Late planting, soil compaction and weather stress combined during the 2013 growing season to create extreme variability across Midwestern corn and soybean fields. This high level of inconsistency is difficult to see from the ground, so Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie and Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory took to the skies to fully assess the situation, as part of Farm Journal Media’s Eye in the Sky series.
"The most evident thing out there was stress on the crop," Flory says. "Time does not heal all wounds. The problems we had in the spring are still very evident out there in the field."
Flory, who flew over fields in central and northeast Iowa plus southern Minnesota, says he saw many areas in fields that died prematurely. "The stress wasn’t just on the sandy soils," he says. "A lot of the spots that died prematurely were next to ponded out areas, which suggests that it was heavier soils that were holding water earlier in the year."
Delayed emergence also caused problems. "The fields that emerged last were most vulnerable to the stress we saw on the crop earlier this summer," Flory adds.
Ferrie, who flew over central Illinois, says he saw some fields that were entirely stressed, while other fields just had portions that were stressed. "From the air, you definitely can tell the areas that caught what you call pop-up showers," he says. "You can visually see the areas that are under more drought stress than others. Some of it has a rhyme or reason to it; some of it doesn’t, depending on soils and soil type."
On the upside, Flory says he did see some healthy crops—the cover crops. "The cover crops on those prevent-plant acres are by far the greenest crops we saw," he says. "At least the cover crops are doing well because of the September rains we received."
To see the Eye in the Sky video reports, GeoSys maps and photos or to submit your own aerial video, visit: www.FarmJournal.com/eye_in_the_sky