Experts Preview Crop Tour Expectations

August 21, 2011 07:06 PM
South Dakota Crops Need Late Frost
Corn and soybean planting in South Dakota was a go-stop-go-stop-quit pattern this year. Bob Hall, South Dakota State University state crop specialist, said farmers had everything this spring. "Some corn got in early, some planting was delayed and some fields are still not planted."
The wide range of planting conditions has cause extreme levels of variability in crop conditions, Hall says. "We have a lot of variability because of temperature and moisture patterns." But, he says, in South Dakota variability is pretty common, where parts of the state will yield well, while others yield poorly.
Luckily, the state has seen a lot of timely rainfalls, which is aiding crops. "What we need from now on is some good heat units and a later-than-average killing frost," he says.
Average Yields Expected in Nebraska
Some Nebraska farmers have seen extreme conditions this growing season. But, overall, that is the exception to the rule, says Greg Kruger, University of Nebraska cropping systems specialist.
"There are certainly some areas where conditions have been less than ideal, but compared to reports from many other parts of the Corn Belt, I think we have a lot to be thankful for," he says.
Three weeks of high temperatures hit the state’s crops about a month ago, but Kruger says he still thinks overall the corn crop had good pollination.
Looking forward, he says, Nebraska crops could really use temperatures in the mid 80s or low 90s coupled with timely rainfalls. "We’ll really get a yield boost from that. While we are likely not looking at a record breaking year for crop yields, we are not looking at below average yields that many states are reporting."
Good Crop Potential Beginning to Fade in Iowa
This cropping season started out slow in Iowa. Cool, wet conditions at planting time delayed getting seed in the ground and slowed normal plant growth, says Roger Elmore, extension corn specialist at Iowa State University.
Elmore says Iowa’s corn crop was looking really good until large areas were flattened by storms. "Everyone had a good crop until that point."
Once the weather warmed up, it didn’t let up. "We got heat units quickly, which made up for late planting," he says. But, the high levels of heat also caused some pollination issues and depleted the soil moisture.
If some slightly below-normal temperatures and consistent moisture prevail during the rest of the growing season, Elmore says the crops might be salvaged. "That would slow down the fast train we’re on." Regardless, he says corn harvest will happen earlier than normal this year.
Hot Summer Temperatures Revive Minnesota Crops
Large amounts of rainfall at planting time and after have continued to cause problems for Minnesota crops. Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota extension corn specialist, planting got done later than we’d liked and too much rain after planting helped wash nitrogen away. "Nitrogen loss is now taking a toll on yields."
Hot weather later in the season was a welcome sign. "The crops were looking bad earlier, but are looking better now due to a warm July," he says. "We were able to catch back up."
Coulter says Minnesota soybeans are shorter than normal, but are getting back on track and are set up for good yields this year.
Overall, crop conditions are pretty inconsistent, he says. "From the road, crops look good. But once you get in the fields it’s much more variable."
Rains Needed in Illinois
The best thing that can happen in Illinois, according University of Illinois Crop Specialist Emerson Nafzinger, is that scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour are wearing jackets and tromping through mud.
Not good news, at least the current forecast says. When the tour reaches Illinois on Tuesday afternoon, the high is expected to be in the low 90s on the AgWeb Pinpoint Weather Forecast tool. Scouts may have to deal with some rain as they leave Bloomington on Wednesday morning, but the question is if it will be too little, too late.
When AgWeb interviewed Nafzinger last week, he said there were early signs of kernel abortion in some areas of the state. What kernels were filling were not filling very well, which meant rainfall was needed.
Many people are trying to compare this year to the 2010 crop, where high nighttime temperatures took a toll on crops. You need to be careful about doing too much comparison, he says. High temperatures throughout July have brought the comparisons.
"This year’s crop was a lot more prepared," he says. We have a much better root system and good pollination (in most areas). The nighttime temperatures haven’t helped, though."
Difficult to Reach Trendline Yields in Indiana
In most states, the saying goes if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes and it will change. In Indiana, at least for 2011, the saying may be if you don’t like the crop, drive a mile; it will change. There is no simple answer for the condition of the crop in Indiana this year, says Purdue University Corn Specialist Bob Neilsen.
Individual yields may be good or they may be poor, regardless of the region. Overall though, he doesn’t paint a promising picture for Indiana’s yield expectations.
"It’s all over the board this year," he says. "In one mile it can literally go from a good crop to bad. The key driver has been the heat in July."
In the northeast part of the state it has been an extremely dry summer and drought stress is starting to take its toll. Along the western part of the state crops are looking better because they have received more rain.
While you can give generalizations to the crop in a particular area of the state, that doesn’t mean individual farmers should count on good yields or bad. "Every mile you see something different. It’s really hard to see something definitive for an area."

But perhaps the most definitive statement Neilsen is willing to give regarding Indiana’s crop this year is his overall expectations for yield. "I don’t see any way we can hit trendline yields." 

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