Back
August 2, 2017

Trip Report - Iowa, Minn., N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Northern Illinois

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

For three days last week, we traveled through the western Corn Belt on the following route: Chicago, IL Iowa City, IA, Waterloo, IA, Albert Lea, MN, Worthington, MN, Brookings, SD, Fargo, ND, Aberdeen, SD, Sioux Fall, SD, Sioux City, IA, Fort Dodge, IA, Des Moines, IA, Chicago, IL. Below are my observations.

Iowa

  • Iowa is very dry especially northwestern Iowa, central Iowa, and southeastern Iowa. Northeast Iowa has the best soil moisture and it gets dryer the further west you go.
  • In the best areas of Iowa (northeastern Iowa) the corn is normal height, dark green, and has a normal yield potential.
  • In the driest areas, the corn is shorter than normal, pale green, showing moisture stress, and will eventually exhibit kernel abortion or tip-back due to dry conditions.
  • Most of the corn in Iowa is pollinating or just beyond pollination.
  • The corn is just now entering its period of maximum water demand just as parts of the state are getting dryer - not a good combination. Cooler temperatures will help, but the dry areas still need rainfall.
  • A lot of the soybeans in Iowa are very short and slow growing due to the dry conditions. The height of the soybeans varied from two feet tall in northeastern Iowa to foot tall or less in the dryer areas of the state. In extreme cases, the soybeans may be as short as just 6 inches tall.
  • A lot of soybeans are exhibiting signs of early moisture stress when the underside of the leaves are exposed due to wilting. We saw a few fields where the soybeans were very wilted and going backward in size.
  • The Iowa soybean crop might still be OK, but the weather in August needs to be ideal.

Minnesota

  • Southeastern Minnesota and south-central Minnesota are doing OK. The corn had a good color and was either pollinating or ready to pollinate soon. There is some later corn that will not pollinate for another 1-2 weeks. There was no moisture stress in this area of Minnesota.
  • Southwestern Minnesota was not as good. It looked like the corn has struggled a bit, but it rained on Wednesday and there was actually some standing water in southwestern Minnesota. The corn was a little shorter than normal, but I thought the corn might still be OK if the weather going forward improved.
  • The soybeans in Minnesota were generally shorter than normal, but they had a good color and they looked healthy.
  • The soybeans in Minnesota could still be OK, but the weather needs to be good for the entire month of August.

North Dakota

  • Eastern North Dakota has certainly been hurt by dry weather, but it looked like the crops were hanging on. The corn did not look too bad, it was a little shorter than normal, but the color was OK and it had either pollinated or was ready to pollinate within a week or so.
  • The soybeans were very short, but they had a good color and they looked healthy.
  • The further west you go in North Dakota the worse it gets. In the dryer areas of North Dakota, it is really bad. The corn is very short, stunted, exhibiting a lot of moisture stress and destined for very low yields.
  • The worst soybeans in North Dakota are really pathetic. The worst soybeans are less than 6 inches tall, stunted, and they have stopped growing. Without immediate and sustained rainfall, the worst soybeans run the risk of not even being harvested because the plants will not be big enough to get into the combine. The soybean root zone is dry and they will not grow any more until there is additional rainfall. There are bare patches where the soybeans were killed by standing water earlier in the spring.
  • On average, the corn is doing better than the soybeans because the corn roots are down into the subsoil where there is more moisture. The worst corn looked really bad and in parts of the field, the corn was already dying. We only went three counties west into North Dakota and they tell me that it gets even worst the further west you go.

South Dakota

  • The conditions in South Dakota differ by region. Southeastern South Dakota is the best part of the state. The corn looks OK, it won't be a record crop, but it will be OK. The soybeans were shorter than normal, but they looked healthy with a good color and they received some rain on Wednesday.
  • Central and northern South Dakota are the worst part of the state. The corn is short, stunted, exhibiting a lot of moisture stress and is destined for very low yields.
  • The soybeans were pathetic indeed. They are very short, 6 inches tall or less, they have stopped growing because the topsoil is so dry and they will not grow any more until it rains. There are also a lot of bare patches in the fields where standing water earlier in the spring killed the soybeans.
  • There is a definite risk that some of the soybeans will not be harvested because they are so short. Even if they have ideal weather during August, the soybean crop will be very disappointing because they will run out of time. The soybeans in northern South Dakota and North Dakota generally start to turn yellow by about the third week of August, which is only three weeks away.
  • We did not get any further west than Aberdeen, but they say the conditions get even worst about 40 miles west of Aberdeen. We did not go there because it was bad enough around Aberdeen.

Northern Illinois

  • Northern Illinois is probably one of the better areas of Illinois. There was actually a lot of standing water in northwestern Illinois. The Mississippi River at the Quad Cities was the highest I can remember since probably 1993. There is a lot of standing water in the Mississippi floodplain.
  • The corn looked good, but late in development. The most advanced corn was pollinating whereas the most delayed corn will not pollinate for another 1-2 weeks and it will need a late frost in order to reach maturity.
  • The soybeans looked fine, maybe a little shorter than normal, but the color was good and they looked healthy.
  • Yield prospects in northern Illinois looked OK.

Summary

  • Iowa was worse than I expected and the state could be headed for significant trouble. The cooler temperatures will keep the stress level lower, but the state is getting dryer just as the water needs of the crops are reaching their maximum. Iowa is the state to watch going forward. I do not think the state will have trend line yields unless they start receiving good and sustained rains very quickly.
  • Minnesota was probably a little better than expected with some areas of southwestern Minnesota receiving rain last Wednesday. Of the states we traveled, the conditions in Minnesota were the best. The state could maybe still have trend line yields.
  • North Dakota was worse than expected and my expectations were already very low. The state is in big trouble. Both the corn and the soybeans will be below trend with the soybeans being worse than the corn.
  • South Dakota is a split decision with southeastern areas probably a little better than I expected and central and northern areas worse than expected. Both crops in the state will be below trend and the soybeans will be worse than the corn.
  • In all the states, the soybeans are very short and being impacted more than the corn. In the driest areas, the soybeans are in big trouble because the short roots are stuck in the dry topsoil. At least the corn roots are getting some moisture from the subsoil.
  • The entire western Corn Belt is a disappointment and there are only 3-4 weeks left in the main growing season, so there is little time to "right the ship."