By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor
BLOOMINGTON, Illinois and NEBRASKA CITY, Nebraska (DTN) -- Crop scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour came into the week wondering if USDA's August estimates could be right. The second day of tour made that question even more pertinent as variable yields ruled the day in Nebraska. Conditions looked much better in Indiana than the previous year, but were still below USDA estimates.
Yield projections for Nebraska came in at a surprising 158.60 bushels per acre, down 4% from last year; USDA's August projection was 187 bpa. The tour measures the eastern half of the state and drew 258 samples total. The soybean crop was thought to have more potential. The tour found an average of 1,223.07 pods in a three-foot-by-three-foot square, which is almost exactly the estimate from 2015 and only a smidgen higher than the tour's three-year average.
While the western scouts might have been disappointed, scouts on eastern leg of the tour found a much bigger crop in Indiana than last year and much better yield forecasts than scouts sampled in Ohio.
Totals released Tuesday evening showed the 163 fields sampled by scouts in Indiana calculated an average yield of 173.42 bpa, up 21.3% from last year. Ear counts were 3.2% greater than the 2015 tour, grain length on the ears was up 12.8% and kernel rows on those ears were up 6.2% as well. However, Pro Farmer analysts pointed out that Indiana had a very poor year overall in 2015.
Indiana's estimated 173.42 bpa from the random samples this week also tops the three-year tour average of 165.11 bpa. Still, the tour's sample yield from Indiana remains below USDA's estimated 187-bpa yield for the state.
Crop sampling in Indiana began on Monday and carried into Tuesday for the 12 scout teams on the eastern leg. For soybeans, pod counts averaged 1,178.41 per field in Indiana, which is 7.2% higher than last year.
INDIANA GETS A DRINK
While pod counts were high, fields also were wet. Brian Grete, a Pro Farmer analyst and tour organizer, noted soil moisture was higher than on last year's tour. "We had a lot of muddy fields we sampled over the last two days in Indiana," he said.
Scouts on the tour headed into Illinois for the second half of their day. They described overall better conditions for crops in both Indiana and Illinois than they saw in Ohio on Monday. Yet the ground-truthing from the scouts also found corn borer damage and diplodia (corn ear rot) in spots, as well as sudden death syndrome and stem rot affecting soybean fields.
However, despite those problems, scouts noted overall they saw solid corn and soybean crops across Indiana. "We saw some pretty decent crops on our route," said Dick Overby, a veteran scout from Kenyon, Minnesota. "We saw 184 bushel average and a 1,400 pod bean count, which was respectable."
Daniel Periera, a market analyst from Geosys International in Sao Paulo, Brazil, said sampled yields from his route were above the three-year average in Indiana. Samples were also pulled from Illinois. Illinois data will be released Wednesday evening.
There was some 200 bushel-plus yield potential recorded. A field sampled in Cass County, Indiana, calculated out at nearly 223 bpa. Another scout team pulled a corn sample from Vermillion County, Illinois, that calculated out at 235 bpa.
Roger Cerven, a Stanton, Iowa, farmer and one of the volunteers participating in the tour, put his Tuesday discoveries into perspective. "What did we see? All of the above," said Cerven. "Those fields look great from the road, but farmers might be surprised if they get out into that field to take a look."
Chip Flory, western tour director and Pro Farmer editorial director, said the tour typically measures Nebraska 15 bpa light since the state is 60% irrigated. The tour sample was 44% irrigated acres. Add that to the estimated yield and it still only brings Nebraska's total to 173.6 bpa. "I feel as though USDA went too far with that 187-bpa estimate," Flory said.
"I was severely disappointed with irrigated corn [in Nebraska] this year," Flory added. Dryland yield averages were above irrigated in some areas. Flory said he sees a lot of potential in the soybean crop. However, he said the beans still widen out between nodes more than is preferred. "I love to see irrigated Nebraska beans just over knee high with nodes just under two inches apart and loaded with pods.
"If you give soybeans water at the right time soybeans can still make [more yield]," Flory said. "A lot of the South Dakota soybean crop needs another drink if it's going to finish," he added.
Most of the Nebraska farmers coming to listen to the daily tour announcements said they think their soybean crops are potentially better than a year ago.
Jarod Creed, a scout and Gavilon grain analyst, said Nebraska stood out this year compared to last year in two main areas. "Green snap and no mud," Creed said. "The only water we saw standing was in the irrigation wheel track." Some fields had severe amounts of green snap.
Scouts noted that waterhemp was thick in many fields and western bean cutworms were feeding and causing damage on ear tips and sometimes deep in the ear. Scouts also noticed ear set height was erratic in many fields, signaling there had been early emergence problems.
On Wednesday the eastern leg of the tour continues through Illinois and into eastern Iowa, ending in the Iowa City area. The western leg moves into western Iowa and finishes in Spencer.
The results from Illinois will be released on Wednesday evening and are highly anticipated because USDA estimated Illinois could have a 200-bpa corn crop growing in the field.
Check here later for photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from day 2 of the tour.
To see photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from day 1 of the crop tour, go to:
Day 1 (West): http://bit.ly/…
Day 1 (East): http://bit.ly/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.email@example.com
Follow Pam on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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