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Watch reports from the field by following Farm Journal Media journalists along for the ride on Twitter: Alison Rice at @agweb_alison, Ben Potter at @potterben, Chip Flory at @ChipFlory, Brian Grete at @bgrete, and Betsy Jibben at @BetsyJibben. And check AgWeb each evening this week for the day's freshest summary on what they're seeing in the field.
Take your own field measurements and participate in Pro Farmer's Virtual Crop Tour.
Follow the Tour on Twitter with the hashtag #pftour16.