Eastern Tour Day One Commentary from Roger Bernard

August 16, 2009 07:00 PM

Roger Bernard

Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour Version 2009, Day 1. Traveling on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour can be quite an adventure, especially when you're stopping every 15 to 20 miles along the way to jump out, gather a corn and soybean sample and load back up and do it again. But this year it seems the adventure for some was just getting to Columbus, Ohio, to be able to get in and out of a car several times a day! Some scouts pulled in well ahead of our organizational meeting, others just after things wrapped up. Still others made it in the wee hours of Monday morning. So for some, the process of getting the to the Tour starting point may have been more of an adventure than being on the Tour itself! Still, we've got a great group of scouts here on the East who rolled up their sleeves and got things rolling in fine fashion. So what did they find on Day 1?

Ohio: On corn, the average yield is 159.73 bu. per acre, up 7.4% from the 2008 Tour result of 148.75 bu. per acre. Now that wasn't perhaps quite the uptick that one might have expected based on the 22.2% rise that USDA forecast Aug. 1 compared to their final result of 2008. Why is that important to note? Because the final result in 2008 was a far cry from what was there in August (Ohio didn't have that really nice finish that the rest of the Corn Belt enjoyed). But it is still a nice improvement for the Ohio crop.

Digging beyond the numbers, the Ohio corn crop is still ahead of where it stood a year ago in terms of maturity. Maybe not a lot, but it is still ahead. However, we were finding fields in 2007 that were dough stage and I'm not sure we had samples that reached that point this year. Still, the crop is further down the road to maturity compared to 2008.

The biggest shift in data? Clearly the number of ears in 60 ft. of row. This year we found 94.29 ears in 60 ft. of row, up 5.5% from the 89.36 measured in 2008. And, that's up from the 3-year average (2006-2008) of 89.87. Perhaps Ohio growers are starting to bump those plant populations up, following what some of their brethren to the west have been doing.

So what about beans? The 1,268.35 pods in a 3ft.x3ft. square was up 14.9% from what we measured on the Tour in 2008 (1,103.61). That was a nice bump up and we did see a lot more more growth to bean plants than we saw last year.

Even though we're up smartly on bean pod counts, there weren't a lot of blooms still out there in fields -- at least on the route that I followed which carried me through crop districts 4, 5 and 1. And overall, there is a very healthy bean plant out there in Ohio -- there weren't the patches in fields were any number of soybean diseases could have made their home. That could be due to the main common thread that covers both corn and soybeans: Dry.

We only record a soil moisture rating on soybeans (a scale of 1 to 6 -- six is water standing in the fields; 1 is dry with large cracks in the ground) and that checked in at 2.19 this year vs. 2.0 last year. That's not much of a change and the northwest portion of the state (District 1 in particular) has been dry. There were more than a few corn fields where you could still see the knife marks from nitrogen applications -- yet in the third week of August. So why did that moisture scale tick upward slightly? Because the far-northern portion of District 1 got heavy rains today while others mostly dodged showers or saw a rain or two.

Bottom line: There is more potential out there in the corn and soybean fields of the Buckeye state. But another poor finish to the crop will take what we measure in terms of potential and toss it aside once again. So Mother Nature needs to smile a bit on these Ohio fields to bring this crop home and hang onto the improved results we found out there.

Next up? Sampling the rest of Indiana. Hopefully we'll find things improve from some of the initial fields we visited in the eastern portion of the state. Because those dry conditions and drought stress that we observed in Ohio didn't realize that there was a border between the two states.

Click here for complete 2009 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour Coverage.
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