Want to know what Brian Grete doesn’t expect to see when this year’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour begins? Lots of secondary ears, which have been grabbing more than their share of the corn crop headlines this year.
"There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of stories, and a lot of media coverage in terms of secondary ears this year, and there were a lot of secondary ears out there," says Grete, the editor of Pro Farmer and the director of the crop tour’s Eastern leg. "I think that Mother Nature has taken care of that over the last two to three weeks with the lack of rainfall in these areas," causing plants to dedicate their resources to the dominant ear.
As a result, many of these secondary ears will no longer look so promising. "If [a secondary ear] is going to produce grain, then we’ll count them, but I don’t think that’s going to be nearly as many as what some people were anticipating several weeks ago," Grete says.
If that does happen, it will likely impact yield—but not too much. Growers who might have forecasted a 250-bushel harvest, thanks to those secondary ears, may end up with yields of 220 bushels to 235 bushels per acre. "They’re still going to have a strong yield," Grete says. "It’s just not going to be as big as they thought it was going to be several weeks ago."
Speaking of yield estimates, scouts on this year’s crop tour will be going digital. For the first time, the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour will use a mobile app to collect scouts’ data and observations from the corn and soybean fields rather than relying solely on paper-and-pencil notations.
"It makes it streamlined, it makes it more efficient, and we should have the data in a little more timely fashion," Grete says.
(Scouts will also be completing paper forms, but Pro Farmer is hoping to gather most of the information via the app, which will allow Pro Farmer to analyze the data more quickly and more easily than in the past.)
As scouts get more comfortable with the app, Grete has some ideas about how it might be expanded. "This is the first run with the app, so we’ll have to see how it evolves," he says. "But I can see how in the future … we might get it down the point where we can pinpoint a particular picture or video with a particular field," creating a richer data experience for farmers and crop-watchers alike.
Follow the tour on Twitter with the hash tag #pftour14.