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Monday, June 25, 2012

Updated photo and thoughts

Updated the Wisconsin photo.  I must have picked the photo next to it on the Ipad (which was in MN).  No rain here in Central IL for at least 10 days according to the weather.  Looks like my comment about the craps table is coming back to haunt me.  Pollination is beginning in earnest this week here.  Not a great week to pollinate with highs in the mid 90's and humidity in the low 50's.  I still believe that the acreage number will be up on corn and soybeans on Friday.  The real question is will anyone care at that point?

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Wrap Up

After 1650 miles in 5 states over 3.5 days, we returned to Central Illinois with a vastly different opinion than we honestly expected.  I think we expected to see drought stressed crops that were starting to "burn up".  What we actually found were dry soils and good crops with good potential.

In case you are wondering, this is NOT similar to the summer of 1988.  For one thing the heat to date has not been oppressive .  1988 had 21 days of 100 degree heat.  By June of 1988, everyone knew the crops were bad, they just didn't know they were awful!  This tour of the West showed us that there are pockets that need rain and will need more rain to reach their full potential.  The potential in these fields is still very good.  We would rate the overall crops over the whole tour an 8 for condition.  Without SE Iowa and Wisconsin/N IL, these crops would be rated a 9.

In comparing these areas to last year,  1)  the stands (population) are better than 2011  2)  the fields are overall more even.  There are not water holes where crops have drowned out.  Right now every acre in these fields will have something come fall.  3)  Last year this area needed to dry out some and then rain needed to continue to feed a shallow root system.  This year the root system is 10X better but rain is needed to finish the crop out.  4)  If most areas were to get 4-5 inches spread out over the remainder of June and July, the yield will be big.  5)  There are not less corn acres than what was projected in March (our opinion). For one thing, there is virtually no prevented plant acres.  They usually project like 3 million acres for PP (last year that number was higher than that).  Plus last year they were thousand of acres lost due to flooding.

In conclusion, we don't think you can hold your crop waiting for significantly higher prices unless it just stops raining EVERYWHERE.  There are isolated pockets of drought conditions.  They are not likely to drop the nationwide average below 155.  With acreage being up slightly we think overall production is likely to rise by the end of the growing season (given some more normal rainfall patterns or a Gulf hurricane in early July).  We would scale up sales if you are comfortable with your crop prospects.  Betting on a drought and low yields for this crop is just like going to Vegas and putting everything on 4 at the craps table.  You have a slight chance to be correct.

Again I would be remiss if I didn't thank our sponsors.  A big thank you goes out to Anderson's for hosting our videos this week and for providing the equipment to record it.   And thank you to the Agvantage insurance agency and Precision Agronomics for gas and lodging money.  Also thank you to Jim Prough for all of the encouragement, help driving and conversation.  He was also the talent in the videos, I was the grunt.

Good luck to everyone for the remainder of the summer.  We will try to provide some yield results in the fall from a couple of these stops to see if we know anything about summer yield projections.

Stop 16 Livingston County, IL

Our last stop was just south of Wenona, IL. This area is closer to normal moisture. The fields were not muddy, but the area did have a good rain last week. The corn was V9-V10. The population is 31,300. The plants were not stressed at all. The corn would be rated between a 9 and 10.

Stop 15 Ogle County, IL

This stop was 6 miles south of Rockford, IL. This area is also very dry. The field was corn following corn at V9. The corn was rolled up at 1:10 and it was only 82 degrees. The population was 34,389. These past two stops are clearly not indicative of the rest of the trip. We would project normal to above normal yields for most of the area we have toured. Watch for the tour wrap at the end of today.

Stop 14 Sauk County, WI

Our stop was about 10 miles south of Baraboo, WI. This is dairy area so there are corn and soybean fields but there are many more alfalfa fields. This area is DRY. This field was the driest field that we have been in so far. The temperature was 75 degrees at 10:00 am and the corn was beginning to roll. The plants were V4-V5 which is about average for the local area. The plant pop was 30,300. I would rate this field a 6, but without rain soon, it will go to a 4. In talking with an area expert, he too commented on how dry it had been in that part of Wisconsin.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stop 13 Dodge County, MN

Our final MN stop was near Claremont. We started to see random fields that had not been planted or were replanted (about 1%) so we stopped in at a farmstead and inquired the reason. The corn planted in late April emerged well and stands are good. The later planting dates have been challenged by excess rainfall. The Claremont area received 3+ inches of rain last week and a short 2 inches yesterday. This area also grows a small percentage of canning vegetables that are normally planted later than corn or soybeans. So this anomaly was easily explained by a short conversation with a local grower.

The field we stopped at was a loamy productive soil. It was very wet (see picture), however there was only slight ponding in a corner or two. The rest of the field was just drinking the water up! The plants were at V5-V6 and 30,391. I would rate the condition at a 9.

Off to La Crosse for the evening. We will test the local cuisine and brew. 1,300 miles down....400 miles to go!

Stop 12 Faribault County,MN

Our first Minnesota stop was about 3 miles northeast of Blue Earth. The field was a loamy dark soil very similar to a central Illinois soil. The farm was very moist and soft but not muddy. The corn was V6-V7. Plants were very healthy, but the population was a little less than 30,000. I would rate the farm an 8 for this reason.

Stop 11 Clay County, IA

Our next stop was near Spencer, IA. The field we visited was a highly productive black sand farm. The corn was V8-V9. The plant pop was 32,680. We met with Matt Mayer the grower who was gracious enough to give us the local scoop. The area is sitting pretty right now with enough rain to last a couple weeks. It was moist but not muddy. The corn would be rated as a 10 for condition. Oh and yes lunch was good too.

Stop 10 Dakota County, NE

Our second stop in day 3 was 20 miles south of Sioux City, IA. The area has very sandy, marginally productive soils that are poorly drained. This field is straight north of our last stop about 55 miles. This farm did NOT receive any of last nights rain. The corn was V8-V9 at 30,700 population. I would rate the crop a 7 or 8 only due to soil types. This area looked significantly better than last year.

Stop 9 Dodge County, NE

Since our last stop yesterday we weathered a storm that washed out our visit to the College World Series. The Omaha area received about an inch of rain over a few hours and the power to be postponed the game until Thursday morning. We also passed a newly purchased ethanol plant owned by The Andersons. Picture is of Jim standing at the office in Dennison IA.

Our 500 mile day began early and our first stop was 10 miles north of Fremont, NE. The field was wet and muddy. The corn looked awesome. For pictures please see the video later today (I was more worried about cleaning the mud off of my boots instead of taking a still photo). It was V12 and 31,100 population. The tassel was just two leaves down so we would expect pollination to begin next week. The temperature was a balmy 61 degrees.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stop 8 Carroll County, IA

First rain sighting! It literally rained semi hard while we were at the farm. Stopped immediately after we got out of the field and I was soaked!

This is a very rolling area of Western Iowa. It is average soil productivity. The corn looked good but the stand was a little low at 24,426. I would say that was not representative of the area or the rest of the field. Corn was at V6-v7. The rating would be a 7 only due to plant pop. The field was not stressed at all. The soil was fairly dry and I sure the growers would take an all day soaker!

That will be the last crop stop for the day. We are about 90 minutes Northeast of Omaha and getting closer to the college World Series. Go Kent State, I mean go Florida State....who am I kidding...I don't care who wins just want to see a good game.

Stop 7. Boone County, IA

On our way between stops we stopped in Ames to visit with Marvin Hodgson with FC Coop. Marvin gave us some end user info for this north central Iowa. He thought that their trade area was about the same number of corn acres as last year maybe slightly more acres. His comment that their area is about 68% corn. He steered us towards a great BBQ restaurant for lunch! Ingested several calories (enough to skip supper).

Our stop was 20 miles West of Ames. The field was black sand corn on corn. The area was dry. Probably the driest field we have been in since central IL. The stand was 32,670 and at V6-V7. We would rate it 9.

We attached a picture of some sort of formation in the sky that we could not identify. We think we may have seen it in the past but couldn't remember what to call it. Send us a comment if you can identify it to win the tour prize.

Stop 6 Grundy County, IA

Our sixth tour stop was 20 miles west of Waterloo, IA. This field is a very highly productive area in the northern half of IA. Temperature was up to 88 and humidity was rising. The corn appeared to be planted in mid April and was at growth stage V9-V10. The population was 30,391 with some emergence issues. Even with these small issues the crop showed no visible stress. This area needs a rain (like every other area we have visited).

Stop 5 Linn County, IA

We began day two 35 miles North of Cedar Rapids IA. We met with the folks from Premier Grain Farm for about two hours to get a "local" flavor of this corn crop. The first field we looked at was planted April 12. The population was 36,400 and it was V11-V12 corn. The tassel was down just two to three leaves so this should pollinate next week. This area of Iowa is dry but not droughty in anyway. The early planted corn looks awesome. We drove a few miles north and looked at a couple of fields planted in the first half of May. These fields had lower populations and lower yield potential TODAY. They could still yield close to normal 175-185 with good weather from here on out. Overall we would rate this area an 8-9 in condition. Again special thanks to Charlie, Matt and Dan for taking time to visit with us.

Stop 4 Johnson County, IA

This stop was 10 miles south of Iowa City at 7:45 pm and still 85 degrees. The corn was V5-V6. The crop looked good from the road but upon further inspection we found that there had been emergence issues. This caused the population to drop down to 27,468. The field had adequate moisture but like every field we saw today, a rain would be welcome. We would rate this field as a 7 only due to the low population not due to crop stress.

That concludes today's stops. Now off to find some local food! It's been a long day but a short drive....only 330 miles today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stop 2. Knox County, IL

Our second stop was in central Knox County at 4:30. It was 90 degrees and slightly more humid. The corn field was corn following corn. The plants showed no visible stress. The field had received 2 inches of rain over the past two weeks. The population was 34,300 and the crop was at V9-V10. The tassel was down about 6 leaves so it should pollinate in about 2 1/2 weeks. The soils are 200 plus bushel potential and our opinion was that this crop still held that potential at this time. We would rate this field as a 9+ for condition.

Stop 3 Henry County, IA

This stop was just south of Mt Pleasant, Ia. This was the poorest looking crops last year and held true to form this year. The crop was uneven and between V2-V5. The population was 29,040. This area appeared to have significant rainfall soon after the corn was planted. Several fields in the area had some replanted corn. The soils on this farm rate at about 109 bushels per acre for corn. I would rate this corn a 6 for condition.

Stop 1 Piatt County IL

Our first stop was 20 miles west of Champaign. The field was corn following soybeans. Our stop was around 2:30 in the afternoon. It was 92 degrees and the corn leaves were rolling. The plant population was 30,748 and the growth stage was between V9 and V10. This field will tassel in the next two weeks. The soil in the area is 200 bushel yield potential ground. I would rate it as a 9 for yield potential today, but more rain is needed soon to reach that potential.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

T minus 5 Eastern Illinois

I started the morning in southern Vermilion county. The area has only received 3.1 inches of rain since March 1. The corn was planted in early April. The average population was 34000 and the stand was near perfect. The corn was 9-10 collars and chest high. The tassel was just five leaves down. The leaves were not rolled as it was in the low 70's. Soybeans in the area looked like the populations were erratic mostly due to moisture stress.

The next stop was around noon in central Iroquois county east of Watseka. This is sandier soils. The area received about 6-8 inches of rain on the first Sunday in May. The corn is showing it. Several areas or replanted corn and several areas of nitrogen stressed crops. The temperature is up to 81 degrees and there are leaves rolling in the stressed areas of the fields. Populations are anywhere from 36,000 down to 26,000. The corn is between V4 and V5. This area needs rain soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

7 days and counting!

We leave Champaign one week from today. Our route of nearly 1,600 miles includes 14 plus crop stops, a couple of grower visits, a couple of end users visits, a college world series game and a visit to a Guinness world record site (to be discussed at a later date).

We have a couple of sponsors this year. Special thanks goes out to Andersons Agvantage Agency and Precision Agronomics for helping out with the cost of the trip. $3.50 gas and hotel rooms eat through anyone's budget. Watch next week as we link to a daily video!

I will kickoff later this week the "pretour" with a post from a couple of stops in East Central Illinois. These areas are in mild drought to very moist (having received 8 inches of rain in early May). Mostly this will give me time to test the technology and be sure that our "live blogging" system is going to work.

Invite your friends and collegues to follow along as we document the Western Cornbelt next week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Western Cropbelt Crop Tour 2.0

We have pinned down our tour dates for 2012.  We will leave Champaign, IL on 6/19 around 1:00.  We plan to travel the same general path as last year's tour.  We will stop and record data from some of the same fields and post pictures showing what we expect to be a much more developed crop.  The tour will last until 6/22.  Nearly 2,000 miles across 5 states in 3.5 days!

New this year, IPAD's and tour stops with growers.  JP has lined up a few interesting stops where we can get  local grower perspectives on everything from the current crop to crop mix to local markets.  We are 30 days away and I am already getting pumped to see what is new and different this year!