The latest look at corn progress

  • 01

    Even though it may feel like summer just started, fall harvest is right around the corner in the Corn Belt. Combines are already running in the southeast. That puts the combines not far south of the Corn Belt, where farmers say they'll be rolling in the next 2 weeks.

    - See more early harvest progress & yield reports

  • 02

    Thus far, most farmers and crop advisers say the 2011 Corn Belt crop won't break any yield or bushel records. Some areas have major crop variability. One thing's sure: Mother Nature could have been a lot kinder at key points in the growing season.

  • 03

    "We had a 4-inch rain the first week of August, and unfortunately, it didn't help the corn as much as I thought it would," Boone, Iowa, farmer Kelley Kokemiller said Monday morning. "We'll have an average crop, not much above. The beans look pretty good. That big rain probably helped the beans more."

  • 04

    Kokemiller's got fairly even corn and soybean stands this year unlike last year, he says. But, that's about where the general stand trend ends as you move from west to east in the Corn Belt. In eastern Iowa, there's been a lot of variability in stands in the 10 counties Iowa State University Extension agronomist Jim Fawcett covers.

  • 05

    "The corn wasn't hurt so much at pollination, but the heat and dry weather have taken a toll. I've seen some corn that will likely yield 150 bushels [per acre] or less in fields that should be going 200," Fawcett said Monday morning. There's a lot of variability. Some fields look better from the road than they really are."

  • 06

    Spotty, inconsistent rainfall has been the culprit of yields as you move east into Illinois. Around Geneseo, just east of the Quad Cities and where Steve Clementz farms and works as a John Deere AMS specialist at Holland & Sons, Inc., that's made estimating yields a fairly difficult process.

  • 07

    "We had a lot of heat in July during pollinating and a lot of ears are only half full of kernels, so as you walk across field ears vary so much it’s hard to tell what it will do for sure," Clementz said Sunday. "I have some heavy, low ground that we feel will make around 90 bushels [per acre] while our better ground is hopefully going to do around 150 bushels."

  • 08

    Now, head southeast from Geneseo to Mount Pulaski, Illinois where Doug Martin farms. He's had extreme variability in his fields this year, as yields have tracked specifically where the rains have fallen in what's been a very dry year. That means he suspects there will be some triple-digit yield variability once he starts harvesting corn, which will likely begin in the next week or so.

  • 09

    "Last week, we had some corn testing in the upper 20s and lower 30s [moisture]," Martin says. "As we continue to examine some of our fields, we are finding decent corn where there was rain. I think we will have 100-bushel swings between fields this year and they could be within a mile or two of each other."

  • 10

    But, it hasn't just been bad weather that's hit this year's corn crop. A few diseases -- some of which that have been causing trouble throughout much of the growing season -- are perking up now and taking more yield potential. In central and eastern Iowa, it's Physoderma brown spot (shown here), Goss's Wilt and gray leaf spot, Kokemiller and Fawcett say.

  • 11

    "This Goss's Wilt has really come in. The farther you go in Boone County [Iowa], north of Highway 30, the worse it gets. I'm also starting to see some Sudden Death Syndrome starting to roll through."

  • 12

    But, even though there are diseases like these present in a lot of fields, now is not the time of year to spray without first running the numbers to see if it will pay. That's especially true with the gray leaf spot invading Fawcett's area of eastern Iowa.

  • 13

    "A lot of fields, at least the lower leaves, have a lot. In fields we've sprayed fungicides, it's working," he says of gray leaf spot. "It's hard to tell if some fields would have paid had they sprayed. There has been a lot of fungicide sprayed on corn. A lot of those probably are going to pay."

  • 14

    Matthew Walsh, Elwood, Illinois, calculates his yield estimate. His guess on this Dekalb number, a 107-day maturity, at a 31,000 plant/acre population, is 175 bushels/acre.

  • 15

    "Every year it seems like the genetics get better and better," says Matthew Walsh. Like a lot of farmers, the Walsh family faced an abnormal growing season--late planting, heavy late spring rains, then hot and dry. But, the last several weeks have brought favorable weather, including eight inches of rain since July 23.

  • 16

    Tom Mylet, Camden, Indiana, echoes a common theme among many farmers. “It looks better than it is.” The growing season at his farm in central Indian began extremely wet then turned hot and dry. “You can walk by a field and swear it was 200 bushels, but it isn’t.”

  • 17

    One of Mylet’s best fields, a well tiled fine silty soil, usually will yield in the neighborhood of the “low teens,” he said. But 200-plus bushels isn’t in the cards for the corn-on-corn crop there this year. He and a local seed company representative, Woody Nichols, checked the field with and made an estimate of 161 bushels. “It will be less than that when you take out the 2% of the field that was washed out in the spring,” he said.

  • 18

    Mylet is moving to a 50:50 corn/soy rotation. “Corn in corn is where we have most of our problems,” he said. Nitrification appear to have been an issue. But, weather had most of the say this year, he said. Here, guest host Ashlie Kolb helps check in on Mylet's soybean progress.

  • 19

    The soybeans look good around Cicero, Indiana, where George Kakasuleff farms. But, the corn's a different story. He guesses his corn yields on lower-quality ground will run between 60 and 100 bu/ac, while the better ground will yield 140-160 bu/ac.

  • 20

    Just like many places in the Corn Belt, Kakasuleff says his crop suffered from the heat and lack of rainfall around pollination. "Some ears aborted back 1/3 of the length of the ear," he says. "We're finding so much aborted, too. That's something I've never seen before."

  • 21

    The combines are rolling hard in the deep- and mid-South. Soybean farmers like Crawford Logan and George Cunningham near Tchula, Mississippi, are finding dryland bean yields between 18 and 30 bu/ac and irrigated yields just over 60 bu/ac, according to Jimmy Sanders, Inc., crop adviser Patrick Johnson.

  • 22

    In Mississippi, the farmers are well over 50% harvested on corn. In fact, this week, will be the last of the harvest season for some farmers in the Delta. Mirroring the last few years, the June weather has really hampered the corn yields.

  • 23

    "Because of our drier weather patterns, we have to get water to this corn crop, if we're going to get better yields," one agronomist says. This year, in dryland areas on the hills, corn yields are 100 bu/ac and below.

  • 24

    A few farmers have started harvesting corn in the central Illinois counties of Piatt and Macon, though progress has been slow thus far because moisture levels are running between 21% and 28%, says Pam Jarboe with Top Flight Grain Cooperative in Bement, Illinois (photo courtesy Pam Jarboe).

  • 25

    The University of Illinois Plant Clinic has been a busy place as farmers there get ready for harvest. This year's been a big one for corn and soybean diseases that thrive in dry, hot conditions, namely Goss's wilt, charcoal rot and phytopthra root rot, according to Stephanie Porter, diagnostician at the U of I Plant Clinic.

  • 26

    "Goss's wilt has been the biggest issue. We've had over 200 samples tested," Porter said. "Crop rotation, tillage and seed selection are issues that might be revisited next year if you have issues with Goss's wilt this year."

Photos & information from John Walter.

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