Western Tour Report, Day 1 -- It's deja vu all over again!
Okay... first things first. The grass is green in South Dakota and the cows are happy. (Translation... there's been plenty of water in South Dakota to provide plenty of grass for the cows... and when there's plenty of water for the pastures, there's usually plenty of water for the corn and soybean crops.)
The South Dakota corn crop is a very good corn crop... I just don't think it matched up with the expectations of the scouts on the 2009 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Admittedly... we've all got "expectations" or "ideas" of what we'll see when we visit fields on the Crop Tour. It's hard to fight coming up with something "we expect" to see. And USDA on Aug. 1 set the expectations for South Dakota by estimating the state's average corn yield up 6% from year-ago. What makes that so impressive is last year's corn crop was a really good corn crop!
When we wrapped South Dakota, the average corn yield estimate was 146.96 bu. per acre, DOWN 0.4% from last year's 147.62 bu. per acre. The biggest difference was in the number of ears per 60-foot plot. This year, the Tour average ear count was 82.74, down from last year's 84.04 ears. The average grain length was 6.72 inches, up from last year's 6.64, but the average number of kernel rows was down slightly from last year's 16.12, to 15.45. And the average row width in South Dakota narrowed again, to 30.64, down from last year's 31.02 inches.
The bean crop, however, was every bit as good as scout's expected it to be. USDA on Aug. 1 estimated the average yield at 37 bu. per acre, up 8.8% from year-ago. That's an impressive gain on last year's very good bean crop. But, looking at the pod counts in South Dakota, the increase in yield is possible. At 981.68 pods per 3'X3' square, the 2009 pod count beat last year's tally of 860.82 and even beat the 3-year average count of 950.84. Most importantly, there's plenty of water for the bean crop in South Dakota to finish.
But... there's one thing both the corn and soybean crops need -- and that's time. Bean pods are flat... just a little flatter than we normally see in South Dakota. Bean pods didn't start to fill out until we got into Nebraska today, so the flat pods were consistent across South Dakota. Veteran scouts on the western leg of the Tour, however, have seen this before -- and with a lot less water. With water available to this year's crop, give the beans a few more days on the end of the growing season and the state has the potential for a very good bean crop.
Corn also needs more time to reach the potential we measured on today's Tour. The corn crop is at least 10 days behind normal and the first killing frost of the year had better hold off until Oct. 1 for the crop to reach it's potential. If frost arrives at its normal time (Sept. 20-25), the South Dakota corn crop will suffer.
And that's the bottom line of the crops we saw today... we measured a lot of potential -- we'll see if Mother Nature gives the crop time to realize its full potential.