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September 11, 2013

Trip Report

On Friday and Saturday, September 7-8, I traveled through Iowa and Illinois covering eastern and central Iowa and central Illinois with the following observations.

Iowa Corn

  • Everywhere I traveled in Iowa was very dry and all the lawns were brown and the crops were under moisture stress.
  • The corn was worse than I expected and in some cases, much worse than I expected.
  • The corn is highly variable ranging from green to dead and from good to very poor. Seed corn companies are already harvesting some of their seed fields. I did not see any commercial corn being harvested, but they should start harvesting some of the fields by the end of this week.
  • Much of the corn has died prematurely due to a lack of moisture and hot temperatures. A lot of the corn looked like the high temperatures and lack of moisture just killed it while it was still green.
  • The worse fields are the result of a combination of factors including: late planting, shallow roots, lack of rainfall, leached nitrogen and blast-furnace heat. It looked like some of the corn had been killed over the course of just a few days.
  • The ears varied from normal size to little nubbins or no ear at all. There is a lot of tip-back where the last 10-15 kernels were aborted. The test weights will vary from normal to much below normal due to the premature death of the plant.
  • Corn yields will be highly variable from a top end of maybe 180 bushels to a low end of maybe 40-50 bushels. That type of variability might be found within a single field!
  • I was shocked how much the corn had deteriorated since my last visit three weeks ago.
  • Any further rainfall will of course not help the corn that is already dead, but it could help fill the kernels of the corn that is still green, but it needs to rain with 10-14 days, or it will be too late.
  • At the quickening pace that the corn is maturing, the frost risk for the corn is greatly reduced compared to what we were thinking several weeks ago. A lot of the corn is already dead or in the process of dying due to the hot and dry conditions.
  • Statewide corn yields will continue to go down every day it remains hot and dry.

Iowa Soybeans

  • I was actually pleasantly surprised by how good some of the soybeans looked, especially given how bad some of the corn looked in the neighboring field right across the road.
  • Soybeans can be deceiving and you never know what you got until the combine enters the field. Generally, it looked like there are fewer pods than normal and the pods are filling out right now. The majority of soybeans are very short of moisture and that is expected to result in seeds that are smaller than normal in size.
  • There is a lot of moisture stress evident especially on the hillsides and the lighter soil. The most stressed soybeans are wilting and dropping their leaves prematurely. There are some spider mite problems appearing in the dryer soybeans.
  • The soybean yields in Iowa are going to be highly variable ranging from maybe mid-50s to a low of the mid-teens. Most of Iowa's soybeans are shorter than normal, and in some cases, much shorter than normal. Any soybeans that were planted extra late will have a very low yield potential.
  • A lot of the soybeans could still benefit from a good rain if it came within the next 7-10 days. If it stays dry until mid-September, any rain after that point would have limited benefit.
  • Some of the later soybeans could still be impacted by an earlier-than-normal frost, but if the first frost doesn't occur until after October 1st, the impact would be very limited.
  • The yields of the Iowa soybeans are slipping every day it stays hot and dry.

Illinois Corn

  • It has gotten extremely dry everywhere south of I-80 in Illinois. The lawns are brown and the sycamore and cottonwood trees are dropping their leaves.
  • The corn in Illinois was also worse than I expected, especially since it looked good back in July when there was still ample soil moisture.
  • I would not say that there has been a "flash-drought" in Illinois, but rather that the early stages of the drought were hidden by the cooler than normal temperatures during July and early August. Once the temperatures heated up, the lack of moisture quickly became apparent.
  • As a result, the corn crop in central Illinois has gone downhill extremely fast under the hot and dry conditions. A lot of the corn had died very quickly due to the adverse conditions and the once promising yields are declining every day.
  • The corn yields in Illinois will be highly variable, but probably not as variable as in Iowa. On the high end in northern Illinois, there should be some 200 bushel corn especially in the northern part of the state. On the low end in the most stressed areas of central Illinois, the crop would be lucky to break 50 bushels.
  • A lot of the seed fields are already being harvested and I saw a half dozen commercial fields already harvested. They will start harvesting more of the commercial fields this week.
  • A good rain could still help to fill the kernels of the later developing corn, but the rain needs to occur within ten days or it won't help very much.

Illinois Soybeans

  • Some soybean fields look surprisingly good and some soybean fields looked surprisingly bad. Overall, I would say the soybeans in Illinois looked better than I expected given how dry it has been the last several weeks.
  • The best soybeans still have the potential for a good yield if they could get one more good rain within the next ten days. The worse soybeans are severely wilted or already turning yellow and dropping their leaves and any further rain would not make a difference. A few of the very early soybeans might actually be harvested within a week or so.
  • The seed size is being determined right now and if it stays hot and dry, the seed size will be smaller than normal. The once promising soybeans in Illinois will end up yielding less than originally expected.
  • The yields of both the soybean and corn crops in Illinois are slipping every day under these adverse conditions.