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July 1, 2015

Trip Report - Illinois, Iowa, Missouri

Over the weekend, we traveled west from Chicago to Marshalltown, Iowa, then south to Macon, Missouri and then east to Hannibal, Missouri and then east across western and central Illinois on our way back to Chicago with the following observations:

Corn
  • The corn crop is highly variable depending on date of planting, rainfall, drainage, and location. The earliest planted corn is the best and the latest planted corn is the worst. A lot of corn is short, yellowish in color, very uneven in height and in development. Where the corn is good, it looks really good, but where it is bad, it looks really bad. The most advanced corn was in western Illinois where some of the tassels were starting to appear. The least developed corn was still only knee-high or less in height.
  • The corn crop is losing nitrogen due to the saturated conditions and that is reflected in the yellowish color.
  • Of the corn I saw, I would estimate that 60% is good or better, 20% is mediocre, and 20% is poor or very poor. Missouri had the worst looking corn, Iowa had the best looking corn, and Illinois was a mixed bag. Across the region, some fields will do quite well while other fields will be a disaster.
  • There were a lot of ponded areas or drowned out spots, but none of those areas had been replanted and I do not expect that any of those areas will be replanted this year.
  • The corn harvested acreage in this area will end up being below what was intended, the question is how much below.
  • The corn in Illinois was worse than I expected, the corn in Iowa was about as I expected, and the corn in Missouri was much worse than I expected.
  • If the weather during July and August ended up being normal, the corn crop would end up being a disappointment, but not a disaster.
Soybeans
  • The soybean crop is in trouble, big trouble!
  • Of the soybeans we saw, I would estimate that 40% are good, 30% are mediocre, and 30% are poor to very poor. Where the crop is poor, it is really bad or in some cases nonexistent. In some of the saturated areas, half of the soybeans are missing and the other half is very short, stunted, poor color, and really struggling.
  • The development of the crop has been very slow. The tallest soybeans were maybe a foot tall with many fields six inches tall or less and other fields only 3-4 inches tall.
  • In Missouri, many of the full-season soybean fields were never planted and of course none of the double crop soybeans have been planted because none of the wheat has been harvested. There were also unplanted soybean fields in southern Iowa and a few in Illinois.
  • There are a lot of ponded and drowned out spots and I did not see any of those areas that had been replanted. Some of the ponded areas might be replanted, but only if it dries out very quickly. If those areas don't dry out within two weeks, they will not be replanted.
  • Generally, the soybeans were much worse than I expected. The worst soybeans were in Missouri, the best soybeans were in Iowa, and Illinois is a mixed bag with some areas just OK while other areas are horrible.
  • Combining the unplanted soybeans and the soybeans lost due to standing water, the total soybean acreage could be millions of acres short of what was intended.
  • If the weather during July and August would turn out to be normal, that could stabilize the crop, but it would still be disappointing. If the weather over the next two weeks is as wet as it has been for the last several weeks, the soybean crop is going to get a lot worse.
General observations
  • A lot of commentators are comparing this year to 1993, but as of now, this is not a repeat of 1993, not by any stretch of the imagination.
  • The rivers and streams are full, but we saw only limited flooding. In 1993, the floodplains of all the major rivers were completely full of water, but that is not the case this year. More heavy rains could change that of course, but right now there has only been limited flooding.
  • Everything this year looks really saturated, not necessarily flooded.
  • During 14 hours of driving, we did not see a single tractor in the field, but we did see areas where tractors had gotten stuck in the mud.
  • We were delayed for two hours west of Hannibal, Missouri while we waited for severe thunderstorms with numerous funnel clouds to move out of the way.