Four ears. Each year on the Tour I seem to find something... okay several things... that I've never seen or experienced before. This time around it was a stalk of corn that had four ears that would make grain. Yes, it was in the corner of a field off by itself and I know that's when something like that develops. I just hadn't seen one that had two really strong ears (probably 8-10 inches of grain) and then another two that probably had 5 inches of grain on them. Just kind of a neat sight to see when you've been in and out of corn and bean fields for two days with two more to go.
And while I managed to dodge rain showers most of Monday, I couldn't dodge the leftovers of apparently hefty rains that rolled through north of Indianapolis late Monday or early Tuesday. That turned soils in the Hoosier state on the first 3-4 samples I took into the kind of stuff that sticks to your boots with gusto. But I am NOT complaining... not after seeing such dry soils in Ohio and northeast Indiana on Monday. But as my route turned west and headed for the Indiana/Illinois border, the wetness subsided. In fact, large cracks the ground were still there even though it had rained.
On to the numbers -- Indiana: The Hoosier state yield we measured on the Tour this year is 157.35 bu. per acre, down 4.0% from last year's 163.82 bu. per acre. That decline was not too surprising, as several fields in Indiana had less-than-stellar yields.
When we break down the data, a couple of things stick out. Our ears in 60 foot of row were down slightly, but grain length -- at 6.09 inches -- was down nearly a half inch from last year. Given the fact the Hoosier state has been dry the past several weeks and now temps had started to rise, we found tip back or poor pollination evident on nearly every sample. And the kernel rows bumped past 16 after being below 16 last year. So how could kernel rows increase under conditions that saw grain length decline? My agronomist brother Mark -- the Tour agronomy consultant on the Easter Tour -- explained that conditions were very favorable to start the season in terms of moisture for the crop and pushed the kernel rows up. And as I thought back over samples today and yesterday in Indiana, I recalled finding no 12 and only a handful of 14-row ears.
The Indiana crop in general is further along than last year, but that didn't take a whole lot. Still it is a crop that probably is too far down the road for the hefty showers to really provide a benefit. It will ease plant stress and will allow the plant to keep more of the yield potential that we measured. But it still is a crop that is behind.
For soybeans, we measured 1194.92 pods in a 3 ft. by 3 ft. square, down 8% from year-ago on the Tour. And the pod counts in Indiana weren't spectacular. They weren't that horrible, but they weren't anything that had you thinking "Wow! What a crop" when you walked out of that field with bean samples.
Like the crop in Ohio, the Indiana bean crop has had some moisture stress. Apparently the markets think that just because temps weren't hot, there hasn't been stress on these crops. Well folks, there has been -- moisture stress. Cool temps can mask a lot of things, but eventually the mercury has started to be more normal and with that has come more stress in corn and soybean plants. In the corn fields, it has manifested it self via poor pollination or tip back on ears. In beans, it's pods. Moisture has to be the culprit here as these bean fields aren't facing insect or disease pressures in the Hoosier state at this juncture. At least nothing that probably has reached an economic threshold at this point.
Next up? Finish off our sampling in Illinois tomorrow and we'll probably get more of a look at these drowned out spots as we head west toward Iowa and Iowa City where we'll put the final numbers for the Land of Lincoln together
Click here for complete 2009 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour Coverage.