When farmers and scouts are expecting a monster corn crop, even today’s strong Indiana yields of 185.03 bu. per acre can seem humdrum.
"I wasn’t all that impressed by the corn I saw," said Brian Grete, editor of Pro Farmer and director of the 2014 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour’s Eastern leg. "But the soybeans—by golly, they impressed me."
With average 3-foot pod counts of 563.24 (up 11.6% from last year) and average 3’x3’ plot pod counts of 1, 120.79 (up 3% compared to 2013), Indiana’s beans were the big story of day 2. "There’s a lot of focus on the corn right now, but the beans look really good right now," said Brazilian farmer and returning scout Bruno Gilioli, who traveled from South America to join this year’s tour.
"The beans looked very healthy," he explained. "They had no disease. They had no dry leaves. They had no damage by insects. And they had good pods—there were a lot of three-bean pods."
Gilioli saw his group’s best soybean field in White County, Ind., where the 3’x3’ plot pod count hit 2,131. The lowest was in Madison County, where the sample field had just one-third of those pods, with a count of 720. With 10 samples, the group finished with a 3’x3’ plot average pod count of 1,296.58, just above the state figure.
He thinks that number could go higher in the weeks to come, depending on the weather. He estimates the soybean fields could use at least two inches of rain and soon. "They need rain in the next 10 days so they can fill those pods and really see that potential show up," Gilioli said.
Overall, Indiana planted 5.2 million acres of soybeans last year, producing almost 265 million bushels of beans and an average yield of 51 bu per acre. But after seeing soybean field after soybean field, farmers and scouts are starting to wonder if there might be more beans out there than people expect.
"Typically, it’s hard to find a soybean field," said Grete. "This year, you don’t have to look hard to find the soybean field, but you do have to look hard to find the corn field."
Veteran Minnesota farmer and scout Dick Overby, who just returned from a crop tour in the Mississippi Delta, noted the same phenomenon there. "There’s no question that the Delta planted more beans than they did in previous years," he said.
In terms of corn, the day's fields revealed the same variability that Ohio did. "We got our lowest yield of the day in McLean County, Ill., and we got our highest yield of the day in McLean County," Grete said. "That shows some of the randomness out there."
Gene Kim, an international economist with the USDA-NASS, saw the same thing. In Madison County, Ind., the scout began his day with what proved to be the highest yield off his day: 280 bu. per acre. While his group did end the day with an average yield of 198.77 bu. per acre for 10 stops, all in Indiana, they also saw a lot of issues.
"The hype was that everybody’s yield was going to be amazing, but some of the fields have lots of problems," Kim said. "It’s going to be an average year for some producers."
Those problems included signs of fungus, corn earworm, aphids, and nitrogen deficiency, as well as planting problems.
"I’m guessing what happened is that the early corn, which got planted in a timely fashion, looks excellent, and the later corn had some emergence problems when it was hit with all that rain," Overby said when asked about the variability in this year’s samples. "The early corn, size-wise, was able to handle all that rain."
Last year, Indiana produced 1.035 billion bushels of corn, with an average yield of 177 bu. per acre.
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