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.
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.