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July 20, 2016

Trip Report - Western Corn Belt

Over the past weekend, we traveled through Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and northern Illinois inspecting the crops with the following observations.

In general, I thought the crops looked great, especially the corn crop, and better than I had expected. We did not travel everywhere of course, but where we did go, I was very impressed. The corn was tall, uniform, robust, it had a good color, the crop was generally either pollinating or close to it, there was very little if any stress apparent, and I thought the corn had a very good yield potential.

The soybeans were good as well, but not quite as good as the corn. The soybeans were generally normal height with some fields shorter than normal, the color was good, the crop was very uniform for the most part, very little stress was apparent, and the crop had a good yield potential

Iowa Corn

  • The corn across northern Iowa and central Iowa was generally very good. It was tall, very uniform, it had a good color, the plant population looked good, and there was very little stress or diseases apparent.
  • There were a few fields where there might be some moisture stress developing, but that was certainly the rare exception.
  • The most advanced corn had already pollinated with the most delayed corn approaching pollination. The weather on Saturday when we went through Iowa was very agreeable with typical summer temperatures and sunny skies. There were additional showers across Iowa on Sunday and Monday which continued to benefit the crop.

Iowa Soybeans

  • The soybean crop across Iowa also looked very good, but probably not quite as good as the corn.
  • The most advanced soybeans were approaching thigh-high with the most delayed soybeans maybe a foot tall. For the most part, the canopy was either closed or close to closing.
  • The color was dark green, the plants were robust, and I saw very little evidence of stress, either moisture stress or stress caused by disease.
  • The soybeans were not quite as uniform as the corn, but there were certainly no areas where I though the soybeans were in trouble.

Eastern Nebraska Corn

  • In eastern Nebraska the corn looked really good. It was tall, dark green, robust, uniform, either had already pollinated or was close to pollinating.
  • Much of the corn in Nebraska is irrigated, but I could not tell the difference between irrigated corn and dryland corn, which is unusual. The non-irrigated corners of the fields looked just as good as the irrigated corn.
  • In fact, we probably drove past a hundred or more center pivot irrigation systems and we only saw maybe a half a dozen that were irrigating - not bad for the middle of July. If the farmers are not irrigating during the middle of July, you know the weather has been good.

Eastern Nebraska Soybeans

  • I thought the soybeans looked really good in Nebraska.
  • You always expect irrigated soybeans to look good in the middle of the summer, but I could not tell the difference between irrigated and non-irrigated soybeans, that is how little stress was apparent.
  • The crop had a good height, good color, good plant populations, and a good yield potential.
  • There were a few areas where it was apparent that standing water earlier in the spring had drown out a few fields of soybeans, but that was the rare exception.

Southern Minnesota Corn

  • The corn in southern Minnesota is good, but not quite as good as the corn in the other states.
  • As expected, the crop was not quite as far along in its development. The average field in southern Minnesota was approaching pollination, with the most advanced fields already pollinating.
  • For the most part, the corn was dark green, robust, growing vigorously, and had a good yield potential.
  • There is some unevenness to the corn due to excessive precipitation earlier in the summer. There are some drowned out spots where the corn has died and there is some yellowing in the saturated areas. Outside of the low areas, the crop looked fine.
  • More rain late in the weekend probably filled the potholes again, but the additional moisture is beneficial for the higher areas.

Southern Minnesota Soybeans

  • The crop was generally good, but somewhat less uniform than in the other states. There were also a few drown out spots and saturated locations where the soybeans had struggled.
  • Outside of the saturated areas, the crop had a good color, good height, was growing vigorously, and had a good yield potential.

Northern Illinois Corn

  • The corn looks really good in northern Illinois. There are some problems in western and southern Illinois, but the corn in northern Illinois looks wonderful. It is tall, uniform, dark green in color, in the process of pollinating, very little stress apparent, and it has a good yield potential.

Northern Illinois Soybeans

  • The soybeans looked really good. They have good height, good color, uniform, robust growth, and a good yield potential.
  • There were a few areas where the soybeans had drowned out, but that was the rare exception.

Summary

I thought that the crops looked better than I expected. I was very impressed with the uniformity of the crops. You had to really look for a bad field of either corn or soybeans, because they were very few. Nearly everything we saw had the potential for trend line yields or above. During the entire trip I was thinking about the impending heat wave and the potential impact on the crops. I came away from the trip thinking that the crops are well positioned to withstand a period of adverse weather.