Adapt is the theme of this year’s Pro Farmer Crop Tour. They’re adapting to smaller number of scouts, gathering restrictions and new virtual meetings. Despite all the changes, one thing remains the same: farmers will gain access to high-quality yield estimates that can help leverage marketing decisions.
The tour has been held for more than 20 years. It surveys yield and crop conditions in seven states, including: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, eastern Iowa, southern Minnesota (east leg), South Dakota, Nebraska, western Iowa and southern Minnesota (west leg). The tour ends in Rochester Minnesota on Thursday night.
This year, there are fewer scouts than normal in an abundance of caution for COVID-19.
“We purposely dialed it back,” says Brian Grete, Pro Farmer editor and director of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour. USDA, international scouts and many in the media will not be joining the crowds this year—it will be almost exclusively farmers.
“We’re covering the same routes, but the numbers will be lighter this year,” Grete adds. The eastern leg of the tour runs 12 routes and the western leg runs 10. Because fewer people will be on the tour this year, it does mean there will be fewer crop samples.
When pulling samples, teams pull onto rural side roads every 15-20 miles from their primary route and stop at locations that meet three criteria: safe parking, accessible corn or soybean fields and not near structures such as homes, machine sheds or grain bins. While sampling methodology is unchanged, expect some changes to totals this year.
“We’ll definitely be down on samples,” he says. “The only way we could get close on samples is if we have enough tour scouts to make sure we double up those routes, so we’d be able to split them. So, that’s part of the challenge this year is to make sure we get a representative sample over the same sample area.”
Teams will travel in twos instead of groups of four per vehicle this year in an effort to maintain as much social distancing as possible. In addition, evening meetings will be virtual events that are no longer limited to just scouts and local farmers—everyone can attend.