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Drive-By Yield Estimates Lack Killer Accuracy in South Dakota

05:59AM Aug 19, 2014

Scouts on the 2014 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour were hungry with great expectations. And while those expectations delivered from the road during first leg of the tour through South Dakota, a walk into the fields sometimes told a different story.

"From the road, the crops look lush and green," says tour scout and Minnesota farmer Ken Eckhardt. "But when you get out into the field, you really start to see some problems."

Crop Tour scout Tim Gregerson agrees.

"The color was there – the stands were not," he says.

High expectations clearly needed to be recalibrated. Or did they? It’s true that nationwide, USDA has predicted a record-thumping 167.4 bu. per acre corn crop and 45.4 bu. per acre soybean crop. Meantime, Crop Tour’s compilation of 57 corn samples taken in South Dakota added up to an expected average corn yield of 152.71 bu. per acre. Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you ask.

"Everybody’s surprised by [what they’ve seen here in] South Dakota," Chip Flory told the Market Rally audience on Monday. "But USDA earlier in August put South Dakota at 139 bu. per acre, that’s not some huge record-breaking crop [we were anticipating] there."

Last year, Crop Tour estimates for South Dakota corn ran 161.75 bu. per acre, versus a final USDA estimate of 138 bu. per acre. Flory says Crop Tour sometimes gives South Dakota an artificial bounce because samples are pulled from the higher-yielding southeast area of the state.

Next, yield expectations could be tempered by predictions of a cooler-than-normal September and October, the epicenter of which lays squarely over Nebraska and South Dakota. Anecdotally, farmers have been encouraged by the year so far, with a few lingering worries of an early frost already starting to creep into the conversation.

Flory says that with estimates for South Dakota and Ohio (which clocked a higher-than-expected yield estimate of 182.11 bu. per acre) in the books, the remaining five states on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour will reveal if the record-breaking hype remains legitimate.

"We came out expecting to see what everyone is talking about," he says. "We came looking for record-breaking yields."

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 hash tag #pftour14.