MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- Farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota expect large, but not record-breaking yields, while Ohio farmers look to yields that are consistently larger than last year.
The DTN/The Progressive Farmer 2018 Digital Yield Tour, powered by Gro Intelligence, is an in-depth look at how the 2018 corn and soybean crop is progressing using Gro's real-time yield maps, which are generated with satellite imagery, rainfall data, temperature maps and other public data.
Gro forecasts Minnesota corn farmers will harvest 190.73 bushels per acre, Wisconsin growers 175.83 bpa and Ohio producers 182.33 bpa. Gro's estimates for Minnesota and Wisconsin are both slightly lower than USDA's August forecast, while Ohio's estimate is higher by a couple of bushels.
On soybeans, Gro expects a state average yield of 49.98 bpa in Minnesota, 54.08 bpa in Wisconsin and 53.80 bpa in Ohio. Minnesota's and Wisconsin's estimates are higher than USDA, while Ohio's is lower.
You can see specific comparisons, including to 2017's final estimates from both groups, in these charts: https://app.gro-intelligence.com
Please note, Gro's soybean model is in its first year, so there's no comparison to 2017 estimates. Gro's county and state yield estimates update on a daily basis, so the numbers at publication time may be different from what you find on the Gro website.
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said some parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin caught a break with their midsummer weather pattern.
"July was variable on rainfall -- southeastern Minnesota and Wisconsin were 25-50% below normal on precipitation, while western and southwestern Minnesota were from 50-100% above normal. Temperatures, though, were right around average for the month. So, there was very little stress to crops outside of ponded-out fields; also, quite a few locations were able to dry out and not have continued ponding of soils by rain."
Between a wet spring and a summer of variable precipitation, Minnesota's moisture levels are finally sitting around average, Anderson noted. Those conditions are easy to see in one set of Gro's maps -- the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) -- which uses NASA satellite imagery to show how abnormally dry or lush an area is, using the 10-year average "greenness" index. Minnesota's counties are largely white, meaning they very closely match that 10-year index. See Minnesota's, Wisconsin's and Ohio's current vegetation levels here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…
The current season hasn't fostered last year's bin-buster yields, noted Mark Nowak, who farms in south-central Minnesota.
"Last year's record crop happened from a moist July and a below-normal August temp," he recalled. "So the opposite is happening this year, drier July and above-normal August temp."
Nowak estimates that his corn crop in Faribault County will be down 8% from last year's record crop, which USDA pegged at 215 bpa in his county. Gro's yield map agrees, and suggests corn yields in his region will hover around 200 bpa this year. See the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio county-level yield map here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…
Likewise, the lowest southern tier of top-yielding Minnesota counties, where yields ranged from 193 bpa to 215 bpa last year, are more likely to range from 188 to 204 bpa, according to Gro's yield maps.
The trend of near-average yields trailing last year's records continues as you head north, toward Justin Honebrink's operation in west-central Otter Tail County, where the corn average reached 178 bpa last year, compared to the five-year average of 161 bpa.
"I would say we are trending above average," Honebrink said of this season. "Some of the lighter ground without irrigation is starting to burn up, but the rain on Tuesday morning probably saved quite a few bushels."
Gro's yield maps concur and suggest an average corn yield of 166 bpa for Honebrink's county.
Overall, Gro suggests the state's top corn yield will go to Waseca County, at 208 bpa, and the lowest will land in Aitkin County, at 117 bpa.
For soybeans, the yield maps show a similar trend -- near average, and distinctly lower than last year's strong showing. The two rows of southernmost counties averaged 52 to 60 bpa last year -- this year, Gro predicts that range will narrow to 51 to 55 bpa. At 56 bpa, Winona County is expected to pull in the highest average, with Koochiching County pulling in the lowest yield of 34 bpa.
Like Minnesota, Wisconsin's vegetative index map shows a lot of white and light green, indicating crop conditions are in line or slightly better than the 10-year average NDVI. See Minnesota's, Wisconsin's and Ohio's current vegetation levels here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…
The areas with the most green, which are along Wisconsin's southern border with Illinois extending north and east of Madison to Lake Winnebago, also correlate to counties with some of the highest yield potential for corn, with estimates ranging from 175 to 198 bpa, and soybeans, with yield expectations falling between 54 and 60 bpa.
Gro Intelligence forecasts Lafayette County will take the crown for highest corn and soybean yields, at 198 bpa and 60.83 bpa, respectively, for the second year in a row. The lowest corn yield estimate is Ashland County, at 117.6 bpa, while the smallest soybean estimate is in Bayfield County, at 34.13 bpa. Both of those counties include coastline on Lake Superior. See the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio county-level yield map here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…
Tony Mellenthin farms in another pocket of Wisconsin that Gro's yield estimates indicate has high potential, but he said the outcome depends on rainfall. His farm about 90 miles east of Minneapolis in Eau Galle received good moisture to start the season, but Mother Nature became stingy with the spigot in July and shut it off in August.
"If you don't have water, irrigation or really good heavy silt loam soils, things are curling up real bad," he said. "Beans are showing stress. The corn that isn't irrigated -- some ears are starting to drop already. It's not good."
Gro estimates Dunn County corn will yield 176.6 bpa, but Mellenthin thinks that could be a touch too high.
"It's going to be difficult, I'm not going to lie, on corn, because the corn kernels are there," he said. The crop is also further along in maturity than average, giving it a better chance to fully develop before fall freezes. "Our losses in corn are going to be mitigated because of that. My concern is how heavy are these kernels going to be with this dry weather?"
He thinks county yields will be 5 to 10 bpa lower than last year. USDA said Dunn County growers harvested an average of 180.5 bpa in 2017.
Mellenthin also thinks soybean yields could be lower than last year, which USDA pegged at 45.3 bpa. That's a different view than the Gro models, which forecast a county yield of 52.79 bpa.
"The top node or two are still flowering, so if we would get some rain, there's potential to add some pods on top, but those flowers are starting to abort already, so we're almost past the time to get that supplemental yield," he said. "Now I'm just worried about the pod-fill process. How big are these beans going to be?"
Like Wisconsin and Minnesota, Ohio's moisture levels sit near or slightly above normal in most places, as Gro's NDVI map demonstrates, with light-green coloring scattered across the state. (The gray areas on the map represent cloud cover). See Minnesota's, Wisconsin's and Ohio's current vegetation levels here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…
"June was warm, but also pretty wet -- rainfall was near to above normal in the major production areas," DTN's Anderson noted. "July was split on temperatures: The western half of the state was near normal, the eastern half 2-4 degrees F above normal. Precipitation was from 25-50% below normal statewide. The milder temperatures, even with a drier trend, were likely beneficial in the western half of the state."
Because the western half of the state produces the majority of the state's corn and soybeans, this has boded well for yields.
Keith Peters said he expects corn yields in his central Ohio counties to be "well above average," which Gro yield maps confirm, pinning them around 188 bpa.
Overall, corn yields in Ohio look to be slightly more uniform than last year's, where the state pulled in a patchwork of yields across the western two-thirds of the state. This year, Gro's yield maps show yields ranging more consistently from 163 to 197 bpa in this region.
The state's highest corn yield is likely to come from Darke County, at 197 bpa, with the lowest yield at the moment hailing from Belmont County, at 138 bpa.
Likewise, soybean yields look uniformly strong in the western half of the state, with yields ranging from 47 to 59 bpa. Preble County claims the highest at 59 bpa, and the far eastern county of Summit claims the lowest, at 45 bpa.
On Friday, the digital "tour" will turn its focus to the I states -- Iowa, Illinois and Indiana -- before a final examination of overall U.S. crop yields on Monday, Aug. 20.
If you'd like your yield observations to be included in future stories, use the #DigitalYieldTour2018 hashtag on Twitter.
ABOUT THE TOUR
The DTN/The Progressive Farmer 2018 Digital Yield Tour, powered by Gro Intelligence, takes place Aug. 15-20 and provides an in-depth look at how the year's corn and soybean crops are progressing. Each day, we'll feature crop condition and yield information from various states, which include links to the Gro yield prediction maps for those states. Yield summaries are viewable at the county level.
The "tour" starts in the west, with articles on Kansas/Missouri and Nebraska/South Dakota on Aug. 15. Additional states will appear: Aug. 16 -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio; Aug. 17 -- Iowa, Illinois, Indiana; Aug. 20 -- U.S. totals and review. Readers should note that the Gro yield visuals are continually updated, while the DTN feature articles are based on the company's yield estimate at the time the article was written. Numbers quoted in the articles may be different than those on the Gro website, depending on when viewed.
To see all the tour articles and related DTN stories about the 2018 crop, visit our tour site at https://www.dtn.com/…
About Gro Intelligence: The New York-based company is focused on creating data analytics for the agriculture industry. Gro builds proprietary crop models that use satellite imagery, soil conditions, weather and other crop and environmental data to produce crop health and yield prediction numbers and visuals.
To learn more about Gro, go here: www.Gro-intelligence.com
To read the research white paper on their modeling system, go here and select to "Download the corn yield model paper": https://gro-intelligence.com/…
Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.email@example.com
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