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Will Next USDA Crop Estimate Be Lower?

Will Next USDA Crop Estimate Be Lower?
What factors could cause the agency to lower its Indiana estimate?

If you're in for a very quick read, the answer to the first question is 'who knows.' The answer to the second question is yes, there are factors that could affect it, primarily condition of the ears when fields are revisited. Here's a closer look.

KIsslam Hurlbut, statistician for the Indiana Ag Statistics Service, based in West Lafayette, part of the National Ag Statistics Service, says that for the August report, crop reporters visited fields near the end of July. The samples were picked at random. Stage of growth, based on planting date, was not a factor. In fact, the crop reporters didn't know when the field was planted until they contacted the farmer to tell him they wanted to check samples within his field.

As a result, there were some ear measurements and data involving ear included in the August estimate. That would b eon those fields that were planted early and were further along in development when the samples were taken. However, in many case, it's more a matter of counting stalks and making other assessments.

When the crop reporters go out, probably this week, to collect data that will be used to assemble the September crop report, there will be more to see, primarily more developed ears, Hurlbut says. Reporters will return to every field they sampled in late July, and return to the exact same two-row spot within that field. In addition, more fields will be added for sampling for the September report. Again, these spots will be picked at random.

While Hurlbut can't project what the nest round of inspections might reveal, since his job is to deal with actual data and not speculation, he does confirm that if crop reporters find ears with tip die-back, where kernels aborted, that will feed into the next report.

Indications from the field are that tip die-back is fairly prevalent. Some ears started to form kernels closer to the tip, but then aborted them as temperatures rose, especially nighttime temperatures.

Whether even this next round of field checks by crop reporters can get a handle on how much higher night respiration rates affected yield deposition is difficult to say. If there was an impact, it should become clearer as the season progresses.

If the field has already been harvested where they did a July estimate, which could be the case in southern Indiana, there are still protocols for estimating a yield from those test spots, Hurlbut says. Crop reporters will talk to farmers if harvest is already complete, and take certain other measurements so that data can still be included in the final sample.

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