The Pro Farmer Tour, When Corn And Soybean Yield Estimates Count

THE PRO FARMER TOUR RESULTS:

This week is a big week for Grain Farmers all across the Nation.  This week brings an annual tradition, the annual Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour.  This tour has one simple goal in mind, to evaluate the potential yields of the corn and soybean crops on a state by state basis across the Midwest.  Why is this important?  Their findings can set the tone for the rest of the season  going into harvest (follow #harvest14 on twitter) and has an effect on the prices which farmers receive for their crops.  To sum it up, if the Pro Farmer Tour finds an above average crop, then the market prices would theoretically go down, if they find a below average crop, then the market prices would theoretically go up.  Keep in mind, I said THEORETICALLY, as the grain market is never that simple.

As some of you may recall, yesterday I wrote about how we conduct yield estimates on our own corn fields.  You can view it by clicking here.  The numbers we estimated in our own fields are great information for us to use for our own purposes, but in order to get a handle on what the nations farmers will produce for the year, we need to broaden our testing area.  The Pro Farmer Tour does just that!

A 100 acre Corn Test Plot Comparing Various Varieties of Corn in IL

A 100 acre Corn Test Plot Comparing Various Varieties of Corn in IL

About the tour:

To sum it up, the Pro Farmer tour is conducted by a group of crop scouts who are hands on in the fields of the Midwest.  These scouts have one job to do, scout the fields and report what they find.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  These scouts go from area to area, stopping in fields along the way checking corn and soybeans for what their potential yield may be come harvest.

Determining Corn Yields:

The renowned Agricultural web site, AgWeb.com may have said it best:

“…scouts count the number of ears that will make grain on two 30-foot rows, then pull the fifth, eighth and 11th ear from one row (three total ears).  On those sample ears, scouts count (and average) the number of kernel rows around and measure (and average) the length of grain on each ear in inches. The final piece of data for the yield calculation is row spacing.”

Determining Soybean Yields:  

Again, AgWeb.com did a great job explaining how the tour scouts come up with the figures:

“In each soybean field, scouts go to a “representative” area of the field and lay out a 3-foot plot. All the plants are counted in the plot, then three plants are pulled at random. All the pods on the three plants are counted and an average number of pods per plant is calculated. To determine the total number of pods in 3-foot of row, multiply the average number of pods per plant by the total number of plants in 3-foot of row.”

Soybeans are a hard nut to crack so to speak.  Their final yield can vary greatly depending on the size of the soybean, which wont be determined for quite some time yet.  So rather than estimate the yield completely, the Tour Scouts count the number of soybean pods on each plant and compare that figure to those of other tested areas and states.  While this doesn’t translate directly to bushels per acre, its safe to say that the more pods there are, the greater chance there is of having a good soybean crop.

Soybeans Growing on my Farm in IL, Taken in June 2014

Soybeans Growing on my Farm in IL, Taken in June 2014

The Results of the 2014 Pro Farmer Crop Tour:

Back in 2012, the majority of the nation was in a major drought.  Crops were barely hanging on, and were in dire need of water, sacrificing yield along the way.  2013 brought a glimmer of hope for those same farmers bringing in a good corn crop and many farmers had the opportunity to harvest the best crop of soybeans they’ve seen in their entire careers.  In 2014 however, due to the abundant harvest of 2013, the market prices are down (supply vs demand) and farmers NEED a great corn and soybean crop to make ends meet.  In some areas, that just may happen, however others may not be as fortunate.  Lets dig into the tour results to see where those good and not as good areas are.

Since our farm is based in IL, lets start with the Tours Results for IL, which can be found directly by clicking on the headings below.

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Illinois Results:

Corn: 196.6 bushels per acre average over 190 trials   vs a 149.36 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1299.17 pod count average in 177 trials vs a 1085.35 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Nebraska Results:

Corn: 163.77 bu/ac average over 273 trials vs a 146.81 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1103.26 pod count average in 265 trials vs a 1106.62 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Indiana Results:

Corn: 185.03 bu/ac average over 168 trials vs a 141.24 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1220.79 pod count average in 165 trials vs a 1118.65 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

 

So what do all these numbers mean?  

To sum it up, there is a really good potential for a good corn and soybean crop for #harvest14.  Are the numbers above written in stone?  No, of course not.  The final harvested bushels per acre will be different, as they are influenced by timely rains, lack of rain, or damaging storms that affect both the corn and soybean crops.  Right now, these numbers are good estimates of what the grain traders can expect U.S. farmers to produce for the year.

How Farmers Benefit from the Tour:

The running joke is: When a farmer goes into a coffee shop, sits down with his neighbor farmers, the discussion will eventually turn to how well the cops are doing.  (Let the fish stories begin)  In this situation, the first BS’er is always dead in the water.  If he says he/she has 180 bushels per acre in the field, the next guy will surely have a field estimated at 185 and so on.

The Pro Farmers Tour helps get around that scenario, presenting “Just the Facts”.  As a farmer, knowing these figures helps us better market our own individual crops.  If we think the estimated numbers are low, and more bushels per acre will be harvested than the Tour shows, we may sell some of our growing crops early to avoid a decline in market prices when the added supply hits the market.  If we think the estimated numbers are high, we may hold on to our grain for a longer period of time in hopes that the market prices will rise when the expected supply doesn’t materialize.

At the end of the day, although we may not always agree with the results, we know the results are fairly accurate estimates based on a large data set,  and we as farmers, greatly appreciate everything the people at the Pro Farmer Tour do.

 

Sources: Pro Farmers Tour and AgWeb

 

Farming 101: How do farmers estimate their corn yields before harvest?

If you drive around the countryside this time of the year (mid August) you will find number of farms with their shed doors open, some farm machinery sitting around the yard, and farmers busily prepping for the coming harvest.  Our farm is no different.  For the last few weeks we have been taking steps to prep for this years harvest.  (You can follow many farmers harvest on twitter with the #harvest14 hashtag.)

One of the most important things we do this time of the year is to create yield estimations of our corn fields.  This is very important, and gives us a good idea about what yields to expect in our fields at harvest.  By having the estimates we can develop a “Plan A” for #harvest14 which will determine how many acres worth of corn we can store in our bins, how many acres of corn we will need to haul to the grain elevator straight from the fields and how much LP (liquid propane) we will have to purchase to dry the corn we store in our bins.  While the estimates are just that, estimates, they help provide us with a pretty accurate guess as to how many bushels per acre in our fields.

 

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Here is how we do a corn yield estimate:

Conducting a corn yield estimate is actually fairly simple, and if you have any sweetcorn handy, you can do this too!   We start by picking a handful of sample ears from a few fields, label them by field name with a marker to keep them separate from the other fields corn.  Yields can vary from field to field and corn hybrid to corn hybrid, so we try to be as thorough as we can when picking the sample ears and keeping them separate.

 When we go into a field to grab ears, naturally we are drawn to the large ears.  Its hard not to pick the best looking ears out there, but that’s not what we are after.  We want to pick ears that are a good representative of the field.  To do so we choose the ears at “random” from at least 2 different areas in the field.

We first choose an area of the field  that looks “average” meaning it’s not the best spot in the field, but it’s not the worst either.  After choosing those areas, we enter the fields, walk at least 100 feet into the fields and find a row or two that again, qualify to be considered “average”.    Now comes the hard part, avoiding picking those nice LARGE ears that you naturally get drawn to.  To avoid doing so, we literally close our eyes and take a few steps forward, feeling for an ear.  When we touch an ear, we pick it, then take a few more steps and pick another, then another.  Generally speaking, we take 2-3 ears from each area we walk into.  This “random” picking of a few ears in multiple areas in the field gives us a decent representation of what the entire fields ears may look like.

While in the same area, we also need to determine now many ears per acre there are.  To do so, we measure 17.5′ long (1/1000th of an acre using 30″ wide rows) and count every ear in that length.  While picking these areas, we found the average number of ears to be 32.  So we multiply 32 by 1000 to get, 32000,  the overall ear population in one acre. (this is important for later)

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

After we pick and label the corn, we take it to the shop to be husked and counted using a simple formula to estimate their potential yield.

Here is how:

Take an ear of corn and simply count how many kernels it has on it.  Simple right?  That may take a while.  Instead of counting every kernel, we simply count how many rows of kernels (Around)  there are on the ear and write that number down.

AG FACT:  A ear of corn will ALWAYS have an even number of rows around on it.  Usually ranging from 14-18.

After you have the number of rows around, we now need to count the number of kernels long.  Starting at the bottom end of the ear, and omitting the last few kernels on the bottom and top, count the number of kernels in one row long.  These numbers usually range from 28-42.  We do this for each ear, then average them all together.

 

Here is an example of how the estimates work.

Lets say you have 5 ears, after counting them all up, you come up with:

36 kernels long on average

16 rows around on average

and had the 32000 ear population stated above.

So: 36 x 18 x 32000 = 18,432,000 kernels of corn in one acre

From here we need to turn those kernels into bushels.  Normally, a bushel of corn weighs around 56lb and can contain anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 kernels.  In order to keep our yield estimates on the conservative side, we will use the 90,000 figure, keeping our estimates lower.

18,432,000 / 90000 =  204.8 bushels per acre

Here is an example from our fields taken yesterday:  NOTE:  This particular variety has larger kernels than normal so we also conducted an estimate using a 80000 kernels per bushel figure.

Ears picked, and estimated from our field on 8/19/14

Ears picked from our field on 8/19/14.  This field has some wind damage causing the ears to be smaller than normal.

This group of ears averaged 36.3 long x 15.3333333333 around x 32000 ear population = 17,811,200

17,811,200 / 90,000 = 197.90 bushels per acre

17,811,200 / 80,000 = 222.64 bushels per acre

Although the combine will tell us what the yields really are, now that we have some basic yield estimates we can make a plan to haul the correct amount of bushels to our bin sites or the grain elevator for storage during harvest.   

The next time you have corn on the cob for dinner, you can do the exact same yield estimate on your ear as we did here to see what it could have yielded if harvested like field corn would be.

Have any questions or comments?  I would like to hear from you!  Please comment below!  I look forward to talking with you!

8 THINGS TEACHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AGRICULTURE

Matt Boucher:

What are the top things to understand about Farming, Grain Farming in Particular? This is a great read on just that!  This is a “REBLOG” from http://www.corncorps.com.

Originally posted on :

1. Hormones in Poultry

They do NOT exist! Farmers do not inject hormones into poultry (chicken or turkey) to increase production because it is illegal! Could you imagine a poultry farmer trying to inject each of his animals with hormones?! The farmers would be the ones that would be running around with their head cut off!

2. 4 Popular Types of Corn

Dent- This corn is used to feed for animals and is the base product in some of the foods we eat like corn flakes for example.

Sweet-This is the type people can buy and eat right off the corn cob or buy in in the grocery store.

Popcorn- Americans favorite pastime snack!

Indian- Traditionally used as decoration pieces

types of corn

3. Corn planting, harvesting, storage

Corn is planted between April-May and then harvested between September-November, God willing. When corn is harvested it is either stored in grain bins or taken…

View original 328 more words

Friday Farm Flicks #plant14 style 5/16/14

You may have noticed quite a bit of dust stirring across the country side in the last few weeks.  Planters have been rolling for hours on end, precisely planting the 2014 Corn and Soybean crops across the Midwest.  Overall, the 2014 planting season got off to slow start a few weeks ago but then was quickly stalled out with rains and constant cold throughout most of the Midwest.  Our farm was no exception to this rule. We began planting Corn this “spring” about 3 weeks later than we would normally like to, but that is ok.  Why? you may ask?  Because 5 out of the last 6 growing seasons where we have planted late, have resulted in above trendline yields on Midwestern grain farms!  Most notably for us was 2009 and 2013.  Both years served up difficult and late planting seasons but also offered 2 of the best harvests we have ever had.

To prep for #plant14 we first have to prep the ground using our 4 wheel drive tractor and soil finisher.  The finisher slices up the remaining stubble from the previous year, levels the ground and uproots any weeds that may be present all in a matter of seconds.  With the soil finisher we can travel at around 8.5mph across the field, pulling 3 or so inches deep and 39’9″ wide, averaging around 38 acres per hour.  As you may imagine, doing so requires a good tractor to pull it.  Our tractor is a John Deere 9510,weighing in at 44,000 lb,  touting 510hp with a fuel capacity of 300 (give or take) gallons of Diesel Fuel.  When pulling the soil finisher we burn around 0.7 gallons of fuel per acre, or 26 gallons per hour.  Learn more about our tractor by clicking here.

cropped-20140505_194945000_ios-1.jpgI made a short video of this tractor and finisher in action using my UAS Drone and GoPro Camera.

Click here to watch!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTNRrxx0pE

As the ground began to slowly dry out, we decided to plant our first field of corn.  Mother nature wasn’t exactly cooperating though, as it was and still is much colder than what we would like it to be for this time of the year.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

 

This year is my first year as a GoPro Camera owner.  I have one for my UAS and 2 other older GoPros to play around with.  So, I put them to work while planting our first field this spring.

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Click here to see the Spring Planting video!

THE most important thing on our Family Farm is, you guessed it, Family!  While the Spring Season brings the time to plant with it, it also brings things like Tball, Baseball, and Softball for us.  On the day this pic was taken, we could have been out in the field planting corn, however we were right where we needed to be, watching our little mans first ever Pinto Baseball game!

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This Spring I had a great opportunity to talk about what we do to many many people when I was invited to bring our tractor up to our towns “SpringFest” which included a “Touch A Truck” section.  There were Fire Trucks, Police Cars, a Garbage Truck and a Semi truck there as well as our tractor for kids of all ages to explore.  I was more than happy to answer the questions of the (my estimate) of 300-500 people who visited the tractor in the 5 hours I was there.

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While the rain delays of the spring season continued, I was honored to be asked to do a presentation on Agricultural UAS (Drones) for an Agricultural Technology Class at Joliet Jr College.    After a 30 minute presentation indoors, the weather cooperated (just barely enough) to take the class outside and give a live demonstration.  Mr. Johnson in the schools Ag Department even piloted the UAS for a bit.  The schools Ag Department hopes to purchase their own UAS in the coming months so they can better educate their students on the benefits of their use.

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Soon after plant14 began to roll on once again, and things got back to normal.  So I thought.  After running out of seed one night in a nearby field, I drove back to the house, filled with seed, had a quick bite for dinner and drove back to the field.  There I found something I never thought I would find.  4 puppies who had obviously been dropped off.  Naturally I stopped and tried to coax them to come by me.  At first they were a bit shy, but once they realized I was there to help, we quickly became friends.  My wife brought out our portable dog kennel, and we loaded them up to keep them safe.  From there they spent a few nights in our shed, protected from the elements and predators that they would have been up against out there all on their own.  Within a few days time, we had them checked out at the vet, (all are in good health) and have found Furever homes for them.  Well, all except one, which we decided to keep!  Like many Pirates, he has one bad eye that will require surgery to fix, leading us to name him “Captain Jack” (Sparrow) from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.

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After all was settled with the pups that night, Plant14 rolled into the night.

Shortly thereafter we finished up Corn Planting for the season.

Click here to watch as we close up the #plant14 corn season around midnight.

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As the weather turned more favorable, we switched to planting soybeans.  In this picture, we are filling the planters large seed boxes with approximately 5.8 million soybeans taken from our seed wagon.  These soybeans will  be precisely planted at various populations over roughly 80 acres of land before I will have to fill up again. Check out my recent post about how farmers are using GPS and VRT Technologies to Plant Efficiently by clicking here 

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Last but not least:

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Warmer weather and a nice warm rain have helped bring new life to the farm.

TOP: a soybean planted 2 days ago shows a future root emerging from the soybean seed as it begins to grow.

BOTTOM: Our first planted field of corn is emerging nicely.

Have a great weekend everyone and check out the latest “AgriNews” newspaper. You might just see some familiar faces on the front page!

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Farming 101: How do farmers select what seeds to plant for the coming growing season?

A few weeks ago I posted a poll asking “What Would You Like To Know about Farming?”    The selection that received the most votes asked,

 How we  (farmers) select our seeds for the (coming) season?

So lets dig in to the answers!

When you go to the store to purchase seeds to plant in  your garden, you may be confronted with countless choices to pick from.  Carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, sweet corn, green beans, the list goes on and on.  You also may notice that within each vegetable category there are different types as well.  Tomatoes are a great example of that.  Early Girl, BeefMaster, Better Boy etc.  The list goes on and on (click here for more).  You may also have the choice to purchase Conventional,  Organic or even Heirloom seeds as well.  With all of the choices you have, it may be difficult to choose, especially not knowing which variety may be the best yielding for your own individual garden.

Photo credit to “Its Not Work, Its Gardening”

Just as you stand in the store, going back and forth and back and forth debating on which packet of Carrot or Cumber Seeds to buy, farmers do the same exact thing when it comes to purchasing their seed needs, albeit on a much larger scale.

Lets “dig” into the details!

For farmers, the decision on what seeds to plant often occur in the fall, while harvesting the previous years crop.  Every fall, grain farmers across the Midwest and beyond harvest their crops and compare which soybean or wheat varieties or corn hybrids were the best throughout the year and of course which have the best resulting yield.  On average if a farmer is pleased with a certain variety they will purchase and replant it again the following year, if not, then they look for something new.

Generally Speaking, if a farmer is looking for something new, here is an example on how the choice is made:

First the farmer must determine which Production method best fits their needs, This will determine which seed category he/she will purchase from, and yes contrary to what the Natural News’s of the internet say, there are countless seed options to choose from for each Production Method.  If you need proof, just ask any farmer.

Production Methods Vary from:

  1. Conventional (which may include GMO)
  2. Non GMO
  3. Organic

Just like you choose what CROP of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which CROPS they will plant for the following year.

When choosing a CROP, Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. Which Crops Grow the best on the Farmers Individual Fields
  2. Which Crops Grow the best in the Farmers overall Location
  3. Which Crops are readily marketable in the Farmers Location
  4. Which Crop’s harvest-able goods  has the highest demand.
  5. Which Crops have the greater ROI for his Location
  6. Which Crops the does the farmer need to plant to feed his own Livestock.
  7. Which Crops are best adapted for the Farmers local Weather.
  8. Which Crops can the Farmer efficiently Care for and Harvest with their current farm equipment and labor situations

NOTE:  Although I know there are many crops grown across the USA I will stick to corn and soybean seed decisions because that is my area in which I am most knowledgeable.

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After making the decision what crop to plant, it is time to choose what variety/hybrid to plant as well.

Just like you choose what Variety of vegetables you would like to plant in your garden, farmers like myself choose which Variety/Hybrid they will plant for the following year.  And just like the vegetables in the store, there are countless choices!

When choosing a Variety/Hybrid  Farmers consider many factors including:

  1. How quickly the seed emerges
  2. How tall the resulting plant is
  3. How does the resulting plant stand throughout the year?
  4. How strong are the resulting plants roots, stalk/stem?
  5. How is the resulting plant affected by various insects and diseases?
  6. How is the resulting plant is affected by it being planted on various soil types?
  7. How well does the resulting plant preform under stress from excess water or drought?
  8. How well does the resulting plants yield stack up to others?
  9. How long will it take the resulting plant to mature for harvest?
  10. How does the resulting plant react to various populations and row spacings?
  11. What weed pressures do the farmers fields have?

 

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The above questions are just a handful of what goes through a farmers mind when choosing what will be best to plant for his/her farm the following year.  As you may imagine choosing the right seed for the field is a very important and difficult task, and guessing what the weather may be in the following year, an even greater task yet!  Luckily determining which soybean variety or corn hybrid preformed the best in the year before isn’t so difficult.

Every seed company in the market today conducts annual seed trials on various farms across the Midwest and beyond.  Farmers then have access to those trial locations to get “hands on” with the plants throughout the year and also has access to the resulting yield data at the end of harvest!  In this aerial photo, taken by an Agricultural UAS Drone, each corn hybrid shows height and slight color differences.

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

100 acre Corn Hybrid Trial

A great source for farmers to source accurate independent yield data from is from the F.I.R.S.T. Group.  Click here for more info.

The researchers at FIRST pride themselves on providing independent research of Seed Technologies.  Every year they provide farmers with countless corn and soybean trial results so they can better choose which seeds are the best for their farm for the following year.

 

I hope this post helps you better understand how a farmer chooses his/her seeds, but if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me directly by visiting the contact page by clicking HERE.

Experience #plant14 via a #GoPro!

On a normal spring day your driving down the highway out in the country, enjoying the scenery of farmstead after farmstead and fields that seem to have no end in sight.  Along the way, you see some dust flying just ahead and begin to wonder what it is.  As you drive closer you notice a farmer in his fields with his tractor and planter, planting perfectly straight row after perfectly straight row.  You begin to wonder what it would be like to be in the fields with him/her, planting the seeds of the future, risking so much just to put his/her future in the unpredictable hands of Mother Nature.  Well, now you have the chance to experience just that!

 

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

While planting our first 100 acres, I took out my GoPro and began to make a video showing what its like to be in the fields, planting corn, as well as some close up shots showing how the planter operates.  Check it out by visiting our farms YouTube Channel (BoucherFarmsIL) or by clicking here > Planting Corn 4/25/14.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

A few weeks ago I posted about how farmers use GPS and VRT technology to plant more efficiently, which can be viewed by clicking here and This past week, we began to use that technology when we began #plant14 on the farm.  So far we have 180 acres of corn planted and are hoping for some nice warm weather to help it get off to a great start.

Close up of the Row Cleaners at work

 

I highly encourage you to follow the #plant14 hashtag on twitter and facebook.  Thousands of farmers from across the nation and beyond are posting their experiences this planting season using that category.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you and God Bless!