Western Iowa Corn Holds Surprises as Soybean Potential Jumps

August 19, 2015 11:30 PM
iowa corn pro farmer crop tour 2015

As fellow I-States struggle to produce corn ears and soybean pods, some crops in Iowa’s western half are encountering their own challenges.

“There are holes out there in the fields that you can’t see, and they are filled with weeds,” said Roger Cerven, who scouted southwest Iowa on the third day of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. “The green is disguising a lot of flaws.”

His group ended up with an average corn yield of 160 bu. per acre, which is considerably below both last year’s Pro Farmer estimate for Iowa (178 bu.) and this year’s USDA projection for the state (183 bu.)

Others had a much better day. Neil and Alice Hadley of Union, Iowa, found plenty of surprises in an Osceola County cornfield with 15-inch rows. “It was loaded with aphids—it was one of those fields that makes your skin crawl,” said Neil Hadley, who counted 78 ears and brought three sample ears to Alice for measuring. The estimated yield? A tour high of 305 bu. per acre.

“It’s gotta be wrong,” Neil said Wednesday, recounting the story in Spencer, Iowa, at a crop tour event.

The 300-plus number was correct, thanks to an average kernel row of 16 and an average grain length of 7.3 inches.

While the Hadleys’ find may have been extraordinary, other scouts also found solid crops on their Iowa routes.

Sam Schmidt scouted 10 counties from Fremont to Palo Alto, where his group sampled fields that ranged between 140.6 bu. per acre to 227.3 bu. per acre.

“The route we took today came in around 180 bu., which is just a little higher than what it was a year ago,” said Schmidt, general manager for The Agronomic Consulting Group in West Point, Neb. “I expected it to be a little bit better.”

The problem? Lower ear counts and shorter grain length. Across 190 samples from three Iowa crop districts, the average grain length was 6.63 inches, which is just below the 2014 average of 6.78 inches for the same area.

Currently, USDA projects a 183 bu. per acre yield for Iowa corn, an uptick of five bushels from las year’s final harvest. The state planted 13.7 million acres of corn in 2014, producing 2.4 billion bushels with an average yield of 178 bu. per acre.

Western Iowa’s soybean crops look far more promising. “I must admit that, in all my years on crop tour, I have seen maybe one 2,000-pod count,” said Josh Merryman, a scout from Iowa. “Today we had three. That’s big.”

The soybean numbers released Wednesday supported that strength. The average pod count for a 3’x3’ square in Western Iowa was 1,263.4, which is an 8.8% increase from 2014.

“I was surprised the beans were as good as they were,” said Cerven, whose group averaged 1,265 for pods in a 3’x3’ square on its Wednesday route. “The conditions for planting were not good conditions.”

At his own farm in Stanton, Iowa, Cerven said he had just a handful of days—seven, to be exact—for planting this spring due to heavy rains. With so few days suitable for planting and so little time left to plant, Cervene suspects that farmers may have rushed to complete the job.

The end result is a planted field, but one at risk for emergence problems like skips and doubles. Late-planted fields also may not get enough time to mature, which is what some scouts saw on their routes.

 “Our soybeans were variable,” said Brad Nelson, a scout from Albert Lea, Minn. “One field didn’t have any pods. The plants were still blooming.”

Complete Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour data for Iowa corn and soybeans will be released Thursday night in Minnesota.


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.

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Spell Check

Mark C. Daggy
Humboldt, IA
8/20/2015 10:33 PM

  We may never return to the days when agriculture was king? My grandfather owned 1200 acres in 1936, 40 draft horses and dozens of hired men. Almost like a plantation...only the workers received a home to live in, 1/2 a beef, a hog, and as many chickens and eggs as they wanted, all the milk they wanted and a 3 acre vegetable garden. The hired help worked 7 days a week because of the dairy and received $15/week. How is $15,000/acre land, $400,000 tractors and $800,000 combines and $100/hour repair bills with $3 corn a great life? Shutting off the food would cause the food stamp recipients to scramble daily for their meals. I have contacted Job Service for farm help and the only people applying are college graduates that want to manage me. I am looking for worker bees, not those who are confident but not competent.

Russ Gerst
Oakville, IA
8/20/2015 04:44 PM

  Agree with first half of statement. Second half ignores the huge agribusinesses that thrive off the food stamp status quo. Take away their subsidies and see who howls the loudest.

Mark C. Daggy
Humboldt, IA
8/20/2015 08:38 AM

  With the eastern corn belt states down 20% to 30 % and the western corn belt states up only 2% tom 3% from 2014, that leaves a small corn crop than 2014. My guess is less than 14 billion bushels of corn, whatever that does for carryover and prices. Really tired of hearing about feeding the world and those in cities who's only part in the food production equation is eating. One thing is certain is: they can do without their fun toys, vacations and multiple holidays, but they can not, not eat everyday. Shut-off the food stamps and put them back in the fields as manual labor is they want to eat.


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