Western Tour Report, Day 1 -- REALLY! AGAIN!
The grass is green in South Dakota and the cows are happy. (Translation... there's been plenty of water in South Dakota to provide plenty of grass for the cows... and when there's plenty of water for the pastures, there's usually plenty of water for the corn and soybean crops.)
Okay... I'll admit. That's exactly how I started the report for Day 1 of the western leg of the Crop Tour last year. But, when one observation tells the story... keep telling it until it's wrong.
But this year is different than year ago in the Jackrabbit state... no doubt about that. We saw a very good South Dakota corn crop and we saw a bean crop with excellent potential. Still, there are some problems that will make it extremely difficult to put final numbers on the state at the end of the week.
Let's start with corn. We wrapped up South Dakota with 52 samples... 5 more than we took a year ago. The average yield in the state was 143.59 bu. per acre, down 2.29% from last year. USDA on Aug. 1 estimated the state at 148 bu. per acre, down 2% from 2009. Based on those percentage changes, I'd say we were looking at exactly the same crop that USDA was looking at on Aug. 1. That's because on Aug. 1, the corn crop in South Dakota might have had a tad bit more yield potential. We saw some tip-back on ears... but not much.
The big "drag" on corn yield came in the total number of ears in 60 foot of row. We wrapped up with 80.79 ears in 60 foot, down 2.4% from year-ago. With the trend toward higher planting rates across the Corn Belt, it's a bit surprising to see a lower-than-year-ago ear count. But, there are a couple of factors at work that probably impacted ear populations. First, the crop was planted early. While the soil worked great for the early planted corn, the soil temp might have been a bit cold on the earliest-planted corn and some of the seed might have sat in the soil for too long. Second, freezing temps hit the upper Midwest May 9-10. Some corn was emerged by then and it's not hard to imagine losing 1% of the plants to frost damage on those fields.
Grain length was excellent at 6.79 inches. Kernel rows around the ear was really good at 15.8. And the row space dropped slightly from year-ago to 30.42 inches as growers continue to update equipment.
Now... let's keep this year's results in perspective. We found an average yield 2.3% below last year's RECORD yield. That's like hitting back-to-back home runs... it's a really (REALLY) good crop.
The soybean crop is also something really special this year. We wrapped up the state with an average pod count in a 3-by-3 foot square of 1262.28. That's huge... off the charts for South Dakota! That's up 28.6% from last year when the state had a record yield of 42 bu. per acre. The confusing thing is that USDA on Aug. 1 estimated the bean yield at 40 bu. per acre, down 4.76% from last year. So... how can we find a pod count up nearly 30% from year-ago when USDA is estimating the yield will be down nearly 5% from last year?
I think it's in the acres. It was absolutely RARE to drive by a bean field in the state that didn't have a ponded-out area. That pond of "dead beans" might have been 1% of the acres... or it might have been 30% of the acres in a field. But every field we sampled and drove by seemed to have a problem with lost acres. If a South
Dakota bean grower has an 80 acre bean field with 10% lost to ponding. The harvested acres might yield 50-bu. beans. But, when the total bushels harvested are divided by the full 80 acres, those beans will average "just" 45 bu. per acre. That's the biggest variable we saw for the 2010 bean crop in South Dakota this year. The beans that are there have great yield potential and they've got some water to finish the job... but lost (abandoned) acres will be really tough to figure this year.
Inititial observations of the crops in northeast Nebraska are similar to what we saw in 2009. But, last year we weren't impressed with Nebraska until we hit the southeast part of the state. That's were we'll later today... and that's the part of the state that will write the book for the Husker corn crop. We'll talk again tomorrow night with the final numbers for Nebraska.
By the way... we've got 36 scouts working the western leg of the Tour this year. That's a new record for "curious crop-watchers" willing to come out and spend a day getting dirty and putting in the effort to see the crop for themselves. We ran into several farmers on the routes today and each one was willing to share information and jumped right in and helped us sample their fields to see how they compare to last year's fields in the area and to other samples pulled this year. It's always rewarding to run into these farmers while on the road... it really adds to the experience!
We'll be in southeast Nebraska Tuesday and will wrap up the state in Nebraska City! So far... we're seeing another really good Husker corn and soybean crop!