From the Rows - Chip Flory - Day 1 Western Tour
We came to South Dakota expecting to see really good corn and soybean crop potential, and that's what we saw. Very few surprises and very few disappointments. Consistency was the "catch word" for the day in the Jack Rabbit state and frankly, the scenery barely changed from Sioux Falls to the Nebraska state line.
It is a good corn crop in SD... and it might be a better bean crop. Even though the bean pod counts are very similar to year-ago, most scouts agreed the consistency of the bean crop in the state means it has the potential to beat last year's 45 bu. per acre. Probably not by much, but it does seem to be a better bean crop. And with rain falling on scouts from Sunday night into midday Monday, much of the crop got the late-season rain it needs to finish strong.
The 72 corn samples in crop districts 6 and 9 in South Dakota averaged a calculated yield estimate of 165.94 bushels per acre, up 8.7% from last year's Tour average of 152.7 bu. per acre. USDA as of August 1 estimated the SD corn yield at 160 bu. per acre, up 8.1% from year-ago. Because the Crop Tour on average since 2001 has measured the SD corn crop 4.85 bu. to high, (this year's yield average minus the historical average miss = 161.09 bu. per acre), I really feel like we saw the same crop that USDA did in the August Crop Report. It's better than year-ago... and probably 8% to 9% better than year-ago. If we're trusting the numbers, (which I think we should), the South Dakota corn crop has the potential to hist USDA's estimate of 160 bu. per acre, and maybe just a smidge more.
The average ear count in two 30-foot plots this year was 86.65, up 3.45% from year-ago. The average grain length was 7 inches, up 6.1% from year-ago. And the average number of kernel rows around the ear was 16.1, up 0.8% from last year. The average row width actually widened 3.9% from year-ago, to 29.92 inches. So the increases in the ear pop, grain length and kernel rows was partially offset by an increase in the average row width.
On Soybeans, the average number of pods in 3-foot of row was 830.92 pods, up 7.2% from last year, but the average row width widened 5% to 28.32 inches. The average pod count in a 3'X3' square on the 68 soybean samples in SD was 1054.98, up 0.2% from last year's 1057.8. That's close enough to call it steady with year-ago... which is exactly what USDA expected from the bean crop as of August 1. USDA estimated the SD bean yield at 45 bu. per acre, unchanged from last year.
But, as mentioned, the bean crop this year has plenty of moisture. We rate soil moisture on a scale of 1 to 6 with 1 being extremely dry and 6 being saturated soils. The average this year on the soil moisture rating was 5.03, up from last years 3.56. Granted, some soaked-through t-shirts and wet jeans might have had something to do with the high soil moisture rating, but the bottom line is the bean crop got the late-season drink it needs to finish strong in the most northwestern state we scout on Tour.
Maturity of the bean crop was also somewhat advanced, with most scouts reporting very few blooms remaining on plants.
There was a question today on Twitter about how pod counts in a 3'x3' square relate to bean yields. It varies from state to state. At the end of the crop estimating season, we calculate the average number of bushels produced per 1,000 pods we count on Crop Tour. The lowest number of bu./1K pods is typically Ohio (around 40 bu./1K pods) and the highest is normally in Nebraska (around 45 bu./1K pods). That has everything to do with the size of the bean. Some might argue that Nebraska has more beans per pod, but the times that we've counted not only pods per plant but also counted beans per plant indicate the number of beans per pod is fairly consistent at 2.45 to 2.5 beans/pod. The biggest variable is the size (weight) of the bean.
However, there is a diminishing return on pod counts once the number of pods in a 3'X3' square climbs above about 1,200 pods in a 3'X3' square. Simply put, it seems the plant can "handle" and fill pods up to about 1,200 in a 3'X3' square, but the plant struggles to build a big bean when pod counts are bigger than 1,200. Therefore, deminishing returns on big pod counts. More pods means more of the bean production factory is up and running, but sometimes the factory doesn't have enough energy to maximize bean size.
I know some of you are going to want to tell me to shut-up over this, but I can't let it go. Get those weeds under control in the bean fields! I am not an agronomist and I can't tell you how many bushels of beans are lost to weed pressure in any single field or county or crop district or state, but the weeds are out of control in some fields. Some (many) fields have excellent weed control, but there are way too many weeds in way too many fields and the problem is only going to get worse. Weed pressure may be the limiting factor on the bean crop in SD this year.
Diseases in corn were limited and when diseases were noted, it was mostly a mild infestation. That may change tomorrow when we get into southeastern Nebraska where early seasons rains came way too often and way too heavy.
The scouts on the western leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour pulled a record number of samples from South Dakota today... and that's despite muddy fields and occassionally heavy rains while we were on the road. Great job by the scouts on the 10 routes through SD and northeastern Nebraska. On Tuesday, scouts will make thier way from Grand Island, Neb., to Nebraska City, Nebraska. We'll cover all the counties from Grand Island, south of the Platte River and east to the state line. This is an area that saw excessive rains shortly after the corn crop was planted and some beans were planted later-that-optimal. We'll see if the springtime issues translate into yield issues when we pull back a few husks.
The most important thing about today's Tour is all the scouts made it from Sioux Falls to Grand Island without incident. I keep praying for safe travels for the scouts and I hope you'll join me in those well-wishes.
Today's broadcast of the Tour meeting in Grand Island on the "My Farm Radio" app was a lot of fun and it seems to have been a hit. If you didn't catch the live broadcast of the meeting, you can listen to it on the Crop Tour channel on the "My Farm Radio" app any time. If you don't have the "My Farm Radio" app, just text "radio" to 283-342 to get the app. We'll be broadcasting Tuesday's meeting from Nebraska City, Wednesday's meeting from Spencer, Iowa, and Thursday's final meeting from Rochester, Minnesota, as well. You can also get exclusive reports from crop scouts throughout the day on "My Farm Radio."
We'll hit the road early again Tuesday morning... if southeast Nebraska is as good as what we saw north of the Platte today, Nebraska should see a really good corn and soybean crop this year.