Day three has come and gone and although we only toured through half of Iowa today, it still showed us a few surprises as we headed north towards Spencer. This crop has been a topic of interest all season long from the extreme planting conditions to drought stress reports strengthening for the toured area since the beginning of July. Scouts always start with an unbiased eye when they step into the first corn and bean field early in the mornings and that is exactly what we did today. The biggest shock taken from today was how closely patterned the weather maps were to the areas we were in. Every sliver of rainfall was apparent on the yield checks taken to the extent of we would take a 220 bu. sample and drive 10 miles in one direction and fine a 100 bu. sample. The results followed the drought stress map to a tee but what we found there was more drastic than what I was expecting- both good and bad.
There is one thing that literally happens every time we tour the seven states on the tour, when corn turns good, the beans turn up short every time. No matter the year or district- it always seems to go this way. But why does it happen? There are many that believe stressing a bean crop at the time where corn needs a little baby sitting is one reason why bean numbers out-perform the potential of the corn.
You start with the June stress that was put on the crop. A few counties were lacking rainfall already, a few were too wet to get a good root structure started, and some were honestly just too cold to jump start the crop like we normally do. The kernels around and how long on an ear are both determined in the plant at V6-V12 growth stages. This is well before we ever start to see a developed ear but it is when the total yield potential is set within a plant. The crop could have had an amazing July and August but if it is stressed enough around V6 it physically can’t set itself up with enough kernels on the ear. The route I was on today had an interesting trend- as you moved north you saw less skips but more plants with no ear development. But at the beginning of the day, the skips were very apparent in the fields and you could tell planting season was a large issue for those growers. As you moved north, the skips became plants but plants that never put an ear on. This has a lot to do with the timing of planting and how the whole field emerged at once. If you have a plant that becomes over two leaf stages behind a neighboring plant, it will most likely become a weed by the time pollination comes around.
The corn crop was not the healthiest we have ever experienced, especially as we moved into areas that had higher humidity and heat throughout the later part of the season. The maturity of the crop was farther ahead in the drought stressed areas and that is not the best thing for this crop especially when you look at the yield checks that we took that has natural development with timely rains. Drought can cause rapid development and even though some fields were dented, the weight in kernels has not been put on to produce one, high test weight corn come combining time, and two, a false indication of the crop potential.
The bean crop we toured through was an interesting one with better weed suppression than what the scouts saw in Nebraska but still more than we’ve ever seen on the crop tour during the third week of August. The weeds are especially taller this year and seemed to have germinated immediately following a residual runout of the chem program a producer was using. Not only was water hemp an issue, but giant and common ragweed was a common site in many fields. One difference from the first two days of the tour compared to this day- where you saw weed issues, there was a large infestation of pressure all throughout the field. But when you saw a clean field- it was a clean as a whistle and you could tell a grower had either had the right cocktail of chemical use before and it is still working or growers have had to work really hard to find the right protection against this constantly changing weed issue.
Bean yields were extremely variable through every district and when you would drive by a field that looked a little burnt up from the drought you would still expect to find 1000-1200 pods. Most times where we thought it would be a good bean field- it turned into a <900 pod count in a 3x3 ft square with little to no branching on the plant and 4-5 inches between nodes. Not a fun sight to see when you see a whole different story from the truck window before entering a field. The crop in Nebraska in my opinion has a better chance of increasing their yield if we get timely rains. But the Iowa crop was farther along in pod fill timing and there just weren’t enough pods on the plant to produce the record crop like last year.
The last day on the tour is through Minnesota for the western leg and we will end up in Rochester for the final meeting to release final all Iowa and Minnesota data.