DTN Digital Yield Tour 2018- IA, IL, IN

Day 3: Taking Measure of the I-States

This year, farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana have battled a mixed bag of weather conditions with some drought continuing to linger in a few hot spots. You can find an interactive version of this map here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/#/displays/26364 (Map Courtesy of Gro Intelligence)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Despite a mixed bag of weather conditions, pockets of lingering drought and nagging pest problems, farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana are once again expected to do their part to fill the nation's corn and soybean silos.

Illinois and Indiana are on pace to produce record corn and soybean yields. Iowa is off record-pace, but still in the running for a big crop.

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 Intelligence yield estimates as of Friday, Aug. 17, indicate Iowa corn farmers will harvest 194.42 bushels per acre, Illinois growers 203.53 bpa and Indiana producers 188.95 bpa. Indiana corn growers could be the only I-state to meet or exceed the latest USDA NASS projections. Illinois corn growers are predicted to produce about 3.5 bushels per acre less than the USDA's bin-busting 207 bpa estimate, but still more than the record yield of 201 bpa that came in 2017. In Iowa, Gro corn yield projections are nearly 7.5 bpa under USDA estimates.

On soybeans, Gro expects a state average yield of 56.53 bpa in Iowa, 59.70 bpa in Illinois and 57.21 bpa in Indiana. NASS projections peg Iowa at 59 bpa, Illinois at 64 bpa and Indiana at 58 bpa. Even the smaller yield projections would be near record historical yields for Illinois and Indiana. Iowa hit a record yield level of 60 bpa in 2016.

You can see specific comparisons 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 yield estimates on a county and state level update on a daily basis, so the numbers at publication time may be different than what you find on the Gro website.

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said the projections point to the growing ability of modern genetics to endure stress, if it is not prolonged.

Weather situations varied widely across the I-Belt this season, but several situations seem to stand out, he said. The planting season started with cool conditions and quickly heated up in June. July brought some relief in terms of temperature for most of the region, but the tap shut off for some important areas. August turned on the heat again, but some parched regions received some much-needed rains to help push soybeans.

Some of those conditions can be teased out by viewing normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) maps from Gro -- which use NASA satellite imagery to show how abnormally dry or lush an area is, using the 10-year average "greenness" index. You can check the interactive map for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa here, which includes a timeline showing changes over the growing season and a historical view back to the 2011 crop year: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

A DTN/PF Twitter poll of the three-state region revealed mostly positive feelings about crop conditions. Responses to a question on how farmers would rate crops on Aug. 17 were: Good-Excellent, 26%; Fair-Good, 39%; Poor-Fair, 15%; Very Poor, 20%.


June's warmer temperatures were a blessing for areas like northern Iowa that started the season extremely wet, Anderson said. The additional heat units also kicked crops into high gear and have kept them hustling toward harvest at a fevered pace. Reports of corn maturity running one to two weeks ahead of schedule are common.

"We had a slow start with lots of rain, and then in July it turned 95 degrees and wouldn't stop," said Jay Magnussen, who farms and works as an agronomist in O'Brien and Cherokee.

His corn, planted between April 29 and May 8, is currently running ahead of the five-year maturity average by about eight days. Wet conditions pushed his customers to plant corn through the end of May and soybeans up until July 4.

"Some guys eventually switched to cover crops where they couldn't get beans planted. We're going to need a late frost in this area, as a lot of our beans have a ways to go," he said. But he added that yield potential on them is in the 60 bpa or better category, especially if they catch some August and early September rains.

"Early planted corn looks good, but that late-planted stuff not so much," he said, adding that drowned-out spots might make it hard to make the 186 and 207 bpa yields currently predicted by Gro in his region. But he noted that some counties to the south and west of him are more rolling, can take more rain and look "phenomenal."

See the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana county yield maps here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

The NDVI map also points out the drought that has plagued Iowa from Des Moines south to the Missouri border. South-central Iowa rainfall totals were 50% below normal, and the area appears to be the hardest hit of the three states, Anderson noted. The entire southern section of Iowa is 25% below normal for rainfall, he added. Gro's models estimate average yields in this area will range from 154 bpa to 172 bpa.


Portions of western Illinois and northeastern Illinois were also 25% to 50% below normal precipitation in July, Anderson observed, although an informal DTN boots-on-the-ground crop tour this week found much of the western Illinois region recently received some rain. Samples showed some tip-back in corn, but yield estimates still came in slightly better than 200 bushels in Hancock County. Soybeans pods were still filling.

Gro's NDVI maps are glowing green in much of the state. Exceptions exist in the Chicago collar counties around the I-55 and I-80 interchange. You can see the vegetative index map for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

What may be most telling is the potential in southern counties. Yields from I-70 south may not rival those to the north, but when those counties come in hot, they pump the overall yield engine. For example, Gro forecasts Perry County could produce significantly more than last year at 160 bpa compared to last year's 122 bpa. Others, like Pulaski County, could produce less than last year, with Gro projecting 173 bpa compared to 193 bpa last year.

See the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana county yield maps here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

The belt across central Illinois is expected to wear the yield crown in this state. Chase Brown has been out sampling fields in Macon County, Illinois, this past week. The height of both corn and soybeans had caused some concern more energy was going into maintaining the plant than putting on kernels. Models and yield formulas traditionally do not weigh the crop in terms of test weight.

"We've walked a lot of fields and are measuring them in the 230-245 bpa range," said Brown. Most of his corn was planted the third to last week of April. "We think the deciding factor this year will be population. Those fields that took the worst of the stress in late May and early June may be only 16 (rows) around, but we've got the stands." Planted at 35,000 plants per acre, stand counts indicated 34,000-plus remain, he said.

Gro is estimating a 218 bpa corn yield and a 64 bpa soybean yield in Macon County, Illinois. Brown said fungicide applications have also made a big difference this year in corn and soybeans, although DTN samples did reveal some sprouting at the butt of the ear in some of these fields. Soybeans in Brown's fields are fully podded with a few pockets of sudden death syndrome starting to show up in some fields.

"The odd thing is there are spots just a few miles from me where it is bone dry and they missed nearly every rain," Brown said.

Josh Schick is one of those guys. He farms in southern Livingston, eastern Woodford and western McLean counties. The NDVI map reflects dryness north of Bloomington and west toward Peoria. "We were dry coming into spring. We got about 3 to 4 inches of rain in June and about 1.5 inches in July and have only had a couple of tenths here and there since. When you are this dry, those rains don't do much," said Schick.

He's already chopped some silage, and yields were low. He plans to harvest some high-moisture corn next week, which is running about 30% to 31% moisture.

"Our corn is going to be highly variable across the field with 30- to 40-bpa swings from one end to the other, depending on whether it is a low area," he said. He's figuring yield averages for corn could dip to 180 bpa to 200 bpa, in a region he considers capable of 220 bpa to 260 bpa. Gro estimates are currently counting his counties at 210 to 216 bpa.

Soybeans still have potential if the miracle of enough moisture appears. "Pods that we fill in August are going to abort if we don't get something soon. Take 10 bushel off the top and call it what it is," he said.


The sweet spot for Indiana appears to be in the west-central region in counties such as Tipton, Carroll and White. Overall, consistency is the word of the year. The NDVI shows some mixed conditions, but they are limited. You can see the vegetative index map for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

Scott Wallis, who farms in Gibson County, said the year didn't start out that way.

"There's nothing about 27 inches of rain in June that is normal," Wallis said. The spigot turned off after that. "We've barely had 2 inches since. It's been raining for two days this week and we're up to two-tenths. We could use a real rain.

"When it was hot, we had lots of humidity and that saved the crop. We probably have had two days all summer where the corn leaves rolled. I can't say the same for myself -- it was hot," he said.

Gro's 182.2 bpa for his county could be close, he figured. "The ear hides its yield so much more than the older hybrids. You look at it and it just looks like a so-so ear, but you have to realize there's 35,000 of them," Wallis said.

See the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana county yield maps here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…

Counties to the south of him weren't hurt as much from excessive rain and caught a few more of the subsequent showers. However, he takes exception to the 49.57 bpa soybean prediction. Double-crop beans are still a question, but his farm's five-year soybean average comes closer to 70 bpa.

"I'm really excited about soybeans. The pod count is simply incredible in the Group III's."

On Monday, Aug. 20, the digital "tour" turns its focus to a final examination of overall U.S. crop yields. If you'd like your yield observations to be included in future stories, use the #DigitalYieldTour2018 hashtag on Twitter.


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/…

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN