Virtual Crop Tour recap for 2020 growing season

By Matt Reese

Though there were certainly exceptions, 2020 was much more favorable to Ohio’s corn and soybean growers than the previous year. This showed up in the 2020 Virtual Ohio Crop Tour conducted Aug. 11 though Aug. 13 and in Ohio’s final production numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January. According to Cheryl Turner, state statistician, for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Ohio Field Office, Ohio’s 2020 average corn yield was 171 bushels per acre, up 7 bushels from 2019. Growers harvested 3.3 million acres for grain, up 28% from 2019. Total production of corn for grain was 564 million bushels, up 34% from 2019. 

Ohio’s average soybean yield for 2020 was 54 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from 2019. Growers harvested 4.87 million acres, up 14% from 2019. Production, at 263 million bushels, was up 26%, Turner said. 

There were 102 entries total in the Ohio’s Country Journal/Ohio Ag Net 2020 Virtual Crop Tour (63 corn and 39 soybeans) submitted by farmers and Ohio State University Extension educators from around the state, sponsored by Ohio Crop Performance. The corn yield for the Virtual Crop Tour averaged out to be on the high side right around 194 bushels. Soybean yield estimates came out almost spot on with USDA’s numbers at 54.3 bushels per acre for the state. For a really interesting county-by-county virtual crop tour of Ohio’s corn in August, visit ocj.com/2020/08/crop-tour-by-county-2020-virtual-crop-tour-of-ohio-corn/. For a virtual tour of Ohio’s soybeans, visit ocj.com/2020/08/crop-tour-by-county-2020-virtual-crop-tour-soybeans/.

It is very clear that the combination of just enough rain, great genetics and solid management can overcome many challenges to produce strong yields. The impact of dry conditions, though, showed up in several of the reports in some of the driest areas of the state. Around 71% of the state at the time of the Crop Tour was experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, with the driest areas located across Madison, Pickaway, Richland, Wayne, Stark, Belmont, and Jefferson counties. 

In January, we followed up with several of the Virtual Crop Tour submissions to see how those fields sampled actually fared at harvest. Here are the results.

Allen County

Allen County battled with dry conditions in 2020. August corn estimates were variable from 140 to 185 bushels. Soybeans were struggling and in need of a rain with a 50- to 60-bushel yield estimate. The plants were short due to the limited moisture, but still had big yield potential if rains would cooperate. Unfortunately, the rains did not materialize for the sampled fields.

The field sampled in August yielded just over 48-bushels to the acre. In comparison, 1 mile north of this field the same farmer had a field of soybeans go in the low 60s, mainly due to catching a timely rain.

Champaign County

This corn was planted April 21. By August, pollination and ear fill were highly variable by soil type. The yield estimate was 152 bushels in one sample. Another field planted on May 5 suffered through the early dry spell as well, but rains led to good pollination and ear fill with a yield estimate of 204 bushels. The 204-bushel estimate went for a final yield of 192 wet/178 dry. The 150-bushel estimate came in at 167 bushels. Yields were highly variable within the fields based on water holding capacity.

Clinton County

Crops looked great in August, even with limited rains in areas at times. This first field sampled was planted May 13, which was the first corn field planted for the farm. The first very concerning problem was the tip-back and bird damage with a yield estimate of 225 bushels per acre. Directly across the fencerow, the corn was planted May 29 had no bird damage and a very healthy, great stand. The ears were filled clear to tip. The yield estimate was 260 bushels per acre. Bottom ground that hasn’t had corn in 20-plus years was planted May 31 and very healthy with no damage and little disease pressure. The yield estimate there was 265 bushels per acre but could use more rain to increase kernel depth and size. Corn planted May 17 before we had several inches and below normal temperatures came in at an estimate of 245 bushels per acre. Populations on the early corn were around 28,000 to 30,000 but larger ears made up for the lower population. To the northern end of Clinton County, where it has been much drier than the south end, corn planted May 26 was estimated at 259 bushels per acre. In the end, though, the limited rainfall knocked back final yields from the estimates with yields in sampled fields ranging from 200 to 250, depending on the rain.

Darke County 

The sampled corn was planted on April 20, froze off to the ground Mother’s Day weekend and came back strong and very even. Conditions were dry in June but had greater than an inch of rain per week since July 1 through mid-August. There was no disease pressure at all. Yield did not calculate out as strong as it looked from the road, though, at 151.3 bushels per acre. There was some tip back. The soybean field sampled was very clean with 3- and 4-bean pods and a yield estimate of 50 to 60 bushels.

A big rain in early September gave both fields a significant yield boost. The final numbers for the sampled fields came in at 210 bushels per acre for the corn and 67 bushels per acre for the soybeans. County wide, the timely rains through the season left many fields with record yields for corn and soybeans at harvest. In addition, Darke County corn quality appears to be better than those counties just to the east.

Delaware County

The corn went in late on June 4. It was no-tilled into wet conditions and received just enough rain at just the right time. Pollination had recently finished when the field was sampled, just missing the really hot weather. There was very light gray leaf spot on lower leaves with excellent ear fill so far with a yield estimate of 215 bushels. After the yield check, though, the rains dried up and so did the yield with 170 bushels per acre for the field.

Hancock County 

Yield estimates were all over the board in Hancock County back in August due to highly variable rainfall in different areas. Corn yield estimates ranged from 155 bushels to 237 bushels per acre. Soybeans in August were looking very good (with 60+ bushel yield potential) but clearly in need of some water across the county. One farmer in the county followed up with a harvest update. Crops finished out really well across the board. Beans were the highest farm average ever for us, and corn was right at our four-year average. The farms further north and east were much dryer throughout the growing season where we saw yields on corn drop off but we had good rains late to help finish off the beans. The corn field sampled finished at 235 bushels per acre and the bean field sampled was 71 bushels per acre. 

Henry County 

These soybeans were planted May 4. It was a clean field with an even stand at the R5 growth stage in August. Disease pressure and insect pressure were low. The canopy height was 27 inches with 1.5 inches between nodes. This field had an average of 30 pods per plant and 3 beans per pod with a 50- to 60-bushel yield estimate. The final yield exceeded the expectations at 63 bushels per acre.

Putnam County

This field was in very good shape back in August. It was planted April 27 and had a population of 36,000. There was some tip-back and yield was looking strong at 234 bushels. This field was sprayed with fungicides and had nice rains, though it was getting dry. Soybeans also were looking solid with 50- to 60-bushel yield potential. In the end, the corn field averaged very close to estimates at 232 bushels per acre. Soybeans capitalized on late rains with an impressive average of 72.3 bushels per acre. 

Van Wert County

This farm missed out on some crucial rains in the first part of the growing season. The corn received a split application of nitrogen and a fungicide application, but there was nitrogen deficiency evident in August. There were some population issues here and there on the end rows. The center of the farm had a much better stand and the plants were much taller. This was a 109-day corn. Ears were filled from top to bottom, though, and there was no evidence anywhere of tip back. There was a yield estimate of 226 bushels. The early-planted soybean field sampled was clean with some ragweed present on field edges. 

The corn estimate ended up being below the actual yield of 241 bushels per acre. Harvest came and went without a hitch this year. It was hard to find anything to complain about. We were also very pleased with our test weights this year. Soybeans did well too with a whole farm average of 66 bushels per acre. It was amazing to look at the bean yield maps this year. Where we cut dry (9%) soybeans we really saw that yield fall off compared to running 13%+ moisture beans. 

Wayne County

Though more rain was needed to maximize the potential of this dry field, the 219-bushel estimated yield potential was there in August. The August soybeans still had pods yet to bloom with a yield estimation of 60+ bushels. At harvest, the corn field average was right at 205 bushels and soybeans finished at 54 bushels. Soybeans had plenty of pods but about 7 to 10 days prior to sampling that area turned dry and rainfall was limited until well into September. There was no significant disease pressure for either crop and harvest was completed by early November. Overall, crop yields varied incredibly within 5 miles, even with the same planting dates and hybrids/varieties. 

Wyandot County

Soybeans in the county were looking good in August with 60+ bushels yield potential and one of the sampled fields came in at a solid 64.5 bushels per acre across the field.  

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