ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- What's worse -- too much rain or too little? The 2019 season is putting that question to the test in Kansas and Missouri, where rainfall and flooding has challenged corn and soybean yields nearly as much as the drought that spanned both states last year.
The DTN/Progressive Farmer 2019 Digital Yield Tour, powered by Gro Intelligence, is an in-depth look at how the 2019 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.
On Tuesday, Gro predicts an average corn yield of 138 bushels per acre (bpa) for Missouri, and an average corn yield of 144 bpa for Kansas. Both diverge from USDA's August crop report, which pegged Missouri's average corn yield much higher, at 160 bpa, and dropped Kansas' corn yield down to 135 bpa.
For the soybean crop, Gro's maps suggest Missouri's average yield is sitting near 39 bpa right now, with Kansas' average soybean yield near 36 bpa. Both are lower than USDA's August estimates of 45 bpa for Missouri soybeans and 42 bpa for Kansas soybeans.
Because of their real-time sourcing, the Gro yield estimates update daily, so the numbers at publication time may differ slightly from those found on Gro's website.
In both states, excessive moisture is the biggest factor at play in corn and soybean yields, noted DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. "Kansas had its wettest spring season on record -- 125 years," he noted. In Missouri, farmers experienced the wettest month of May ever in that state, on top of historic flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, he added.
While that left ample soil moisture for crops in the early summer, Gro's maps suggest that yield potential in both states, but particularly Missouri, has been hampered by late planting dates and poor planting conditions. As a result, the states' corn and soybean yield potential is sitting near or below yields from the drought-driven season of 2018.
Gro Intelligence's yield maps show average corn yields ranging from a low of 65 bpa in Howell County to a high of 191 bpa in New Madrid County. You can see the county-level yield map of Missouri here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…. The highest yields are concentrated in the southeastern region of the state known as the Bootheel, as well as the crop-heavy region of north-central Missouri, stretching along the I-70 corridor from Kansas City to St. Louis.
Despite plentiful moisture, the overall corn yield estimate for the state -- 138 bpa -- sits just below the state's average yield of 140 bpa last year, when drought plagued large swaths of the state.
For the reason why, look no further than a second set of Gro maps, known as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which use NASA satellite imagery to show how abnormally dry or lush an area is, using the 10-year average "greenness" index. See it here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/….
The NDVI map tells a fuller story of the extreme flooding and prevented planting that occurred in the state this year. Deep gashes of brown -- indicating far less vegetation than usual -- follow the banks of most of the major rivers in the state -- the Missouri River, which cuts across the center of the state; the Mississippi, which crawls down the eastern border; and the Grand and Chariton rivers, which feed into the Missouri River in north-central Missouri.
"Missouri had a double-dose flood impact this spring," explained Anderson. "The state had its wettest month of May ever in 125 years of record-keeping, along with the sixth-wettest spring period (March-April-May) on record. Add to that the runoff in the Missouri River and Mississippi River systems, and you have the framework for a new record in flooding -- and, indeed, that has occurred. Flood levels rivaled or, in some locations, surpassed, the Great Flood year of 1993."
As Gro's NDVI map shows, areas along these rivers were left unplanted at historic rates. USDA's Farm Service Agency estimates that more than 744,000 acres of corn were left unplanted in Missouri, as well as roughly 478,000 acres of soybeans.
Those acres that did get planted vary widely in quality and planting date, noted Kyle Samp, who farms with his father in the north-central county of Randolph.
"I have three crops -- corn that we planted in April, corn that we planted in May and some that we planted in June," he said.
Gro pegs Randolph County's average yield at 128 bpa this year. Samp believes his crop has the potential to be closer to his farm average of 150 bpa, but he knows many problems lurk deep inside the fields.
"We have some stand issues," he said. "And I noticed a lot of early planted corn is running out of nitrogen. That will show up in test weights."
Likewise, Gro pegs Missouri soybeans at an average of 39 bpa this year, below the 45 bpa average for the state last year. The yield range is small and tight -- most of the state's counties' yields fall between mid-30s and mid-40s, with the best beans clustered in the Bootheel and central Missouri.
Knowing how that yield potential of soybeans will play out is tough, in part because of how late many soybeans were planted, said Samp. He is still hoping his soybeans will outyield the 37-bpa average Gro estimates for Randolph County.
"So many beans are still putting on blooms and still growing," he said. "The month of August will be so important -- and so far we've been a little more on the dry and cool end."
Gro's county yield maps for Kansas suggest corn's yield potential is higher than it was last year, at 144 bpa, up from 129 bpa. See the map here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…. Yields range from a low of 86 bpa in Lincoln County to 215 bpa in Meade County. The highest yields are clustered in the southwest corner of the state, where moisture has been unusually ample -- but not as extreme as central and eastern Kansas, where corn yields lag on the Gro map.
"Western Kansas precipitation was above average, but central and eastern Kansas was much above average to record-wettest," explained Anderson.
The state's NDVI map (see it here: https://app.gro-intelligence.com/…), shows some of those distinctions. Lusher-than-usual vegetation is scattered throughout the western third, while streaks of brown (empty fields) highlight flooded areas in the eastern half of the state, particularly along waterways -- such as the Big Blue River and Tuttle Creek north of Manhattan and the Smoky River between Salina and Abilene.
"In southeastern Kansas, the impact of heavy rain is also showing up with areas of flooded-out ground between Emporia and Coffeyville -- the Neosho River Valley southeast of Emporia especially," Anderson said.
As a result, farmers are seeing wildly varying conditions, depending on planting date and rainfall this summer, noted Kyle Krier, who farms in Barton County in central Kansas. There, Gro projects corn yields to average 163 bpa -- but the three counties north of it are expected to yield in the 90s, and Rice County to the east only 123 bpa.
After the record-setting wet spring, the tap turned off at crucial periods like pollination and grainfill in central Kansas, which particularly hurt late-planted fields, Krier said.
"I think a lot of people will be reasonably disappointed in test weight, ear girth and kernel size," he said. "We're missing that top end of yields on a lot of corn acres around here. Recent rainfalls have probably helped, but at some point, you can't make up more kernels on that ear -- if they didn't pollinate, they can't magically appear after a rainfall."
As for soybeans, Gro pegs the state's average yield at 36 bpa, well below the 43.5-bpa average last year. With the exception of two pockets of 40- to 60-bpa soybeans in northwest and southwest Kansas, the rest of the state's forecast yields range between 23 bpa and 45 bpa.
Krier points the finger squarely at wet, delayed planting for the state's lower predicted bean yields.
"I think one of biggest reasons is the lack of early planted beans," he said. "Planting early is when we can achieve those bigger yields. And the majority of everything got put in two to four weeks late, most on the latter side of that. I think our highest top-end yield is not going to be there this year."
On Wednesday, the digital "tour" will turn its focus to Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you'd like your yield observations to be included in future stories, email DTN using the contact information below.
ABOUT THE TOUR
The DTN/Progressive Farmer 2019 Digital Yield Tour, powered by Gro Intelligence, takes place Aug. 13-16 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 the first day's articles focusing on Kansas and Missouri and Nebraska and South Dakota. On Aug. 14, the tour will explore yield estimates from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. On Aug. 15, we will move into the Eastern Corn Belt -- Illinois, Indiana and Ohio -- before publishing a final look at Gro's overall national yield predictions for the 2019 corn and soybean crops on Aug. 16. 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 2019 crop, visit our tour site at: https://spotlights.dtnpf.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: https://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/….
Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee
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