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Monday, July 11, 2016

Updated Totals

Well it has been two weeks since the last update and nearly every farm in the tour received some rain.  (Table is below).  The areas that were wet continue to be wet and the drier areas are still dry.  Additionally the heat units continue to be ahead of normal despite the cooler last two weeks.

The 5 driest areas compared to the 10 year norm are all in Illinois.  Stark and La Salle Counties are 4 inches behind the normal precipitation.  However these farms all should be almost pollinated by now. So can they get some rain over the next few weeks for grain fill?  I would expect all those fields to have high yield potential, but with the shortage of rain, grain fill rainfall is going to be important to realizing that high potential.

The 5 wettest areas are in Iowa and Nebraska.  Cass IA was very dry when we visited and has received 4 plus inches of rain since our visit.  Henry IL has received the most rain since our visit with nearly 9.5 inches since June 20.

Heat will be the issue over the next couple of weeks as a ridge builds in the Midwest over the next couple of weeks.  The forecast is for high temps and low precip so look for the markets to react as we change the forecast from day to day in this very critical time for corn reproduction.  All sites are at least 3 days ahead of normal GDD's with the Nebraska sites being 8 days ahead of the norm.

We are sure to see the skies filled with aircraft spraying fungicides this week in Central Illinois.  Please get out and scout your fields as we are starting to find gray leaf spot in many of our fields at low levels.  Heat and humidity are perfect conditions to exacerbate this disease.

Check back in a couple of weeks for updated charts and information.  Thanks for following our thoughts.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Processed returns and updated rainfall

As I had a few more hours of sleep and a chance to reflect on this year's tour, I am sure of a few things.

1.  The USDA crop ratings are accurate.  Not that I doubted them going into the tour, but at one time I was a source for the report and know how little actual factual information goes into that report.  What we saw over 1,755 miles was that all the crops from a visual standpoint looked great.  Too much  water in a few fields in southern MN and Eastern NE showed up, but the areas were typical in that the lowest areas that almost always flood in a normal to wet year were gone.  Today all crops look good from the road.  If heat builds over the next month and we turn off the faucet, there will be issues in several of the fields we visited.

2.  Plant populations were very good and very consistent.  This year's tour showed that farmers did a better job of seeding and have pushed populations across the board.  I thought we might see some reductions in the final counts for economic reasons.  I don't think that happened in any big way.

3.  As a general rule, the crop is very close in maturity.  What this means is that pollination is going to occur over a shorter than normal window in the corn belt.  As I watched the weather video from our friends at Agrible this morning, I sort of cringed.  There is a potential dome of heat to arrive over the entire area we toured in the second to third week of July.  If you short the moisture over that area, it will cause problems even for the very early pollinating areas.  If you study the last two years, the difference is heat.  We did not experience warmer than normal years in 2014 and 2015.  It looks like 2016 will be warmer than normal.  In my opinion, heat is a definite limiting factor for our corn yields. Water cannot be underestimated, but even with plenty of water, heat can and will damage yields as we progress through the reproductive stages.

4.  We didn't discuss much about an acreage switch.  We only had two fields that we expected to be one crop and it was the other.  One we expected to be in soybeans and it was corn following corn and one that was long term corn on corn was actually in soybeans.  It is hard to estimate, but we didn't come away thinking there was any major crop acreage switch.  We all know if acres that were switched for one reason or another, but for us to say that we saw that on our tour would be wrong. We saw normal cropping for the areas we traveled.  I guess the USDA will tell us Thursday what happened.

5.  I have attached one of the charts we used as we traveled.  I plotted out every field we were to stop at and tracked the rainfall for the year, since 4-10 and how that compared to the 10 year avg and 30 year avg.  We felt like we pulled the rain clouds with us last week as it seemed to follow our travels. We are sorry that we didn't leave it in a couple of the driest areas, specifically in Greene Co IA and Sioux Co IA.  They both could have used an inch or two.

Special thanks to my travel partner Jim Prough.  He was the man in front of the camera, driver #2, and chief note taker.  His perspective on the crop and how it affects our marketing plans is incredibly valuable.

I will try to update the blog from now through September on a weekly basis.  Follow along please and thanks for keeping up with us.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Day 3 morning

Day 2 afternoon

As we passed noon we arrived in NW Iowa.  Our stop was on the Plymouth/Sioux Co line. This area had been wet early but it has turned dry.  34,000 ppa at V8.  The area also had a small coverage SEVERE hail.

We crossed into Nebraska at Sioux City.  Our next stop was in Dakota County.  The field was at V7 and only 29000 ppa.  The area was moist and had been wet most of the spring.  They were still planting beans in a few areas. The corn was really variable from V1 to V10 in Eastern Nebraska.

Our final stop of the day was in Dodge Co at Winslow.  There wasn't a girl on the corner in a flat bed Ford.  Sorry poor attempt at humor. The field was irrigated however the pivot has not run this season.  The corn in this field looked great at 33,000 and V9.  As we headed to Fremont just 5 miles away, they had received an enormous rain recently.  There were several fields with water damage.

We ended the day with dinner and a good conversation with Marvin Hodgson.  Marvin has worked in the grain industry for 35 years and is a very trusted resource.  Marvin confirmed what we saw but helped us out by letting us know that the closer you get to Lincoln, NE the drier it is and the pivots are running there.

Day 2 afternoon video

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 2 morning

Left La Crosse WI and traveled to Waseca County MN.  Our first field of 20" corn this year.  34,000 ppa at V7.  The area had some hail at V2-V3.  Soils were moist.

We traveled 100 miles southwest to Jackson Co MN (about 10 miles north of Worthington, MN).  In that time we ran across areas that were clearly wet!  A few fields still not planted, some planted early with water damage.  Not drought conditions at all.

When we arrived in Jackson Co we found our field at V5 and 31,000 ppa. This field had no standing water, but the area was wet. Mud on the shoes for the first time on the trip.  Studying the Agrible data, we found that the area is about 8" higher than normal rainfall. The field shows 14" since April 10.  Considering that information, this was a really good field.

Off to Northwest Iowa for a stop then end the day with two stops in NE Nebraska.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 1

We left Champaign County about 2:00 and headed to our only two stops for the day.  Before we left we noted that the 2 inches of rain that fell along I-74 late Monday left behind several twisted corn fields from the high winds that came with the rains. The rain was not widespread at all.  10 miles north or south of Champaign received very little to no rain.

Stop 1 was just south of Wenona, IL.  This is in northeastern Marshall County.  The corn was very good.  35,000 ppa at V9-V10.  Soils were dry in the top two inches but there was some moisture at the 3 inch level.  This field has very high yield potential at this time. 

Stop 2 was about 90 miles straight north on US 39 about 20 miles south of Rockford Il in Ogle county. This was a corn on corn field that was not as far along as the first field. I would estimate that it was planted in mid May.  34,000 ppa at V7-V8.  High yield potential at this time but this field was noticeably drier.  Might have been due to the corn on corn but it was drier.  No cracks in the soils, but looking like it could use a rain.

Overall in 400 miles from Champaign to La Crosse WI, we saw good looking crops.  It was 83 degrees and sunny but the plants did not show any visual signs of stress.

Monday, June 20, 2016

24 hours before we leave from Urbana and head north.  In preparation for the tour, I looked at 19 of the scheduled stops through the use of Agrible's Morning Farm Report.  Mainly I am trying to track the rainfall year to date and since early April, growing degrees days YTD and since early April and how it relates to the yearly averages.

Currently there are 7 fields still behind their normal average rainfall.  The stops in LaSalle and Stark County are both behind more than 4 inches from the 10 year average.  6 of the stops are more than 5 inches above the normal 10 year average.  Sioux County Iowa and Dodge County Nebraska are over 11 inches ahead of normal. 6 stops have more than 11 inches of rain since April 10.  So those folks who believe that we are dry or on the verge of drought everywhere, our random sample has shown that is clearly not the case.  It will be interesting to get into these fields over the next 5 days.

All of the stops have been warm.  On average we are trending about 6.5 days ahead of normal on growing degree days.  If we look back to the last couple of years we were 3-5 days behind a normal pace.  I personally think the biggest issue this summer is going to be the heat.  Up to this point in the season, the rains have simply been scattered and some as the numbers show have missed the rain and some would like to miss a rain.  Everyone has experienced the heat!

I attached a picture of the info to show you what I have been monitoring for a couple of weeks.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Get ready, Get set for the 2016 Western Cornbelt Crop Tour

Welcome to crop tour central for 2016.  We leave in 8 days on what we think is going to be a critical crop development/crop market period.

With the help of new technology (thank you Agrible) I have been monitoring the weather at our sites.  In the 19 sites we are to visit, 9 are below average annual rainfall, 2 are currently at average and 8 are above annual rainfall.  5 sites in the Northwest part of our tour are already more than 5 inches of rain ahead of normal (10 year average) and the majority of their rainfall has been received since April 10th. Conversely Stark and LaSalle Counties in Illinois are more than 4.5 inches short of normal at this point.  They represent the areas shortest on moisture.

Temperatures to date have been warm in comparison to any normal measurements.  As measured by growing degree days  (GDD), all sites are over their 10 year normal and 30 year normal.  Dodge Nebraska is the highest above normal at 179 degrees above their 10 year average.  Ogle County Illinois is closest to the 10 year norm at only 86 degrees above normal.  This time of year we average between 130 and 180 GDD's per week.  So the highest is only 1 week ahead of normal and the lowest is about 4 days ahead.  Certainly this is not a big deal in my opinion.

The markets have been off to the races here the last 30 days.  Seems that every farmer I talk with wants to compare this season to 2012.  Clearly this is not 2012 at this point.  I have attached two different drought monitoring tables below.  As you will notice by the week we toured in 2012, a majority of the area we tour was in a moderate to severe drought.  Looking back at our posts, we thought it was dry, but if we would receive normal rains, the crops looked spectacular.  If you look at the 2016 chart it is clearly not extremely dry in any of the area we will travel.

2012 Drought Monitor on 6/26/2012


2016 Drought Monitor as of 6/7/2016


What are we looking for in 2016?  Obviously we are going to monitor the stage of the crop, the condition and estimate OUR perception of yield potential.  One other major emphasis will be to estimate corn versus soybean acreage.  Again technology has helped us plot the exact fields that we will visit (thank you ACREVALUE.com).  If by chance we visit the field and it is growing soybeans instead of corn, we will investigate further but assume that there was a switch in crop from corn.

Here is our tour map.  Let us know what questions you have and we will try to answer them as we go.

Blog with you again next week!