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Progressing toward harvest: The good, bad and ugly

Agriculture.com Staff 09/08/2009 @ 1:29pm

The caveat is still there: "If we can avoid an early frost..." But, some corn farmers in the Midwest still see the potential for a monster crop this year. There remain areas where spring's planting troubles have now matured into worries that trend yields are beyond reach.

One thing's clear: The 2009 crops will rarely fall right on the trend line for yields, according to farmers and crop consultants like David Wallace, a certified crop adviser (CCA) with Southern States Cooperative in Alcolu, South Carolina. That area has seen widely varied conditions all growing season, and it's got crop expectations there ranging widely across the board as harvest gets kicked on.

"In our region, we are experiencing one of our best [corn] crops in the past two decades. Soybeans are at a critical pod fill stage and later maturing/planted double crop acreage after wheat is suffering from some dry field conditions," says Wallace, also a Crop Tech Tour CCA correspondent. "We never like to see a full blown hurricane ( this month is our 20th anniversary of "Hugo"), but we could sure use some tropical moisture right now on these bean acres."

Wallace is not alone. Farmer and Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member 4wd says he thinks a bin-buster awaits his combines this fall in his area of southwestern Iowa. "Corn is doughy to denting, and with a couple of weeks of warm weather, it will be pretty well made," he says. "Pulled some [soybean] plants and counted an average of 44 pods, and nearly all 3-bean pods with a few 4-bean. That is a very good sign for a big bean crop when they put beans out at the top like that."

But, it's not all coming up roses wherever there's a corn or bean plant, says Marketing Talk member 67guy. In his area of Illinois, the corn crop will fall well short of trendline yields, he says, and if frost hits earlier than normal, the corn will fall further behind.

"With a normal frost, my farm will be 20% lower than a year ago and the state of Illinois will be about 22% below a year ago," he says. "With frost a week early take another 5 to 10% off. If frost is 2 or 3 weeks later than normal, I would say my farm would be 15% less than last year and the state would be 18% less."

So, with some areas' crops already made and some still awaiting some much-needed maturation time, the focus remains clearly on frost. And, right now, that focus reveals a good sight for many farmers: A frost-free forecast.

"The best news in the weather forecast is the fact that it still looks to be frost-free in the Midwest (and in the Northern Plains and Canadian prairies for that matter) through the end of next week and quite possibly even longer than that," says Charlie Notis of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa. "A...system that will be developing at the end of this week and quite possibly lasting well into next week will be largely responsible for the lack of freezing temperatures, as it will prevent the needed delivery of abnormally cold air in the middle part of the nation."

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