The first week of Doane’s crop tour will focus on the western Corn Belt including western Illinois, Iowa, southern Minnesota, and eastern Nebraska. On day one from St. Louis we traveled to Illinois and then north through the western counties of Illinois including the south southwest, west central and northwestern crop districts, concluding with the east central district of Iowa.

Overall, the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, but as expected, crop maturity is later than normal. In southwestern Illinois and much of western central Illinois, there are two maturities of corn. The early corn is all silking.

Typically, in this area we find corn in the milk to dough stage at this point in the season. The balance of the crop, which we estimate to be about 20% of the acreage, is much later and will be silking in 2-3 weeks. Clearly the later corn is subject to weather conditions in early to mid-August as well as the threat from frost this fall.

The late corn is likely to pull the yield average down, but how much will depend on the weather. Yield potential could be down by one-third to one half from normal for the date. However, the earlier corn has strong yield potential. Plant populations are very high running from 28,000 to 30,000 per acres in most cases.

The high populations will support above average yield potential with grain weight being the determining factor. Our field checks for the later corn were from 170 to 190 bushels. Including the later corn, the corn crop in the south southwest and west central crop districts of Illinois appear to have average yield potential.

Northwestern Illinois and east central Iowa crop districts are even stronger, with yield checks approaching 200 bushels in some cases. Again, plant populations are very high at around 30,000 per acre.

While not excessive in the southern areas, we noted less moisture stress in northwestern Illinois and eastern Iowa. There was also much less variability in maturity with most of the crop currently silking. Yield potential in these northwest Illinois and eastern Iowa appears to be average to above average.

Soybeans are just reaching their main reproductive period with much weather still to influence yields. Consequently, there is a wide range of final yield potentials. Nevertheless, it is apparent across a wide cross section of western Illinois that dry weather over the past few weeks has begun to retard crop growth and potentially final yields.

On our grading system, soybean prospects in southwest Illinois were about average. Better fields have the potential to 45 to 50 bu/a. Large numbers of double-cropped fields do lower the district average prospects. In west central Illinois, crop is not under the stress of 2012, but dryness has stalled vegetative growth and development and may be a yield limiting factor again in 2013.

Overall, our yields grading was somewhat below average. In Northwest Illinois, we found a good crop and one that is better than the ones farther to the south in western Illinois. Some of the fields are outstanding and could reach 60 bu/a or more. But there are also pockets of late plantings and/or dryness that will offset the higher yields.