Midwest Crop Tour: Day 1

Ohio State’s Stan Ernst asked me to jot some more details about my experiences on the first day of the Crop Tour. As we covered the Western half of Ohio and the Eastern half of Indiana, we’ve seen a few things to note. I’ll summarize a few of my observations here.



– Moisture has made all the difference. In Northwestern Ohio counties where the rain hasn’t been as plentiful or timely, we saw yields similar to last year, and certainly below expected state average this year. In Henry and Williams counties, the three corn samples I pulled were all under 155 bushels. By contrast, one sample in Union county was nearly 200 bushels.



– Corn is behind schedule. Compared to the past six years I’ve covered this tour, I’ve never seen ears as “young” as I have this year. In many cases, we were counting rows of blisters rather than rows of kernels. We’re still firmly in milk in most fields we visited, and not yet to “roasting ear” stage in several.



– Soybeans are behind schedule. Like the corn, when we’re counting bean pods, there are so many pods you’re not sure how to count because they may very well turn into nice bean pods, or they could drop off and not amount to any beans. Flowers and buds still on most plants we’ve seen.



– Plant health is excellent. We’ve seen next to zero disease issues, and aside from some light Japanese beetle feeding, we’ve seen almost no insect damage. Minor instances of frogeye or grey leaf spot have appeared, but nothing to worry about, and more or less no aphids on the beans.



– Plant population in corn is excellent. For years I’ve observed the differences between Ohio corn and corn crops in the “I” states, attempting to divine, aside from the obvious differences in soil quality and weather conditions, what makes those states so proficient in growing corn. This year, it hit me: plant stand/ear count makes all the difference in the world. In fields where we see 100+ ears of corn in 30′ of row, we have tremendous yields, almost regardless of ear length/girth. When we only see 80-90 ears in 30′, it doesn’t matter if we measure baseball bats for ears, we have trouble getting much over 150 bushels.



– Farmers aren’t worried. The scouts on this Tour are typically a good barometer for me as a reporter as to how the average farmer feels across the Cornbelt. The scouts I’ve talked with aren’t so concerned about their crop and how it fares, assuming we get normal rainfall from now until harvest (a big “if,” I know). Rather, their concerns are with marketing, their decision regarding the ACRE program, etc.



– Beans aren’t as short as we thought. All season I’ve been hearing how short the beans are. I’m looking at beans navel-high in Boone County, Indiana as I write this. They’ve come on fine.



– Farmers are keeping corn clean. We’ve seen remarkably low weed pressure this week thus far in our corn fields, and while we’ve seen a relatively noticeable amount of volunteer corn in beans, I’m not walked many fields that were overrun with weed problems.



– Central/Southern Ohio corn is as good as advertised. Relative to my point about moisture above, the corn in the parts of Ohio that have enjoyed the timely rains have put them to good use. My driver today said his route through the region yesterday didn’t yield a single field under 190 bushels.



– Beans are hard to track at this stage of the game. When comparing the ProFarmer data from this year to last versus USDA data from this year to last, soybeans changed considerably from Crop Tour dates to harvest. The “yield potential” we measure by counting pods in a 3’x3′ square didn’t materialize last year as weather didn’t cooperate to “finish” the crop.



Those are some observations from the roadside West-Central Indiana. I’ll keep you posted via Twitter and Facebook as to my county-by-county updates.