By DOUG SCHMITZ
MCHENRY, Ill. — Variability was the watchword in the 28th annual Allendale Nationwide Producer Survey, which suggested corn yields at 166.7 bushels per acre (bpa), compared to the USDA’s 169.5 estimate, and soybean yields of 47.1 bpa (USDA, 49.4), according to Rich Nelson, Allendale chief strategist.
“Surprisingly, the numbers for Illinois and Indiana were not that much of a problem,” he said of the survey, released Sept. 1. “It was Iowa, the top grain state in the nation. The upper third of the state posted a consistent 172-200 bpa. The middle third was a consistent 173- 188 bpa. Both of those groups were of course under last year. The lower third really stood out.”
Clarke McGrath, on-farm research and extension coordinator for Iowa State University’s Iowa Soybean Research Center in Harlan, said, “It’s hard to know what the other states are going through, but Iowa has some areas that have had an incredibly rough season. Of course, for those of us in the hardest-hit drought areas, we don’t pay much attention to ‘big picture’ yield surveys; the situation and the mood are not good.
“In my travels, which have been pretty frequent this summer, with troubleshooting (mostly dicamba damage), training and teaching, I’m seeing a lot of variability across the board,” he said. “Even the ‘good’ areas of Iowa have some rough spots that will bring yields down from the last few years.”
McGrath said southwestern Iowa is probably the epicenter of the drought, and other regions of the state have been almost as dry.
“I would suspect that southwest Iowa will suffer the most, as our soils down here just aren’t as forgiving as some other regions of the state,” he explained.
We started out cold and wet, so in many instances planting conditions weren’t optimal. Then when it started to dry out and the heat came, our crops just couldn’t handle the stress.”
Nelson said the raw averages for the lower third were 176 bpa for the southwest district, 94 for the south-central, and 149 bpa for the southeast (with these last two numbers under last year’s raw survey averages of 185 and 200, respectively). For Iowa as a whole, Nelson said even including that problem south-central region, “we estimated 181 (USDA, August, 188 bpa).”
“It was within 0.4 bushel of the USDA’s September report in five of the past 10 years,” he added. “Of the remaining years, the survey was within 2.2 bushels of the USDA’s number four times. It was only for 2012, the once every 22- year drought, that the survey was off. We have no problems at all with that 2012 error. No producer could accurately estimate yields in that time.”
The state-by-state survey, conducted August 16-30, is based on producer calculated yields in 32 states. “Beans ended the week on a positive note as they traded at the highest price of the week today. For the week, the November gained 5 cents while trading a 20.5-cent range,” Nelson said. “The surveys gave us the numbers needed to project yields in the top 12 states and covers 83 percent of soybean production.
We estimate this year’s national bean yield at 47.1 bushels per acre, with a total production estimate at 4.179 billion bushels.”
In August, the USDA estimated the national crop at 49.4 bpa, with production at 4.381 billion bushels, with other analysts having started submitting estimates to newswires for the coming Sept. 10 supply/demand report, he said.
“The low yield expectations of the trade in August were related to the crop problems of too much water in the eastern Corn Belt early on and the Dakotas’ drought and dryness in portions of the Western Corn Belt,” Chris Hurt, Purdue University professor of agricultural economics, told Farm World.
“These growing season problems lead to below-normal crop conditions around August 1, when the USDA did their survey,” he added. He said the weather problems and the below-normal crop ratings kept expectations low among the trade.
“Since August 1, the crop conditions ratings have improved and now the crop is rated at somewhat above average,” he said.
“My model based on these crop ratings suggests that corn yields have increased by about 3 bushels an acre since August 1 and soybeans by 1.3 bushels an acre for national yields.
“Because of the improvement since August 1, I can see a national corn yield near 170 bushels per acre, which is basically a confirmation of the 169.5 in August. However for soybeans, even with improved crop conditions since August 1, I am still seeing a lower national yield around 48.8.”
He said it’s important to recognize the USDA has a strong scientific base for its results, “and most of the rest of us have opinions based on a variety of reasons.
“Secondly, August 1 estimates are very difficult due to the immaturity of the crop and potential for a variety of weather conditions that still impact national yield in August and September,” Hurt added.
Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation director of research and commodities services, explained farmers are looking forward to more clarity on national yield prospects for both corn and soybeans when the USDA releases its September crop report.
“Many farmers in a wide set of geographical areas experienced significant weather issues and are expecting the USDA crop reports to lower yield estimates once actual ear size and weight data,” he said, “as well as soybean pod counts are taken in the Western Corn Belt and more northern-growing areas.
“Anecdotal experiences of many farmers report that in-field observations in many of these areas reveal more yield problems than were reflected in the August crop report data.”
McGrath said the overall crop, hay and pasture situation is “really bad in areas, and if we don’t get some significant moisture soaked in before next spring, 2018 could be rough as well.
“While we have rural water in many areas to help supplement dried-up creeks and ponds, our hay and pasture production was way off this year and is in serious jeopardy heading into 2018,” he surmised.