From the Rows - Chip Flory - Day 1 Western Tour
Day 1 is in the books for the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour! Great day... warm to hot... wind blowing... no rain! It was perfect for scouts... not so good for the corn and soybean crops. It was a weird day. I followed a route from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Grand Island, Nebraska, that generated somewhat disappointing corn yields, but some outstanding soybean pod counts. And, as it turns out, we were "that route" for the day. When the 76 samples from South Dakota were gathered (4 more than last year), corn turned out better than we saw on my route... beans weren't as good as we saw. It happens... all the time.
But as I was talking through the route reports tonight in front of a great crowd in Grand Island, I was reminded of something we've seen time after time on Tour: Where we find good beans, sometimes the corn isn't... but when we find good corn, sometimes the beans aren't. And that's the way it played out for me today.
In the soybean fields, we found an average of 745.06 pods in three foot of row with an average row spacing of 29.53 inches. That compares to last year's pods of 830.92 in 3-foot of row and an average row spacing of 28.32 inches. Fewer pods in a 3-foot row and a wider row space obviously point to a lower number of pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square.
Pods in 3-foot of row were down 10.3% from last year and were down 3.7% from the three-year average. Row spacing was up 4.3% from last year and was up 9.5% from the three-year average. This is a trend change from past tours when the average row width was narrowing on a consistent basis.
This data leads to an average number of pods in a 3-foot by 3-foot square of 970.61 in 2016, compared to 1054.98 on the 2015 Tour. That's an 8% drop in pod counts from last year and compared to the three-year average, pod counts in South Dakota are down 7%. That's a significant decline... but it's not out of line with what USDA saw for this bean crop as of August 1. Last year, USDA put the bean crop in South Dakota at 46 bu. per acre. As of August 1 this year, USDA saw yield potential of 42 bu. per acre - that's an 8.7% decline. So -- based on the numbers only -- that makes it tough to argue with USDA's August 1 yield assessment on beans. Also, the soil moisture index we estimate while on Tour this year was 3.71 (1 driest, 6 saturated soils), below last year's 5.03 (it was raining on us in South Dakota last year) and the three-year average of 4.06. Simply put... the bean crop in SD needs another rain to finish the yield potential we saw in the state today.
On to corn. Tour results this year generated an average calculated yield of 149.78 bu per acre, down 9.74% from last year's Tour results. That's also a decline of 6.5% from the three-year average for the state. USDA on August 1 put the South Dakota corn yield at 147 bu. per acre, down 7.5% from last year. We're both pointed in the same direction from 2015, we just see a greater risk for a bigger drop from year-ago than USDA measured on August 1.
As everybody knows, ear populations have been on the increase for several years. This year, ear counts are down. We counted an average of 83.46 ears per two 30-foot plots (60-foot of row total). That is down 3.7% from last year and is down 1.1% from the three-year average. That's "strike one" on the South Dakota corn crop.
The average grain length this year was 6.44 inches, down 8% from last year's 7 inches and it's down 6.9% from the three-year average of 6.92 inches. That's strike two.
The average number of kernel rows around the ear this year was 16.35. That's not strike 3. That's actually up 1.6% from last year and is up 1.7% from the three-year average. The number of kernel rows around the ear in South Dakota helped to partially offset the lower ear counts and shorter grain length.
Finally, the average row width in South Dakota this year was 29.5 inches, down from last year's 29.92 inches, but up from the three year average of 29.38 inches.
It was a great day. All the scouts made it safely from Sioux Falls to Grand Island and we meet with a great group of farmers at tonight's meeting. Today we covered southeast South Dakota and everything east of Grand Island and north of the Platte River in Nebraska. Tomorrow, the southern most route in Nebraska will be working hard to stay our of Kansas, and we'll cover everything from the Kansas border up to the Platte River before releasing the final results for Nebraska in Nebraska City. I had a great group with me today... Emily (my daughter) Carolan, Matt Bennett and Tony Mellenthin (from Wisconsin). Did we have some fun? Absolutely we did! Did we eat an excellent chicken-fried steak at the bowling alley in Bloomfield, Nebraska? Why wouldn't you!!! Did we pull some great corn samples? Well... not really... but we'll hopefully get that done on Tuesday.
I'll fill you in on all the details for Nebraska tomorrow night from Nebraska City. Have a good night...
Be sure to follow AgWeb's coverage of Farm Journal Media's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Watch reports from the field by following Farm Journal Media journalists along for the ride on Twitter: Alison Rice at @agweb_alison, Ben Potter at @potterben, Chip Flory at @ChipFlory, Brian Grete at @bgrete, and Betsy Jibben at @BetsyJibben. And check AgWeb each evening this week for the day's freshest summary on what they're seeing in the field.
Additional Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour information is available on ProFarmer.com.