Crop Tour Methods Account for Tip-Back, Short Ears & Other Conditions

Chip Stubby
Crop Tour methods take not just the good ears, but the bad ones, too, for a more accurate representation. ( Bruce Lantzky )

Corn and soybean stands are never perfect—even in a near-perfect year. This year, especially, highlights the need for random sampling when scouts are creating yield estimates.

AgriTalk Host Chip Flory, holding a stubby, maybe-3” ear, explains.

“This is why you put the fifth, the eighth and the 11th ears of corn, there’s ears like this that look fine, they’re going to make grain,” Flory says. “And, if it’s going to make grain you gotta pull it and that’s what’s in this ear. That’s why we do the fifth, the eight and the 11th ears in these fields.”

It accounts for these stubby ears, pollination challenges and other ailments that might be randomly throughout the field, impacting yield. The other two ears he pulled, nearly perfect, with just a touch of tip-back. If he hadn’t pulled random samples that field might have told an entirely different story.

So, how do crop tour scouts select samples?

“We pull enough samples to provide us with accurate data for a large geographic area,” Flory says. “Crop Tour does not attempt to predict actual yields for individual fields or even a county, but we do want to have a good handle on likely yields for each of the seven states we survey.”

Selecting fields:

  • Teams enter rural side roads every 15 to 20 miles from their primary route. Fields must:
    • Provide safe parking
    • Be accessible, no fence or posted
    • Not have structures such as homes, machine sheds, grain bins or livestock buildings

For corn reporting, scouts must:

  1. Record crop district and county.
  2. Go 35 paces into the field to start sampling.
  3. Measure row spacing and record.
  4. Measure a 30' plot, then count all ears in two rows in the plot. Record total.
  5. Pull the fifth, eighth and 11th ear off one row of the plot.
  6. Take corn ears back to the car.
  7. Measure the length of grain on each ear, average and record.
  8. Count the kernel rows on each ear (will be an even number), average and record.

When reporting soybeans scouts need to:

  1. Record crop district and county.
  2. Walk as far into the field as possible without causing significant damage along the path.
  3. Measure a 3' plot.
  4. Count the total number of plants in the 3' row and record.
  5. Randomly select three plants.
  6. Measure row spacing and record.
  7. Count all pods on selected plants and determine the average from those three plants.
  8. Multiply the average pod count by the number of plants in the 3' section and record.
  9. Rate soil moisture and maturity against the two indices and record.

Find complete Crop Tour route reports, market analysis and historical comparisons at

Follow along with the week's coverage:

Crop Tour Scouts Expect Improved Maturity As They Head West

Crop Tour Day 2 Results: Nebraska Expected to Out-Yield Indiana

Crop Tour Scouts Prepare for Rain, Inconsistent Fields in East Leg

Crop Tour: South Dakota and Ohio Yields Plummet with Poor Planting

Inconsistent, Sparse Fields Plague South Dakota

Soybeans Have a Long Way to Go in South Dakota

Corn Needs Extra Two to Three Weeks to Beat Frost

Grete: Immature Crops to Present Challenge in Ohio

‘Sobering’ Sights Greet #PFTour19 Scouts

Is There Time For Ohio Crops To Overcome Unprecedented Immaturity?

Scouts Find What Farmers Already Knew: Variability Plagues Ohio