Crop tour casts doubt on S. Dakota, Nebraska yield forecasts -Braun


Article content

ROCHESTER — Drought and heat have not been kind to corn and soybeans in the western U.S. Corn Belt this season, making a boots-on-the-ground inspection vital, especially when the industry has been drawing comparisons with the disastrous year of 2012.

After scouting the western leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour this week, I can confirm the situation is nowhere near 2012, but the crops in South Dakota and parts of Nebraska looked worse than I expected.

Article content

The state-by-state results from the tour, including the eastern portion, suggest to me that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predictions are fair for most states the tour samples. But the South Dakota and perhaps Nebraska numbers need extra attention.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Tour scouts visited about 1,700 corn and 1,700 soybean fields this week from South Dakota to Ohio, coming up with a rough corn yield for each field measured in bushels per acre. The tour counts the number of soybean pods in a three-by-three-foot square to evaluate yield potential.

Crop tour yields and pod counts are best compared against those from previous tours and not necessarily USDA’s estimates because of sampling biases in certain states based on route coverage.

The tour dates fell later this year, and about three weeks had passed between the USDA’s August survey and the tour versus about two weeks in most recent years. Crop deterioration or improvement during that period must be considered, and parts of the west had certainly worsened.

Advertisement 3

Article content


The tour yields for South Dakota suggest that corn in the other parts of the state must be significantly better than the sampled southeast area if USDA’s number is to be realized. Corn tour samples averaged 118.45 bpa in the state, down 22% from last year’s meager result.

That was easily a 10-year tour low for South Dakota corn, but this year’s average yield was 60% above the 2012 result, ruling out direct comparisons.

USDA has South Dakota corn at 147 bpa, slightly below recent averages but 9% above last year, so this is where tour results seem to clash with government predictions. Northern and western areas of South Dakota would need to pull a lot of weight, maybe more than is realistic given their lighter-yielding nature.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Tour yields averaged 158.53 bpa for Nebraska corn, down 13% from last year and the worst since 2013. USDA’s Nebraska yield of 181 bpa is down 7% on the year, though the tour pulled a nearly identical yield in 2016 and final state yields reached 178 that year.

This is where improvements in seed genetics in the last few years must be considered as a 178 bpa in 2016 may be comparable with 181 in 2022.

Tour corn results were not controversial elsewhere, in my opinion. Corn yields averaged 183.8 bpa in Iowa and 190.7 in Illinois, both the third best of the last six tours. For example, in Illinois, the tour found 180.7 bpa in 2017, though the final yield ended at 201 versus USDA’s August peg of 188.

That same year, the tour measured Iowa corn at 179.8 bpa. Final yield was 202 that year versus 188 from USDA in August, so I think maybe a couple bushels can be argued in the top two states, but drastic changes to the thinking are probably not needed.

Advertisement 5

Article content

USDA has Iowa corn yield tying last year’s record 205 bpa and Illinois at 203.

The tour samples are a snapshot, so the corn crop could finish differently than say, 2016 or 2017, with yields coming in lighter if weather is unfavorable. But the tour yields by themselves do not seem contentious.

Nebraska produced 12% of the 2021 U.S. corn crop, South Dakota grew 5% and Iowa and Illinois accounted for 17% and 15%, respectively.


The tour takes the pod count approach because there are a lot of variables when it comes to soybean yields. One of those is pod fill. How big will the beans be in the pods?

Poor pod fill is concerning in parts of Nebraska. Tour pod counts in the state were the worst since 2012 but 19% above it, and down 13% from last year.

Advertisement 6

Article content

USDA’s Nebraska soy yield of 55 bpa is also down 13% from last year and an eight-year low, but many pods especially in the northern part of the state were very flat from the lack of recent moisture. Rain and sunshine would help with fill, but many of the pods I counted in Nebraska seemed on the verge of giving up.

This is where Nebraska’s soybean potential comes into question as the forecast for the rest of the month is not generous with rain amounts, and South Dakota may be in a similar position.

Pod counts in South Dakota were the tour’s lowest since 2019 though about 5% above that year, and USDA’s yield of 43 bpa is close to the state’s 42.5 result in 2019. But South Dakota had plentiful rains between mid-August and early September 2019, not seemingly in the cards this year.

Nebraska produced 8% of last year’s U.S. soy crop and South Dakota 5%. Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

(Editing by Barbara Lewis)



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Source link

Comments are closed.