The National Ag Statistics Service will follow the same format it always uses to determine the crop yield forecast. That means Indiana Ag Statistics will follow the same procedure as well. That's the word from Kip Hurlbut of the Indiana office of NASS.
The difference is that when field enumerators, part-time employees trained for the job, visit farm fields picked at random from Washington, many will find ears when some years the first estimate is based on little more than population and general condition.
Some 200 farm sites are picked at random in Indiana. Each farm where a field enumerator will visit must be notified, and the farmer must agree to let them visit his fields for the duration, until harvest. Participation is not mandatory, but if the person doesn't want to cooperate, that site is not replaced. The data simply has one less data point for calculation purposes.
Hurlbut says enumerators will stake out their sites in August, but they only check one of the eventual two small tests strips they will stake off in each field that is selected. A similar process is used in soybeans.
The manual states what enumerators are to do based upon the stage the crop is in. For example, if their sample farm location has ears in the milk stage, they will measure the length of kernels and take other measurements they couldn't normally take if an ear hadn't formed yet. However, they won't bring grain back in from the field to the office to be weighed. That will happen in very late August as they prepare for the September report.
If the random location falls in the middle of the field which is not pollinated well, or which has barren stalks, it will still be included in the sampling process. It's all in the luck of the draw, Hurlbut says. Enumerators will determine the number of barren stalks or else count the number of viable ears in the given distance of their small plot.
They return to the same location and also check a second location in the same field on their second visit to the field in late August.
Whether or not the advanced stage of corn growth will help USDA get closer on the August estimate this time remains to be seen. There is still no word of any adjustment for high nighttime temperatures, even though many believe that has been a factor in final yield for the past two seasons, at least in the Eastern Corn Belt. This year it's common across the Central Corn Belt.