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Corn crop worries continue

Jeff Caldwell 08/15/2011 @ 9:15am Agricultural content creator and marketer.

The USDA crop estimates are in, the grain market have responded and now farmers and specialists are wondering where exactly this year's corn crop is going to end up.

In an Agriculture.com poll, 34% of those responding say they've lost the top 30 bushels of their crop to the heat and lack of rain earlier this summer. Twenty-two percent say they've lost between 21% and 30% and 20% say they've lost 11% to 20%.

Though conditions vary by state, yield losses are fairly consistent around the Corn Belt. Take Iowa, for example. For that state, USDA on Thursday guessed the corn crop will average 177 bushels/acre. That's a fairly big crop -- the third-largest on the books for Iowa -- but there are a lot of issues that will likely erode that total before the combines roll this fall, say Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomist Roger Elmore.

"Pollination issues...are just part of the problem. The other issue is kernel weight reduction that will likely occur because of the high night temperatures during pollination which resulted in rapid crop development," he says in a recent university report. "This sounds like a replay of 2010, at least for Iowa corn."

And, it's not just kernel weight that's a common problem in some big corn-growing areas. Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member farmandfire says he's finding very low kernel counts, and it's got him anxious.

"This year is looking like a complete bust. Some fields look pretty good still, but the kernel count is not there," says farmandfire, who farms in north-central Iowa. "Four weeks with little rain...I am getting very nervous. It is too late already for some fields."

And, it's not just there. George Kakasuleff pulled a few ears in his Hamilton County, Indiana, fields last week and found some alarming results in fields that looked just fine from the road.

"If you're just looking along the road, fields look great, but if you dig deeper, not so much," Kakasuleff says.

While other areas made it through the July heat wave with less damage, farmers there will be hard-pressed to make up the expected difference in yield in places like farmandfire and Kakasuleff's areas.

"I live in Central Nebraska, and don't expect me to make up much yield loss from elsewhere. Our irrigated looks to be somewhere between 5 year average, and trendline. If it weren't for the cooler weather right now, I'd just put us at 'average' but good weather from here on out might get us to trendline," says Marketing Talk member Nebrfarmr.

While farmers report there are few areas of the nation where the corn's going to bust the bin, there are a few spots where the crop's not totally belly-up. Marketing Talk member justinbarnes710 says though he faced some very difficult conditions early on in the year in his central Ohio fields, his crop's looking about average at this point.

"Central Ohio really doesn't look too bad after a terrible start at planting. I would project near average for this area," he says. "I guess good growing conditions aren't much of a headline."

Looking ahead, farmers should remember that it's still possible that the yield outlook could improve if the weather is better between now and harvest, says ISU Extension meteorologist and crop weather specialist Elwynn Taylor.

"It is possible that the weather could be better than average for crop yield and actually increase the yield forecast in subsequent months," Taylor says. "This is usually associated with temperatures that extend the filling period beyond normal."


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