Crop Tour: Illinois Corn Likely To Fall Short Of USDA Predictions

Crop Tour 2018 ( Betsy Jibben )

USDA projected an impressive (and record) Illinois average corn yield of 207 bu. per acre. Pro Farmer Crop Tour scouts wandered those fields Wednesday and evaluated a mature crop that has little room to grow. But is there enough yield support the USDA number? Crop Tour data pegs the Illinois average yield at 192.63.

“It’s hard to get to 207 when we’re this far off and measuring the mature crop,” says Brian Grete, Pro Farmer Editor and leader of the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour. “I’ve talked to some people that have a pretty good grasp over there [Illinois] for a pretty wide area and they don’t feel like it’s as good a crop as last year—and USDA has them at a record. So, I think that maybe there’s some room to the downside from USDA’s 207.”

Pro Farmer numbers support that potential downside, but also show improvement over their 2017 estimates by 6.6% to the upside. Greater ear populations are driving much of this growth at an average of 105.4 ears per 60 foot of row.

Grete admits the Pro Farmer Crop Tour missed low on the Illinois corn estimate last year, largely because the crop continued to grow in September to reach a record 202 bu. per acre average according to USDA’s final number for the 2017 season.

Soybeans echo corn in terms of being very mature and likely reflecting the full, final yield. Pods are exemplary and already starting to fill.

“It continues to be the cleanest bean crop probably across the eastern Corn Belt that I’ve seen,” Grete says. “It’s a bean crop to write home about. We haven’t seen the number of small pods that we have in previous years.”

Scouts only measure everything a quarter inch and bigger, and they’re not finding many small pods this year. Last year Illinois soybeans only hit 1230.77 pods per 3X3 square, falling short of the three-year average of 1246.44 pods per 3X3 square. This year’s 1328.91 pods per 3X3 square boasts about an 8% increase over 2017.

Illinois corn averaged 192.63 bu. per acre and soybeans reached 1328.91 pods per 3X3 square. Historically, with the exception of last year, Pro Farmer’s estimates for the state are nearly spot-on, just a 1.1 bu. miss in corn (which would put this year at nearly 194 bu. per acre). Last year the Tour pegged corn at 180.72 bu. per acre and the three-year average is 181.95 bu. per acre.

  • District 1: 37 corn and soybean samples
    • Corn: 195.42
    • Soybeans: 1206.66
  • District 2: 8 corn and soybean samples
    • Corn: 226.10
    • Soybeans: 1218.75
  • District 3: 27 corn, 29 soybean samples
    • Corn: 191.09
    • Soybeans: 1493.83
  • District 4: 60 corn, 59 soybean samples
    • Corn: 193.20
    • Soybeans: 1309.00
  • District 5: 53 corn, 52 soybean samples
    • Corn: 184.87
    • Soybeans: 1225.86
  • District 6: 13 corn and soybean samples
    • Corn: 196.20
    • Soybeans: 1599.27
  • District 7: 15 corn, 14 soybean samples
    • Corn: 192.69
    • Soybeans: 1589.00

While final Iowa results won’t be out until tomorrow, scouts got off to a running start. They visited three districts, pulled nearly 200 samples in both corn and soybean fields, with the southernmost district showing signs of a challenging season.

“[The southwest part of the state] looks pretty ragged,” says Jeff Wilson, leader of the western leg of the Tour. “It’s just north of all the problems that are in Missouri and Kansas. So, the ear count is down there.”

Ear count is down in all of the districts they visited today, even the two that showed increases over last year. In the southwest part of the state, despite clear challenges and ear shortages, overall grain length was up.

“Whether or not those kernels really make it at the will be very interesting at the end of the year,” Wilson continues. “But we’re down 3.1% from a year ago [in the southwest part of the state].”

As they moved north to the central western area scouts started to see signs of weather problems. Some occurred as early as planting others were from severe green snap. Ear count dropped a significant number from 99.4 to 95.9 ears per 60 foot of row compared to last year in the central part of the state.

Soybeans surprised Wilson by jumping 27% in the southern part of the state where corn yields seemed to suffer. “The stress that the crop felt had to be the right amount of stress at the right time to get that crop to add those pods,” says AgriTalk Host Chip Flory. “It is not going to add much, if anything, there’s no blooms right now.”

Iowa preliminary results show variability in both corn and soybeans. Check back in tomorrow for final Iowa results to see if the rest of the state mimics what scouts saw today.

  • District 1: 79 corn and soybean samples
    • Corn: 186.87
    • Soybeans: 1081.82
  • District 4: 73 corn, 72 soybean samples
    • Corn: 186.77
    • Soybeans: 1258.49
  • District 7: 38 corn and soybean samples
    • Corn: 179.82
    • Soybeans: 1445.07

Keep up with the tour. Check out recent results:

Crop Tour Shows Dominating Yields In Ohio, South Dakota

Crop Tour Day 2: Corn And Beans Show Big Gains In Indiana And Nebraska