In just a week or so reporters working for the Indiana Ag Statistics Service, under the auspices of the National Ag Statistics Service, will begin the task of estimating yields for the 2010 corn and soybean crops. Each reporter will follow a detailed formula that leads them to a certain location, a particular field, and finally to certain spots in the field. It's all based on math and statistics to obtain a random sample representing what crops should be like over the state and the country.
The first survey typically is about plant population and potential. Usually, ears haven't yet pollinated, although that may have already happened in some fields this year. Greg Preston, head of Indiana Ag Statistics, says the first survey is primarily one of counting plants and sizing up potential for ears. For later surveys, reporters return to the exact same locations, to the exact same row and spot in the row, By then, they will count number of rows of kernels, and number of kernels per each row on the ear.
For the past three seasons, Preston and a Purdue University ag economist, often Chris Hurt, release the annual report officially during a press conference at the Indiana State fair. For the past three years in a row, several people have attended, expecting to hear lower numbers due to problems in the crop. Last year the issue was about whether or not the crop could mature in time.
All three times, the yield forecast has been much stronger than expected. Farmers scratch their heads and say," they're nuts' or 'where are they getting those numbers?" Nevertheless, when the combine dust settles in the fall, Preston's estimates have been relatively accurate. Generally USDA tweaks estimates a bit n into winter, but the truth is the last three corn crops have all been large in Indiana, overall, and across the U.S.
Don't be surprised if it happens a fourth time. Farmers in eastern Indiana didn't rune a wheel in May in some cases. While some corn went in early, many soybeans were planted late, if at all. Other farmers lost corps due to ponding. And while southwest Indiana didn't get excessive rains for the most part, thousands of acres of crops were destroyed by flooding in the White River bottoms. The flood water came form heavy rains in central and north central Indiana.
Meanwhile, hail obliterated about 500 acres of corn and some soybeans in Benton County, and damaged another 4,500 acres there to varying degrees. Hail also hit Knox County and other locations.
Already, I've heard farmers saying, "I don't see where private people who make early estimates are getting these numbers. That much crop just can't be out there."
Ah, but it can. Mike Shuter, Frankton, finished planting both corn and soybeans in April. Except for a few water spots, he's happy with his crops. Bill Pickart, Select Seeds, says his area in north-central Indiana was planted early. Farmers there haven't looked back.
Don't fall prey to the back door syndrome, where you look and see damaged crops on your farm or a neighbors, and assume the entire state or country is in similar shape. It's not. Windshield surveys indicate there are far more good fields of corn in Indiana than poor fields.
So don't be surprised if Preston and Hurt unveil hefty numbers in the first USDA crop estimate for the 2010 season at the Indiana State Fair again this year. Numbers in Indiana should be higher to the western side, and not as high to the eastern side of the state.