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July 16, 2013

Trip Report

Over this past weekend I traveled through northern Illinois, Iowa, southern Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, and eastern Nebraska with the following observations.

Executive Summary

  • The corn development is still later than normal, but the corn crop has made up some ground and is in much better condition than the soybeans.
  • A few corn fields will pollinate this week, more will pollinate next week, the peak of pollination in the western Corn Belt will be the last week of July with the last corn pollinating during the second week of August.
  • There is a lot of variability in corn development from knee-high to already tasseling.
  • Many soybeans are extremely delayed and in very poor condition.
  • Tallest soybeans are still below knee-high while the shortest soybeans are just a few inches tall. The average soybean height in the western Corn Belt is ankle-high.
  • There are hundreds of fields that were never planted to any crop in northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota.
  • Many fields of both corn and soybeans have drowned out spots with no crops.
  • The soil moisture is getting dry from central Iowa westward into Nebraska.

Iowa

  • There are two concerns for the crops in Iowa. The first concern are the saturated conditions in northeast Iowa. The wettest area I saw was around Mason City where there was actually a big downpour while I drove through the area on Saturday, which will unfortunately drown out some crops that had been replanted.
  • I saw hundreds of fields along the highway that were not planted to any crop due to the wet conditions. The Iowa crop acreage reported by NASS is not accurate. They are going to resurvey the soybean acreage for the August Crop Report, but not the corn acreage. If they increase the soybean acreage in the state due to switching from corn to soybeans (I don't know if that will happen or not), they must also reduce the corn acreage by an equal amount, but without doing a resurvey of the corn, the corn acreage may not be accurately reflected in the August Crop Report. I can tell you from personal observations (see photos) that there are hundreds of thousands of acres in northeastern Iowa and southeast Minnesota with no crops whatsoever.
  • The corn crop in Iowa has a lot of variability in its development. The average field is about shoulder high and a few of the most advanced fields will pollinate this week. The most delayed corn is still only knee-high (a few fields are even smaller than that) and the latest planted corn won't pollinate until mid-August.
  • Outside of the super-saturated areas, the corn looks healthy, is dark green in color and actually looks pretty good. If there is not an early frost, most of the corn in Iowa could produce an average crop. The statewide corn production though will be held down to below trend line by the poor corn in the saturated locations.
  • Iowa's bigger concern are the soybeans. There are so many soybeans in Iowa that look pathetic - they are a few inches tall, yellowish green, very slow growing or stunted, and obviously in dire condition. The wet conditions kept the plants from growing normally and now these very small soybeans are encountering dry topsoil. Some of the worst soybeans are west of Fort Dodge in central Iowa, which is usually one of the best areas of Iowa. Normally soybeans in this region would produce 50-60 bushels, but many fields will be lucky to produce 15-20 bushels.
  • The best soybeans I saw in Iowa were still below knee-high and the average soybean field is maybe ankle high.
  • The soils are drying out in central Iowa where the lawns are starting to turn brown. If this dryness persists, it could be a huge problem for the slowest developing soybeans because their roots are only a few inches deep. Continued dryness could result in premature death for some of these very poor soybeans.
  • The yield of the Iowa soybean crop is below trend line and I do not see that changing going forward.

Minnesota

  • The situation in southeastern Minnesota around Albert Lea is a disaster. Many fields are unplanted and the crops that have been planted are very delayed in development, uneven, and growing slowly in the saturated conditions. The corn seems to be doing better than the soybeans and there are a lot of soybeans that look pathetic.
  • The crops in the remainder of southern Minnesota and southwestern Minnesota are doing OK. The average height of the corn is waist-high to shoulder high and the a few fields might start to pollinate later this week. The peak of the pollination in Minnesota will be the last week of July.
  • Outside of the saturated areas, most of the corn looks healthy, is dark green in color, and could still have an average yield if dryness does not develop and there is a later than normal frost.
  • Even in the better areas, the soybeans in Minnesota are not as good as the corn. The average soybean height is about half way up to your knees, but there are still a lot of soybeans that are just a few inches tall and struggling.
  • For the time being, I will keep the corn and soybean crops in Minnesota below the trend line.

South Dakota

  • I only saw southeastern South Dakota and what I saw looked fine.
  • The average corn height is waist high to shoulder high and the first pollination will start to occur next week. I did not see any moisture stress in South Dakota and most of the corn looked healthy and had a dark green color.
  • The soybeans in southeastern South Dakota are slower than normal in their development. A lot of the soybeans are very small (still only a few inches tall) and delayed in development and there are a lot of holes in the field where the crop had been drowned out. These very small soybeans will be vulnerable to dry weather since they are so short and their roots are only a few inches deep.
  • I will keep the South Dakota corn crop in the at-trend category and I will reluctantly keep the soybeans in the at-trend category, although there is a possibility it could slip to below trend going forward if the weather does not cooperate.

Nebraska

  • The irrigated corn in Nebraska looks good; it is tall, dark green, and healthy. I only saw about half of the center pivots working in eastern Nebraska, but there are reports that all the pivots are working in central and western Nebraska.
  • Some of the dryland corn in eastern Nebraska is starting to suffer from moisture stress. The leaves are rolling on the hillsides and on the lighter soils. The yields of some of the dryland corn are already being impacted by the dry conditions. The condition of the dryland corn is going backwards.
  • The irrigated soybeans look very good and some of the best soybeans I saw on this trip were in eastern Nebraska where the soybeans were knee-high and looked to be in good condition.
  • The dryland soybeans still look good, but there were moisture stresses starting to appear on the hillsides and on the lighter soils. The color of some of the dryland soybeans was starting to turn to a pale green because the plants were starting to wilt and exposing the under sides of the leaves. Another week of dry weather and there will be a lot more stress appearing on the dryland soybeans.
  • I will keep the Nebraska corn crop in the at-trend line category and the soybeans will be at-trend or above trend depending on the weather going forward.

Northern Illinois

  • Once again the corn is doing better than the soybeans in northern Illinois. The corn is delayed in its development, but most of the corn looks healthy, has a dark green color and will reach 50% pollination during the last week of July. There is a lot of variability to the corn development and the latest planted corn will pollinate during the first ten days of August.
  • The soybeans in northern Illinois are not as good as the corn. A lot of the crop is very delayed in its development especially in the formerly wet areas. The soybeans are doing some catching up and the average height of the soybeans is maybe 10-12 inches tall.
  • There are some dry areas starting to develop and you can see some of the lawns beginning to turn brown. The dryer conditions probably will not be a problem for the corn unless it is prolonged, but it could be a problem for the shortest soybeans.
  • Illinois was left in the at-trend category for both corn and soybeans.