2023 DTN Digital Yield Tour -- KS, MO

Kansas Corn Yields Could Set Records, While Missouri Stumbles on Uneven Drought Recovery

This map shows this year's yield forecasts compared to the rolling five-year average, highlighting areas of higher-than-normal yield potential in green and lower potential in brown. (Map courtesy of Gro Intelligence)

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- The fourth day of the DTN Digital Yield Tour shows the importance of rain in sharp contrast. Early summer rains in Kansas may have stymied the wheat harvest, but it's paying off in a potentially record corn crop.

The story is tougher across the border, where rains revived some of Missouri's corn crop, but came too late for the rest, resulting in below-average yield estimates.

The DTN Digital Yield Tour, now in its fourth day, is powered by Gro Intelligence's corn and soybean yield models. Gro Intelligence Senior Analyst Mintak Joo said much of this year's tour has been a story of two months -- June and July. But in the case of Kansas and Missouri this year, "It's a tale of two states, and the weather conditions they got. Missouri is by far the worst in terms of its five-year average, and then Kansas is flirting with a record high."

As of Aug. 10, Gro's corn yield model estimated an average Kansas yield of 150.7 bushels per acre (bpa), blasting past the five-year average of 130 bpa and last year's paltry 115 bpa average.

In Missouri, the corn yield is forecast at 150.1 bpa. That's almost 5% below average, but it's a significant improvement from Gro's low estimate set earlier this season, which was around 120 bpa.

On soybeans, Gro's models call for close-to-average yields. In Kansas, the soybean yield is forecast to be 39 bpa, compared to 38.6 bpa on average. In Missouri, it's 48.4 bpa, up from the 47.2 bpa average.

"Of all the corn and soybean states that get our attention, Missouri is the one that suffered dry conditions the most and for the longest time, yet also shows signs of significant recovery with recent rains," DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman said. While the state's corn and soybeans won't reach national averages, they're still respectable yields considering the season.

"It's been a tough year for Missouri, but I put the recovery up there with Illinois and Nebraska."

The story in Kansas is altogether different. The 2023 growing season started deep into a long-term drought. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) measures how green the crop appears from space and compares it to history. It's also one of the key components of Gro's yield models. You can also learn more about Gro Intelligence's yield models by attending the DTN Ag Summit Series virtual event on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Gro analysts will explain more about their model and take questions. You can find more information at www.dtn.com/agsummit.

The NDVI for Kansas was at record lows from March to May, reflecting the winter wheat crop's historically low levels of photosynthetic activity.

"Fast forward to July and the index was tracking at record highs as crops responded quickly to several bouts of early summer rains that started during the winter wheat harvest," Hultman said. "A state that was in intensive care this spring is now looking forward to a record corn yield."

Details on Kansas and Missouri's corn and soybean crops can be found below.

This is the fourth day of the Digital Yield Tour. Read the first and second stories here:

-- Day 1, National: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

-- Day 2, IL IN OH: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Day 3, NE IA WI: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Tomorrow, our coverage concludes with a look at South Dakota and Minnesota.

For your convenience, all the stories, videos and images from the tour can be found at https://spotlights.dtnpf.com/….


Corn: 150.7 bpa

-- USDA five-year average: 130 bpa

-- High: Meade County, 205 bpa

-- Low: Graham County, 99.4 bpa

Soybeans: 39 bpa

-- USDA five-year average: 38.6 bpa

-- High: Meade County, 66.1 bpa

-- Low: Marion County, 25.8 bpa

Weather Comments: DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick said it's unusual to talk about recharging the soil moisture during the summertime, especially in a state that's known for being hot and dry, but that's exactly what seems to have happened this year.

"Late-spring rains ran through Kansas quite well, though northern areas were left out of them until we got into July when it was much more widespread," Baranick said. "The heavier rains did come with severe weather, and there were frequent reports of hail damage in the state. But, overall, the relatively consistent rainfall across most of the state has been quite beneficial. There have been bouts of heat, and a particularly nasty stretch in late July could have had a big impact for some areas that were not irrigated. But, overall, there's a lot of green (literally and in the case of yield departures from average) in Kansas this year."

Gro Comments: Kansas is the only state of the Digital Yield Tour with a record corn yield estimate.

"I will say, though, it feels like Kansas might be our only state where our yield model is actually ticking lower in August," Gro Intelligence Senior Analyst Kelly Goughary said. Part of that may be that, like Missouri, the corn is further along in its development.

While the rainfall has been widespread, the areas with the strongest yield potential are the southwest with its irrigation and the northeast. Graham County, the county with the worst yield potential, is just two counties away from irrigated Phelps County, Nebraska, which was the state's highest-yielding county.

Soybean yields across the state are more variable, Goughary said, adding that northwest and north-central Kansas are trailing behind average. While 39 bpa is a recovery from last year's drought-ridden 27.5-bpa average, it's also a bit of a disappointment. The three prior years all had yields above 40 bpa.

Farmer Comments:

In Louisburg, Kansas, just a few miles west of the Missouri border, Adam Stuteville said he was amazed that some of the crops looked as good as they did as the first week of August concluded.

"It was kind of wet very early, and everybody was rushing to get anhydrous on," he said. "But after that, the rains just didn't fall. May and June were extremely dry."

Stuteville is a regional manager for Farmers' Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) in Kansas and southeast Nebraska. This season, DTN/Progressive Farmer and FIRST teamed up to offer a unique in-field view of crop development. Video cameras were placed in FIRST corn plots in eight locations in five states around the Corn Belt, providing a real-time look at the crop and the ability to produce time-lapse videos showing the crop's daily progress. Stuteville hosted one of the cameras.

"They've allowed us just to see how fast the corn grows, even with no moisture," he said of the cameras. "Obviously, the root system was going down to find moisture anywhere it could find it. There in June when they did that time-lapse video, we went almost the whole month with no rain, and that corn still would grow 2-3 inches a day."

Watch the video here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

While rainfall has been lacking, Stuteville said the rain they did receive kept the corn crop going. As has been in the case in many regions, precipitation in east-central Kansas has been a hit-or-miss proposition most of the summer.

"I know of several instances where a mile is the difference between 2.5-3 inches and three-tenths (inch of rain)," he said. "If you happen to be in one of the spots that catches a couple of them inch-plus rains, it really makes a difference."

Most of the early planted corn went through pollination during a period of cooler temperatures, which made a difference, Stuteville said. Later-planted corn reached pollination during a hot stretch where overnight lows remained close to 90 degrees.

"If you get out and start peeling shucks back on ears, you can see that there was a little bit of pollination issues," he said of the later corn.

Because of the variable precipitation, Stuteville said he expects corn yields to vary widely within a 15- to 20-mile radius of his farm.

"Some people are saying they're going to have fields that make 75 bushel, and you go 5 miles down the road, they might make 160-170," he said. "It just depends on if the rains fell and the timing of the rains."

While soybeans in Miami County also suffered through the heat and lack of rainfall through May and June, a few rains in July and into August allowed the crop to sustain itself until more consistent rains began a few weeks ago.

"They've really taken off," Stuteville said. "They actually look excellent for what they've been through. Hopefully, a couple of rains can add 10 bushels to them. Time will tell."


Corn: 150.1 bpa

-- USDA five-year average: 157.2 bpa

-- High: Atchinson County, 204 bpa

-- Low: Cedar County, 92.8 bpa

Soybeans: 48.4 bpa

-- USDA five-year average: 47.2 bpa

-- High: Lafayette County, 56 bpa

-- Low: Newton County, 30 bpa

Weather Comments: "Missouri seemingly couldn't find much rain for the first half of the season and it got hot early, which drew out subsoil moisture very quickly, much like we saw in Illinois and Iowa," Baranick said.

While Illinois and Iowa recovered in late June and July, it took longer for most of Missouri.

"The northern tier or two of counties found some good rains there, but it took quite a bit into July and early August to get some heavier rains in central Missouri. That rain was likely too late for corn but seems to be having a better impact on soybeans," he said.

There's heat to consider, too. "We've seen so many days up near or over 100 (degrees Fahrenheit) before the rains really started to come that it's no surprise that Missouri is the roughest state this year."

Gro Comments: While Missouri's corn yield potential has turned around dramatically this season, it hasn't been as lucky as some of its comeback brethren. While Illinois' NDVI chart went from among the worst to among the best, Missouri's has already peaked and turned lower.

"That's why, in good part, our model is showing Missouri is one of the most underperforming," compared to average, Gro Intelligence Senior Analyst Will Osnato said.

While the rains may have arrived too late to help for some of the corn, it should benefit the soybean crop. Osnato said the latest NDVI run was on Aug. 4, and he expects the next to show how much impact recent rains had on Missouri's soybean crop.

Farmer Comments:

Readers who have been following DTN's 2023 View From the Cab series might recognize Zach Grossman's name. The farmer from Tina, Missouri, has shared his cropping experiences in the Show-Me State on a weekly basis since the spring.

Grossman and his family farm acreage in northwest Missouri that is split roughly in half between northern Carroll County and southern Livingston County. After enduring a winter where the region received little snow accumulation, Grossman said the farm received its typical March and April rains. But then Mother Nature turned off the tap.

"It made planting a breeze," Grossman said. "We had probably the smoothest, quickest planting season we had ever had. Soil conditions were perfect. We got great emergence on everything. You couldn't ask for a more perfect planting season."

But once the crops were in and coming up, Grossman started wishing for rains that didn't materialize -- at least not in large quantities. Though the crop continued to grow and look healthy, there was concern that subsoil moisture wouldn't be sufficient.

"We were just literally hanging on by a thread, and we've been doing that for months, just getting trickles enough at a time," Grossman said. "We were amazed that things stayed looking as good as they did. We were getting those quarter-inch rains or half-inch rains, just enough to kind of give the crops a good sip."

By mid-July, Grossman's corn crop had tasseled and pollinated. But as the grain-fill stage began, the light rains that had sustained the crop stopped for nearly three weeks while the daytime temperatures got hotter.

"Corn started showing stress. The thinner the dirt, the more stress it showed," he said. "We didn't get any good rain until the last day of July."

Grossman said the impacts of drought are most pronounced in the southern end of Carroll County, from the river bottom through the town of Carrollton and north for about 10 miles. The farther north, the better the crops look.

Since the beginning of August, respectable rainfall has returned to the region, allowing growers to breathe a little sigh of relief. After wishing for rain for nearly the entire season, Grossman said that now he's hoping that conditions don't turn perpetually wet and lead to a muddy harvest season, which he anticipates will begin for his corn sometime between Sept. 10-15.

Despite the trials and tribulations of the growing season, Grossman believes his corn crop will still produce a respectable yield.

"As far as this year goes, I think we're going to be right on par with the estimated national (corn) average," he said. "On our river bottom and creek bottom soils, that corn looks great. Our hill corn, depending on where it's at and the soil type, it definitely got hurt."

Grossman said the recent rains will help produce a soybean crop that is above average. "The rains kind of saved us here in the last week," he added.

Watch a video interview with Grossman here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

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

Follow her on Twitter at @KatieD_DTN