2023 Digital Yield Tour Preview

DTN 2023 Digital Yield Tour to Assess Impact of Early Drought on Corn, Soybean Yields

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
FIRST field manager Nathan Roux shows off one of the cameras that are a part of DTN's partnership with FIRST. Expect to hear from more of FIRST's managers and cooperators throughout the Digital Yield Tour. (DTN photo by Katie Dehlinger)

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- Widespread hot and dry conditions in June pushed the Corn Belt to the brink of disastrous drought. July's scattered, yet plentiful, rainfall turned prospects around, but with much of the crop living drink to drink, genuine questions about production potential remain.

"We haven't often seen years in which young crops were so deprived of moisture and subjected to heat as early as they were and for as long as they were this year," DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman said. He's looking forward to seeing how Gro Intelligence's yield models reflect the struggles of this growing season in the county-level yield maps that drive DTN's Digital Yield Tour.

"How will Gro's models account for the unusual combination of stressful factors on a young crop's yield potential? Or, will the early deprivation turn out to be a non-event in significantly altering yields from their expected path?" he said.

Now in its sixth season, the DTN Digital Yield Tour will examine crop conditions in 10 of the top corn and soybean producing states between Aug. 7-11. Each day, we'll publish a news article containing the yield estimates for that day's region, commentary and insights into growing conditions, as well as links to Gro Intelligence's interactive yield maps. More details about the tour are below.

Gro Intelligence Senior Analyst Will Osnato said the yield models reflect directional changes in conditions throughout the early part of the season. They become increasingly accurate -- judged by comparison to USDA's final estimate in January -- as more data moves into the history column. Gro's model arrives at its final yield estimate by early October.

"This is a perfect year exemplifying just how extreme conditions were and what that could mean for trying to predict final yields in different parts of the Corn Belt," Osnato said. The yield models "give you that up-to-date, using-all-information-available view and the granularity of county-level predictions. That means it's pretty responsive to new information."

Here's more on what you need to know about Gro's yield models ahead of the tour: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick said Gro's lower-than-expected corn yield estimate last year was the first to raise concerns about the crop. He's looking forward to seeing how the models reflect the wide variety of growing conditions (more on that here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…).

"This summer has been a very typical summer in terms of seeing some heat at times, some cooler conditions, and variable rainfall due to thunderstorms," he said. "If you're having problems on your farm or in your area, or the reverse, that doesn't mean that the rest of the country is seeing the same things."

Nathan Roux, who manages the Farmers' Independent Research on Seed Technology (FIRST) field trials in central Illinois, said some of his plots went 30 days without a rain this spring, while others went up to 55 days without rain. FIRST conducts independent research comparisons of seed technology, and it currently runs field research trials on 200 farms across 15 states.

"Just in July, it's really, really, really turned around. I don't think it's going to be a record crop, but it's going to be a good crop," he told DTN from inside the Gridley test plot. "Some of these hybrids that have the Drought Guard technology, I would really think that, in a year like this, that might shine a little bit more than they would in a regular growing season," he said.

On Steve Reinhard's farm in north-central Ohio, the corn looks to make an average to above-average crop. What got planted during an April warm spell looks the best. Cool and dry conditions slowed down plant growth early in the season, and that's showing up as disease pressure in his soybeans.

Reinhard spoke to DTN while attending the American Soybean Association's Action Partnership meeting, where he represented the United Soybean Board.

"Average is probably a good word to describe it," he said. There are people pleased by the rain, people struggling with drought and everything in between. "I did notice a lot of talk about rain this week compared to the USB board meeting back in the middle of July."

As the calendar turns to August, rain helps fill out soybean pods and fatten corn kernels, important components to the ultimate yield.

"This crop is still not done," Baranick said. "We have another month of important weather ahead of us and though the forecast is somewhat favorable, doesn't mean that it's going to work out in all areas."


The virtual overview begins on Monday, Aug. 7, with a look at the national corn and soybean yield estimates. On Tuesday, we'll zoom into Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and Wednesday will feature Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin. Our tour continues Thursday with details on Kansas and Missouri and concludes on Friday with details on South Dakota and Minnesota.

DTN's daily reporting will feature Gro's daily yield model estimates as well as links to Gro Intelligence's county-by-county yield maps, Gro's models update daily as the algorithm incorporates new data. For more about Gro Intelligence's yield models, please read:

This year DTN will also be incorporating insights from field managers and farmer cooperators involved with Farmers' Independent Research of Seed Technologies. DTN and FIRST teamed up to place cameras in eight test plots across the country. You can see video compilations of how the crops have grown at the different locations in the Special Reports section of the DTN website here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

More details on the partnership with FIRST can be found here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Learn more about FIRST here: https://www.firstseedtests.com/…

A compilation of DTN Digital Yield Tour stories, videos and other resources can be found here: https://spotlights.dtnpf.com/…

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.Dehlinger@dtn.com

Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @KatieD_DTN

Katie Dehlinger