August 21, 2008


Scouts see slump in Illinois corn in US crop tour


Late planting and recent dry weather has taken its toll on the corn crop in Illinois, and yields in the nation's second-ranked corn producer are expected to fall this year, according to estimates from the 2008 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour released Wednesday night (August 20, 2008).


The state's yield is projected at 166.94 bushels per acre, down from last year's tour estimate of 176.65 bushels per acre. Last year's yield was 175 per acre, according to the USDA. The USDA in August projected the state's corn yield at 172 bushels.


Illinois' soy crop is faring better, according to tour estimates, with an average pod count in a three-foot-by-three-foot square space of 1,299.70, up a hair from last year's count of 1,297.70.


The tour's eastern leg on Wednesday included 12 routes headed west from Bloomington, Ill. to Iowa City. The tour found good ear counts and kernel rows, but average grain length - the portion of the ear that will actually produce grain - fell to 6.34 inches, down from last year's average of 6.77 inches.


"There's just a little bit less grain on each one of the ears that we're pulling out of those fields," said Roger Bernard, Pro Farmer news editor and director of the eastern leg of the tour.


Scouts said dry weather during pollination is a likely cause of the diminished grain length. Tour participants have consistently pulled ears that have "blank tips." The ears look like normal developing corn except for the last couple inches at the tips, which have no kernels.


Crops have generally improved as the tour has moved west from Columbus, Ohio. But scouts noted deteriorating conditions on some routes as they neared Illinois' western border and headed into Iowa.


Pete Meyer, agriculture products specialist with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and long-time commodity trader, was among those noting wind damage that had knocked down crops in western Illinois or eastern Iowa.


Late plantings continued to be a concern for scouts Wednesday, and the crop remains behind, which leaves is vulnerable to an early frost, scouts said. Corn in Illinois and eastern Iowa was mostly seen in the dough or dent stage.


In the near-term, scouts continue to see crops throughout the tour that "need a drink" in order to avoid yield loss. Dry soils were prevalent, and scouts said fields continued to show signs of nitrogen loss, which stems from the heavy rains that hit the US corn belt during the spring.


Bernard noted that many of the soy plants have small pods that are still developing and are in need of rainfall soon.


August is the key growing month for soy, scouts said.


The tour will conclude Thursday night when both the east and west legs of the tour convene in Austin, Minn, where officials will announce results for Iowa. Pro Farmer will release its corn and soy estimates, which incorporate tour data, on Friday around 10 a.m., EDT.

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