Yield Prospects by Land and Air

October 1, 2013 09:12 AM
Yield Prospects by Land and Air

Yield prospects from the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour receive a second look from a bird’s-eye view

By Ed Clark and Sara Schafer

Racing from field to field on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour is arduous and important work each August, but very much worth it for the farmer–scouts who sign up for the challenge.

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Marty Tegtmeier is a five-year veteran of Crop Tour and has no plans of taking a hiatus. "I’ve learned something every year I’ve attended Crop Tour," he says.

He travels each year from Sumner, Iowa, to Sioux Falls, S.D., the kick-off location for the western leg. Crop scouts on the eastern leg meet in Columbus, Ohio. The two groups receive training on how to sample corn and soybean fields, are divided into small groups, given an atlas with a highlighted route and then begin their whirlwind tour of seven key corn- and soybean-growing states.

Tegtmeier is just one of many farmers who make Crop Tour an annual summer event and treat it as an educational opportunity.

soy scouts

Veteran crop scouts Marty Tegtmeier, right, and Lawrence Landsteiner sample a Nebraska soybean field on the 2013 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour.

"One of the biggest benefits is face-to-face contact," says Tim Gregerson, who farms near Herman, Neb. Being a scout has allowed him to form friendships with farmers from different states, many of whom he brainstorms ideas. His observations of new ways to tackle crop management issues have prompted him to make numerous changes.

In addition to fellow farmers, Gregerson is able to rub elbows with global industry experts—from feed buyers in Thailand to hedge fund managers in London—who share a different perspective on agriculture.

During each day of Crop Tour, the crop scouts stop every 15 to 20 miles on their marked route, hopefully in an area with both corn and soybeans and ideally no fences or brushy boundaries. They record the crop district and county, measure row spacing, determine corn ear grain length and count pods, in addition to other data. All of the data is plugged into worksheets and used to generate yield estimates for corn and pod population for soybeans.

An up close and personal look at numerous fields gives farmers and other scouts a chance to access agronomist challenges and how that affects yield potential. John Orr, a Fayette, Iowa, farmer, tags along on the tour to see how the crops in other states compare to his own. 

Crop conditions this year are the worse Orr has ever seen—on his farm and on Crop Tour. The No. 1 agronomic problem scouts saw was not disease or pest problems, but immature August corn that was as much as a month behind.

Delayed crops weren’t just a Western Corn Belt problem. Paul Sheriff, a Keithsburg, Ill., farmer, saw field after field of delayed crop on the eastern leg. "Our crops are suffering some from it being dry," he says.

Chip Flory, Pro Farmer Editor, says the 2013 Crop Tour was unique for this very reason. "In 2012, we saw a crop that was fully mature; combines were running the third week of August," he says. "This year, we measured ‘potential’ [compared with actual yields], more than any previous year."

Richard Guse, who farms with his brother near Waseca, Minn., says Crop Tour is a never-ending learning experience.  "You think you’ve seen it all, but every year you run into something that you weren’t expecting," he says. 

Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour Fast Facts

crop tour
  • 1,343 corn samples and 1,312 soybean samples were collected from seven states
  • 100 crop scouts from 11 countries traveled more than 29,700 combined miles: 22 routes each day driving 1,350 miles per route
  • 2013 marked the 21st anniversary of the tour
  • 3,000 farmers and guests
  • attended seven evening banquets to hear daily results
  • More than 720 tweets were sent using #pftour13 (the event’s official hash tag)

You can e-mail Ed Clark at eclark@farmjournal.com.

For full coverage of the 2013 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, including yield results and video commentary, visit www.FarmJournal.com/crop_tour

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