From the Rows - Chip Flory - Day 1 Western Tour
Day 1 of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour is in the books... and as expected, it was full of surprises.
That's what the Crop Tour should do... it should surprise scouts with what it reveals and it did just that on day one of the 2013 tour. So... how can you actually "expect a surprise?" I mean... if you expect it, it really can't be a surprise, right?
I knew the South Dakota corn crop was going to be much better than last year and probably better than the last three years, but I was surprised at how good it really is. There's not much disease to talk about... but that should be expected. We measured a lot of yield potential, but that should also be expected. The crop showed us everything a young crop should show us... a lot of yield potential but very few guarantees.
Last year, the crop across all areas of the Corn Belt was mature. It was burnt up... but it was mature. That means last year's Tour measured actual yield, not yield potential. The year, we measured yield potential. I do several radio interviews each day on Crop Tour and I caught myself repeating the same refrain throughout the day: "The weather from this point forward will be just as important in determining yield as the weather from the start of the growing season to this point." Simply put... there's a lot to be determined on this crop. We didn't measure yield on today's Tour through South Dakota, we measured yield potential.
We're not going to apologize for that... facts are facts. I'd like to say we are confident in the South Dakota corn crop will end up as good as we measured today, but the simple fact of the matter is that all depends on September and, in some cases, the first 10 days of October to finally figure out if this corn crop is really as good as it might be.
The corn and soybean crops are mostly disease free, but that's likely a function of the slow development of the crop. Some of the fields out there have severe weed pressure, but it was so "occasional" that I've got to wonder why it's happening (management, simply couldn't get in the field to control weeds, or if there are some rotational issues). I do know I saw way too many volunteer soybeans growing in corn fields today. These beans are a "hidden weed" - you can't see them from the road and they're a harbor for soybean diseases and other pests to hide on for a year before the bean crop comes back next year. And there's no denying that a "healthy" stand of beans inside a corn field is draining nutrients and moisture this year's corn crop needs to build a big yield. It's tough to figure how much impact "soy weeds" are having on the corn crop, but it is having a negative impact on corn yield potential.
Okay... on to the numbers:
Ear counts are up big-time from last year and the three-year average. Ear counts in 60-foot of row (actually, two 30-foot rows) was 82.85, up 58% from last year's 52.13 and up 14.8% from the three-year average.
Average grain length of 7.16 inches in South Dakota is up 57% from last year and up 20.3% from the three year average.
Average number of kernel rows around the ear is 16.13, up 20% from last year and up 8% from the three-year average.
Let's see... more ears per sample, longer grain length per sample with more kernel rows around on each ear... that means as bigger corn yield estimate. In fact, it means the South Dakota corn crop is hitting on at least seven of the eight cylinders. The Crop Tour calculated yield for South Dakota corn was 161.75 bu. per acre, up 118% from last year and 35.2% above the three-year average.
Yeah... it's a good corn crop in South Dakota. IF it can make it to the finish line before the first frost of the fall. And don't rule that out. We were looking at corn that was in the late-milk to early dough stage for most of the day. Corn spends a relatively short period of time in the dough stage (about 6 days) before it starts to dent, so I'd lean more to the milk than the dough stage on most of the corn I saw today. So, if it's just starting to accumulate dry matter in the kernel, there's probably only about 10-14 days before the South Dakota corn crop starts to dent. Seems ridiculous based on what we saw today, but if the crop can get some normal to above-normal temps and a shot of rain (like it has been getting in South Dakota all year), then the bulk of the crop should be nearing maturity by October 1. If cooler-than-normal temps persist through September, it'll take more than 35 or 40 days to get the corn from the start of dry matter accumulation to black layer, but at least we can start to set some "deadlines" for the corn crop in South Dakota.
Normally, I'd say the best yield scenario is to just "slow cook" the corn crop into the end of the season and to "hope" for an extra week or two on the end of the growing season without a frost to get it to maturity. This year, the crop is far enough behind that I'd like to see at least normal temps, plenty of sunshine and a shot of rain to let the South Dakota corn crop realize all the potential we measured today.
In soybean fields, immaturity is also an issue. Flat pods at the bottom node normally isn't a good thing at this time of the year, and we saw a lot of flat pods on the lower nodes today. But, the number of pods we saw is way up from last year and a bit better than the three-year average. But, the maturity of the bean crop means it needs all of September without a frost to build a good yield. One of the things that struck me as "different" in this year's South Dakota bean crop was the number of half-inch pods sitting right on the top of the plants. When we saw this, there were very few blooms still on the plant, which suggests it'll take another round of vegetative growth on these plants to make room for more pods. Those pods on the top of the plant can't be more than four or five days old... so September is going to have to be really good for pod development and filling for these pods to have any change to make beans that will contribute to a "bigger" yield.
The average number of pods in a 3'X3' square this year was 1,016.35, up 74% from last year and up 3.3% from the three-year average. That's a big increase from last year's exceptionally poor crop, but it's not up much from the three-year average (that includes last year's poor counts). So... it's a good bean crop with good potential, but it's not a great bean crop.
Tuesday, scouts on the western leg of the Tour will make our way from Grand Island to Nebraska City. Frankly, tomorrow is make-or-break day for the Nebraska corn crop. What we say today in northeastern Nebraska didn't impress many of the scouts on the Tour and tomorrow has to be a good day to change the attitudes about the yield potential of this year's Husker corn crop.
We had about 500 people in the room for tonight's meeting in Grand Island - thanks to everybody that came out to greet the scouts! Tomorrow night in Nebraska City, we're expected about 400 local farmers to be at the meeting and we're looking forward to another night of good conversation about crop potential!