What about bean yields?
Jul 31, 2009
Chore time for me isn't what it used to be when I was growing up on our eastern Iowa farm, but taking care of two horses in the morning before I head in for work gives me a little time to think about the day ahead. Each morning, stop at this spot to get a feeling for the "tone of the day" - and some attitude about agriculture and the markets.
I was thinking…
... about traders' corn yield expectations.
We spent a lot of time talking about traders' expectations for a national average corn yield in this week's Pro Farmer newsletter. Trade expectations continue to grow with non-threatening weather dominating the forecast.
That, however, does not mean we're in the same group that's expecting a record national corn yield. We can't rule it out... but it's far from a done deal. We explain why in this week's newsletter.
And climbing right along with the corn yield estimate are expectations for the 2009 bean crop. This is where I'm really struggling. Corn and soybeans are two completely different "animals." What's good for one, isn't necessarily good for another. The best example I've got tucked in my mental files about just how different these two crops are dates back to the late 1990's. That's when Nebraska growers were just starting to grow soybeans under pivot irrigation systems. We were on the Midwest Crop Tour and sampled from one irrigated soybean field with plants that were shoulder high -- seriously. The crop looked great and it was hard to figure what those beans would average when we looked at them from the road. We pulled three sample plants from that field, waded out to the road and started counting pods. Those three plants had an average of 10 pods per plant! The grower had watered his bean crop like he was growing corn. In reality, what he was growing one heck of a bean-hay crop!
Now when we sample from an irrigated soybean field in Nebraska, the beans are typically knee-high and carrying something in the range of 50 to 70 pods per plant. The irrigation pattern on the beans now is to nurse them along without letting the stress level get too high, but still putting some stress on them. Then when they start to bloom, these growers give them a good dose of water and follow it up with maintenance watering after that to fill the pods.
The first field I talked about simply didn't have any stress... it had more than enough water. The result: "Rank" beans. The reproductive phase was barely triggered on that crop. Light, timely stress seems to trigger a more aggressive reproductive phase in soybeans, which leads to more pods, more beans and more bushels per acre.
That's why I'm concerned about this year's bean yield. Not only was the growing season shortened by late plantings, the stress-free existence this year's bean crop has led may fail to trigger the aggressive reproductive phase.
What do you think?