(Posted Wed. Sep 14th, 2011)

Sept. 14: Field Notes opened the farm gate this spring and provided followers with an inside look at the activities of several farmers from a variety of geographical areas. Yesterday evening, we caught up with Illinois grower Tom Martin to see talk about his perceptions of harvest following Monday’s release of revised U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of crop condition, yield and acreage.


In the crop production report issued Monday, USDA revised previous estimates of the national average yield downward to 148.1 bushels per acre. Also dropping estimates of the corn acreage that will be harvested this fall, the report places the projected total U.S. corn crop for 2012 at 12.5 billion bushels, still the third largest on record. Specifically, the average yield estimate for the state of Illinois was lowered by nine bushels per acre, from 170 in August to a current average of 161.


Given this, Martin’s harvest appears to be above average.


“We are still seeing better average yields than what we thought that we were going to see entering harvest,” said Martin. “A lot of the farmers in my area anticipated yields in the 140 to 150 bushel per acre range, but now we are seeing closer to 170 to 180 bushels per acre.”


He did note that, while the yields in his fields have exceeded USDA average estimates for Illinois, farmers from other parts of the state do not expect the same experience when they are able to begin harvesting.


“Monday, I attended a meeting with growers from the northern and southern portions of the state and, while they haven’t gotten into the fields yet, most still think that they will see closer to 140 or 150 bushel-per-acre yields,” said Martin. “This is still better than what many of these farmers had thought earlier on as they thought that their corn plants hadn’t pollinated well this year.”


After comparing reports from various growing areas and considering the size of each, he concluded that what farmers are seeing on the ground in Illinois reflects the revised USDA estimates.


“In this part of the world, our plant populations were very good and we didn’t have noticeable loss during planting,” said Martin. “Most of our plants put on ears so we reached that 34- to 35-thousand population goal. This is a major reason why I think that we are seeing better yields than we thought that we would.”


Martin reports that the moisture content of the corn he is currently harvesting, which was planted in May, is roughly 22 to 23 percent. Last week, this same planting group was still nearing 28 percent moisture levels but, as it dried considerably in the past few days, it now is more similar to the April planted areas harvested nearly 10 days ago.


To listen to the full interview, click here.