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Vacation trip runs through corn countryVacation trip runs through corn country

Ron Smith 1

July 31, 2013

3 Min Read

I’ve never been particularly good at walking into a field of corn, cotton, peanuts or wheat and offering a reasonable assessment of what the potential yield would be.

Is this 190-bushel corn? Will this field make 3.5 bales of cotton? Can you expect 5,000 pounds of peanuts this year? Will this wheat push 80 bushels?

I can make poorly educated guesses and sometimes I’m close to accurate. Not always, maybe not even usually. Crop estimating was not one of the prerequisites for an English degree, sadly.

But after driving through the American Heartland a few weeks back—on vacation so I may not have been as observant as usual when I drive across farm country—I saw some pretty good-looking corn.

Pat and I drove up I-35 for nearly forever, all the way to northern Wisconsin. We passed through North Texas, Oklahoma, Eastern Kansas, a sliver of Missouri, Iowa and most of Wisconsin. Texas, Oklahoma and much of Kansas was still dry.  Missouri was a bit greener. Then we hit Iowa. And corn. Lord we saw some corn.

I expected corn fields to stretch as far as I could see. This is Iowa after all.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see that far, and that much corn. Gently rolling hills on both sides of I-35 were green with corn. From the roadside ditch to where the eye was inadequate to differentiate field from sky, Iowa is filled with corn.

Most was head-high and tasseling. A few fields obviously had a late start and plants stood only about knee-high. In some fields, corn just emerged was trying to catch up with plants that were waist-high or a bit shorter. I suspect some crop injury and replanting activity.

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We saw a few fields that appeared stressed—too much water? Not enough? I was tempted to stop and find a talkative farmer but Pat suggested that once I got started talking to farm folk we might as well just pitch a tent. She was probably right—as usual.

We went north for a good way, past the Ames exit, and then took a route directly east, over smaller roads where we saw picturesque farmsteads nestled among the rolling hills, typically on the east side of a line of trees. I suspect it gets windy in Iowa.

We began to see livestock facilities. “Are those chicken houses?” Pat asked. I took a deep breath. “Nope. They’re hogs.” My yield-estimating skills may be lacking but I’ve been in enough hog houses to recognize that special aroma.

We saw a few soybean fields—but not many. The farther north we got, the shorter the corn, but even in southern Wisconsin, the prospects looked pretty good.

We also found an abundant crop of Wisconsin mosquitoes, aided and abetted by late-melting snow and lots of spring rain. They were glad to have us and seemed particularly fond of my warm southern plasma. I felt like I needed a transfusion by the time I got home.

But I digress.

Irrigation systems were rare. We saw a few pivots spraying water in Wisconsin but I don’t recall seeing any in Iowa. So, even with a good start, they’ll need some rainfall to make what promises to be a good corn crop.

So, I’d like to go out on a limb and predict Iowa corn yield for the 2013 crop. A lot. They are going to make a lot of corn in Iowa. You’re welcome.


Also of interest:

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Surprising corn, grain yields in parts of Texas Valley for some grower…

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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