Western Tour: Day three from Chip Flory

August 19, 2008 07:00 PM

From the Rows

This is the craziest "dad-gum" Tour I've ever been on. Seriously.

It's not any one thing that makes it crazy... it's a series of happenings that's got my head spinning trying to figure out the results. On day one, we lost bushels out of Ohio, but I think we found them in South Dakota. On day two, we lost bushels out of Nebraska, but I think we found them in Indiana. On day three, we lost bushels out of Illinois, but I think we found those bushels in western Iowa. Weird. Seriously... weird!

Okay... those bushels in western Iowa. We found some pretty good corn in western Iowa... but this was only western Iowa. We've got another two-thirds of the state to cover tomorrow when Roger and Mark Bernard lead their crew north (some west then north; some east then north) through the rest of Iowa as they head up to Austin, Minnesota, to meet up with the scouts from the western leg of the Tour. So... do NOT draw "final judgement" on Iowa from what we saw today. (Please... do NOT think what we saw in western Iowa will be the final numbers for the state. What the guys will see in the eastern two-thirds of the state will determine the final state yield for Iowa.)

In crop district 7 of Iowa, we finished up with an average yield of 165.7 bu. per acre. That's up from last year's 151.98 bu. per acre.

In crop district 4 of Iowa, we finished with an average yield of 174.6 bu. per acre. That's up from last year's 166.7 bu. per acre.

In crop district 1 of Iowa, we finished up with an average yield of 174.73 bu. per acre. That's up from last year's 161.9 bu. per acre.

I know... those are some big increases from last year... especially considering the fact that USDA put Iowa at 171 bu. per acre on Aug. 1, equal to the 2007 yield. But like I said... that's only the western one-third of the state. We'll learn a lot more about the "fate" of the Iowa corn crop when we get samples from the other 65 counties in the state we didn't tour today.

Soybean pod counts in a 3-by-3 square averaged 1160 in district 7, down from 1256 last year.

In district 4, we ended with an average pod count of 1088, down from last year's 1178.

In district 1, we ended with an average pod count of 1044, up from last year's 990.

If you've read my comments over the years we've run this tour, you probably know what I think about pod counts. They give us a good idea of how much of the bean production factory is up and running, but translating those pod counts to yield is a "tough deal." What really matters for the bean crop is a pretty simple factor: The amount of water does the crop have available to fill pods and finish strong. Last year, the crop had plenty of moisture available. This year... we need a rain -- now! When we've got mud on our boots during Crop Tour, we will very likely underestimate bean yield potential. When it's dry, we'll more than likely overestimate bean yield potential. Rain at this time of the year is THAT important. It really does determine how the crop will finish. A dry finish equals a lower-than-expected yield; a wet finish equals a better-than-expected yield. Honestly... it's about that simple. So... with that in mind, if this crop gets a drink within the next week, it will "lock-in" a good yield. If not, we'll all be disappointed in the yield of the 2008 Iowa bean crop.

Back to the corn: Over the last few years, I've talked a lot about plant health. Since Bt corn came to the market, I've said many times that I can't believe "how green" the western Iowa crop is. Before Bt, those worms opened up the crop to all kinds of diseases... and most of those diseases showed up before the end of the growing season. That's why during the third week of August, it wasn't all that unusual to see brown corn plants out there trying to feed any energy it had left into a yet-to-black-layer corn crop. Then things changed... the crop stayed healthy deep into the growing season and kernels continued to accumulate dry matter (that means weight... and weight means yield) right up to black layer.

Which brings me to this year's corn crop in western Iowa. It's not exactly "dark" green. It's more of a yellow-green mix that makes me think there are some problems with the crop that aren't showing up in the yield samples we pulled today. I don't mean to talk "down" the crop... it's a very good corn crop. I'm just worried this crop is going to run out of gas very quickly... and probably before it reaches its full yield potential. The problem is nitrogen. If the plant stays healthy and has nitrogen available to "finish strong," growers harvest corn with a test weight that's normally higher than 56 pounds. More pounds equals more bushels.

The 2008 corn crop in western Iowa doesn't seem to have the "look" of a crop that's going to finish strong. I know I might be wrong on that... but this year's crop is just missing "something." That something is color and the color is missing because it's running out of gas (nitrogen).

But as things stand today, we saw a better-than-year-ago corn crop in western Iowa... we've just got to add the rest of the state to the equation tomorrow to paint the full picture for the state.

(Oh... and a rain wouldn't hurt, either!)

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