(Emily Flory Carolan is an Account Manager in western Wisconsin for Crop Tour sponsor DuPont Pioneer, and helps with data management and to assess crop conditions on the Tour.)
Welcome to the Farm Journal Crop Tour 2017! Day one is complete and although I won’t be joining the tour until tonight because I get to hang out with Wisconsin dairy farmers on Tuesday morning at the Bunk Bash put on by DuPont Pioneer, I was still able to keep up with the scouts to find out exactly what they saw throughout their route on Monday. And of course, there are mixed feelings about the South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska crop. One common remark was made by veteran scouts Brent Judish, Brad Nelson, Tim Gregerson, Jerod Creed, and Ken Eckhardt who I spoke with after they finished their routes on Monday night before the meeting started in Grand Island, NE. One word- Boring!
Can you believe they thought the crop looked boring after awaiting the joyous third week of August like they always do?? Yeah.. I think they were all being modest. They all mentioned the crop wasn’t as variable as expected and they did see average crops throughout the day (I promise this report gets more interesting). The discretion came when talking about corn and beans- so let’s step through their days as they went from South Dakota into Nebraska.
Let’s begin with South Dakota. I’ll start by saying the area that we sampled is the corn belt of the state. On the tour we find the sample average is usually 4 bushels higher than the USDA final results for corn. This year was no different and the crop found in the field was actually better than he expected says Brent Judisch, farmer from Waterloo, IA. He was on the eastern side of the scouting area and said it was probably the best route in SD out of all 10 routes. He was impressed with the crop but as the routes moved west, the scouting reports started to turn to the downside.
Ken Eckhardt, farmer from Minnesota Lake, MN, went northwest of Souix Falls and found what everyone has been talking about all season long. The crop was damaged during a delayed planting period and again during pollination due to dry weather. Even though they have experienced strong rains over the past two weeks, it won’t be enough to make up for the damage that has been done. Eckhardt noted that you can gain test weight and kernel depth in August but you can’t change a 160 bushel field into a 220 bushel field with just that. Pod counts were reversed from earlier reports- they actually got better and were farther along as these scouts moved west. Eckhardt was impressed with the maturity of the crop and it seemed to be moving along with how the crop normally looks in the third week of August.
Now, we know Nebraska growers can grow beans; they’ve proven year after year they can produce some of the best bean yields the country has to offer. Judisch and Brad Nelson, grower from Albert Lea, MN, both had a route where from the road everything seemed fine until they moved into the field. The beans were tall but when they pulled their three random plants, the space between nodes was large and the pods per node were less than expected. One common theme between all reports was the maturity of the crop was all over the place. There was no consistency as they moved south and they were still finding flowers in a few fields just north of Grand Island.
Jerod Creed, founder of JC Marketing, said there were pivots in fields that looked like they moved maybe once this year. They had mud on their boots every time they stepped out of the field in Nebraska. Although it seemed like a range in maturity, all scouts noted the crop still has a ways to go and will need more heat than usual to finish out.
Scouts noticed how average the corn crop was in Nebraska and were very surprised by the consistency. Pre-tour assumptions were to find anywhere from 20 bu. to 250 bu. corn. But that’s the beauty in the Crop Tour- never assume anything about a crop until you’re in the field. Although there are always outliers, the samples taken for the first half day in Nebraska were more consistent than in years past with a smaller gap between dryland and irrigated fields. Nelson noticed the heat in July helped push the maturity farther along as they got closer to Grand Island where they started to see a crop like they, on average, expect at this time of year.
The next leg of the western tour will go from Grand Island to Nebraska City where they pull samples from the southeast side of Nebraska. Final numbers for Nebraska will be released on Tuesday night along with Indiana numbers from the eastern side of the tour. I will be joining the tour after scouts make their final trek through Nebraska and am looking forward to seeing the western Iowa crop on Wednesday!