From the Rows, Day 1: Weather Biggest Factor in Limiting Yields - Emily Carolan (Western Leg)

August 23, 2016 01:02 AM
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From the Rows - Emily Carolan - Western Tour Day 1

What a day! When we normally think of the first day of the Crop Tour I can usually sum it up in three words- Really REALLY hot. This first day of tour was one of the best weather days I've experienced on the Tour in my six years and I'm grateful South Dakota and Nebraska decided to go easy on us for a change. A high of 85 degrees with low humidity made it easy to walk between the corn rows and into bean fields to collect a new sample record of 152 checks in South Dakota. We wrapped up the day with a good meeting and great company with the growers from the Grand Island, NE, area and all I can say was it was quite the day!

I know we use the word variability in many cases when on the tour, but when it comes to the reports from this year, variability means just something a little different. Where we can normally pick out multiple reasons for yield limiting factors such as rainfall, disease, weed pressure, insects, or other environmental impacts all in one year; this year we can talk about just a few of those.

Disease and insect pressure is very limited. Not one route found anything too drastic and it seems like the area covered missed any disease outbreaks throughout the season. With the advanced maturity of the crop, it seems like no real yield limiting factor could set yield back based on one disease issue if it were to come in over the next couple of weeks.

Weed pressure is something to be talked about this year, too. Where last year we saw an outbreak of waterhemp in SE South Dakota and all through Nebraska, this year it seems the growers have found a cocktail that has done the trick to control weed escapes better than in years past. We still have a large part of the state to cover that is heavily irrigated and I'm excited to see if there's a weed-solution that was found to help with the control like we saw in the area we covered today.

One of the veteran scouts on the western leg told me yesterday that he used to think he could control more by spending more on management practices than what the weather environment can affect. But as he's grown in experience, he said his thought process has changed and fully understands Mother Nature is everything to produce a good crop, coupled with some well thought-out management. While I think he's being humble, I also know this is something extremely true, especially in the area we covered today. We know Nebraska can put out an awesome bean crop. The growers there really know how to put on some of the biggest seed size we see all tour, and they know just when to turn the water on after a little stress. But even in a year like this, the environment can wear down a good crop and show a lot of variability that we normally don't see.

Another reason why Mother Nature has made its imprint on this tour this year is because of the story right now in South Dakota. After speaking with a couple of growers along the way through the SE corner of the state, a common story started to become clear. On paper it looks like normal rainfall totals for the majority of the area, but the main issue with this is the timing of the rains. Growers were able to get in somewhat early this year to begin planting but shortly after cold rains started to set in, keeping them out of the fields for about three weeks. This not only forced the seed to sit in the ground for too long, but also restricted some plants from making it out of the ground. The plants that showed up late to the game turned into "a weed" and these plants are only competition for the plants that came out of the ground earlier. The Tour found stand counts lower than last year, making it apparent that the planting season had something to do with the ears "we were missing" compared to year-ago.

Once the fields started to dry up and growers were able to get back in, the rains were spread far apart and, in some cases, came at heavier rates than the soils could hold. With the cold, wet feet from the beginning, plants had a hard time putting down the root structure needed for adequate nutrient uptake, especially as conditions turned drier. Nitrogen deficiencies were a regular sight through both South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.

When we are taking a look at the bean crop in both South Dakota and Nebraska, it goes without saying that when a 6-foot, 9-inch-tall man is standing in beans that are up to his shoulders, it means the beans are freakin' tall. But all it means is the beans are freakin' tall! The beans reached for the sunlight and grew taller than last, but that does not mean taller beans make a larger yield. Look at the node placement - and look for pods at the top of the plant. If there is a hand-width between nods, something limited the number of nodes on that plant.

Like I mentioned about corn, there is very limited disease, and even though we have a few breakthroughs of waterhemp, the growers in the area seem to have a grasp on how to control any issues they have.

As we look forward to tomorrow as we head from Grand Island to Nebraska City, NE, we know we will run into more irrigation. It better be good after the irrigated fields we saw today in northeast and east central Nebraska. The irrigated fields covered today lacked the "wow" factor and had just as much variability as the dry land corn. It will be interested to get a better idea of what Nebraska offers as we head out onto day two of the tour.

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

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