When it comes to corn and soybeans 2013-style, Minnesota is a tale of two cities and then some, Pro Farmer’s Midwest Crop Tour found in its final four-day swing through the seven-state epicenter of U.S. corn and soybean country. Minnesota corn is nothing if not resilient this year, bouncing back with strong potential yields that contrast no less sharply with low soybean pod counts.
Scouts canvassing southern and central Minnesota found corn yields a strong 181 bu. per acre after pulling 167 samples. That bests last year’s and the three-year average by a margin even long time western tour scouts were not fully anticipating based on what they saw a day earlier in northern Iowa.
"That’s a big number," acknowledges Chip Flory, Western Tour leader and Pro Farmer editor. "It came as a surprise to me," adds Ken Eckhardt, scout and farmer from Minnesota Lake, Minn., who had 20% prevent plant this spring. While Eckhardt expected the strong showing in southwest Minnesota, yields in south central and southeast regions held up more than he expected based on the harsh spring and the cool summer that robbed the plant of growing degree days.
Despite those two double-whammies, on Eckhardt’s route, numerous field samples topped 200 bushels per acre and one, 278. True, some were more than 100 or more under that as there were dramatic field by field differences even within the same county.
Flory is quick to caution, however, that Minnesota’s corn crop still is a very immature one, thus yield potential will back track with anything less than perfect growing conditions from now to when it will be fully mature in early October. This year, of all years in recent history, the crop needs all of its average frost date the first week of October. For 2013, weather from now until frost is even more important than the weather from spring up to this point, Flory notes.
Such a relatively bullish corn yield picture this year for Minnesota, even if a cautious and tentative one, contrasts sharply with far weaker than average soybean yield possibilities due to low pod counts. Counts in a three-by-three foot square averaged 869, with one crop reporting district in central Minnesota coming in at just 543.
Most experts think counts in the range of 1,200 are necessary for good yields. Not only were pod counts light. Some samples discovered plants loaded with aphids, something scouts had not seen even in northern Iowa. Scouts also saw something highly unusual for late August: plants with numerous purple blooms that have little chance of maturing into harvestable beans barring a late first freeze that’s one for the record books.
It’s hard to picture corn and soybeans coming from the same state, even. "I see a pretty darn good corn crop, 180-plus," says Steve Fellure, an Attica, Ind., producer, and scout. "Good ear counts told me farmers got the crop in satisfactorily." That is, the crop that actually was planted and emerged, not counting the thousands of acres that were prevent plant that will reduce Minnesota’s production this year from 2012 even though its yield potential is higher.
Topping off just how bizarre this year has been, one farmer at Thursday night’s wrap-up meeting in Rochester, Minn., notes that he experienced something in 2013 he never has before: riding his snowmobile over corn acres planted in May that had more than a foot of fresh snow on them. Ironically, he considers such fields to be his best yielding ones, because unlike others, they got planted on time.
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See full coverage of the 2013 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, hosted by Pro Farmer.
DuPont Pioneer has been the Tour’s lead sponsor since 2008. Other sponsors include RCIS, Chevy Truck, DuPont Crop Protection, GEOSYS, HTS Ag, Farm Credit Services of America and Montag Manufacturing