From the Rows: Western Tour - Day 3 - Chip Flory

August 18, 2010 08:11 PM

From the Rows with Chip Flory --

Day 3 of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour

WARNING! These are preliminary results for Iowa... but they are the "final" numbers for crop districts 1, 4 and 7 in Iowa -- the western one-third of the state.

First: Maturity is way (WAY) ahead of what it was last year at this time. I'm talking something like four weeks ahead of the development of last year. But... I'll let Terry Johnston talk about maturity in his report. So -- let's talk a few numbers.

In crop district 7 (southwest Iowa), the ear count came in below year-ago... and it was the only one of the three western Iowa crop districts with lower-than-year-ago ear counts. The 5.6% drop in ear counts was compounded by an 11.8% drop in the length of grain, to 6.64 inches (down from last year's very impressive 7.53 inches). The average number of kernel rows around the ear was up very slightly from last year and the average row width narrowed up just a bit. (The narrower road width is a positive for yield). The end result in Iowa crop district 7 was a corn yield of 174.38 bu. per acre, down 4.8% from last year's Tour results for the district.

In crop district 4 (west-central Iowa), the ear count came in up 0.42% from last year at 99.68 ears in 60-foot of row. Unfortunately, that was the only "plus" for the corn crop over last year. The average number of kernel rows around was down 2.5% from last year; the average row spacing widened 0.3%; and the average grain length was down 9.4% from last year. The end result was an 11.4% drop from last year's average Tour yield in west-central Iowa at 168.18 bu. per acre.

In crop district 1 (northwest Iowa), the average ear count in 60-foot of row was up .77% from last year at 103.74; and the average row space fell 2.8%. On the downside, the average grain length was down 9.7% from last year at 6.19 inches and the average number of kernel rows around the early was down 1.7% from last year at 16.11. End result: A yield of 170.88 bu. per acre, down 7.6% from last year.

I know... these numbers might be a little shocking for a state that USDA estimated down just 1.65% from last year's final yield for the state. But these are the numbers for just one-third of the state. The eastern leg of the Tour will cover the easter TWO-THIRDS of Iowa on Thursday as they make their way to Austin, Minnesota. The data we gathered today is important... but the data that comes in tomorrow will be more important and the results could change what we saw today. (That's why I started this report with "WARNING.")

Okay... let's get to the bean crop. I think you've probably picked up on the trend for bean pod counts this year... right? This year's weather seems to be supporting a huge pod load for the bean crop... and the trend continued in western Iowa. Iowa crop district 7 pods in a 3-by-3-foot square were up 11.2% from last year; crop district 4 was up (ready for this!?!) 24.1% from year-ago; Iowa crop district 7 had a pod count that was up 11.2% from year-ago.

WARNING 2: Huge pod counts do not always translate into big yields. We've seen it time and time again... you get a big pod count and then conditions turn "less-than-perfect" and we end up with a small bean size. And... as most of you know... the size of the bean determines one-third of the final yield. And bean size is exactly what we're worried about in Iowa this year. Reason: Sudden Death Syndrome -- better known as SDS.

I left Ames, Iowa, in the center of the state this afternoon and traveled straight west on highway 30. My plan was to drive west until I didn't see any "serious" SDS anymore. The goal was to figure out just how far west SDS extends into Iowa. I saw the worst SDS infestation I've ever seen in Dallas (district 5) and Greene (district 4) Counties. More than a few fields are more than 50% infected with SDS. When I got into Carroll Co., SDS was less severe and covered a smaller percentage of fields. By the time I got to Jefferson, Iowa, I was still spotting some SDS, but the pressure was very light. So... I would say severe SDS pressure extends west to Jefferson, Iowa. Tomorrow, the eastern leg of the Tour will cruise through some areas we know have heavy SDS... and the disease has been there longer than it has been in the western one-third of the state. So... if SDS is causing the plant to lose pods, we'll see some of that from the eastern scouts on Thursday. What's the impact? Think about it this way... the bean plant has one job and one job only at this time of the year and that is to collect as much energy as possible (through the leaves) and turn that energy into big, fat beans. The problem in the SDS infected fields is the plants have lost their leaves. No leaves... no collected energy. No energy... no bean size. No bean size is bad news for bean yields.

But... like I said... the smart decision is to wait for all the numbers to come in from the state before "passing judgment" on the state.

On Thursday... we'll wrap up another Tour. This is my 21st Tour in the last 22 (I missed the 1991 Tour) and there is no doubt I'm still learning new things every year... and meeting new friends that each have unique interests in the Tour. I'll admit, I'm looking forward to wrapping up this trek through the western Corn Belt... I must not be as young as I once was!

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