Nebraska is the Cornhusker State, but it may be the soybean, not corn, crop that could be the star of this harvest.
After taking 279 samples in six crop districts, scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour found an average of 1,220 pods for a 3’x3’ plot of Nebraska soybeans.
Compared to last year, it represents a 10.6% jump in soybean potential for Nebraska.
“That’s a whopper,” said Pro Farmer Editorial Director Chip Flory, speaking to a crowd of scouts and farmers on Tuesday night.
In 2014, Nebraska planted 5.4 million acres of soybeans, producing 289 million bushels with an average yield of 54 bu. per acre, according to USDA data. This year, it expects Nebraska soybean yields to increase slightly to 56 bu. per acre.
Of course, the Pro Farmer tour provides estimates of the soybean crop’s potential, which is still being determined in the field. “It’s all a question of whether those pods will fill,” Flory said. “Will this year bring the big Nebraska beans we’ve gotten used to?”
Perhaps. Tim Gregerson, a veteran scout and farmer in Nebraska, collected samples that delivered an average pod count of 1,250 for a 3’x3’ plot. “I thought the beans were more consistent than the corn,” he said.
The strongest samples in this year’s tour came from Nebraska’s third crop district in the northeast corner of the state. Scouts there found an average 3’x3’ pod count of 1,354.6.
Not all the state’s bean fields look quite so strong. “There was a fair amount of insect pressure—aphids, grasshoppers,” said Kyle Wendland, who farms in South Dakota and Iowa. “The growth wasn’t real huge. I was expecting to see chest-high beans with all the irrigation.”
Wendland’s group saw an average pod count of 1,072 across 11 samples. Those ranged from a low of 449 pods in Gage County to 1,882 in Lancaster County, both of which are located in the southeast corner of the state.
Maturity could be an issue. As scouts moved south to Nebraska City, they found increasingly younger plants.
On Monday, “not one bean field that we saw had a bloom on it,” said Tim Gregerson, a veteran scout and a farmer in Nebraska. On Tuesday, “we saw the effect of later plant dates,” including shorter plants and blooms on beans.
“Corn was the same way,” he added. On Monday, Gregerson saw corn that was partially to fully dented, only to be followed by less mature fields on Tuesday. “Usually the south is ahead of the north,” the Nebraska farmer said. “It’s the inverse this year. The north is ahead of the south.”
When it comes to Nebraska corn, scout observations and Pro Farmer tour data suggest the state will have a respectable, but not outstanding crop in 2015. The tour’s yield estimate? 165.16 bu. per acre, or just a smidge more than 2014.
That estimate is not line with USDA, which has forecasted 187 bu. per acre for Nebraska corn this year.
Part of the difference is due to the influence of irrigated vs. non-irrigated fields in the calculations. While Nebraska is 60% irrigated and 40% dryland, the Pro Farmer estimates are based on areas that are 40% irrigated and 60% dryland.
(Overall, Nebraska planted 9.3 million acres of corn in 2014, producing 1.6 billion bushels with an average yield of 179 bu. per acre, according to USDA.)
This year, though, timely—and not so timely--rainfall in the spring and summer appears to have reduced the usual yield advantage for irrigated fields in Nebraska.
“It was as advertised,” Wendland said of the Nebraska corn crop. “We knew it would be better than the (eastern Corn Belt). As for a record crop, I’m just not seeing it.”
Neither is Flory, who remarked on how irrigated fields this year don’t seem to be delivering the customary yield boost compared to dryland.
“We just didn’t see the big bin-buster irrigated corn yields,” Flory said.
What’s going on? Scouts pointed to a host of reasons, including low plant populations, planting problems, nitrogen leaching, inadequate water, disease, cloudy weather, and tipped back ears.
Scout Brent Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, took a sample from an irrigated corn field that had Goss’s Wilt, corn borer, and more. “It was a mess,” he said. “That field has got a lot of issues.”
The yield check confirmed his assessment, with an estimated yield of 133 bu. per acre for an irrigated Nebraska corn field, with plenty of harvest loss risk remaining, given all the disease.
“That guy better combine it soon,” Judisch said.
For more information:
See full coverage of the 2015 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, hosted by Pro Farmer.
Take your own field measurements and participate in Pro Farmer's Virtual Crop Tour.
Follow the Tour on Twitter with the hashtag #pftour15.