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August 25, 2015

Trip Report - Eastern Corn Belt

Western Ohio corn - The condition of the corn crop in western Ohio varies from quite good to very bad. It is rare to see a corn field where the plants are still completely green while many fields have a pale green color where the corn has fired all the way up to the ears or above. The poor color and firing are the result of a lack of nitrogen and the plant is translocating the nutrients out of the lower leaves in order to fill the kernels.

There are field where the ears have already dropped and the crop is going to maturity. This earlier-than-normal maturity is being caused by a lack of nitrogen, dry conditions, diseases or all three. Ears sizes vary tremendously from normal size to little "nubbins" with everything in between. I thought the crop actually looked a little worse than I expected with the firing, poor color, and rapid maturation.

The USDA estimated the corn crop in Ohio at 168.0 bu/ac and the Pro Farmer Crop Tour estimated it at 151 bu/ac. I would be more willing to accept the lower estimate than the higher estimate.

Western Ohio soybeans - I thought the soybeans in western Ohio actually looked better than the corn and a little better than I expected. Even though there was also a lot of variability in the soybeans, at least most of the crop had a good color and seemed to have recuperated for the most part from earlier problems. The plant height varies a lot from normal to very short (a foot tall in the worst places). There were a few spots where the crop was getting a little dry and some moisture stresses were appearing, but I did not see much disease pressure.

The USDA estimated the Ohio soybean crop at 48.0 bu/ac and Pro Farmer estimated it at 46.4 bu/ac. The difference between the two estimates is only 1.6 bu/ac, but I still like the lower estimate better.

Indiana corn - The corn crop in Indiana varies tremendously with the worst corn generally in eastern and central Indiana and the best corn in western Indiana. The condition of the corn is very similar to western Ohio with a lot of the crop with a pale green color, firing up to the ears, and a lot of variability in height and ear sizes. There are actually some dry areas and a lot of the corn is maturing very quickly. I thought the Indiana corn crop was a little worse than I expected.

The USDA estimated the Indiana corn crop at 158.0 bu/ac and Pro Farmer estimated it at 145 bu/ac. I think the lower number is closer to reality.

Indiana soybeans - Some of the soybeans in Indiana looked surprisingly good while other fields looked depressingly poor. I don't think I have ever seen such variability in fields that are side-by-side. It is all due to planting date. If the soybeans were planted early and got ahead of the wetness, they are generally doing fine. Many of the fields that got planted later than normal never recovered and the plants are still only 6-8 inches tall. Overall, I thought the soybeans were a little better than I expected, but not by much.

One of the pictures I put in this report shows two fields of soybeans in Indiana side-by-side. On one side the crop is 2-3 feet tall, well podded, and with a good yield potential of 40-50 bu/ac. The crop in the other field is 6-8 inches tall with bare spots and a yield potential of maybe 10-15 bu/ac (if they are lucky). The poor fields of soybeans in Indiana are really poor as you can see in the pictures.

The USDA estimated the Indiana soybean crop at 49.0 bu/ac while Pro Farmer estimated it at 47.6 bu/ac. The difference is only 1.4 bu/ac, but I like the lower number better.

Illinois corn - The corn in Illinois is certainly better than in either Indiana or Ohio, but there is still a lot of corn in Illinois that is very uneven in height, pale green in color, and fired up to the ears with a lot of variability in ear sizes (all of this is caused by a lack of nitrogen). I thought the disease pressures were greater in Illinois than in the other two states. Some dryness is also pushing corn in Illinois to a faster-than-normal maturity. I thought the corn in Illinois looked a little worse than I expected.

The USDA estimated the Illinois corn crop at 172.0 bu/ac and Pro Farmer estimated it at 169.0 bu/ac. The estimates are close enough and I think both are in the "ballpark."

Illinois soybeans - I thought the Illinois soybeans looked better than I expected. A lot of the crop has a good height, good color, is well podded and has a normal yield potential. Moisture stress is starting to appear in the dryer areas, but I did not see an overabundance of diseases.

The USDA estimated the Illinois soybean crop at 53.0 bu/ac and Pro Farmer estimated it at 50.5 bu/ac., Except for the areas that were saturated earlier in the summer, I thought the soybeans in Illinois recovered nicely and I think the 53.0 bu/ac is probably closer to reality.

Summary - In general, I thought the corn looked a little worse than expected and the soybeans looked better than expected. A lot of the corn is maturing prematurely due to dry conditions, a lack of nitrogen, and disease pressures. The soybeans are not "out of the woods" and the current dryer than normal forecast could keep the later developing soybeans from reaching their potential.