SPENCER - 2013's crop is immature going into the harvest season, farmers should hope for a late frost, and plan on drying corn this fall, which will not going be a bin-buster due to late-planting dates, a cool growing season and lack of rainfall. Corn yields look to average 137.3 bushels per acre.
These were the conclusions made Wednesday night to an estimated 540 farmers and other ag professionals who crowded into the Clay County Regional Events Center in Spencer to hear Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour scouts review their opinions of Midwest row crops.
Nick Hanson, agronomist for Pioneer International, told producers they're behind the 8-ball, needing heat and rain to make this year's crop reach maturity.
He said they are somewhere between 150 and 300 growing degree units behind, and that this year's crop started out with an empty soil profile following last year's drought.
Temperatures, he said, need to be in the mid- to upper 80s during the day, with night-time temperatures no lower than the mid-60s in order to move the crops along in a timely manner.
Even then, he said, if producers receive the temperatures needed for crops to reach maturity, it will place that maturity date in early October, and corn moisture at 32 percent.
Stalk quality will key, Hanson said, because there isn't a strong root system running underneath corn plants due to the record wet spring.
As it is, plants are not able to recap available moisture, which has been eluding crops for most of the growing season.
"You should prepare to harvest high-moisture corn this fall and hope for no killing frost in September," he said. "Get your corn dryers ready and prepare for long hours this fall."
Soybeans are also targeted for trouble this year, with Hanson saying that for every two days of planting delay, producers lost one day of growing season.
He estimates soybeans to reach maturity by early to mid-October.
"We had a lot of rainfall in April and May, and we dried out during June and July. That concerns me," Hanson said. "A good share of the state is under moisture stress - west central and central Iowa are under moderate drought conditions."
Hanson said nitrogen deficiency is evident across the state.
"Normally when it's Aug. 21 and I see some nitrogen stress I don't get too concerned," Hanson said. "But this year on Aug. 21 the corn is at the milk to dough stage; corn is firing two to four leaves up, and I've even seen some past the ear.
"I don't know if we have enough (nitrogen) to finish the crop up. A corn plant's goal is to produce a seed for next year, and it will do it at all cost," he said, illustrating the stressful conditions under which the corn has been growing.
Hanson said black layer for corn would be 30 to 45 days out.
Hanson said soybeans are in the beginning pod stages to R5, and could produce fairly well if they received some rain and heat. He encouraged producers to manage their aphid population because he still sees potential in soybeans with the right weather.
"As we get dry we have a lot more to lose than what it costs to treat for aphids," he said.
Various scouts on the tour reported seeing a smorgasbord of crop conditions. North of Fort Dodge on U.S. Highway 169, he said he saw a field that was burned up, and the next field was in preventive planting.
Corn all along the tour ranged from the blister stage to milk stage to dough stage; very few were beginning to dent.
Some corn along the tour hadn't pollinated yet, and in some areas they saw more white ears of corn than yellow. They saw unevenness in stalk height, ear length and in the filling out of the ears.
Another scout, who said he traveled from Council Bluffs to Spencer, found good stands of corn, but that there would be two or three barren stalks, and that some were small in cylindrical nature. He said it was a sign that the crop was planted late and is in stress.
Flory said tour officials collected 340 random crop samples in order to estimate yields for this fall. He said their estimated corn bushels per acre for Iowa came in at 137.3.
This compares to the U.S. Department of Agriculture"s August estimate of 137 bushels per acre.
He said this process of random sampling works if participants collect enough samples, travel over a broad range of areas and find some mature crops.
Some field results 161-bushel corn in the Webster County area, along with 77.5-bushel soybeans in a 3-foot-by-3-foot collection area.
Typically good soybean numbers in that size of test area would be around 1,200.
Traveling from Denison and up U.S. Highway 71, the best corn yield scots said they saw was 205 bpa, while the poorest sample on that leg was just south of Spencer.
"South of here (Spencer) the crop doesn't show stress yet, but if we get some heat (without any rain) it could go backwards in a hurry," Flory said. "There are already cracks that are 3inches wide in the ground," said one of the scouts. "There is a nitrogen deficiency especially around Spencer, and (if conditions persist) the crops could start to shut down. Once that happens, they go backwards in a hurry."
Most scouts reported below-average corn yield bushels, with a few at 200 bushels or more. Most soybean numbers are showing below-average yields so far.
Rains, they agreed, would help because they said the soybean crop could still produce a fair crop.
"This crop was planted so late - how can we have big expectations for it? You can't," said Flory. "Any corn field planted after May 20 should never be rated good, let alone excellent."
Flory added that USDA officials have 62 to 63 percent of the corn crop rated at excellent this year. Flory said it takes 14 inches of rain to make a corn crop, and most of that rain came in April and May, and drying out in June and July.
One of the scouts coming up U.S. Highway 71 said he saw soybean crops with no potential next to corn crops that have good potential. Along that route he said 40 percent of the beans were planted after June 9; 23 percent were planted after June 16 and 10 percent were planted after June 23.
"We saw beans with only three or four pods on the plants, and those beans won't have much potential," he said, adding that he saw soybean fields with 1,100 pods per survey area, until they arrived in Carroll, when it plummeted to between 150 and 200 pods, and some at 450 pods.
He called it "a mess."
This scout said the group came across many preventive planting acres and that the serious story is soybeans this year.
"The story has been soybeans for the last 30 to 40 days," he said. "We saw beans that were anywhere from 8 to 12 inches tall, this late in the season."
Soybean pod counts seen across the tour ranged from 250 in Palo Alto County to 1,700.
One soybean pod count of 521 was located next to a field of 200-bushel corn in Palo Alto County.
The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour was scheduled to publish its survey data on Friday at 1:30 p.m.