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Pro Farmer reports:

From The Rows -- Brian Grete -- Eastern Tour Day 2

Day 2 of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour took my route west and north out of Fishers through crop districts 5, 2 and 1 in Indiana. My group took seven samples from Tipton, Clinton, Carroll, White and Benton counties today. Areas along our route received a light overnight rain, which meant soils were a little tacky in some areas.

For corn, we had a yield range of 147.92 bu. per acre to 291.3 bushels. The average yield on our seven samples was 183.59. The most noticeable change from what we saw on Day 1 was the maturity of the crop. The Indiana corn crop on my route was much more advanced. Plant health was also strong. And consistent with the first day, ear counts were high, ranging from 88 to 121.

For soybeans, our pod counts in a 3'X3' square averaged 1,284.45, with a range from 876 to 1,982.4. Of the fields we sampled, only one had some blooms. In that field, late-season rains could build the yield "factory." But in the other fields, late-season rains would still help fill pods.

For Indiana, the Tour data showed an average yield of 185.03 bu. per acre, up 10.6% from year-ago. Soybean pod counts in a 3'x3' square came in at 1,220.70, up 3.0% from last year's Tour. There's definitely a lot of potential in Indiana. Key is going to be late-season rains. The more rain the Hoosier state gets from late August to mid-September, the more yield potential the crop will hold onto.

In eastern Illinois, my route sampled fields in Iroquois, Ford and McLean counties. Surprisingly, our average corn yield dropped from what calculated in Indiana, to 177.92 bu. per acre, with a range from 134.85 to 227.80. I say surprisingly, because I had heard about how universally strong the Illinois corn crop is this year. Aside from the really low sample we pulled, our corn yield calculations in eastern Illinois were very solid, but not jaw-dropping good. Interestingly, our lowest and our highest Illinois yield sample were both from McLean County.

Unlike corn, our pod counts increased from Indiana. Pods in a 3'X3' square averaged 1,366.11 in Illinois, with a range from 1,164. 67 to 1,949.2. Soybeans were taller than seen on Day 1 of Tour.

On Day 3, scouts will head out from Bloomington en route to Iowa City.

From the Rows -- Mark Bernard -- Eastern Tour Day 2

Day two of the 2014 Midwest Pro Farmer Crop Tour found us heading north with a crew of four that included driver David Moore of Moore Farms from Frisco TX, Jack Lee with CF Industries from Deerfield IL, Jean Phillipe Boucher representing Grain Wiz from Quebec Canada and yours truly as navigator. We dead headed about an hour north from Indianapolis to North Manchester where we started our sampling. We went from there to cross the northern side of IN going through booming metropolis's such as Monterey, Beardstown and Walnut on a about straight line to the Illinois border east of Kankakee. You know you're out in the sticks when you try to explain to the Farm Journal television crew out of South Bend where you are and they can't find the little town on their map. Counties we sampled in today in IN included Wabash, Kosciusko, Marshall, Fulton, Pulaski, Jasper and Newton.

Corn yields on today's route were more variable than yesterday's OH route. The soils in the area we traveled are lighter and many fields have many center pivots. We recorded a low of 129 bu./acre in Kosciusko Co. We pulled our high sample at 224 bu./acre in Pulaski Co. This field was irrigated so it goes to show what a difference a little water at the right time makes. On the soybean side, pod counts were on the low side with an average of 1058 on our route. A lot of flat pods yet and it will take some rain in order for these fields to maintain the pods they have.

Being a bug, weed and disease guy, I was more in my element today. There actually were some issues in some of the soybean fields. Not all were serious on our route but they were noticed. There was of course some N deficiency, along some lodging where western corn rootworm beetles have been prevalent. In the soybeans we found the first SDS we've seen on this Crop Tour. There was also some white mold showing up in some of the nicer looking bean fields making me wonder what an increase in moisture might do to them. Downy mildew was also noted in some fields. Add to that some active Japanese beetles and spider mites. One of the fields had levels of soybean aphids that were approaching threshold levels. It never hurts to take a look to see what kind of pressure you might have. While the prices will likely be down from last year, there still is no reason to let this pest take bushels off the top even with prices where they are.

The IN crop got some much needed rain in the form of a thunderstorm that came highballing across IL and through the area we'd just sampled. It probably wasn't enough to take all of the crop through to harvest but it should put it a lot closer to the finish line and help maintain the potential that was there on our route.

Speaking of the rain, it was a quick hitting storm when we saw it coming at us as we were close to the IL/IN border near I-65. We wasted no time seeing the lightning to quick sit down for lunch. This time I was ready with the rain suit and overshoes I'd packed. Since everything was wet, rain pants were my friend. We pulled 4 more samples until we had to head in. The IL corn samples we took from Ford and Kankakee Co.'s lived up to their billing with an average of nearly 225 bu./ac. The soybeans while not as impressive were solid with average pod counts in our IL route 3'x 3' sample coming in at 1328.

Tomorrow it's on to finish IL crop estimates. For now it's time for some shuteye...

From the Rows - Chip Flory - Western Tour Day 2

This is weird. When I get ready to write my about my observations of each year's Tour, I always go back and read my previous year's report, just as a reminder of conditions we saw last year. I'm really glad I did that tonight because it's going to cut down on my typing time.

Last year I wrote: "The irrigated corn crop is normally consistently good. I'm not saying every irrigated cornfield is as good as the next, but there is consistency to the irrigated crop that helps build the Nebraska corn yield. The real variable in Nebraska is the dryland crop. It can be really bad (like 2012) or really good... or really ordinary. But when there's consistency to the dryland crop (even if it's just an ordinary crop), it helps support the overall yield in the state. That's a long way of saying dryland corn is supporting the bottom end of the Nebraska corn crop. The 'problem' we saw on Tour is the irrigated crop didn't 'blow through the roof' to lift the top end of the yields."

The story is very similar this year, but -- believe it or not -- the dryland yield is actually helping to support the average yield in the state. While last year's dryland corn yield helped to hold up the average yield in Nebraska, this year's dryland crop is likely pushing the average yield up, compared to year-ago. The best of the dryland yields basically equaled the bottom end of the range of irrigated corn yields. Just like last year, the top-end of the irrigated yields didn't blow through the roof, but the dryland yields pushed closer to last year's all-sample yield for Nebraska.

Last year I also wrote this: "Holding back yields in irrigated corn this year is a couple of things. First, many of the problems go back to the start of the season when seen went in the ground."

The same is true again this year. There seemed to be way too many skips in the row in irrigated fields that left me wondering what the yield might have been if a higher percent of the seed would have made a stalk and that stalk would have made an ear. In many irrigated fields, that would have added 4 to 6 more ears. And with the Crop Tour calculated corn yield up from last year's Tour yield, the additional ears could have made this year's irrigated corn crop "exceptional" rather than the "ordinary" irrigated crop we sampled the past two days.

There was a major change in the samples we pulled from Nebraska this year. Normally, we pull about 60% dryland samples from Nebraska and 40% dryland. That's one of the reasons we've consistently measured the Nebraska corn yield "light" since we started the western leg of the tour in 1998. This year, the mix was 50% irrigated and 50% dryland. That was a shocker tonight... something that I did not anticipate. But, it does help explain a lot of the changes in the numbers compared to last year.

For example, even though scouts consistently said they saw skips in corn rows in irrigated fields, the average ear count in two 30-foot plots was 86.86, up about 3.5% from last year. But with an increase in the percentage of irrigated samples on this year's tour, we should expect the increase in the ear population.

We also measured longer ears than year-ago. The average length of grain this year was 7.07 inches, up from last year's 6.91 inches. That's a 2.3% increase in the average grain length... and again might be attributable to the higher-than-year-ago percentage of irrigated corn yields.

The average kernel rows around the ear this year was 16.16, up 1 full kernel row from year-ago. That's a 6.6 increase in the number of kernel rows around the ear. I'm not sure if that's directly attributable to the increase in the percent of irrigated corn samples... but it shouldn't hurt the kernel row count.

The end result is a calculated Nebraska average corn yield of 163.8 bu. per acre, up 5.4% from last year's tally.

In soybeans, the average number of pods in a 3' X 3' square was 1,103.26, down 3.1% from year-ago. I really didn't see much difference between this year's bean crop and the 2013 bean crop. But I do know this about the bean crop in Nebraska... we've got to get the water hemp problem under control. There are way too many bean fields with way too much water hemp and if we don't get it under control now, it's only going to be a drag on yields in the years ahead.

Don't forget, to get more comments on the agronomics of this year's corn and soybean crops in Nebraska, be sure to read "From the Rows" from western agronomist, Jason Franck. He gets into some of the disease and pest pressure seen in Nebraska this year.

And one last thought on Nebraska. I realize there is always some acres lost to hail in Nebraska, but the damage this year is some of the worst we've seen. It's a terrible loss for those that were hit with the storms and this year's damage could be enough to hold down the state average yield.

We're in western Iowa tomorrow, making our way to Spencer, Iowa. I'll be sprinting to Emmetsburg, Iowa, to broadcast Market Rally from Montag Manufacturing in Emmetsberg, Iowa. And I've got a very interesting guest on Wednesday's show... Bob Nelson with Wal-Mart is scouting with us on the western leg of the Tour along with another associate... and two Wal-Mart representatives are also traveling with Brian on the eastern leg of the Tour this year.

So far, I've been disappointed by the corn crop in South Dakota and surprised by the final results out of Nebraska. But, I traveled just one route in Nebraska and pulled about 20 samples from a state that we pulled 265 total corn samples from this year. But because of the strange mix of irrigated and dryland corn samples this year, I've got a lot of work to do to crunch the numbers in an attempt to put the increase from year-ago into perspective.

It's been a very entertaining and entertaining tour so far in 2014. I'm looking forward to 1) a couple hours of sleep and 2) another great day of scouting tomorrow in western Iowa!

From the Rows - Jason Franck - Western Tour Day 2

Day two of the Crop Tour is always fun, because we start really hitting those irrigated field that can wow us with their yields. Did they? I was anxious as we started to see how today was going to compare with the immaturity/variability type of a crop we dealt with yesterday. Could the area of the state with a greater portion of irrigation, make Nebraska go over the top in 2014?

We took off heading east out of Grand Island. Our first sampled field was irrigated. One thing I noticed instantly was how much water hemp was surrounding the outside edge. As normal, we got off the end rows and made our 35 paces in, only to find some disappointment! For irrigation, I expected the ear counts to be better. This field ended up only slightly better than average which means the rest of our trip needed to be better because this was irrigated. As we continued on, this poor ear count continued to be our theme of the day. So, what caused this to happen?

From my observations, it was more of what took place early on. We saw many gaps in the field telling us that emergence was a problem early on and from our route, we noticed heavy residue being a partial contributor to the poor emergence. Sadly, loss of population is not anything that can be remedied to help this crop get any better.

Lastly, one other observation that stuck out to me on day 2 as oppose to day 1, was the increase in disease pressure. I mentioned that day 1 was filled with a lot of plant health, but on day 2, I was not in a field of corn that didn't have some disease present. Now was this impacting every field? No. But we did have some showing a reduction in yield that will impact the bottom line.

The key take always when comparing day 1 to day 2, was how much more mature the crop was as we headed east towards our destination. On day 1, we were seeing many corn ears in the late milk/early dough stages. So, what concerns does that present? When analyzing these stages, we know that the days to maturity from late milk to early dough, can range from 25-35 days. Additionally, if we were to shut down the crop at these stages, we could expect yield losses to range from 15-36%. As we moved into day 2 the maturity level was much further along in both crops. So, if the corn crop shutdown at the full dough stage, the losses would range around 10-15%. As a result, we can conclude that an early shut down of this crop would not impact what we saw today, unlike how it could with what we saw yesterday in northeastern Nebraska.

In regards to the soybeans, on our route we had a very consistent day. Our pod numbers did not seem to fluctuate that much. Comparing to the 3 year average, we were right in line with the average. The biggest observation with the soybeans on day 2 was the amount of water hemp in every field. I saw from the road only two weed free fields on day 2. I remember from last year that this was a growing problem throughout Nebraska, but I underestimated how quickly it would advance year over year.

All in all, on our route, the southeast Nebraska corn and soybean crop seemed to be aligning with the 3 year average numbers for Nebraska.

Tomorrow is a new day and a new state. Many people are awaiting the comments coming from these two remaining states. Let's see what Iowa has in store for day three.

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