From the Rows - Chip Flory - Western Tour Day 2
Ordinary. Normal. Average. All of those do a good job of describing the 2013 Nebraska corn crop. That, however, does not mean the crop isn't without some problems... but there are also some really good things about the crop as well.
On day 1 of the Tour as we made our way into northeastern Nebraska, we started to see some moisture stress on dryland corn and soybeans in Antelope County. It was kind of surprising at the time because it was the first moisture stress we saw after traveling through southeast South Dakota and the northern tier of two counties in Nebraska. But... it's Nebraska. Of course we're going to see some moisture stress.
The stress was "here and there" on day 1 down to Grand Island and continued from the first overnight stop to our second in Nebraska City, Nebraska. But that's what we should expect to see in Nebraska. That's why the state in about 60% irrigated and 40% dryland... crops need to be watered in Nebraska.
The irrigated corn crop is normally consistently good. I'm not saying every irrigated corn field is as good as the next, but there is consistency to the irrigated crop that helps build the Nebraska corn yield. The real variable in Nebraska is the dryland crop. It can be really bad (like last year) or really good... or really ordinary. But when there's consistency to the dryland crop (even if it's just an ordinary crop), it helps support the overall yield in the state.
That's a long way of saying dryland corn is supporting the bottom end of the Nebraska corn crop. The "problem" we saw on Tour is the irrigated crop didn't "blow through the roof" to lift the top end of the yields. The result... a really ordinary, normal and average corn crop in the Husker state.
Disease? Not and issue. Pests... no widespread problem. Hail... yes, there's always some hail damage in Nebraska and it's devastating in Clay Co. for growers there, but Nebraska almost always has some hail damage.
Holding back yields in irrigated corn this year is a couple of things. First, many of the problems go back to the start of the season when seed went in the ground. The first half of the crop was planted about on time, but the second half of the crop was hustled into the ground. Not only were the plantings delayed, they were also done into less-than-ideal conditions and (with more rain in the forecast) growers hurried to finish up plantings. The result are skips in plantings, irregular stands and "clumping" of some plants that resulted in too many "runt" ears in many Nebraska corn fields.
Another issue is inconsistent ear set, which indicates scattered emergence of plants this spring. Many times, the ear that is set lower than the two ears on both sides of the plant is shorter in length and further behind in development. Those ears will be weighing on final yields this year.
Also... and maybe most importantly was a 3 to 4 week period of below normal temps and cloudy conditions that reduced the solar energy available during the early kernel-fill period on corn. That may be causing some tip-back, even in irrigated corn.
The bottom line on Nebraska corn is too much of it was planted after the middle of may, it was planted into less-than-good conditions and it hasn't had enough sunlight (and warm temps). That's not how to build a big corn yield.
We collected 235 corn samples in Nebraska this year, up from last year's collection of 187 samples. The average number of ears in 60-foot of row (two 30-foot plots) is 83.91. At an average row spacing of 30.4 inches, that indicates a statewide average ear population of just over 24,000 ears per acre. The ear count is up 5.3% from year-ago and is up 1.8% from the three-year average.
The average length of grain per ear is 6.91 inches. That's up 14.8% from last year and is up 0.9% from the three-year average.
The average number of kernel rows around the ear is 16.06. That's up 3.7% from last year and is 1.1% above the three-year average.
The soybean crop was a bit of a surprise. Pod counts are important in any state, but especially in Nebraska where a growing number of acres can get a drink of water to fill the pods late in the season when growers decide to make another round with the pivot. This year, pod counts were unimpressive.
In a 3'X3' square, the Nebraska bean crop generated an average pod count of 1,138.94. That's not a bad pod count, but it's not impressive either. Last year's pod count was the lowest we've taken in Nebraska at just 894.43. That means pod counts are up 27.3% from last year. That's an impressive year-to-year gain, but when starting from a count as low as last year, that doesn't mean it's a good crop.
Here's why. The three-year average pod count in Nebraska is 1162.42 pods in a 3'X3' square. Don't forget... the three-year average includes last year's low pod count. With this year's pod count 2% below the three-year average, it'll be tough to build a bigger-than-average bean crop in Nebraska. Growers in the state are very good at growing soybeans and can push up to 52 or 53 bu. per acre in a good year. I wouldn't expect that to happen this year... and neither does USDA. As of Aug. 1, USDA puts the state average bean yield at 47 bu. per acre... which makes sense.
It was a fun meeting tonight in Nebraska City. We had over 300 area farmers come to talk with crop scouts and to hear about what the scouts saw today. It's the support of the people that come to the evening meetings that encourages scouts to come back again next year to do it all over again. The most important thing that happened today was all of the scouts made it from Grand Island to Nebraska City safe and sound... and I'm hoping the next two days of Tour goes as well as the past two days.
But... let's get real about the Tour for a minute. What's happened the last two days has been important, but I think we lost some bushels of corn from expectations in the eastern Corn Belt and found some of those bushels in the western Corn Belt. What we've done to this point is important, but the next two days will tell the story of the U.S. corn and soybean crops as we finish up in Illinios and cover Iowa and Minnesota.
And speaking of "telling the story" of the corn and soybean crops, we're about to enter a 5 to 6 week period that is going to determine just how good the crops will be. I've said several times on Tour this week that weather conditions from this point until the growing season ends will be just as important in determining the yield of corn and soybeans as the weather we've had from the start of the growing season until now. That gets back to what we've mentioned several times... we're measuring yield potential on this year's Tour and not actual yield. There's still a lot to be determined for the 2013 corn and soybean crops.