Better Soils Boost Corn Yield on Crop Watch '12 Field

Actual yield better than estimated yield, and better than expected.

Published on: Oct 15, 2012

Some people are reporting better yields than they expected before harvest began, although 'better' yields are relative. Yields are still dismal by the standards of any other year. But compared to absolute zero some people experienced this year, yields of 50 to 70 bushels per acre don't sound so devastating.

If you've followed all year long, you know that a field in the central portion of the Eastern Corn Belt has been watched since it was planted. The idea was to pick up on insect or disease problems, and get a first-hand look and hopefully a jump on what issues were developing in the region.

Better yield: This part of the field likely made 20 bushels per acre. However, better soil in another part of the field helped boost overall yield to 55 bushels per acre, above the pre-season estimate.
Better yield: This part of the field likely made 20 bushels per acre. However, better soil in another part of the field helped boost overall yield to 55 bushels per acre, above the pre-season estimate.

The field certainly became a reflection of what else happened in the eastern Corn Belt, but it wasn't diseases or insects that took the limelight. Instead, it was heat and overriding drought. This field became a good example of the entire area, because it contained five soil types. In the end, in this field at least, 2012 was all about soil types.

Our estimate of the field, based on checking yields in the five soil types and guessing how much of each soil type was in the field, came out to slightly over 40 bushels per acre. We issued that estimate back in August.

At the time, some experts feared those types of estimates might be too high because kernel size would be shallow. Whether late rains were in time to help kernel size or not isn't clear. Some fields had already formed a black layer, and large portions of the field didn't have any ears in the first place.

Whatever the cause, our yield estimate was actually too low. The farmer shelled the field recently, weighted it over his scales and converted it to corn. The field made just a tick over 55 bushels per acre.

The combine operator says that the deep, wet soil that ran along the creek kicked out enough corn to help offset the absolute zero yield that he ran on another part of the field. When the dust settled, 55 bushels per acre was the actual yield, considerably more than it looked like it might make two months ago.