The Thomson Reuters Crop Watch project - which features weekly, real-life check-ins with two farmers in Illinois and one in Minnesota - is up and running. The farmers report that their corn and soybean fields are in satisfactory to good condition as of June 4, but are keenly focused on potential hazards that the weather could present this summer.
Each farmer has selected one of his corn and one of his soybean fields to monitor for the project. Last week, the warm and sunny weather benefited growth in all six fields, especially after the cold and wet spring held back early development. Even though heavy spring rains saturated fields, the Illinois Crop Watch farmers are still antsy for a good shower or two in the coming week.
To help familiarize ourselves with the new project, this week we will learn a bit about each farmer's corn and soybean field. We will take further peeks each week to assess conditions and yield potential, and to see how various weather patterns may have affected the crop. The growers will also offer valuable insights along the way.
The producers - known as Farmers A, B and C - will be asked to assign a condition score every week to each field, similar to the system used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The ratings are: excellent – 5, good – 4, fair – 3, poor – 2, very poor – 1.
They will also be asked to give their best estimation of yield potential. The yield ratings are: yields well above average – 5, slightly above – 4, average – 3, slightly below – 2, well below average – 1.
Farmer A: East Central Illinois
Corn planting got under way for Farmer A on a timely schedule, as he planted a 108-acre field on April 19 that was sown with soybeans in 2016. The corn is in development stage V7 and stands 12 inches (205 mm) tall.
In February, Farmer A applied ammonia – a source of nitrogen that is essentially "food" for the corn – and ran a vertical tillage tool through the field prior to planting to prepare it for the seed. This field has a complete tile system for water drainage and A sprayed for weed control just this past week.
The biggest concern A has with this Champaign County corn field is that he could use a bit of rain to activate some residual herbicide activity. Otherwise, weather conditions were excellent for the crop over the last week with full sunshine and no wind.
The same weather was also highly favorable for his 81-acre soybean field, in which the plants are now 3 inches (76 mm) tall. The May 22 planting date was delayed by three weeks, and Farmer A’s main uncertainty with this field is that the beans are still small and have a lot of growing to do.
A prepared this soybean field by running a field cultivator to ready it for the planter. He planted corn on this land in 2016.
As of June 4, Farmer A assigned a condition rating and yield potential of 4 to his corn field, and he scored his soybean field at a 3 in both categories.
Farmer B: South Central Minnesota
Farmer B planted a 116-acre field with corn on May 7, which is toward the end of the optimal time frame. The field is equipped with an efficient tile drainage system and was also planted to corn in 2016.
He tilled – or ripped – this field in the fall and ran a field cultivator through once this spring before planting. Fertilizing anhydrous ammonia was applied on April 11 and 12, and the corn was sprayed for weed control two days after planting.
As of June 4, B does not have any concerns about this Freeborn County corn field, as he is satisfied with the plant population and color. The corn is 4.5 inches (114 mm) tall – not as advanced as in the previous two years – but the progression is typical for the date.
On May 11 and 12, Farmer B planted his 113-acre soybean field, which had been corn in 2016. Planting was on time and he prepared this soybean field the same way he prepared the corn field. Weed control was applied on May 14.
His tallest beans in this field measure 2 inches (51 mm), and he is satisfied with the progress of this field even though it is also not as far along as his soybeans were in 2015 or 2016.
Over the past week, B has been happy with the weather conditions. It was seasonably warm and mostly dry – much needed after many weeks of cold and wet spring weather – and the crops welcomed a nice shower on Saturday to keep development progressing.
The only weather concern B has for now is that June can be a scary month for producers in Southern Minnesota. This time of year is often prone to severe storms, including heavy rain, wind and hail that can cause major crop damage.
As of June 4, Farmer B rates his corn and soybean field conditions with a 5 and yield potential on both as a 4.
Farmer C: Southeaster Illinois
Farmer C planted 91 acres of corn in Crawford County on April 13, which is nearly 10 days earlier than normal. Soybeans grew in this field in 2016.
He ripped the soil in the fall and then sprayed weed killer to keep it clean through the winter. C put his anhydrous ammonia down a month before planting, but he went back in post-emergence to reapply some of the nitrogen that may have been washed away in the spring rains.
The corn was about knee-high on June 4, which is at most 26 inches (0.66 m). Last week was sunny and warm – favorable for the corn – but C said signs of dryness are starting to show and he could use a rain to help loosen compacted soils from earlier rains.
C’s 90-acre soybean field was planted on April 23 under ideal conditions, but it was hit with 9 inches (229 mm) of rain before the plants emerged. The beans are now 6 inches (152 mm) tall and have recovered well from the earlier weather hardships, as have most other soybean fields in his area. C notes the soybeans handled the excessive moisture much better than did the corn.
Both the corn and soybean field share C’s biggest concern moving forward, which is rainfall. Spring was very wet and the soils are saturated, a factor that in C's mind makes it even more imperative to not dry out during the summer months. C is not pleased to see that forecasts as of Monday morning were very stingy on rainfall over the next two weeks.
As of June 4, Farmer C places a 4-rating on both conditions and yield potential for each field. However, C was clear that his corn field looks better than most others in his area, as the cool and wet spring has led to a good amount of seedling disease and thinner plant stands.
Be sure to check back for future updates. I will be covering the story throughout the U.S. growing season and will offer additional weekly content for Thomson Reuters’ Crop Watch – including aerial footage – at the following page: (bit.ly/2qKyEPR)
I will also be posting content on Twitter using the hashtag #TRCropWatch.