Bird’s eye view provides perspective on 2011 corn crop


Last week, staff for the National Corn Growers Association participated in an aerial crop tour of the Corn Belt taken by Water Street Solutions. Covering eight states over the course of two days the group surveyed growing conditions across the Midwest to gather data and develop an assessment of the current condition of the U.S. corn crop.  This is the second of three aerial surveys the company will take this growing season.

“As we covered such a wide swath of land and accumulated an abundance of data in such a short time, I chose to focus on three indicators: stand consistency; nitrogen or other abiotic stresses; and overall crop maturity in forming my assessment,” NCGA Vice President of Production and Utilization Paul Bertels said. “All in all, I think the most recent USDA forecast of an average yield of 158 bushels per acre is still achievable, and it is possible that a slightly higher average could be reached. However, the weather over the next four weeks will play a major role in determining the overall condition of the crop at harvest.”

On the first day, the tour covered the eastern Corn Belt flying over Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Southern Michigan.  With the exception of a few isolated spots where ponding has reduced stands, Bertels found the corn crop in Illinois to be in good overall condition.  Further east, the crop in Indiana and Ohio appeared to be in good condition, but the delayed planting season was evident as the crop had not reached the maturity expected in the eastern portions of this area.  In much of the region, the crop was still trying to close over the rows, and Bertels’ forecast it would take two weeks until crops reached the pollination stage.

On the second day, the group, which also included a Water Street Solutions market advisor and a photographer, flew over the western Corn Belt.  Bertels found the crop across Iowa, southern Nebraska and southern Minnesota to be quite robust.

 “In these areas, minor nitrogen stress was the only weakness I noticed,” said Bertels. “Notably, even this was mainly isolated along the field drainage patterns.”

In central South Dakota, damage from excessive moisture was obvious from the air. Here, Bertels noticed significant ponding in most fields. Although the crops around the drowned out areas looked good, these holes in the middle of fields will dramatically cut average yields.

“The chance to obtain first-hand data through this aerial tour was a valuable opportunity,” said Bertels.  “While our members routinely update NCGA on their local crop, this tour provided an opportunity to evaluate the crop across the Corn Belt up close in a short period of time.”

Water Street Solutions helps farmers with profitability by leveraging expertise in the areas of financial consulting, crop insurance, commodity marketing and estate planning.  Founded in 1994, the company works with farmers across the Midwest, assisting them in building and executing strategic plans tailored to their unique farming operations.

Source: NCGA