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What’s it look like from above?

Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 1:20 p.m.CST

The yield potential for crops in Bureau County looks fantastic at this point of the growing season. However, rainfall and first frost date will ultimately determine yield.

Last week, we offered our customers the opportunity to take a ride with JMX Helicopter Service of Princeton and “scout” their crops from the air. What we saw from the air confirms what we can see from the ground. The corn appears to be uniform and lush across the whole field. Most of the corn crop has completed pollination and is the R3 (milky) stage of development. This is a humbling moment for us seed dealers, since the corn has reached the stage in which the potential yield of the crop can be estimated and our crop is judged by the growers.

Yield estimates are an excellent source to determine the cornfield’s potential at this stage of the season. This is because the corn has reached the R3 (milky) stage, and ear has been developed enough to get a confident estimate of the yield. The “Yield Component Method” is the most popular method to use. To perform an “accurate” assessment, check several locations in the field. At each of these locations, measure off 17 feet 5 inches (for 30-inch row spacing) and pull three random harvestable ears. Then take the average count of kernels around the three ears and multiply that number by the average number of kernels long on the ears. Next, count the total harvested ears in the 17-foot, 5-inch row and multiply all three numbers together. Last, take that new number and divide by 90. The remaining number would be the estimate of the corn yield for the field. Please note this is just a rough estimate to determine corn yield, but gives a grower a “guestimate” of what that field might yield come harvest.

We are not quite desperate for rain yet, but a few good showers would certainly be helpful for the crop. For example, the Pioneer Field360 Tools app shows we are 7 to 8 inches below our 10-year average on rain. Fortunately, the corn crop requires the most precipitation at the tassel/pollination stage and requires less precipitation in the later reproductive stages.

The current cooler temperatures are helping the crop when it comes to needing less rainfall, but the cooler temperatures are not helping our need for Growing Degree Units (GDU). The average frost date for Bureau County would be around Oct. 10. A typical 113-day hybrid needs 2,760 GDUs to reach maturity, or Black Layer, and be safe from frost. At this time, we have achieved approximately 1,915 GDUs since a planting date of May 7. The Tools app suggests at this pace, we are about a week behind our average on achieving Black Layer. Estimated BlackLayer date would be around Sept. 30.

The soybean crop is developing right along as well. Most of the soybeans have canopied. Pods are developing, and the rains that we can catch in the area late this month and in September go a long way in determining how the soybean crop will do at the pod fill stage.

I have great hopes for this year’s crop after seeing the “big picture” from above. With adequate rainfall and an average frost, I am expecting growers to harvest great results when the combines roll this fall!

Matt Denton resides in Princeton and is an associate representative with White Oak Ag Inc.

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