(Iowa City, Iowa)—Don't forget about those soybeans that look so good from the road was the word emerging from at least one group on Day #3 of the 2008 Pro Farmer Crop Tour. While the windshield-view of soybeans in west central Illinois and eastern central Iowa look to be healthy from afar, and counts across the tour were about on par with last year, the hands-on inspection on this route may tell a different story, says Doug Miller, a farmer and 2nd year scout from Greene, Iowa.
Miller, whose group started north of Bloomington, Ill., was impressed by the limited potential there may be in soybean fields across the Midwest.
"On our first sample we ran into real tall beans,” he says, "and fairly decent pod counts. But the pod counts were down in the beans. We ran into beans with maybe not as many pod counts as I was expecting.”
Miller also says the pods that were on the plants were small and the beans were not well developed.
For the southeast district of Iowa, low pod counts were a common scenario. The average for that district was 985.86 pods per 3'x3' square. In Illinois, the final state count tally was 1299.70 pods per 3'x3' area, compared to 1,297.70 last year. The remainder of Iowa will be counted tomorrow and reported tomorrow night from Austin, Minnesota.
Miller says the soybeans throughout the day are behind normal and are in need of a rain. He fears if a rain doesn't materialize in the next week or two, the soybean crop will suffer devastating consequences.
"That's what I was kind of afraid of,” he says. "We had so much water and ponding in the fields and then when it dries, it just seals up. I just about knew this was going to come.”
Hussein Allidina, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, offered a market outlook based on his observations from the field. "If I was farmer, I would hold my beans,” he says.
It's a sentiment Lou Arens from Waucoma, Iowa, agrees with. Arens, a commodity trader with PCI Advisory Services is concerned with the low pod counts, and a growing number of aphids he saw as his group moved west into Iowa.
"Once we hit the river where it flooded, the aphids were there,” he says. "On our last two checks in Iowa, pod counts were below 1,000 in each field.”
Aphids infested this field in Scott County, Iowa.
The final Illinois corn tally for this year is 161 bu./acre, virtually equal with the 160.35 bu./acre on the tour last year. The strongest results were in northeastern Illinois, and the poorest results came from the south-central part of the state. Corn results so far in southeast Iowa were 156.80 bu./acre, but there is a lot of state left to cover.
From his perspective for the farmers he consults with, Arens says "we have to get long with this crop. USDA has to come down from trend line on their yields, but I don't think they'll do it all at once. There's just too much uncertainty out there.”
Eastern leg tour consultant Mark Bernard says the crop is behind, but he actually has less frost concern for Illinois and Iowa. "I really don't see the reason to be concerned about frost at this moment,” he says.
Average frost date for Peoria, Illinois, is October 6. In Davenport, Iowa, it's October 13.
With most of the crop today in the dough stage, maturity was generally within 3 weeks from now, which puts the Illinois and eastern Iowa crops in relatively good shape from this point forward he says.