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
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
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